Thousand Cranes

Last updated
Thousand Cranes
First edition
Author Yasunari Kawabata
Original titleSenbadzuru (千羽鶴)
Language Japanese
Genre Novel
PublisherKawabata Publishing
Publication date
Published in English
Media typePrint (paperback)

Thousand Cranes (千羽鶴, Senbadzuru) is a 1952 novel by Japanese author Yasunari Kawabata. The novel is divided into five episodes: "Thousand Cranes", "The Grove in the Evening Sun", "Figured Shino", "Her Mother's Lipstick" and "Double Star".



The novel is set in Japan after World War II. The protagonist, Kikuji, who has been orphaned, becomes involved with Mrs. Ota, a former mistress of his father's. She commits suicide, seemingly because of the shame she associates with the affair, and after her death Kikuji transfers much of his love, and his grief over Mrs Ota's death, to her daughter, Fumiko.


Tea Ceremony

Red & White

Decay The tea ceremony decays throughout the novel. It is no longer used for traditional Japanese purposes. Chikako has turned it into a tool for her to meddle with Kikuji's life. She spreads this poison. Tradition is falling apart due to hate.

Fate/legacy/inheritance Kikuji is unable to escape the life that his father left him, but he is also not willing to. He inherits all his burdens and drama. Kikuji is a "modern" man as displayed by the fact he is a bachelor, and conducts casual sexual relationship with modern women. Despite this Kikuji actively chooses to obsess over the past. The reason for this is because in 1950s Japan was in a transient state between being connected and in tune with cultural practices of the past, whilst beginning to adopt westernised, modern cultural and social practices. This had massive effects on sexuality. As male sexuality, and therefore male identity, was supported by the subjugation of female sexuality, when economic and social modernity opened up new opportunities for women to have independence, women were no longer shackled to the household, and their approaches to sexuality changed. Thus, male sexuality and male identity which was superior on the basis of the subjugated, subservient female, was destabilised. Therefore, Kikuji's obsession with his father's sexuality is because he feels emasculated by the females who surround him, and so he is trying to establish a sense of agency which he aligns with his father, and the generation his father represents.

Kikuji chooses to inherit Mrs. Ota. He sees her as an object which is as transferable to him as his father's tea bowls, or his house, therefore he wishes he will also receive his father's dominant masculine identity. The first time he has sex with Mrs. Ota in the section Thousand Cranes, he states: "It was an extraordinary awakening." [1] This moment displays that Kikuji feels as if he has found a sense of self, and identity in this encounter, previously unexperienced by him before. He describes it as a "triumph", like "the conqueror whose feet were being washed by the slave." [2] Essentially Kikuji believes he has regained his masculine identity and the power associated with it. He believes he has regained the dominant masculine sexuality of his forefathers he is entitled to, that his generation has lost.


This novel is one of three novels cited by the Nobel Committee in awarding Yasunari Kawabata the Nobel Prize for Literature. The other two books are Snow Country and The Old Capital . The novel was selected for translation and inclusion in the UNESCO Collection of Representative Works.

Related Research Articles

Yukio Mishima Japanese author (1925-1970)

Kimitake Hiraoka, known also under the pen name Yukio Mishima, was a Japanese author, poet, playwright, actor, model, film director, nationalist, and founder of the Tatenokai. Mishima is considered one of the most important Japanese authors of the 20th century. He was considered for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1968, but the award went to his countryman and friend Yasunari Kawabata. His works include the novels Confessions of a Mask and The Temple of the Golden Pavilion as well as the autobiographical essay Sun and Steel. Mishima's work is characterized by "its luxurious vocabulary and decadent metaphors, its fusion of traditional Japanese and modern Western literary styles, and its obsessive assertions of the unity of beauty, eroticism and death".

Yasunari Kawabata Japanese author

Yasunari Kawabata was a Japanese novelist and short story writer whose spare, lyrical, subtly-shaded prose works won him the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968, the first Japanese author to receive the award. His works have enjoyed broad international appeal and are still widely read.

Kenzaburō Ōe Japanese author

Kenzaburō Ōe is a Japanese writer and a major figure in contemporary Japanese literature. His novels, short stories and essays, strongly influenced by French and American literature and literary theory, deal with political, social and philosophical issues, including nuclear weapons, nuclear power, social non-conformism, and existentialism. Ōe was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1994 for creating "an imagined world, where life and myth condense to form a disconcerting picture of the human predicament today".

