Book Review: Thousand Cranes by Kawabata Yasunari

The crane is a Japanese symbol of longevity and good luck. If you fold thousands of them with origami paper a wish comes true.

Thousand Cranes is a beautiful and deep moving story about love and fate by the Nobel Prize Laureate Kawabata Yasunari 川端 康成 (1899-1972).


The story begins with a tea ceremony.

Chikako Kurimoto a tea ceremony master, who loves to intrigue, had arranged a tea party, consisting of Yukiko Inamura, an innocent young woman and Kikuji, a young Japanese, who the story will show is deeply caught in the fate of his family history.

It is Chikakos aim to arrange the marriage of them. Both have not seen each other before. On his way to the tea house Kikuji sees Yukiko by chance. He is impressed by her carrying a bundle, a furoshiki, with a pattern of thousand cranes, springing into his eyes.

The harmony of the meeting is disturbed by two other visitors: Mrs. Ôta and her daughter Fumiko. Chikako had not invited them, but cannot forbid that they will take part at the tea ceremony. And, she has her reasons. An old secret binds them together and it seems as history will recur.

The story is psychologically complex and Kikuji not his own master. He is driven by his feelings and his desire for at least two women. This is a situation Chikako is not amused about, she tries to pull the strings but fails. Kikuji is powerless and he cannot assert himself. He is bound to his fate and torn by tradition.

Kawabata uses the tea ceremony as a central motif of his story. One should know a little about its meaning and process in order to understand the interaction of the persons. It’s symbolism makes it unique and touching. The characters are drawn lively and emotional. The reader is guided through the story by Kikuji. You can feel his inner conflict, feeling of guilt and growing love.

Kawabata Yasunari: Thousand Cranes. 川端 康成, 千羽鶴 Senbazuru, 1949-1951.

You can find more information about the Japanese tea ceremony here:

This video shows how a tea ceremony works with all steps in detail but without verbal explanation.

Here is a video well explaining the background and process of the tea ceremony

All who want to know everything about tea ceremony please check these marvellous article:

The Great Japanese Tea Wizard, Sen no Rikyu


5 thoughts on “Book Review: Thousand Cranes by Kawabata Yasunari

  1. Thank you so much for this beautiful post about the book. For the first time I read it some two years ago and have reread it twice since then. It’s very very beautiful, with a distinct Japanese flavour, the descriptions are sublime and somehow always have a calming effect on me.
    And about the tea ceremony. The book I find especially interesting and insightful is The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura.
    Have a lovely day.


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