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Snow Country

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  18,992 ratings  ·  1,825 reviews
Nobel Prize recipient Yasunari Kawabata's Snow Country is widely considered to be the writer's masterpiece, a powerful tale of wasted love set amid the desolate beauty of western Japan.

At an isolated mountain hot spring, with snow blanketing every surface, Shimamura, a wealthy dilettante meets Komako, a lowly geisha. She gives herself to him fully and without remorse, desp
Paperback, 175 pages
Published 1996 by Vintage (first published 1948)
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Joanna K You will find a copy in almost every bigger bookstore in the UK :) I was looking for it in second-hand bookshops but had little luck.
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all) Only you know what your triggers are, and whether something will upset you or not. Consider that Kawabata ultimately committed suicide; sadness is oft…moreOnly you know what your triggers are, and whether something will upset you or not. Consider that Kawabata ultimately committed suicide; sadness is often equated with beauty in his work.(less)

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Average rating 3.67  · 
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 ·  18,992 ratings  ·  1,825 reviews

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Jim Fonseca
Sep 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: japanese-authors
If you like a “ski” read instead of a “beach” read, this is for you! The setting is the western mountain slopes of northern Japan, one of the snowiest regions of the world – up to 15 feet of winter snow is common. In the town, the overhangs of buildings over the sidewalks form a tunnel through the snow in winter.


We are told in the translator’s Introduction that the snow country geisha catering to the ski lodge and hot spring clientele in winter are second class geisha compared to the urban geish
Feb 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Use your imagination
Shelves: dost, read-in-2015, asian
Shimamura gets on a train to dreamland. He escapes from the urbanity of Tokyo, from the grayish routine, the dull marriage, the mediocre reality that leaves him numb and empty in search of the purest expression of his desires. He is a dilettante, an expert aesthetician who knows that beauty lingers in memory of times past, on the glint of two sad eyes sparkling in a pale face, in a head tilted at a certain angle, in fragrances and sounds and the noiseless rippling waves that assimilate a caress. ...more
Mar 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Winter Wanderers with something to lose
I am white, mostly. And cold. And occasionally, weeping. But you don’t see my tears, for they run down the stream and lose their essence at the prolonged kiss of the first sun. But I do not mind. I come alive to die; I bulk up to surrender; I appear to vanish. But I, too, have admirers. Admirers, who eye ephemeral beauty with a stinging lacquer of depleting life, colluding their vision with a bagful of clouded vignettes stroking the air that arises after all is consumed and lost.

Visiting Japan
Richard Derus
May 26, 2011 rated it liked it
Rating: 3.5* of five

The Publisher Says: Nobel Prize winner Yasunari Kawabata’s Snow Country is widely considered to be the writer’s masterpiece: a powerful tale of wasted love set amid the desolate beauty of western Japan.

At an isolated mountain hot spring, with snow blanketing every surface, Shimamura, a wealthy dilettante meets Komako, a lowly geisha. She gives herself to him fully and without remorse, despite knowing that their passion cannot last and that the affair can have only one outcom
Aug 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
turn this way!
I too feel lonely
late in autumn
~ Basho's Haiku

As if on a winter’s night a traveler, travels to a distant land, where the snow falls even on the maple leaves. Where lovers part to meet and meet to part. Where love is nothing but a mirrored reality or a fogged illusion. Where one heart has room only for the pleasure of regaining what had been lost and another voice is so beautiful that it’s almost lonely and sad. Where some deaths are tiny but invoke immense poetry and several lives
Ian "Marvin" Graye
Shimamura’s Tale Part I

The Milky Way
Sits high above
Mountain country,
Villages below.
Stardust falls
Until, frozen,
It becomes
White snowflakes
That shroud the ground,
Two meters deep.
My hands reach out
Towards the winter sky,
Hoping I might catch
A star in each hand.
For a moment,
They’re in my grasp.
I adore them
Like they’re lovers
That I can keep.
My desire doesn't
Require that
I make a choice.
Sometimes, it’s true,
You can have both.
But the angry fire
In my selfish heart
Melts my lovi
Apr 06, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japanese
[ ▷ ◻ ]



