What does the pink crane scarf in A Thousand Cranes by Yasunari Kawabata symbolize?
The pink scarf is decorated with a thousand-crane pattern, white on a pink background. The colors and the cranes in Japanese culture signify "a long and happy life".
The crane-embellished scarf is wrapped around a bundle carried by Yukiko Inamura, a tea ceremony student and potential bride introduced to the central character, Kikuji Mitani, by a surrogate mother figure, Chikako Kurimoto. Chikako has invited Mitani to a formal tea ceremony at Engakuji Temple, for the purpose of introducing him to Yukiko. Yukiko is "graceful and charming", and at first it looks like a good match could be made between the two, and that they might indeed be able to secure a long and happy life together.
Sadly, the uninvited intrusion of another character, Mrs. Ota, and her daughter Fumiko, presents an obstacle to the peaceful and apparently positive possibility of a union between Mitani and Yukiko. Mrs. Ota has a powerfully symbolic artifact of her own in an ancient Shino tea bowl, and her constant presence makes the promise for Mitani and Yukiko as suggested by the pink crane scarf impossible to realize.
The Inamura girl wears a kerchief with a “thousand crane pattern in white on a pink crape background” (10). A thousand cranes is a Japanese custom that that represents hope for a long and fruitful marriage. Wives would present a thousand folded cranes to their husbands as a sign of good luck. Chikako made it her goal to ensure Kikuji has a happy future. The Inamura girl represents hope for the future; the thousand cranes represent honor, yet honor and shame are so embedded with one another, that Kikuji avoids both, at all costs.