I want to read Kokoro

I want to give a try to こころ, because I keep hearing about it.

Which are the major difficulties of this text for a foreign reader?

Or just any kind of suggestion or anything about the book, thanks!

I haven’t read the book, but I did just read through the first section, and it didn’t seem too bad to me, though obviously it depends on your reading/vocab level. My general take on reading more “literary” stuff has been that mostly it depends on whether you enjoy it enough to work through the difficult bits. Personally my reading tastes lie elsewhere.

I’d suggest working through the first part to see how much in the way of unknown vocab and grammar you run into. I usually find that’s a reasonable guide to the rest of a book, and in fact it usually gets a bit easier as you learn the vocab a particular author likes to use or that repeats itself within the story.

The Aozora text you linked to is in modern kana-spellings and has reasonable furigana and doesn’t seem to use lots of oddball kanji; those are all helpful.


NHK高校講座’s 現代文 course covers こころ:
https://www.nhk.or.jp/kokokoza/radio/r2_genbun/ (Click on 二学期.)
I’ve been going through 高校講座’s 現代文 and 国語総合 courses as a way to get introduced to new books and get to reading some classic lit. I find it fun, and the courses are meant for high schoolers so they explain a lot of the more archaic stuff. Using the Soseki Project site is always an option too:


I almost bought Kokoro today, but in the end I opted for I Am A Cat and Sanshiro – the former because I figured I’d probably prefer the humour to a more serious work and the latter because I’ve just finished the non-fiction “日本語が亡びるとき: 英語の世紀の中で” which includes some excerpts from Sanshiro.

(Incidentally the author of 日本語が亡びるとき is very scathing about the teaching of Japanese literature in Japanese high schools – she thinks they don’t make students read enough of the actual novels. But then she also thinks the post-WW2 kana spelling reforms were a mistake and we should all be reading the classic lit in its original kanji usage and historical kana spelling form, because reading it in the modern spellings loses something; which I think is a pretty out-there point of view…)

I’m a beginner to seriously reading Japanese stuff (just started reading books this year) and I read Kokoro as my first book by Natsume Soseki earlier in the summer. I used the Soseki Project website and really liked it… there’s audio and a pop up dictionary that covers vocabulary and key phrases, which was helpful because the text that the website used had archaic vocabulary or Kanji usage (like めいめい was written like 各自) and that was the main barrier (in addition to me starting to read Japanese, so new vocabulary and grammatical patterns were also barriers for me). I recommend Kokoro with the Soseki Project for beginners because I really liked reading along with the audio. The voices were pretty slow and great at depicting the forlorn Sensei. And you can reread the text in English too, which I did to double check my comprehension.

I also read Botchan on the Soseki Project website, which might be a bit trickier because the audio was a lot faster and speech tended to be more vulgar, with a lots of jokes and singing.

Gotta read more Soseki but yeah that’s my two cents as a semi-beginner… I really liked the Soseki Project website.


I read the 10 Nights of Dreams using Breaking into Japanese literature. It was a slog, but I was only ~N5 level at the time. So you can imagine how stupidly difficult that was!

Another option to the Soseki project is using wakaru, which is nice if you prefer reading on an iPad/phone instead of a computer. You can add all of his work and the popup dictionary is much better than the one in iBooks/Kindle.

Yeah, get ready for some strange kanji and vocabulary usage. I remember Breaking into Japanese literature’s dictionary was full of “this is archaic”, “don’t use this”, etc.