by Kinnosuke Natsume

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

The following is a list of quotes compiled from the novel Botchan by Japanese author Natsume Kin'nosuke. The novel was written in 1906 and is often considered a morality tale, as you will see by the quotes chosen. The author weaves together themes of ethics and honesty and writes with both humor and sarcasm, which made it very popular in Japan during its time. The story is loosely based on the author’s experiences of traveling and living away from home. For context, the novel opens in a school in Matsuyama, the capital city in Ehime Prefecture on Japan’s Shikoku Island. It is narrated by Botchan, an impulsive youth who recklessly jumps from the second floor of the school. This is the springing-off point for similar behavior throughout the novel. The reader should note that the word “Botchan” suggests “young darling,” or more specifically, a youth, often well-off, who has much to learn about the world around him.

  • “Because of a hereditary recklessness, I have been playing always a losing game since my childhood.”
  • “Father did not like me in the least, and mother always sided with my big brother.”
  • “He’s so reckless that I worry about his future,” I often heard mother say of me.”
  • “I lived, after the death of mother, in this fashion for five or six years. I had kicks from father, had rows with brother, and had candies and praise from Kiyo. I cared for nothing more; I thought this was enough. I imagined all other boys were leading about the same kind of life.”
  • “With a long, sonorous hustle the steamer which I was aboard came to a standstill, and a boat was seen making toward us from the shore.”
  • “I learned the English word ‘witch’ when I was in middle school, and this woman looked exactly like one.”
  • “When I left the teachers’ room, chalk in hand, for the second hour class, I felt as if I was invading the enemy’s territory.”
  • “As it was none of my business whether it was a Madonna or a kodanna (young master), they let pose there any old way, but it was vulgar to feign assurance that one's subject is in no danger of being understood so long as others did not know the subject.”
  • “These country simpletons, unable to differentiate upon so delicate a boundary, would seem to be bent on pushing everything to the limit.”
  • "There is nothing that cannot be settled by talking it over."
  • “To be treated by such a fellow, even if it is so trifling a thing as ice water, affects my honor.”
  • “Others whispered with their neighbors. Still others were writing nothings upon the table with the erasers at the end of their pencils. Clown talked to Porcupine once in a while, but he was not responsive. He only said ‘Umh’ or ‘Ahm,’ and stared at me with wrathful eyes. I stared back with equal ferocity.”
  • “To be unable to eat dango one is so fond of eating, is tragic. But to have one's betrothed change her love to another, would be more tragic.”
  • “My brain is not of the best stuff, and if another fellow flourishes his eloquence like this, I usually think, ‘Well, perhaps I was wrong,’ and consider myself defeated, but not so to-night.”
  • “To live long in such a country town would be like degrading myself for a purpose.”
  • “About sixteen police officers arrived at the scene but, all the students having beaten it in opposite directions, all they were able to catch were Porcupine and me. We gave them our names and explained the whole...

(This entire section contains 743 words.)

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  • story. The officers requested us to follow them to the police station which we did, and after stating to the chief of police what had happened, we returned home.”
  • “Some time afterward, someone helped me to a job as assistant engineer at the tram car office. The salary was 25 yen a month, and the house rent six. Although the house had not a magnificent front entrance, Kiyo seemed quite satisfied, but, I am sorry to say, she was a victim of pneumonia and died in February this year. On the day preceding her death, she asked me to bedside, and said, ‘Please, Master Darling, if Kiyo is dead, bury me in the temple yard of Master Darling. I will be glad to wait in the grave for my Master Darling.’
  • “So Kiyo's grave is in the Yogen temple at Kobinata.”