Bashō's evocative haiku is referenced by the end of the book, as one of the characters contemplates small drops of fire that, in contrast to the quiet atmosphere of a country made of snow, were floating in the air, ablaze with fury and disenchantment, sheltered by the absolute splendour of the Milky Way. The sublimeness of a firmament under which existence manifests itself in the shape of beauty and sadness.
As always, Bashō depicted an entire universe in three li
Steven Godin
Steeped in Japanese tradition Nobel prize winner Yasunari Kawabata has created something almost otherworldly, like it belongs in a completely different time and place. Shimamura travels from the city to a village in the snowy mountains, and while in the company of a young rural geisha called Komako a strange love blossoms, but bound to the rules of the geisha Komako struggles with her emotions towards him and there is always a sense that sadness lingers . The snowy setting really captures the im ...more
Jr Bacdayan
Aug 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Never have I had such intense desire to prolong a novel, not until I read this. I am a man of literature. It is in my blood to have the highest respect for the writer and to consider the work sacred, thus I never impose my will on the material even if the end is left open for the imagination to play upon. I purposely hold myself back and stop where the cliff ends, I do not take the leap into the unknown abyss. However today I find the exception. Today I jumped. Forgive me. I am a weak man, a man ...more
Apr 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: the pure of heart
Recommended to Jenn(ifer) by: vincent van gogh

New love is as delicate as the wings of a moth.

I try to write but the words disintegrate between my fingertips. They melt like snow on my tongue. Maybe a light breeze could carry them across the ocean and drop them at your feet. They will slip through your fingers like sand. They will drift through the air like dandelion wishes.

New love is as fleeting as the blossoms of an almond tree.

The words might cut you like the sharp edge of this paper. The tiny cuts will sting. They buzz around your ear
Snow Country is one exquisite read. It should be on every classics list, and bump a couple of dead Americans or Englishmen to make room near the top of the "top 100 books you must read to be deemed educated".

Two tips. First, I recommend that you not do what I did, and read it over a period of 2 weeks - 20 pages here, 12 pages there. I didn't do service to it. And still. 5 stars.

Second, I recommend that you read these two friends' reviews because they also are exquisite and tell you everything
May 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
An image of a young woman reflected in the window of a train. A man watches her. Snow Country opens with a strange, beautiful scene which sets up the story, and leaves hints at what is to follow,
A woman’s eye floated up before him. He almost called out in his astonishment. But he had been dreaming, and when he came to himself he saw that it was only the reflection in the window of the girl opposite. Outside it was growing dark, and the lights had been turned on in the train, transforming the wi
Mar 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: yk, にほん

Amusing the lotus pond
A child’s delight.

Butterflies dab my tears and lotuses kiss my heart. As a child, I used to spend hours gazing the dainty beauties as they flirted with the boisterous flowers. Amid my hearty giggles, the soft buttery wings browsed my cheeks for a pink watermark. I sought to embrace these coquettish insects as I sat on the wet grass. As I lifted one from its flowering sojourn and laid it on my palms, my eyes lit like the time my mother cuddled me after a
Mar 15, 2015 rated it liked it
Gray, the color of loneliness and dissatisfaction, of a heart torn by guilt and shame. Long, gray winters and snow-covered mountains, snow as high as his knees, snow to bury his secret rendezvous. Gray, the color a person sees, when he thinks the grass is greener elsewhere. Black and white forms gray in Kawabata's fictional creation, where the mountains are "black," but "brilliant with the color of the snow." Perhaps gray is the color of unrequited love, or of "wasted effort."
He was conscious
Dec 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japan, 2019-read
Kawabata was the first Japanese author to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature (in 1968), and this was one of the works the Nobel Committee cited in their decision. Employing a simple storyline, this author shines by finding an abundance of images to illustrate emptiness and by evoking a strong atmosphere of imminent loss - the characters drift through the title-giving snow country, and while Kawabata plays with the color white, describes the physical sensations brought about by icy temperatur ...more
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
- The snow is that deep?
- They say that in the next town up the line the schoolchildren jump naked from the second floor of the dormitory. They sink out of sight in the snow, and they move around under it as though they were swimming.

