Yasunari Kawabata and His Pure Stream of Consciousness/Neo-Sensualist Writing


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Yasunari Kawabata and His Pure Stream of Consciousness/Neo-Sensualist Writing

Kawabata was a Japanese internationally applauded fictional writer who emerged as the first Japan’s citizen to be awarded the literary Nobel Prize. He came up with artistic works that were highly noted for the aspect of blending the modern form of sensibility with that of an allusive and nuanced approach majorly derived from the conventional literature. Kawabata performed well in both the long and short fictions, hence creating exquisitely comprehensive images that tend to resonate with the unexpressed meanings. After a thorough analysis of Kawabata’s work, a scholar known as Thomas Palmer made some descriptions on the effects of reading that work. He claims that those stories encompassed various categories of potentials and levels. There are various gradations regarding the meanings, innumerable interpretational approaches, as well as the sophisticated assortment of windows and doors whereby an individual can focus on text accessibility. With him, one might locate, or can even experience a form of restrained epiphany, an impulsive feeling of excitement emerging from the entire tale but tends to bear a highly subjective and intuitive occurrence (East Asian Languages and Literature & Ikeda, 2014).

Biographical Information

Born in the year 1899 at Osaka, Kawabata was unfortunately orphaned at a very tender age. His father had succumbed to an illness when he was only two years old during which his mother also died in the subsequent year. It is pointed out that at such a minor age, he suffered various other losses thereby earning the sobriquet termed as the “Master of Funerals”. It is because of the critical number of death ceremonies that he came across in his youthful age. It sombrely included that of his only sister as well as those of his grandparents who had raised him after the death of his parents. Kawabata started his literary work while he was still a teenager. In the year 1914, he scripted his first renown story that was entitled “Jūrokusai no Nikki” meaning the “Diary of a Sixteen-Year Old“. This is the point when he recorded his actual impressions during the period when his grandfather’s died. He attended the Tokyo Imperial University whereby he attained Japanese literature degree in the year 1924.

As young as he was by then, Kawabata gained a lot of interest in the Western artistic movements and literature (Gessel, 1997). Being Proficient in the English language, he examined James Joyce’s piece of writing termed as the ‘Ulysses’ based in its native language, hence getting a very strong influence by the array-of-consciousness methodologies. In the same year, he was joined with a friend known as Riichi Yokomitsu and many other emerging writers. They then came up collectively with a literary journal that was entitled ‘Bungei Jidai’, meaning ‘The Age of Literary Arts’ that comprised of the new movements. With his short-lived but very influential movement, Kawabata made various experimentations with Dadaism, cubism, surrealism, and futurism, with a sole effort of capturing the pure sensations and life feelings. Even though Kawabata’s dynamic contribution to such a movement can be regarded as a temporary or exploratory kind of thing, he duly maintained his concentration in the contemporary literary works throughout. He won various literary honors and awards in Japan in the course of his entire career. He also managed to win other lucrative awards such as the ‘German Goethe Medal’ in the year 1959, the ‘French Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger’ Award in1961, as well as the award of the Nobel Prize later in the year 1968. In addition, he served at the Hawaii University as the author-in-residence in the year1969. In the year 1972, Kawabata committed suicide without leaving any notice; and, hence the reasons for such an action are still unknown up to date (Goossen, 1997).

Major Writings of Short Fictions

Kawabata was best known as a pure novelist, and he nevertheless scripted short narratives throughout his entire career. He gave a suggestion of the primary reasons for his reliance on short pieces. With regards to English literary skills, his short narrative is mainly represented by some of the two collections. These collections include the ‘House of the Sleeping Beauties and Other Stories’, as well as the “Palm-of-the-Hand Stories’. The former is comprised of other additional stories such as; “Nemureru Bijo,” “Kinjū” and “Kata Ude“. The latter ones only features an approximated half value of around a hundred and forty-six brief pieces of writings that were termed by Kawabata as ‘tan ago koro no shōsetsu’, meaning ” the stories that blends into the hand’s palm”. At times, they were a little more of a page with regards to the length. These highly compressed and allusive fictions had meagre tonal variations ranging from the poignant to the humorous tone. They formerly comprised of the simple image’s evocation or moods, and mainly tend to possess more complicated patterns. His last piece of art that was written prior to his unexpected death was entitled “Gleanings from Snow Mountain.” These writings tend to distil his complete novel known as ‘Yukiguni (the Snow Country) back to a mere nine-page story. One of his initial literary success known as “Izu no Odoriko“, was translated into English by somebody known as Seidensticker, before being published later own (Keene, 2003).

Critical Reception

Even though novels tends to encompass the vast segment of Kawabata’s literary output, critics put into consideration the overall precision and economy of his shorter narratives to be more contemplative of his entire artistry. Most of them have brought out their critical claim that his longer works are usually structured just as a sequence of brief, evocative scenes that majorly constitute to most of his stories. In his mere introduction to the novel entitled ‘The Palm-of-the-Hand Stories’, a literary scholar and critique known as Holman claims that the short story tend to appear as Kawabata’s fundamental unit of composition whereby his longer artistic work were built from. It is due to a situation in a manner in which a linked verse form of poetry is linked with other discrete verses so as to establish a much longer poem. A critique known as Masao Miyoshi, on the other hand, noticed a resemblance between the Kawabata’s methodology and the poetry’s writing skills. He realized this at the moment when he made some comparisons of Kawabata’s technique in his story,”The Izu Dancer,” to that used in the haiku poems (Kawabata & Holman, 1998). He noted out that; instead of Kawabata making some explanations on his entire characters’ feelings and thoughts, he merely makes a suggestion for them by just mentioning objects that can certainly reverberate individuals with substantial, if not peculiar, emotions. The critics often tend to praise Kawabata for his prowess in imagery application because of their stunning clarity and power of evoking universal human worries of loneliness, death, and even loss of real love. For instance, a scholar known as Yukio Mishima related the intensity that was created by Kawabata in the article entitled the “House of the Sleeping Beauties” to the aspect of being ensnared in an airless marine. Gwenn Boardman found greater sadness and the longing persistent apprehensions for the Kawabata. On the other hand, Arthur Kimball evaluated Kawabata’s thematic treatments as the primary sources of his timeless quality works (Rubin, 2001).

