|Birth Day:||June 11, 1899|
|Death Date:||Apr 16, 1972 (age 72)|
As per our current Database, Yasunari Kawabata died on Apr 16, 1972 (age 72).
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While studying at Tokyo University, he founded a literary journal called Shin-Shichō and published his debut short story, "Shokonsai Ikkei."
Born into a well-established family in Osaka, Japan, Yasunari was orphaned by the time he was four, after which he lived with his grandparents. He had an older sister who was taken in by an aunt, and whom he met only once thereafter, at the age of ten in July 1909. She died shortly after when he was 11. Kawabata's grandmother died when he was seven (September 1906), and his grandfather when he was fifteen (May 1914).
Having lost all close paternal relatives, Yasunari moved in with his mother's family (the Kurodas). However, in January 1916, he moved into a boarding house near the junior high school (comparable to a modern high school) to which he had formerly commuted by train. Through many of Kawabata's works the sense of distance in his life is represented. He often gives the impression that his characters have built up a wall around them that moves them into isolation. In a 1934 published work Kawabata wrote: "I feel as though I have never held a woman's hand in a romantic sense[...] Am I a happy man deserving of pity?”. Indeed, this does not have to be taken literally, but it does show the type of emotional insecurity that Kawabata felt, especially experiencing two painful love affairs at a young age. One of those painful love episodes was with Hatsuyo Ito (伊藤初代, 1906-1951) whom he met when he was 20 years old. An unsent love letter to her was found at his former residence in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, in 2014. According to Kaori Kawabata, Kawabata's son-in-law, an unpublished entry in the author's diary mentions that Hatsuyo was raped by a monk at the temple she was staying at, which led her to break off their engagement.
After graduating from junior high school in March 1917, Kawabata moved to Tokyo just before his 18th birthday. He hoped to pass the exams of Dai-ichi Kōtō-gakkō (First Upper School), which was under the direction of the Tokyo Imperial University. He succeeded in the exam the same year and entered the Humanities Faculty as an English major in July 1920. A young Kawabata, by this time, was enamoured by the works of another Asian Nobel laureate, Rabindranath Tagore.
While still a university student, Kawabata re-established the Tokyo University literary magazine Shin-shichō ("New Tide of Thought"), which had been defunct for more than four years. There he published his first short story, "Shokonsai ikkei" ("A View from Yasukuni Festival") in 1921. During university, he changed faculties to Japanese literature and wrote a graduation thesis titled, "A short history of Japanese novels". He graduated from university in March 1924.
Kawabata graduated in 1924, by which time he had already caught the attention of Kikuchi Kan and other noted writers and editors through his submissions to Kikuchi's literary magazine, the Bungei Shunju.
In October 1924, Kawabata, Riichi Yokomitsu and other young writers started a new literary journal Bungei Jidai ("The Artistic Age"). This journal was a reaction to the entrenched old school of Japanese literature, specifically the Japanese movement descended from Naturalism, while it also stood in opposition to the "workers'" or proletarian literature movement of the Socialist/Communist schools. It was an "art for art's sake" movement, influenced by European Cubism, Expressionism, Dada, and other modernist styles. The term Shinkankakuha, which Kawabata and Yokomitsu used to describe their philosophy, has often been mistakenly translated into English as "Neo-Impressionism". However, Shinkankakuha was not meant to be an updated or restored version of Impressionism; it focused on offering "new impressions" or, more accurately, "new sensations" or "new perceptions" in the writing of literature. An early example from this period is the draft of Hoshi wo nusunda chichi (The Father who stole a Star), an adaption of Ferenc Molnár's play Liliom.
Kawabata started to achieve recognition for a number of his short stories shortly after he graduated, receiving acclaim for "The Dancing Girl of Izu" in 1926, a story about a melancholy student who, on a walking trip down Izu Peninsula, meets a young dancer, and returns to Tokyo in much improved spirits. This story, which explored the dawning eroticism of young love, was successful because he used dashes of melancholy and even bitterness to offset what might have otherwise been overly sweet. Most of his subsequent works explored similar themes.
In 1933, Kawabata protested publicly against the arrest, torture and death of the young leftist writer Takiji Kobayashi in Tokyo by the Tokkō special political police.
Kawabata relocated from Asakusa to Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, in 1934 and, although he initially enjoyed a very active social life among the many other writers and literary people residing in that city during the war years and immediately thereafter, in his later years he became very reclusive.
One of his most famous novels was Snow Country, started in 1934 and first published in installments from 1935 through 1937. Snow Country is a stark tale of a love affair between a Tokyo dilettante and a provincial geisha, which takes place in a remote hot-spring town somewhere in the mountainous regions of northern Japan. It established Kawabata as one of Japan's foremost authors and became an instant classic, described by Edward G. Seidensticker as "perhaps Kawabata's masterpiece".
The book that he himself considered his finest work, The Master of Go (1951), contrasts sharply with his other works. It is a semi-fictional recounting of a major Go match in 1938, on which Kawabata had actually reported for the Mainichi newspaper chain. It was the last game of the master Shūsai's career and he lost to his younger challenger, only to die a little over a year later. Although the novel is moving on the surface as a retelling of a climactic struggle, some readers consider it a symbolic parallel to the defeat of Japan in World War II.
As the president of Japanese P.E.N. for many years after the war (1948–1965), Kawabata was a driving force behind the translation of Japanese literature into English and other Western languages. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters of France in 1960, and awarded Japan's Order of Culture the following year.
Kawabata was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature on 16 October 1968, the first Japanese person to receive such a distinction. In awarding the prize "for his narrative mastery, which with great sensibility expresses the essence of the Japanese mind", the Nobel Committee cited three of his novels, Snow Country, Thousand Cranes, and The Old Capital.
In addition to the numerous mentions of Zen and nature, one topic that was briefly mentioned in Kawabata's lecture was that of suicide. Kawabata reminisced of other famous Japanese authors who committed suicide, in particular Ryūnosuke Akutagawa. He contradicted the custom of suicide as being a form of enlightenment, mentioning the priest Ikkyū, who also thought of suicide twice. He quoted Ikkyū, "Among those who give thoughts to things, is there one who does not think of suicide?" There was much speculation about this quote being a clue to Kawabata's suicide in 1972, two years after Mishima had committed suicide.
Kawabata apparently committed suicide in 1972 by gassing himself, but a number of close associates and friends, including his widow, consider his death to have been accidental. One thesis, as advanced by Donald Richie, was that he mistakenly unplugged the gas tap while preparing a bath. Many theories have been advanced as to his potential reasons for killing himself, among them poor health (the discovery that he had Parkinson's disease), a possible illicit love affair, or the shock caused by the suicide of his friend Yukio Mishima in 1970. Unlike Mishima, Kawabata left no note, and since (again unlike Mishima) he had not discussed significantly in his writings the topic of taking his own life, his motives remain unclear. However, his Japanese biographer, Takeo Okuno, has related how he had nightmares about Mishima for two or three hundred nights in a row, and was incessantly haunted by the specter of Mishima. In a persistently depressed state of mind, he would tell friends during his last years that sometimes, when on a journey, he hoped his plane would crash.
Currently, Yasunari Kawabata is 123 years, 7 months and 19 days old. Yasunari Kawabata will celebrate 124th birthday on a Sunday 11th of June 2023.
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