Biography of Yasunari Kawabata

One of the most important and famous writers in 20th century Japanese literature, Yasunari Kawabata was known for his masterful use of both modernist European and classical Japanese influences. In 1968, he became the first Japanese to receive the Nobel Literature Prize.

Born in 1899 in Osaka, Kawabata lived a childhood marked by sorrow, losing his parents when he was two years old and then his grandparents, who had taken care of him, when he was fifteen. In 1920 he entered Tokyo University and while there published his first story, "Shōkonsai Ikkei" ("A View of the Yasukuni Festival," 1921) and joined Shin Kankaku-ha, the "Neo-impressionists," a literary group which drew influence from European modernism to advocate the questioning of objectivity in literature, in opposition to the naturalist and proletarian writers of the day. Kawabata's "Izu no Odoriko" ("The Izu Dancer," 1926), a short story about a young university student who falls in love with a young dancer while traveling, projected him into fame, after which he published some of his most celebrated works, such as Yukiguni (Snow Country, 1948), Sembazuru (A Thousand Cranes, 1949-51), Yama no Oto (The Sound of the Mountain, 1954), and Nemureru Bijō (The House of Sleeping Beauties, 1960-61). He gained international respect for himself and his fellow Japanese writers when he won the Nobel in 1968. Aside from being a fiction writer, Kawabata was also well known as a cultivator of young literary talent and the longtime president of the Japanese PEN Club. He died in 1972 in an apparent suicide.

Study Guides on Works by Yasunari Kawabata

One of the three novels by Yasunari Kawabata that the Nobel Committee cited in awarding him the Nobel Literature Prize in 1968, Snow Country is one of the famous writer's best and most well known works. Set in a remote hot spring town in the "snow...