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Japanese Spa Town of Yujawa Provides Background for Novel, “Snow World”

Japanese Spa Town of Yujawa Provides Background for Novel, “Snow World”

Posted February. 25, 2004 00:07,   


“As I get out of the long tunnel buried in the boundaries, a snow world welcomed me. The earth in night time has changed into white.”

That is the first sentence of the famous novel written by Kawabata Yasunari (1899-1972), who made a gift of the Nobel literature prize to the Japanese. This novel sheds light on the innocence that exists in the internal mind of humans through making love itself as bright as possible. When a reader looks through the first page, the aesthetic insight of the author can be realized through the “white snow” appearing from symbolic words such as “the earth in night time has changed into white” and “Snow World.”

The background of the novel and the place where the author wrote the novel is the famous spa town of Japan, Yujawa. It was the end of last week in a late night when I arrived in Yujawa.

The room where the author wrote the novel 70 years before remained as it stood. But, my path to Snow World is totally different from the novel. Taking a bus, I couldn’t undergo the fantastic experience of riding the train passing the “long tunnel buried in the boundaries.” Due to abnormal weather which caused the highest temperature of the day time to rise to 17 degrees Celsius, I couldn’t see the “earth in night time which changed into white.”

In the town, where the time of snowfall exceeds other types of weather, it didn’t snow on that day. The time of the first writing of the novel was the year 1935, the year when my mother was born. This difference can be regarded as natural because the world always changes.

Fortunately, the hotel, Dakahan, where the author wrote the novel, remains as it stood 70 years before. Despite the abnormal weather, the nearby fields and mountains were covered with snow like in the novel. Of course, the old hotel made of wood has been changed into a concrete western hotel which can accommodate 235 people in 47 rooms. But the “Dadami” room, where the author overcame the coldness of winter by filling up the vacant rooms with manuscript paper, was preserved like a stuffed bird.

-The Black-and-White Movie “Snow World” is Showing for the Sake of Travelers

At 7:00 a.m., the memorial hall which was shut down in the night was opened. A lodger who took a bath in a sun-shined oriental spa, stepped in the hall, wearing a yukata, the traditional summer wear of Japan.

In the resting room blinded by a curtain at the entrance gate of hotel, the black-and-white movie “Snow World” was being shown by the beam projector. In the exhibition hall, which looks approximately 20 pyoung large, the author’s relics, such as his photographs, were preserved. His room was also placed at the side of the hotel with parts of the old wood-made hotel. Finishing off the window with thick glass, the outside view can be visible inside just like the time the novel was written.

The hotel is situated on the topside of a hill. Only the wooden signboard hung out on the entrance of the hotel informs people that this hotel is the birthplace of the Nobel literature prize winner. The writing room situated in the memorial hall is referred to as the first floor, but as it is placed on the topside of hill, and the hotel doesn’t include the lobby floor as first floor, the height of this room is identical with the third or fourth floor of a normal building.

-The Vicinity of the Spa Has Transformed into a Tourist Attraction

Thanks to its height, one can see the town and the railway from the writing room. The protagonist of the novel, Shimamura, who leads the novel instead of the author, sees a Japanese prostitute, Komako, who welcomes the guest in her room at this spot.

Kawabata Yasunari, who enjoyed the writing and spa alike, was attracted by snow to visit Yujawa spa. In the Uesu region, Yujawa is a mountainous spa town connected to Tokyo by railway. Like the expression written in the novel, Yujawa is at one end of the Joesu railway, and the capital of “Snow World,” and is connected to Tokyo through a long tunnel buried in the boundaries.

It has been long time since its definition as a classic. But still, the title of the novel shines in this town situated in such a deep valley, thanks to the popular skiing resort located around Yujawa town. Yujawa March, which is located under the valley 1,000 to 2,000 meters above sea level, resembles the hometown of Alpine skiing, the Alps’ Arleberg Valley.

The mountainous towns of Yujawa March, which continue to be located along the railway and road in succession, penetrating the valley, is the birth place of skiing in Japan. The popularity of the ski resort in Yujawa March is illustrated by the operation of express train service from Tokyo to the resort. It takes about an hour to get here. See the highest grade ski resort of Karayujawa. It has its own exclusive train station and operates the gondolas connecting the ski base in the breast of mountain to the resort hotel. Skiers directly go to the ski base and hotel from the train station by taking this gondola. There are 85 ski resorts in Nakata County.