by Banana Yoshimoto

Other authorsMegan Backus (Translator)
Hardcover, 1993





New York : Grove Press, 1993.


Tr. from Japanese by Megan Backus

Media reviews

For English-language readers, the appeal of "Kitchen" lies in its portrayal of the lives of young Japanese.
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Banana Yoshimoto won immediate fame in Japan with the publication of this pair of novellas about two bold and guileless women grappling with emotional loss.
Yoshimoto's oriental concision is sometimes idiosyncratic and haiku-like ..., but it's a quality of poignant, dignified resilience that makes this little work worthwhile...

User reviews

LibraryThing member Whisper1
I wanted to like this book. At first, the writing was superb. The images were soft and crisp, like newly fallen snow swirling in a snow globe. The two novellas focused on loss and its impact on everyday living -- the heartbreaking feeling of trying to put one foot in front of the other while it feels like you are wearing heavy boots filled with rocks when climbing up a steep hill.

I wanted to like this book. The characters were compelling and likable. The emotions expressed were described accurately and poignantly.

I wanted to like this book, but alas, I grew weary and it felt like the newly fallen snow became gray and slushy.
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LibraryThing member Kristelh
Two short stories by Japanese author, translated from the Japanese by Megan Backus. This tale of grief, loss and being an adult orphan is rich with sparse detail. I like stories of grief and loss so of course this is another book that i like. I would think that the author had her own losses to be able to capture so accurately in so few pages that experience. The author won the Nixon University Dept of Arts Prize in 1986 for Mood Shadow and Karen magazine New Writer Prize in 1987 for Kitchen.

Quotes: “My family had steadily decreased one by one as the years went by, but when it suddenly dawned on me that I was alone, everything before my eyes seemed to false.” “I just drifted, listless.”
“But if a person hasn’t ever experienced true despair, she grows old never knowing how to evaluate where she is in life, never understanding what joy really is”.

I liked the use of kitchen as a place to feel comfort and the preparation of food and sharing of food as giving meaning to life.
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LibraryThing member ursula
I didn't feel as strong a connection with the novella as I might have if I ever cooked or enjoyed being in a kitchen, but I really loved the story at the end, "Moonlight Shadow." Both stories deal with love and loss and moving on in a unique way.
LibraryThing member MelissaOdette
This book was originally written in Japanese by Banana Yoshimoto. The topic of this book is love and loss of loved ones. The story goes is a about a young girl her loses her grandmother, her last living family member. She is completely heart broken and doesn't know how to move on until a young boy around her age comes into her life and changes everything. They fall in love, but then he loses his father, his last living family member. The intended audience for this book is teenage girls. The book is a love story and young girls would enjoy this book. This story affected me because I felt like I was in the book feeling everything that the characters did. This book was very well written to help people get into the book and that's exactly what I did.… (more)
LibraryThing member Clara53
​Not a masterpiece. But​​ ​then WHY did it touch me so?...Death and loss motif throughout the two novellas of the tiny paperback.​ ​Yet​​ ​somehow they don't read as something depressing. The writing style has so much clarity and ​open​ ​frankness​ in it - the sentences are like crystal clear drops of cool water (if I dare to venture into how it felt to read it​...​).​ This book will stay in my memory, somehow I am sure of it.​… (more)
LibraryThing member kattepusen
This novel is charming rather than good, pleasant rather than profound in any way. Is in Japanese chick lit? I don't know.. I know it has reached immense popularity in the author's native Japan, and I did get the feeling that this must be what contemporary Japan is like for 20-something females.

The book deals with death. Yes, quite a heavy topic for light reading, and that might be part of its problem. It would seem that the topic would automatically "deepen" the novel... I liked the first part of the book the best (the actual kitchen novella), and I felt a certain connection to Eriko (the transvestite), Yuichi (the son) and Mikage (the narrator), and I found myself cheering for the budding love between Mikage and Yuichi.

However, the language and the "depth" of the book seemed superficial at best. It is saturated with clichees (the phrase "I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off" is used as an actual description). It seemed to be written in a way that a self-absorbant 20-something would talk. But does it reflect the original writing or did it get a bit lost in translation????
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LibraryThing member Danielle23
A lovely story about relationships and the scene with the noodles is beautiful.
LibraryThing member SqueakyChu
I think this book is sweet. It deals with relationships...ones lost, others gained. I like these two stories as well as other books by this author, but don't see why she's such an overwhelmingly popular author. To me, there are many other Japanese writers whose writing is so much more interesting. Perhaps, it's her preoccupation with death or maybe the simplicity of the writing to which people are attracted.

I was touched by the ending of the story Moonlight Shadow.
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LibraryThing member soylentgreen23
Interesting name, and certainly memorable. Sadly, not true of the book, which I gather has been made into a film, which I have seen but also cannot remember. It almost seems churlish of me to rate and review this one at all, but what can I say? I'm a completist.
LibraryThing member 1morechapter
“The place I like best in this world is the kitchen.”

I didn’t quite get to Kitchen for the Japanese Challenge, but I’m still glad I read it shortly afterwards. I liked the book, but I didn’t love it.

