Tsubouchi Shoyo (坪内逍遥)

Shoyo TSUBOUCHI (坪内 逍遥, orthographic style: 逍遙, June 22, 1859 - February 28, 1935) was a novelist, critic, translator, and playwright in Japan who was active in the Meiji Era. His best-known works are "Shosetsu Shinzui" (The Essence of Novels), "Tosei shosei katagi" (The Character of Modern Students, 1885-6) and his translation of the complete works of Shakespeare. His real name is Yuzo TSUBOUCHI. He also called himself Oboro HARUNOYA or Shujin HARUNOYA. His posthumous Buddhist name is Soshiin Shiju Shoyo Kyoshi (an avid Buddhist who is living in a place that has two persimmon trees, and who likes strolling all the time). He also composed haiku (a Japanese poem in seventeen syllables having a 5-7-5 syllabic form and traditionally containing a reference to the seasons).


He was born in Ota-juku (Nakasen-do Road) (present-day Minokamo City, Gifu Prefecture), Kamo-gun District, Mino Province (Gifu Prefecture) which was governed by Owari Domain. His father was one of the Owari clansmen. He was working as a clerk at Ota daikansho (regional office of administrative official), but later, he and all of his family members moved to Nagoya where his family home was located. He was influenced by his mother, and immersed himself in literature of the Edo period such as Yomihon (books for reading), Kusazoshi (books with a wealth of illustrations), as well as Haikai (seventeen-syllable verse) and Waka (classical Japanese verse) at an early age.

He studied at Yogakko (School of Western Studies) (present-day Aichi Prefectural Asahigaoka High School), Tokyo Yobimon (Preparatory School of the University of Tokyo) (later became Daiichi High School [the first old-education-system high school]), graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (this Arts is just a contrast to Science, meaning he did not necessarily major in Arts) from the Department of Politics, Faculty of Letters of the University of Tokyo (later became Tokyo Imperial University). He became an instructor at Tokyo Senmon Gakko (later became Waseda University), and later became a professor at Waseda University.

When he was 26 years old, he published his criticism "The Essence of Novels". He denied tales that rewards good and punishes evil which was preferred in Edo period, and he has stated that a novel should depict the human empathy first, followed by the depiction of times and folkways. He made a huge contribution to the establishment of literary history in both modern times and the present day by this psychological realism. Further, he wrote Tosei shosei katagi (The Character of Modern Students, 1885-6) to implement the theory. However, he was still not quite free of influence from Gesaku (literary work of a playful, mocking, joking, silly or frivolous nature) literature himself, and later, the incompleteness of these modern literature standpoints were critically indicated by Shimei FUTABATEI in "Shosetsu Soron"(general remarks of a novel), "Ukigumo (Shimei FUTABATEI)" (Floating Clouds) (the first "Ukigumo" was published in the name of Yuzo TSUBOUCHI for commercial reasons).

He wrote plays as well as novels, and he played a great role in modernization of plays. He wrote shin kabuki (new kabuki) "Kiri Hitoha" (A Paulownia Leaf), "Hototogisu Kojo no Rakugetsu" (The Sinking Moon over the Lonely Castle Where the Cuckoo Cries), "Onatsu Kyoran" (Onatsu's Madness), and "Maki no kata" (Lady Maki). In 1906, he established the Association of Literature with Hogetsu SHIMAMURA and others, and it set a precedent for the movement of shingeki (literally, new play). Additionally, he contributed to launching the premiere issue of the magazine, "Waseda Bungaku" (Waseda Literature).

The Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum of Waseda University was constructed to commemorate Shoyo's accomplishments that translated the complete works of William SHAKESPEARE.

Major masterpieces

"Shosetsu Shinzui" (The Essence of Novels)


"Tosei shosei katagi" (The Character of Modern Students, 1885-6)

"Saikun" (literally, a wife)

"Kiri Hitoha" (A Paulownia Leaf)
"Maki no kata" (Lady Maki)
"En no Gyoja" (En the ascetic)

Music drama
"Shinkyoku Urashima" (a long epic song based on the tale of Urashima Taro which is accompanied by a shamisen music)


The translation of the complete works of William SHAKESPEARE

"Sao zenshu" (the complete works of William SHAKESPEARE) was composed of 40 books, of which only the first book (December 1909) was published jointly by Fuzanbo and Waseda University Press, and the remaining books including the second were independently published by the Waseda University Press. The 40th book was a literary work titled "Shakespeare Kenkyu Shiori" (research guidebook of Shakespeare) (published in December 1928). It was first titled "Sao Kessakushu" (the masterpieces of Shakespeare) until the 23rd book, followed by "Sao zenshu" (the complete works of Shakespeare) after the 24th book, then the entire book's titles including the first books were changed to "Sao Zenshu" thereafter.

"Shinshu Shakespeare Zenshu" (newly compiled complete works of Shakespeare), a total of 20 boxes (total of 40 books, with two books enclosed in the one box) were published by Chuo Koronsha.
It was the revised editions of the aforementioned books published by Waseda University Press, and they were like new books including "Othello" which had changed completely,
(Distributed from September 1933 to May 1935) Afterwards, using this version as an original, new editions were published by Sogensha (total of one book), and Shinjusha (separate volume) in the postwar period. Since the Chuo Koronsha versions have quite a lot of errata, you should use the list of errata that appeared on the monthly supplement newsletter "Sao Fukko" (renaissance of Shakespeare) to correct them.


His wife, Sen, was a prostitute named Hanamurasaki at the Dai Hachiman Ro, one of Nezu Yukaku (a brothel in Nezu) near the University of Tokyo. He went there frequently to meet her for several years when he was a college student, and they got married in 1886. There's a Seicho MATSUMOTO's book "Bungo" (great writer) that dealing with this story. As they didn't have a child, Shoyo adopted his older brother Giei's third son Shiko TSUBOUCHI (former personnel of Takarazuka Revue and theater critic), but dissolved the adoption afterward.
(Shiko's wife was Namiko KUMOI who was a first graduate of Takarazuka Revue, and her daughter is actress Mikiko TSUBOUCHI.)

[Original Japanese]