Japanese Neo-sensational Literature as a Major Basis for Kawabata’s Work

In the entire Japanese History, the Neo-sensationalist form of literature is taken as the earliest contemporary literary school of thought to have ever come into existence. It emerged at around 1920’s at the time when Kawabata had started working on his literary arts. Its emergence marked the rebirth of the Japanese present literature. As brought out by Kawabata in most of his literary works, literature is indeed an accurate reflection of an individual’s or the society’s social life. So, the origin of the Japanese consciousness or neo-sensationalist literature was not accidental by any possible means. It emerged as a steadily intensifying literary progress that made the combination of the social elements especially after the 1st World War (Van, 2009). It encompassed both the literary growth and trend in Europe, Japan, as well as the contemporary mechanistic civilizations, and Japan’s social reforms. The proposal by some of the writers within this framework was that; the aspects of futurists, symbolisms, stereo-schools, modernism, factionalism, as well as structuralism, all belonged to neo-sensationalism structure. Base on this, it might be argued out that the Japanese neo-sensationalist form of literature was the ultimate outcome of various modern literary schools’ synthesis. It acted in place of being merely influenced by a single Western literary and artistic trend.

With respect to the literature, the Japanese neo-sensationalist based writers such as Kawabata went to the extent of pursuing new sensations. It was simply due to some of their mutual discontent with the existing literary state as well as the social order. It was indeed aimed towards the pursuance of new and better modes of life and that were aimed towards perceiving most objects that were mostly advocated for the spread of the forward form of art and latest literary trend. It hence worked towards introducing a stylish revolution that had the primary function of renewing the technique and the forms of expressions (Swirski, 1999). In fact, the new sensation was a symbolic mode of expression with regards to the entire literary works. From my opinion, I think this is the ultimate reason Kawabata’s artistic work emerged successful and renowned by various critiques for the creative and innovative utilization of imagery model. On the other hand, the symbols and metaphors that were utilized while necessarily expressing some simple realities, was taken as a kind of the subtle art. It means that; through some of the minor symbols and hints, the authors can significantly glance into the subsequent significance and existence of a visual micro cave structure. The primary reason for the choice of such a small cave is because that they had mere intentions of symbolizing the enormous internal segment of human life.

The other important aspect that was majorly adopted and equally extended by Kawabata was the element of idealism. It is a crucial factor has been mostly touched on in his extensive and comprehensive literary works. The Japan’s neo-sensational authors believed that this sensation was one of the touching mediums that were entirely audio-visual and subjective. They also thought that it can enable them as well to go beyond the superficial phenomena of probing into the prevailing internal matters. Here, the aspect of self-was largely adopted as the epitome of ultimate existence, with the worldly things emerging as its complements, hindrance, or expressions (Ueda, 1976). From the author’s point of view, what tends to exist is the aspect of consciousness, while the materialistic humanity was merely the ultimate outcome of sensation, idea, concept, and consciousness. On this account of literary development, greater emphasis was placed on the dire expression of an individual’s subjective emotions and feelings. In addition emphasis is also placed on the role of direct perception and subjectivity, which can hence lead to the entire result of advocating for thoughtlessness, refutation of utilitarianism, aimlessness, as well as the denial of realistic life. So, as expressed by Kawabata in his extensive writings, all the above factors are of great importance to any aspiring literary artist. The other major components are the methodologies for the literary establishment, hints, and symbols that have been direly utilized in his works (Matson & Gary James, 2010).

With regards to all these analysis and allegations, it can be concluded that Kawabata was indeed a very great literary writer of all times. It has been reflected in his unique approaches as well as the adherence towards the aspect of the Neo-Sensualist form of writings.



East Asian Languages and Literature, & Ikeda, Janet. (2014). Kawabata Yasunari’s Tanpopo: A Critical Analysis. University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Gessel, V. C. (1997). Japanese fiction writers, 1868-1945. Detroit, Mich: Gale Research.

Goossen, T. W. (1997). The Oxford book of Japanese short stories. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Kawabata, Y., & Holman, J. M. (1998). The dancing girl of Izu and other stories. Washington, D.C: Counterpoint.

Keene, D. (2003). Five modern Japanese novelists. New York: Columbia University Press.

Matson, Gary James. (2010). The early works of Kawabata Yasunari.

Rubin, J. (2001). Modern Japanese writers. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

Swirski, P. (December 01, 1999). Popular and Highbrow Literature: A Comparative View. Clcweb: Comparative Literature and Culture, 1, 4.)

Ueda, M. (1976). Modern Japanese writers and the nature of literature. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press.

Van, . W. J. (January 01, 2009). Agaat ‘s law : reflections on law and literature with reference to Marlene van Niekerk’s novel Agaat. South African Law Journal, 126, 4, 695-739.


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