Kikuji has been invited to a tea ceremony by a mistress of his dead father. He is shocked to find there the mistress's rival and successor, Mrs. Ota, and that the ceremony has been awkwardly arranged for him to meet his potential future bride. But he is most shocked to be drawn into a relationship with Mrs. Ota - a relationship that will bring only suffering and destruction to all of them. Thousand Cranes reflects the tea ceremony's poetic precision with understated, lyrical style and beautiful prose.
Yasunari Kawabata was born near Osaka in 1899 and was orphaned at the age of two. His first stories were published while he was still in high school and he decided to become a writer. He graduated from Tokyo Imperial University in 1924 and a year later made his first impact on Japanese letters with Izu Dancer. He soon became a leading figure the lyrical school that offered the chief challenge to the proletarian literature of the late 1920s. His writings combine the two forms of the novel and the haiku poems, which within restrictions of a rigid metre achieves a startling beauty by its juxtaposition of opposite and incongruous terms. Snow Country (1956) and Thousand Cranes (1959) brought him international recognition. Kawabata died by his own hand, on April 16 1972. Thousand Cranes is translated from the Japanese by Edward G. Seidensticker (1921-2007), who was a prominent scholar of Japanese literature.