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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

In Thousand Cranes, the author examines love and sex through a lens of grief.

After the death of his father, Kikuji attends a tea ceremony where he's introduced to a charming young woman. Despite his acknowledgment that she is beautiful and kind, he isn't interested in pursuing her. Instead, he starts a relationship with a person who he can't fully be with—his deceased father's former mistress. His trauma appears to keep him from moving forward in a real way that could help build his life. Instead he enters a relationship with no positive outcome.

Even though they care for each other, Kikuji and Mrs. Ota are doomed. The passion they share isn't enough to overcome the shame and regret that they experience over their illicit activities. When Mrs. Ota can no longer handle her feelings, she commits suicide. Kikuji is heartbroken by her death.

One of the ways he copes is by growing closer to Fumiko, her daughter. Once again, this relationship isn't able to assuage his feelings of guilt. They both bear shame because of the actions of their parents and families. Though they seem to overcome it when they destroy the bowl their parents used during their affair, things quickly go south. He isn't ready to commit immediately and still has to think about what he wants.

Kikuji feels free to be with Fumiko after they break the bowl and have a night together though it takes until the next day for him to decide. But he's unable to find her and believes that she also committed suicide. Every person he makes a connection with in the attempt to get over the pain in his past ends up dying. He's stuck in a cycle of connection and grief that he appears unable to escape. The trauma of Kikuji's father's death and the deaths of those close to him appear to shape and define him during the course of the novel.

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