A train rushes into the evening, away from the city, toward a distant country, over the mountains, where winter snows are so high people dig tunnels to move from one side of the street to the other and telegraph poles are buried right up to the wires. Here are hot
Mar 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: northern lights
Recommended to Mariel by: sky phenomenon
I read the other reviews of Snow Country before I read the book. I'm nervous to look at any more right now, before I begin writing my own review (erm technically I'm writing it right now). It's like when you mishear lyrics in a song and find out the line that killed you wasn't what they were singing at all. Lights turned on and it's not as beautiful when it's the real world in day time? So the introductions I've read... I didn't read Snow Country as a love triangle. I don't want to.

Yukio Mishim
Jul 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: japan, 2018
Why the fuck did no one tell me about kotatsus?

Do you know what this is?! It's got a stove in there! It's a heated tablebed! It's, like, you know how 20-somethings with instagram accounts call clumsy panda memes "everything"? but this is actual everything. I think we can all agree that the word "cozy" has had its day but fuck my puppies if I couldn't curl up and die in one of these things.

Anyway we've been talking about the "thin sheet of paper," as Jun'ichirō Tanizaki calls it, between the word
Apr 29, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: japanese
I view Asian Art through Western eyes. Not that I have a choice, I guess. That process enhances, even as it limits.


I love the beauty, the intricacy of Japanese woodblock prints, but I fear I’m seeing them superficially. Am I missing something, I wonder, if only a nuance? And Murakami. Even though his works owe much to Bulgakov and The Beatles, there is a descent from Japanese forerunners and the history and culture of those islands that probably – okay, certainly - eludes me.

Once an artist hits
Dec 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: japanese, fiction, nobel
A metaphor of rotting and unappreciated beauty. Deep in the frozen reaches of the Snow Country a Geisha waits out her days for a man who would give her a life of love and dignity that she believes is her right.

Geishas in the Japanese society were connoisseurs of culture and art; they exerted political influence through their patrons; they decided the fates of people who desired their services; they made and broke marriages – they were a soft power centre in the Japanese society.

But in the backwa
ἀρχαῖος (arkhaîos)(on leave)
"In the depths of the mirror the evening landscape moved by, the mirror and the reflected figures like motion pictures superimposed one on the other. The figures and the background were unrelated, and yet the figures, transparent and intangible, and the background, dim in the gathering darkness, melted together into a sort of symbolic world not of this world. Particularly when a light out in the mountains shone in the center of the girl’s face, Shimamura felt his chest rise at the inexpressible ...more
Eddie Watkins
Mar 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: japanese-fiction
This is the story of three different trips by Shimamura up into the Snow Country of Japan. Each trip occurs in a different season, and each in turn reflects his deepening involvement with a country geisha in a small village. While journeying by train there for his second visit he is struck by the beauty of a fellow passenger who by chance is traveling to the same village. As Shimamura gets more deeply involved, at least physically, with the geisha, he remains deeply intrigued by the other woman. ...more
Paquita Maria Sanchez
In slow motion until the point of contact, this novella quite simply and mercilessly spends its energy reserves back-handing you with the its last few pages. I am getting ahead of myself, but it is important that you know this fact. I hear a lot of trash talked on Japanese novels and films from time to time (excluding those centering on martial arts, of course), of how they are slow, simple, boring, plotless, and where are the explosions, anyway? Well...

