The novel Thousand Cranes, by Yasunari Kawabata, is set in Kamakura, Japan, after the conclusion of World War Two. This time period is critical in highlighting one of the book's major themes: the country's departure from historical and cultural values after the war. As a modern man who has embraced some Western values (like dressing in suits and having casual sex), Kikuji, the protagonist, has little interest in the traditional house, furnishings, and tea bowl collection of his deceased father. He also struggles with the notion of an arranged marriage to the beautiful but old-fashioned Yukiko. The war, which was won by Western forces, destroyed much of the value that was placed on these kinds of relationships, objects, and locales.
By placing the novel in post-war Japan, Kawabata forces his protagonist to wrangle with the schism in his cultural identity and to choose between the past and the future.
This Japanese novel gets its title from the ancient tradition that if a sick person makes a thousand paper cranes, he or she will get better. The setting is important for this novel because Japan is a very different culture from ours. The novel explores the concepts of love, loss, sex and death in Japanese culture. Since the novel uses the metaphor of tea, the setting is Japan in the 20th century, specifically at tea. Tea is a metaphor for life, though the characters do not live long lives. The boy has a relationship with both his father’s mistress and her daughter, receiving an education about life and love.