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Thousand Cranes Paperback – November 26, 1996

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 147 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (November 26, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679762655
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679762652
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #124,877 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“A literary habitat like no other . . . quietly devastating fiction. . . . Behind a lyrical and understated surface, chaotic passions pulse.”
The Independent (London)
Thousand Cranes has the qualities of the best Japanese writing: a stunning economy, delicacy of feeling, and a painter’s sensitivity to the visible world.”
The Atlantic

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Japanese

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Customer Reviews

A work of beauty and charm.
Chikako has been jealous of Mrs. Ota and conspires against her and her daughter while she insinuates herself into Kikuji's life.
I found the characters all very interesting.
Christopher Barrett

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The metaphor used in "Thousand Cranes" is tea, but not simple dried leaves in boiled water. Along with tea, in the tradition of the Japanese tea ceremony, is the complete picture created by the individual pieces of the art, bowls and whisks and jugs for carrying water. The various utensils, each with their own pedigree, are only able to find their true use in the hands of a Master of tea.

In this story, the metaphor is skillfully brought to play in Kikuji, who has inherited his father's women and guilty past in the same way that he has inherited his tea cottage and collection or rare cups and utensils. Chikako, a discarded mistress of Kikuji's father, is the poisonous Master of tea, manipulating others with the same subtle skill she maneuvers the ceremony. In equal measure, Fumiko, daughter of Kikuji's father's favorite mistress, also struggles under the burden of inherited guilt, even while seeking to escape, giving her mother's tea items to Kikuji as gifts yet not able to free her mind with the same ease.

True to Kawabata's style, the unsaid rings much more loudly than the dialog, and surface tone of calm belies a raging whirlpool sucking the characters deeper and deeper. I found "Thousand Cranes" a captivating read, and was unable to put it down until I had finished the story. A small book, it does not lack for power.
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46 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Bob Newman VINE VOICE on July 5, 2000
Format: Paperback
Mishima Yukio, that troubled, brilliant, versatile author of numerous great novels, said that if a Japanese writer was going to receive the Nobel Prize, it should be Kawabata Yasunari. The latter did win the prize in 1968, four years before his death. Both Kawabata and Mishima should be numbered among the great writers of the 20th century, both committed suicide, and both were Japanese. That's where the similarity ends. Any novel of Kawabata's opens the deep treasure of Japanese understatement, the minimalist style of sumi-e, haiku, and Noh theatre. Every sentence says less than expected, but as some people like to say nowadays, "less is more." So true. THOUSAND CRANES is brief and to many Western readers could appear overly simple and without strong flavor. To assume this would be to miss the main attraction of the novel, which, admittedly, might not be for everyone. In delicate brush strokes, the author deftly paints the picture of a complex relationship which would have attracted Henry James, had he not been so stoutly Victorian in his choice of plots. A young man has an affair with Mrs. Ota, his father's former mistress, rejects the meddling of a second woman, also a former mistress of his father's, and is attracted, full of guilt and hesitation, to Mrs. Ota's daughter. Like much Japanese writing, the novel is full of natural symbols as well as the signs of the seasons. Tiny details assume great importance, take on important symbolism----two tea bowls used by deceased lovers, an ugly birthmark on a woman's breast----details which would be drowned in the mass of verbiage present in most Western writing. Tea ceremony and the delicate beauty of old ceramics suffuse the pages.Read more ›
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Rosawan Peungsujarit on October 26, 2001
Format: Paperback
Yasunari Kawabata was truly an artist with great taste. He was a great painter in disguise of a writer. Reading his work is like wandering alone in Japanese art gallery in a chilly day, looking at painting after painting while pondering over your own thoughts, savoring the beauty of color and at the same time being transported by the delicacy or even the tiniest details of his literary brushstrokes. Every word or gesture in this story has meanings in itself even if it was inexpicitly expressed. The suppressed passion, guilt, revenge and jealousy intertwined beautifully among the backdrop of tea ceremony, thousand cranes kerchief, iris vase in the alcove, the lipstick stain on the rim of the teacup, the double star, the fireflies etc. This is certainly not the book for everyone. For those who are looking for a book that full of plots, or a book that inundated with overdone passion or actions, this is definitely not for you. But for those who want to explore complex and artistic Japanese minds, Zen philosophy which is the backbone of the famous cliche "less is more", the beautiful combination of domestic life and nature, this book is a gem. Kawabata is by all account worthy of Nobel prize for literature. This is the book I cherish and feel wonderful every time I read and re-read it.
Strongly recommend.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Lynda Ferguson on May 15, 2003
Format: Paperback
Sex, lies, suicide, and tea. This slim novel by Nobel Prize winner Kawabata Yasuni deals with Kikuji Mitani and his encounters with a wide variety of women: the poisonous Chikako, the haunted Mrs. Ota, and Fumiko, caught between her shame and her desire. The books moves at a leisurely pace, touching upon numerous subject: propriety, shame, and revenge. Kawabata shows his mastery here, crafting each character carefully, with precise nuance. I would recommend this book if only for the character of Chikako: both monstrous and tragic, she is one of the most interesting characters you will encounter in literature. Some Western readers will be off put by it's slow pace and decentralized plot, but the details and characterization will win you over in the end. One word of warning: although extensive knowledge of the tea ceremony is not need, and a brief introduction will fill you in on basically everything you need to know, readers may miss some of Kawabata's lush symbolism when it comes to the tea ceremony and the tea utensils. But even without that layer, it remains a masterpiece.
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