Snow Country – by Yasunari Kawabata

I found it fascinating that each of Kawabata’s novels covers different Japanese traditions, be it tea ceremony, No mask, mountain geisha, or Chijimi textile in this novel.

“The thread was spun in the snow, and the cloth woven in the snow, washed in the snow, and bleached in the snow. Everything, from the first spinning of the thread to the last finishing touches, was done in the snow. “There is Chijimi linen because there is snow,” someone wrote long ago. “Snow is the mother of Chijimi.””

I was so in awe with the process of making Chjimi linen that I googled it. It looks like this process is still being practiced in the snow country of Echigo province nowadays (specifically in Yuzawa town where Kawabata visited to work on this book). The Echigo-jofu and Ojiya-chijimi textiles were designated as UNESCO Intangible Cultural Properties in 2009.

On another note, I saw the postcard at the store and immediately related it to the novel. Two beautiful young girls in the snow country – Kamako’s love was doomed from the start, and Yuko’s love was cut short by her lover’s sudden death. I feel sorry for women’s lives in the old days. Kamako was beautiful, smart, and good natured, but being an onsen (hot spring) geisha was as far as she could go.
Their images of being pure, clean and unearthly beautiful will linger in my heart.

“The impression the woman gave was a wonderfully clean and fresh one. It seemed to Shimamura that she must be clean to the hollows under her toes. So clean indeed did she seem that he wondered whether his eyes, back from looking at early summer in the mountains, might not be deceiving him.”

Snow Country was first published in Japanese in 1935, and in English in 1956.

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