Snow Country

Snow Country Literary Elements


Literary Fiction

Setting and Context

Yuzawa Onsen, Niigata Province, Japan; 1930s.

Narrator and Point of View

Third-person narrator, though very much over the shoulder of Shimamura, the protagonist.

Tone and Mood

Quiet and poignantly sad.

Protagonist and Antagonist

Shimamura (protagonist)

Major Conflict

Komako loves Shimamura but knows that their love cannot last since they are geisha-and-client -- all the more so because Shimamura does not understand her feelings.


Shimamura tells Komako, "You're a good girl," and then "You're a good woman," the subtle change in wording revealing that Shimamura has been using her as a geisha all along.


Komako tells the story of Kikuyu, a fellow geisha who was too eager to follow men in love and was abandoned by one as a result; Komako herself will be abandoned by Shimamura.


The tinkling of a bell in a kettle summons the image of Komako's walking feet to Shimamura's mind, and this convinces him that he must leave the hot spring. The underlying feelings evoked by the bell are not mentioned explicitly.


Much of the natural imagery that Kawabata employs has myriad antecedents in classical Japanese literature, whether they be in the famed novel "Tale of Genji" or in poetry.


The novel is full of descriptions of the snow country landscape surrounding the hot spring.


Shimamura finds Komako's love tragic and sad, even though he is its object.


Komako at times acts as a sort of mother figure to Shimamura, just as Yoko had to Yukio.

Metonymy and Synecdoche

Yoko is often represented by simply her eyes or limpid voice.


A dying bee that Shimamura notices on his floor seems almost human in its struggle against death.