Thousand Cranes by Yasunari Kawabata

Thousand Cranes by Yasunari Kawabata

(Book 124) Marcia was bold enough to host us in person, our first time together since our February meeting, which coincidentally was also at her home. She sent out this email: You are invited to a tea ceremony this coming Thursday evening at 6:30. The cicadas promise to serenade. I don’t know if it is convenient for you to visit in person or if we will again need to practice our stirring and balancing of the cup via alternative methods. I can accommodate either or both depending on your preferences.  I believe I have sufficient everyday shino cups for all. The tea cottage and gardens have been well tended and aired out so are free of moldiness.” Due to minor illnesses and family issues, it was a small turn-out. Marcia hosted Melissa, Sharon and Susan in person and Linda via Zoom. Here is a photo of Marcia’s dog, Shadow greeting guests to the back yard.

I was one of those not in attendance, so I can’t look to my own notes. Linda told us that the mixed setting worked great; that she was able to hear everyone and see most of the girls. She reported that those in attendance appreciated the book and enjoyed an interesting discussion. She also noted that it caused some to realize a gap in their knowledge of Japanese culture and history. Sharon reported that God always works with Marcia to give her perfect weather and Susan added that it was lovely to be under the maple tree candelabra in Marcia’s back yard. Those in attendance were happy for a small piece of normal back in their lives.

Marcia reported that the girls talked about Mrs. Ota and what her reason might have been for seducing Kikuji. Most thought that she was probably using him as a surrogate for his father whom she had loved. When they were making love, was she imagining the father? What of Kikuji for going along? Curiosity? Flattered that she would find him desirable? Basic male response to the offer? It was clearly complicated since he was aware that she had been one of his father’s “women”. They talked about the Japanese cultural roles at the time for men and women, that it was an accepted thing that men would/could take mistresses and that the wife would accept the arrangement even if she wasn’t happy about it. All agreed that Chikako was a lying, manipulative, vile and bitter person. She wielded her knowledge of people and their weaknesses to suit her plans. Revenge? A woman scorned? Did Kikuji ever have sex with Fumiko? Most thought no. She was so timid and closed down, that it’s hard to imagine it of her. Of Fumiko’s exit from the book – no firm conclusion was reached that she had committed suicide like her mother, but it was considered a possibility. Sharon noted that she enjoyed the book enough to pick up Snow Country, another book by Kawabata.

I’m also going to add my review from Goodreads: At the beginning of the edition that I read, there is A Note on the Tea Ceremony, the Backdrop for This Novel, and the last line of the novel’s description on Goodreads summarizes: “Death, jealousy, and attraction convene around the delicate art of the tea ceremony, where every gesture is imbued with profound meaning.” This suggested that there would be attention paid to the “every gesture” of the tea ceremony, which is simply not the case. Don’t read the book if you are a fan of the tea ceremony. The author goes so far as to provide footnotes about the implements used in a tea ceremony, yet the only formal ceremony is glossed over with more reaction to those in attendance than to the ceremony. My reaction to the book may have been different without preparation for ceremonial “gestures imbued with meaning.”
On the other hand, the “sensual nostalgia that binds the living to the dead” also mentioned in the summary, was clearly evidenced. Perhaps the best moment for me was the exchange between Kikuji and Fumiko about responsibility and regrets after a loved one has died: “Regrets and second thoughts only make the burden heavier for the one who has died.”

Though I didn’t attend, Melissa was able to deliver Marcia’s hostess gift, a small scarf with multicolored cranes in the design, along with my brother’s artwork shown below. Remember he’s not the kind of guy to do things on a special order basis, so I had to pick one that said 1000 Cranes to me.

Next month, Linda is scheduled to host Bluebird, Bluebird, but we may reassign it to someone with an outdoor space. We’ll work this out and get back to you!