First off, I think that's a lot of hooey.
Katia N
Aug 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Reading this book is like being inside of a painting. He paints such a beautiful imagery with words. Spaces between the words, pauses matter as much as the words. I might not remember the characters very long but I would remember the ambiance of this book and the special kind of buzzing silence it creates.

When it rains

Also he reminded me about one special kind of a fleeting moment I've seen so many times, but never was able to catch on camera. He starts the story when his main character observes the refl
At first I found it difficult to know where to put this book and what to expect from it.

We have three main characters: a well off, cultured, married middle age man who travels from Tokyo to the 'Snow Country' (a remote hot springs village in the far North and its surrounding); the man then meets a young woman (who later becomes a geisha due to livelihood problems) and the two of them develop a relationship almost instantly. As time pasts and seasons change, the middle age man travels to the 'Sn
Bob Newman
Feb 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
A Rake's Non-Progress

I studied Japanese for four years in college and as a senior, more years ago than I care to count, I read this novel in Japanese, one of only two I ever made it through. Recently, having forgotten everything about the novel and because I have forgotten too many characters to read in Japanese anymore, I re-read it in English. SNOW COUNTRY is nothing if not a strange work. At the risk of sounding snobbish or whatever, I have to say that it is stranger in English than in Japane
Nandakishore Varma
Oct 12, 2015 rated it liked it
Most of my friends from Kerala would be familiar with the film Thoovanathumbikal by the famous Malayalam writer and director P. Padmarajan. The film narrates the story of the love of a young-man-about-town, Jayakrishnan, for two girls: Radha, a prim-and-proper Indian miss and Clara, a prostitute. Padmarajan uses the two women as symbols for two facets of femininity (and therefore, of life) - one light and chaste and the other dark and mysterious. I was reminded of this movie all the time while r ...more
Jan 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
at tosh's prodding i'd been on something of a japanese kick in '07, burned through mishima, dazai, tanizaki, murakami, etc. -- when deciding which kawabata to tackle, charles forwarded an interview in which vollmann mentioned snow country as in his all-time top ten. well, i read it on the flight from florida to california and stumbled off that plane utterly & totally flattened. snow country. whew. snow country. sad and enigmatic and spare and packed with some of the most odd & lyrical images i'v ...more
Shawn Mooney (Shawn The Book Maniac)
A meek married man cares about no one, just the moon, snow, and maybe moths. And supposedly but dilettanteishly, ballet. Yet he does his best to inflict his grey, dull self on a ditzy drunkard hooker and one other woman at a winter resort. How they stayed awake in his leaden, obnoxious presence, I’ll never know. I barely could.
Jan 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: romance, asia, japan
The trick is find a better translation otherwise you'll suffer what we call a Lost in translation! Kawabata won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968 for this and he is known for his deep affinity to and understanding of classical haiku poetry. Haiku represents a fundamental element of Japanese culture then and now. Snow Country has been described as haiku in prose. That's why a GOOD translation is a must.

And am I the first one to notice this, why Yasunari Kawabata is smoking in his profile im
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Yasunari Kawabata (川端 康成) was a Japanese short story writer and novelist whose spare, lyrical, subtly-shaded prose works won him the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968, the first Japanese author to receive the award. His works have enjoyed broad international appeal and are still widely read today.

Nobel Lecture: 1968

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“But even more than her diary, Shimamura was surprised at her statement that she had carefully cataloged every novel and short story she had read since she was fifteen or sixteen. The record already filled ten notebooks.
"You write down your criticisms, do you?"
"I could never do anything like that. I just write down the author and the characters and how they are related to each other. That is about all."
"But what good does it do?"
"None at all."
"A waste of effort."
"A complete waste of effort," she answered brightly, as though the admission meant little to her. She gazed solemnly at Shimamura, however.
A complete waste of effort. For some reason Shimamura wanted to stress the point. But, drawn to her at that moment, he felt a quiet like the voice of the rain flow over him. He knew well enough that for her it was in fact no waste of effort, but somehow the final determination that it had the effect of distilling and purifying the woman's existence.”
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