Tosei Shosei Katagi (当世書生気質)

Tosei shosei katagi (The Character of Modern Students) is a novel written by Shoyo TSUBOUCHI (a nom de plume: Harunoya Oboro). It has seventeen volumes. The novel was published from 1885 to 1886.

Shoyo had had the idea of writing a gesaku (literary work of a playful, mocking, joking, silly or frivolous nature) called "Yugaku hasshonen" (literally, eight young men studying away from their home). After writing in "Shosetsu shinzui" (The essence of the novel), about a literary criticism that refused to accept didacticism and advocated realism, he began to write "Ichidoku santan Tosei shosei katagi" (literally, "the character of modern students that makes you sigh three times every time you read it") in April 1885 and published the first volume in June. It got good reviews, and seventeen volumes in total were published by the following January. The main purpose of this work was to describe the customs, manners and temperaments of student society in 1868, and there are those scenes depicting the daily lives at their board and lodgings, or students at play in those popular places such as beef specialty restaurants or yokyu (a small-sized bow originally made from willow) parlors. It is considered that this novel is the embodiment of the theory developed in the "Shosetsu shinzui," now known as the first modern and realistic novel in Japan.

However, the style was still under the strong influence of gesaku literature (literary work of a playful, mocking, joking, silly or frivolous nature). In addition, there was also an aspect of a popular novel with a geigi (a professional female entertainer at banquets) placed at the center of the storyline, while such element as a reunion of a separated brother and a sister by the Battle of Ueno (the battle between the shogitai [a band of supporters of the Tokugawa bakufu] and the Meiji government's army) was also depicted in the novel. For that reason, Shoyo put this novel along with all of his other novels into the 'supplemental volumes' when he compiled and edited the "Shoyo senshu" (literally, "Shoyo's collection") in his later years.

This novel had received a high reputation since its publication, and it has been read by the readers over generations. This produced an unexpected anecdote: Hideyo NOGUCHI changed his name from the original Seisaku to Hideyo because he worried that people might misunderstand the character 'Seisaku NONOGUCHI' in this novel was modeled after him.

[Original Japanese]