My first novel: Kitchen by Banana yoshimoto

Sporting Grotesque - VTF | Books, Japanese novels, Japanese literature

“No matter what, I want to continue living with the awareness that I will die. Without that, I am not alive”

Synopsis: Mikage, the heroine of “Kitchen,” is an orphan raised by her grandmother, who has passed away. Grieving, Mikaga is taken in by her friend Yoichi and his mother (who is really his cross-dressing father) Eriko. As the three of them form an improvised family that soon weathers its own tragic losses, Yoshimoto spins a lovely, evocative tale with the kitchen and the comforts of home at its heart. In a whimsical style that recalls the early Marguerite Duras, “Kitchen” and its companion story, “Moonlight Shadow,” are elegant tales whose seeming simplicity is the ruse of a very special writer whose voice echoes in the mind and the soul.

My first novel, yes. You may think it’s just my first time reading a novel and I would’ve read a lot of books. I mean I do read a lot of mangas but no, this is my first time reading a story with no pictures. As shocking as that may sound, it’s the truth. I’m 15 and I haven’t read a single book, although I love stories It’s really hard for me to have the same concentration while reading mangas with books. I remember buying “The alchemist” a few years back, I may have read few chapters and I dropped it. So this is really a big achievement for me.

Apart from mangas the only books I’ve read are “The diary of a wimpy kid”, “Tom gates” and “Geronimo stilton”. Yeah, I still collect them. Even now I have no interest in reading books but my teacher told me that I had to read more books for my 11th since the paper I’m going to writing focuses on different writing skills which is pretty annoying by the way. Either way it was a good chance for me to start reading.

Getting into the review. It was a pretty good book. It was actually realeased in 1988 as japanese and the english version came out in 1993, so it’s actually a pretty old book. Kitchen is an enchantingly original book that juxtaposes two tales about mothers, love, tragedy, and the power of the kitchen and home in the lives of a pair of free-spirited young women in contemporary Japan. There is actually a second story “Moonlight shadow” which is pretty heartbreaking.


Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto


The story is told through the eyes of Mikage Sakurai who’s grandmother dies leaving her to become an orphan with no other living relatives. Living alone with only a kitchen by her side to comfort her. During her grandmother’s funeral she meets Yuichi Tanabe who worked part-time in her grandmother’s flower shop. After their fateful encounter Yuichi asks Mikage to stay with him and his transgender mother Eriko Tanabe to which she agrees after some hesitation.

Living with the tanabes Mikage slowly recovers from her grandmother’s death while reminiscing about her old times. Mikage sometimes is left stunned by the tanabes weirdness but at the same time develops a close bond between them. She almost becomes a part of the family before she moves out again as she finds a new job as culinary teacher’s assistant. All seems to be going well when she gets a unexpected call from Yuichi saying that Eriko is murdered.

Heartbroken Mikage visits Yuichi in order to comfort him. While living with him again she realises that Yuichi may have feelings for her. She feels confused about her own feelings as she goes away to Izu islands for an assignment. Meanwhile still hurt by his mother’s death Yuichi goes to live in a inn. While on her assignment Mikage discovers a small eatery from where she orders a Katsudon. During the wait she notices a telphone nearby and without any thought she calls Yuichi in his inn. Talking to him made her feel more happy as realises her true feelings.

She travels from Izu to Isehara(where Yuichi’s inn is) bringing the katsudon with her to eath it with Yuichi. After reaching Yuichi’s guesthouse Mikage magaes to sneak in the middle of night. Both enjoy the Katsudon when Mikage tells Yuichi she doesn’t want to lose him and proposes to build a new life together.

“Truly happy memories always live on, shining. Over time, one by one, they come back to life”

Moonlight shadow

A woman named Satsuki loses her boyfriend Hitoshi in an accident and tells us: “The night he died my soul went away to some other place and I couldn’t bring it back”. She becomes friendly with his brother Hiiragi, whose girlfriend died in the same crash. On one insomniac night out walking she meets a strange woman called Urara who has also lost someone. Urara introduces her to the mystical experience of The Weaver Festival Phenomenon, which she hopes will cauterize their collective grief.

After reading all those mangas, this story was out of my expectations. The story expresses our interactions with day to day reality, with all our personal tragedies and how to percieve the vew between life and death. From the characters to the well narated story, Kitchen is an amazing book. Although the english translations were terrible, I still liked it because as a new reader with such simplistic narration, it made it more enjoyable for me. I recommend this book to every new reader.

If this were to be a manga or an anime I think it would make a great slice of life. There is only slight romance in it with some coming of age theme. Either way as a beginner this was a great book to me. I’m still so happy that I finally finished a book. One of my greatest achievements ever.

Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to take a 5-month break before I start reading because I’m too tired to read another 100 page book.

Thank you for reading.


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