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Yasuke Iwase, a wealthy merchant, used his own funds and opened IBL in 1908.
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"Prospects of the Japanese Literary Scene"
42nd year of Meiji (1909)

Interviewee (and author): Natsume Sōseki

 This manuscript is the interview of the author Natsume Sōseki titled, “Prospects of the Japanese Literary Scene” (Bundan no sūsei) printed in the January 1st of the 42nd year of Meiji (1909) edition of the literary magazine Shumi.

 The theme of the interview was, “How do you believe the Japanese literary scene will change from here on?” In Sōseki’s answer, he qualified “I haven’t read every single book out there, but I believe the future of the Japanese literary scene is truly promising and we have every reason to be filled with optimism.” Sōseki said that contemporary (that is to say, Meiji period) novels are particularly interesting and outstanding. Firstly, because there are constantly new authors entering the field and they are fighting for prominence within established genres. Secondly, they are creating new genres themselves. Naturally, the competition between new genres and new authors within existing genres will produce exceptional new works.

 The manuscript is on monogrammed genkō-yōshi paper (paper with 200 or 400 squares per sheet) bearing an olive-green “Sōseki sanbō” insignia. The “Sōseki sanbō” was Sōseki’s home located in the Waseda Minami-cho. Because Sōseki had ignored the printed squares on the paper and written small and narrow characters with a fountain-tip pen, Sōseki seems to have been a bold yet delicate person. Character readings and page numbers were later added in red ink adding to the impression that this really was a manuscript printed in a magazine.

 This interview was printed as such, in other words it was printed as if it were written by a person asking Sōseki questions. However, if it actually were an interview, there would be no reason for a manuscript written by Sōseki himself to exist. In other words, it seems likely that there was an interview prepared by an interviewer, but Sōseki did not like the resulting article and so he took it upon himself to completely rewrite the interview, which is why Sōseki’s manuscript exists. In one other case, Sōseki even went so far as to write to the general effect that “interviews are just a bunch of hot-air. There’s no helping the fact that interviewers will write exactly the way they please,” Sōseki clearly felt that interviewers did not correctly grasp his meaning and was often irritated by them. Thinking of the conventional picture used for Natsume Sōseki in Japanese textbooks, one cannot help but chuckle at his slight cantankerousness.