This passage was written by a 9th grader
“Tinged with an element of sadness or melancholy,” Japanese aesthetics revolves mainly around the idea of inner simplicity and outer imperfection (Arndt’s PPT). The concept of dual nature shows that Japanese aesthetics relies heavily on wabi-sabi, two incomplete and open ended perspectives on animate and inanimate objects. In Thousand Cranes, Yasunari Kawabata uses Japanese aesthetics to emphasize dual nature of Japanese culture.
One of the most predominant features of dual nature is the concept of life and death. Kawabata shows the never ending cycle right from the beginning, when he mentions Kikuji’s father’s death. “He had not gone since his father’s death (Kawabata 4).” Immediately, the reader recognizes a concept of death filled in this story. One simple statement regarding one’s death can make an everlasting impact on the rest of the story. This indeed holds true when Mrs. Ota, one of Kikuji’s father’s mistresses, commits suicide. “Mrs. Ota had killed herself. The girl was asking him to help hide the fact (Kawabata 65).” Another death strikes Kikuji, who now has to deal with yet another problem in his life. Although this death may seem pointless or even irrelevant, it brings up the point of whether or not Kikuji himself has a right to live, since he had also slept with Mrs. Ota as well. This redevelops the concept of dual nature, whether death is fair or not, and who deserves to die and when. Similarly, fairness and unfairness is a common aspect in this novel. For example, Fumiko, Mrs. Ota’s daughter, questions whether or not it was her fault that her mother had died, or perhaps her mother had died from her own will. “She died because of herself. If you say it was you who made her die, then it was I even more (Kawabata 75).” In this case, the reader can understand maybe it was fair that Mrs. Ota had died. Maybe it was for the best and now Kikuji could finally be released from his past. Kikuji finds this as the main reason for suicide and unfairness, that maybe all his struggles originated from his and his father’s over concern with beauty and imperfection.
A major characteristic Kawabata focuses on throughout the novel is beauty and imperfection. The reader is at once introduced to this concept at the beginning when dealing with Chikako, one of Mr. Mitani’s mistresses. “He’d probably be disgusted by it (Kawabata 6).” Mr. Mitani tells this to Mrs. Mitani while describing Chikako’s supposedly hideous birthmark. “But he might find something attractive in it (Kawabata 6).” This dual concept of beauty and imperfection just goes to show that beauty is open ended, and one may find beauty in another’s imperfection. The reader gets another image of subjective beauty when Kawabata describes Mrs. Ota. “When she spoke, her lower lip was thrust forward a little, as if in a pout (Kawabata 17).” Kikuji evidently found beauty in such a feature, believing “it was a figure young for her years (Kawabata 17).” The whole aspect of dual nature in beauty and imperfection is meant for the reader to decide whether or not they agree with Kawabata. It is that decision and interpretation that dictates the reader’s view, allowing for an “either or” choice. Kawabata cleverly leaves an open ended meaning throughout the novel while using the concept of dual nature as well.
Yasunari Kawabata incorporates a deeper meaning and interpretation than what appears. The use of dual nature dealing with Japanese aesthetics in his novel Thousand Cranes set a basis and basic understanding throughout.