<i>The Old Capital</i> novel by Yasunari Kawabata

The Old Capital is a novel by Yasunari Kawabata originally published in 1962. It was cited by the Nobel Committee in their decision to award Kawabata the 1968 Prize for Literature. A number of movie adaptations have been made of it, including Twin Sisters of Kyoto, which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1964.

<i>The Master of Go</i> novel by Yasunari Kawabata

The Master of Go is a novel by the Japanese author Yasunari Kawabata, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1968. The novel was first published in serial form in 1951. Titled Meijin (名人) in its original Japanese, Kawabata considered it his finest work, although it is in contrast with his other works. It is the only one of Kawabata's novels that the author considered to be finished.

Snow Country is a novel by the Japanese author Yasunari Kawabata. The novel is considered a classic work of Japanese literature and was among the three novels the Nobel Committee cited in 1968, when Kawabata was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

"The Dancing Girl of Izu" or "The Izu Dancer" is a 1924 short story by the Japanese writer and Nobel Prize winner Yasunari Kawabata. The short story was first translated into English by Edward Seidensticker and published in an abridged form as "The Izu Dancer" in The Atlantic Monthly in 1955. A complete English translation of the story by J. Martin Holman appeared in 1998.

Edward Seidensticker American japanologist

Edward George Seidensticker was a noted post-World War II scholar, historian, and preeminent translator of classical and contemporary Japanese literature. His English translation of the epic The Tale of Genji, published in 1976, was especially well received critically and is counted among the preferred modern translations.

Tomoji Ishizuka Japanese writer

Tomoji Ishizuka was the pen-name of Ishizuka Tomoji, a Japanese haiku poet and novelist active during the Shōwa period of Japan.

Asian literature is the literature produced in Asia.

<i>The Sound of the Mountain</i> novel by Yasunari Kawabata

The Sound of the Mountain is a novel by Japanese writer Yasunari Kawabata, serialized between 1949 and 1954. The Sound of the Mountain is unusually long for a Kawabata novel, running to 276 pages in its English translation. Like much of his work, it is written in short, spare prose akin to poetry, which its English-language translator Edward Seidensticker likened to a haiku in the introduction to his translation of Kawabata's best-known novel, Snow Country.

Beauty and Sadness is a 1964 novel by Japanese author Yasunari Kawabata.

The Scarlet Gang of Asakusa is a novel by the Japanese author Yasunari Kawabata. It was originally serialized in a newspaper before eventually being compiled into a novel in 1930.

One Arm is a 1964 short story by the Japanese writer and Nobel Prize winner Yasunari Kawabata. It was first translated into English by Edward Seidensticker and published as "One Arm" in Japan Quarterly in 1967. This short story has been considered as a main example of the current of magic realism in Japanese Literature.

<i>Twin Sisters of Kyoto</i> 1963 film by Noboru Nakamura

Twin Sisters of Kyoto is a 1963 Japanese drama film directed by Noboru Nakamura and based on the novel The Old Capital (1962) by the Nobel-winning Japanese writer Yasunari Kawabata. The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

<i>Sound of the Mountain</i> 1954 film by Mikio Naruse

Sound of the Mountain is a 1954 black-and-white Japanese film directed by Mikio Naruse starring Setsuko Hara, So Yamamura, and Ken Uehara. In a film about social change, an elderly man whose daughter's marriage has failed is forced to watch his son's marriage falling apart before his eyes. It is based on the novel The Sound of the Mountain by Nobel-Prize winner Yasunari Kawabata.

Ye Weiqu was a Chinese Vietnamese translator and scholar. Ye was a visiting professor at Waseda University, Gakushuin University and Ritsumeikan University.

<i>With Beauty and Sorrow</i> 1965 Japanese film directed by Masahiro Shinoda

With Beauty and Sorrow is a 1965 Japanese drama film directed by Masahiro Shinoda and based on the novel Beauty and Sadness (1964) by the Nobel-winning Japanese writer Yasunari Kawabata.

Tanpopo, also transliterated as Tampopo, is the Japanese word for dandelion. Tanpopo or Tampopo may refer to:

<i>Tanpopo</i> (novel)



  1. Yasunari, Kawabata, Thousand Cranes, Translated by Edward G. Seidensticker. (London and USA: Penguin, 2011), p18.
  2. Kawabata, Thousand Cranes, p18.