This page is encoded as Japanese Shift_JIS. If your computer does not decode Japanese, there will be words in the captions that will be unintelligible. These are simply the Japanese characters for the English words preceding them.

Maps, Setting, Local Information, etc.

The setting for Snow Country is the hot springs resort of Yuzawa (湯沢温泉), in Niigata Prefecture, near the Shimizu Tunnel that bores through the "backbone" of Japan, the Japanese Alps. That tunnel is 970 meters long. The general course of the train through the mountains, and this tunnel, to Yuzawa is marked on the map in blue.
The Takahan (高半旅館) in Yuzawa (湯沢), the setting of the story. This photo is undated but is at least before its radical remodeling.
Web links to places relevant to Snow Country
  • The Takahan still exists, though it is remodeled. It has preserved, however, Kawabata's room as it was when he stayed there. Go here to see a picture of that room, part of Takahan's website (in Japanese).
  • Yuzawa maintains a bilingual web site. The photo gallery portion of this site gives an excellent sense for the mountains that Kawabata continually refers to. Go here.
  • Yuzawa has a yearly "Miss Komako" contest. Go here to see recent winners.
(ca. 1935)
The geisha Matsue (松栄) who was Kawabata's model for Komako. Matsue, by the way, lived to the age of 99. Her original name was Kodaka (小高キク).
"Nude woman" (裸婦) Pastel by Ishimoto (石本正画). A artwork owned and especially cherished by Kawabata.

Some comments and items regarding the writing process of Snow Country

Snow Country was published in sections, over years, and frequently rewritten. Below is a list of installments, and approximately where each installment begins in Seidensticker's translation. However, Snow Country was heavily rewritten and marking off sections in Seidensticker should be seen as more often a general guide than not.
  • Jan-1935 The Mirror the Color of the Evening Sky (夕景色の鏡)
    [begins at the beginning, page 3 in trans.]
  • Jan-1935 The Mirror of the White Morning (白い朝の鏡)
    [begins on page 16 with "Then: ..."]
  • Nov-1935 A Story (物語)
    [begins around page 43, around the phrase "In any case ..."]
  • Dec-1935 Wasted Effort (徒労)
    [begins on page 48 in trans., "Probably to keep snow ..."]
  • Aug-1936 Kaya Plumes (萱の花)
    [begins on page 89 as Part II in the trans.]
  • Oct-1936 Fire for a Pillow (火の枕)
    [begins page 110 of the trans., "How large the crow is ..."]
  • May-1937 A Song Little Girls Sing (手毬歌)
    [begins on page 132 of trans., "The russet deepened ..."]
  • June-1937 Snow Country (with an afterward and manuscript corrections)
  • Dec-1940 A Fire-alarm in the Snow (雪中火事)
    [begins page 150 of the trans., "The thread was spun ..."]
  • Aug-1941 The Milky Way (天の河)
    [begins on page 164 of trans., "Careful."]
  • May-1946 The Shorter Snow Country (a reworking of A Fire-alarm in the Snow and The Milky Way)
  • Oct-1947 Snow Country II
  • Dec-1948 Snow Country
Below is a page from memos in Kawabata's hand for Snow Country.
The first sentence of Snow Country as we now know it is one of the most famous sentences of modern Japanese literature. Originally, the story began entirely differently. Here are the two versions.

He touched her damp hair with his finger.  --- Shimamura had boarded the steam train and set out on this trip to tell the woman that he remembered this sensation above all else, that he could recall most vividly that one thing.


The train came out of the long tunnel into the snow country.

(translation by Seidensticker)

A hand copy of passages from Snow Country (雪国抄) found at Kawabata's bedside after his death.

Major works by Kawabata translated into English

A detailed and annotated bibliography of primary and secondary works in English on Yasunari Kawabata is maintained by Allen Reichart of Otterbein college. Go here.

(I have marked with ** the four works Kinya Tsuruta believed were considered his greatest.)

1926 The Dancing Girl of Izu and Other Stories (trans. by J. Martin Holman)
1930 The Scarlet Gang of Asakusa (trans. by Alisa Freedman)
1933 Of Birds and Beasts (included in the translation House of Sleeping Beauties)
1935-1947 **Snow Country (trans. by Edward G. Seidensticker)
1949-1951 **Thousand Cranes (trans. by Edward G. Seidensticker)
1949-1954 **The Sound of the Mountain (trans. by Edward G. Seidensticker)
1954 The Lake (trans. by Reiko Tsukimura)
1959 First Snow on Fuji (trans. by Michael Emmerich)
1960-1961 **House of Sleeping Beauties and Other Stories (trans. by Edward G. Seidensticker)
1961-1962 The Old Capital (trans. by J. Martin Holman)
1964 One Arm (included in the translation House of Sleeping Beauties)
1965 Beauty and Sadness (trans. by Howard Hibbett)
1969 Japan the Beautiful and Myself (trans. by Edward G. Seidensticker)
1969 The Existence and Discovery of Beauty (trans. by V. H. Viglielmo)
1971 Palm-of-the-Hand Stories (trans. by Lane Dunlop and J. Martin Holman) 1972 The Master of Go (trans. by Edward G. Seidensticker)-posthumous
1987 The Old Capital (trans. by J. Martin Holman)-posthumous

Movie versions of Kawabata's works (partial list)

The Izu Dancer has been frequently made into a movie. Below is a list. The graphics from top to bottom are the 1954, 1963 and 1974 versions. The 1963 and 1974 versions might be the most accessible of the two in this country.
1933: director, (五所平之助), Shochiku (VHS 1997)

1954: director, Nomura (野村芳太郎), Shochiku (VHS 1992)

1960: director, (川頭義郎), Shochiku (no VHS or dvd)

1963: director, Nishikawa (西河克己), Shochiku (VHS 1990, 1997) *This is the one with Yoshinaga Sayuri.

1967: director, (恩地日出夫), Toyo (no VHS or dvd)

1974: director, Nishikawa (西河克己), Toyo (VHS and dvd 1992)

Snow Country (director, Toyoda, 1957)
Internet Movie Database link: click here
Snow Country (director, Oba, 1965)
Internet Movie Database link: Here
Koto / The Twin Sisters of Kyoto (director, Nakamura,1963)
Internet Movie Database link: here

MISHIMA AND KAWABATA (currently empty)