The Dancing Girl of Izu

The Dancing Girl of Izu or The Izu Dancer (伊豆の踊子, Izu no odoriko) is a short story by Japanese writer and Nobel Prize winner Yasunari Kawabata first published in 1926.[1]

"The Dancing Girl of Izu"
AuthorYasunari Kawabata
Original title"Izu no odoriko"
TranslatorE. Seidensticker (1955)
J. Martin Holman (1997)
Published inBungei Jidai
Publication typeMagazine
Media typePrint
Publication date1926
Published in English1955 (abridged)


Bronze statue dedicated to
The Dancing Girl of Izu

The narrator, a twenty year old student from Tokyo, travels the Izu Peninsula during the last days of the summer holidays, a journey which he undertook out of a feeling of loneliness and melancholia. His paths repeatedly cross with a troupe of five travelling musicians, one man and four women, while heading for Mount Amagi tunnel. He is impressed by the beauty of the youngest looking woman in the troupe, who carries a heavy drum, and decides to follow them.

After traversing the tunnel, Eikichi, the troupe's male leader, starts a conversation with him, telling him that he and his companions are from Ōshima Island and on a short tour before the cold season sets in. In Yugano, where the group rests for the night, the narrator learns from Eikichi that the young woman, Kaoru, is his 14 year old sister. The other troupe members are Eikichi's wife Chiyoko, his mother-in-law, and a maid. In the evening, the musicians entertain guests in another inn in the village. The student hears Kaoru playing her drum, worrying if she might be harassed by her listeners.

The next day, the narrator witnesses the naked Kaoru coming out of the bath house, waving at him. The sight makes him laugh, realising that she is still a young, innocent girl. Although the day of his return to Tokyo is approaching, he accepts the musicians' offer to keep them company for another day. During a walk, the student overhears Kaoru and Chiyoko saying what a nice person he is, which enlightens him and distracts him both from his melancholia and from the fact that the group are poor, uneducated people. Eikichi's mother-in-law invites him to their home during his winter holidays, but later forbids Kaoru to accompany him to the cinema.

The next morning, the student enters a boat in Shimoda which takes him back to Tokyo, seen off by Eikichi and the grieving Kaoru. On the boat, he starts to cry, saddened by the parting but at the same time sensing a feeling of relief.

Publication historyEdit

The Dancing Girl of Izu was first published in Bungei Jidai magazine in two parts in 1926 and in book form by Kinseido in 1927.[1]

Reception and legacyEdit

Reviewing the 1997 American publication, Mark Morris in The New York Times called The Dancing Girl of Izu a "deceptively simple story […] about cleansing, purification", pointing out for one the "effacement of adult female sexuality and its replacement by an impossible white void of virginity", a common theme with Kawabata, as well as the protagonist's "personal absolution", received from people constantly living with the "stigma of social exclusion".[2]

In his review of a 2000 anthology, Donald Richie rated The Dancing Girl of Izu as Kawabata's most famous and popular work, an autobiographical and "seemingly artless […] evocation of first love itself".[3]


The Dancing Girl of Izu was first translated into English by Edward Seidensticker, being the first story by Kawabata which saw an English translation, and published in an abridged form as The Izu Dancer in The Atlantic Monthly in 1955. Later publications contained Seidensticker's complete translation of the story.[3][4] A new English translation was provided by J. Martin Holman in 1997.[2][5]




Kawabata's story has also been dramatised for Japanese television numerous times, including a 1993 version starring Takuya Kimura.[8]

Popular cultureEdit

The story is well known in Japan, and today, Odoriko (lit. "dancing girl") is used as the name of express trains to the Izu area.[9]


  1. ^ a b "伊豆の踊子 (The Dancing Girl of Izu)". Kotobank (in Japanese). Retrieved 21 July 2021.
  2. ^ a b Morris, Mark (12 October 1997). "Orphans: Stories by a Japanese Nobel laureate are part memoir, part fiction". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 July 2021.
  3. ^ a b Richie, Donald (26 September 2000). "Welcome return of four classics". The Japan Times. Retrieved 21 July 2021.
  4. ^ Kawabata, Yasunari; Inoue, Yasushi (2000). The Izu Dancer, The Counterfeiter, Obasute, The Full Moon. Translated by Seidensticker, Edward; Picon, Leon. Singapore, Boston: Tuttle Publishing.
  5. ^ Kawabata, Yasunari (1997). The Dancing Girl of Izu and Other Stories. Translated by Holman, J. Martin. Washington: Counterpoint Press.)
  6. ^ a b c d e f "永遠の宝、伊豆の踊子 河津町、映画4作のフィルム保管". Asahi Shinbun (morning Shizuoka ed.). 5 June 1999.
  7. ^ a b c d e f "Film adaptions of Izu no odoriko". Kinenote (in Japanese). Retrieved 21 July 2021.
  8. ^ "Japanese TV adaptions of Izu no odoriko". テレビドラマデータベース (TV drama database) (in Japanese). Retrieved 21 July 2021.
  9. ^ ""Odoriko Express" A direct train between Tokyo, Shimoda and southern area of Izu". Retrieved 21 July 2021.