Food and kitchens play a central role int he book, but it’s essentially about two people finding their way through the grief process. Mikage has recently lost her grandmother, whom she lived with, and her friend Yoichi and his mother Eriko take her in. Yoichi ends up losing someone close to him as well, and the bond between the two of them becomes even closer.

Note: This book has been added as one of the new titles in the latest edition of the 1001 list.

1988, 1993 for the English translation; 105 pp.
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LibraryThing member tracyfox
Banana Yoshimoto took me by surprise. Kitchen is a thin book pairing two novellas, Kitchen and Moonlight Shadow, that both deal with loss and its aftermath. At first the author's light, easygoing style tricked me into underestimating my emotional involvement with the story. Kitchen begins when Mikage loses her beloved grandmother and is taken in by the Tanabe family she barely knows. From there, Mikage's relationship with the Tanabes--a transvestite nightclub owner and his son--deepens based on shared late-night meals and three lives brushing up against each other in a small Japanese apartment. I was unprepared for the turns this 100-page novella took and how anxiously I rushed to the end, hoping to see Mikage find respite from her overwhelming sense of being alone in the world.

The second novella, Moonlight Shadow, contrasted the reactions of Satsuki and Hiirage who both lost loved ones in a tragic accident. Satsuki deals with the loss of her beloved Hitoshi by eating less and less and jogging more and more. Hiirage copes with his double loss--his brother Hitoshi and his girlfriend Yumiko--by wearing Yumiko's old school uniform. Their attempts to console each other are awkward yet touching. As the novella built toward a promised surprise ending, I ached for them to find happiness as well.
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LibraryThing member rmariem
Both of these stories are beautifully told, and although the translation is a bit choppy I can tell Yoshimoto is a great writer. I did have a hard time connecting to the characters. Their motives, speech, and even personalities seemed rather monotonous and indistinct. Compared to the strange events of their lives, the characters themselves were pretty uninspired.

It was a fine way to spend an evening, but this probably won’t be a book I come back to.
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LibraryThing member revolutionary_marcia
It´s a wonderful book. As I was reading it, I can see it in my mind as a japanese anime! Lovely and good written.
LibraryThing member cinesnail88
At first, this was really getting on my nerves, but after what happened to Eriko, the story seemed to gain good direction. I really enjoyed "Kitchen" from that point out, though beforehand it majorly dragged for me. "Moonlight Shadow" was also very good, though there was an element of the cliche in that one that I couldn't seem to get over. Overall, a nice read.… (more)
LibraryThing member clfisha
his short book suffers from putting two terribly similar novellas together, forcing us to view the same ideas and themes within different plot. Alone they are enjoyable, comforting tales on life and love and coming to terms to death. In the first two people are thrown together due to the tragic death of their loved ones, the second one, a magic realist tale of a girl trying to come to turns with the sudden death of her boyfriend.

The first is the best, sadness and joy are perfectly mixed and the characters are just zany enough to be fun and endearing without being annoying. It's a great love story with a joyful open end romance mixing reality with storybook cutenessand is a pleasure to read. In fact you feel it could be much longer.

The second has light touch of magic to aid the grieving process but sadly not a very interesting one and it's peripheral characters do stray too far into oddball territory. Not bad but not great and takes the score down.
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LibraryThing member stephmo
Kitchen contains both the novella, Kitchen and the short story, Moonlight Shadow. Both are minimalist stories of women experiencing different forms of grief and loss and the eventual ways they're able to move on from these periods. These are not sappy tales that one might find in bad movie-of-the-week films. Banana instead manages to take the ingredients found in those tales and weave together something all together different, magical and yet vaguely familiar at the same time. Perhaps it's the minimalist approach, it could be the focus on the grief with a decided lack of focus on back story or the gory details, or maybe it's how she lets go just in time - either way, these stories manage to work in a very lyrical way.… (more)
LibraryThing member lovelynbettison
This is one of my favorite books. More than the story that the book is titled for, I love the second short story at the end of the book. "Moonlight Shadow" captures my imagination every time I read it. Yoshimoto writes about this theme of loss so often and each time she captures a new aspect of the emotions that come with loosing someone.… (more)
LibraryThing member loafhunter13
A mix of two novellas if you will dealing with tales of free-spirited young women in contemporary Japan. Kitchen tales the story of a women whose family gradually passes away, leaving here increasingly along in the world. The only place she feels safe is in a kitchen. She meets a young man and her transsexual father and through them, finds a connection to herself and her future. The second half of the book is a story called “moonlight Shadow”. It is the story of loss and redemption. A woman has lost her boyfriend and soul mate in an accident. She attempts to reason why and find her way emotional and physically in the world without him. The boyfriend’s brother lost his girlfriend in the same accident and he too takes a path towards coping. They meet a strange woman who guides them deftly to a path to recovery. With most of Yoshimoto’s work, it is constant shift between adept and witty writing and tedious, overreaching prose. Her fame comes largely from being a woman writer, dealing with somewhat serious issues. The issues are uniquely Japanese and not all that strongly oriented to a woman’s point of view. This might be the greatest tragedy, since she has an opportunity. The length and style of her writing prevent her from concocting complicated, longer stories with more background. Has a bit of work to do, but as this was one of her early books, there is room for improvement and the foundation is there.… (more)
LibraryThing member Smiler69
Two short stories about young women coping with grief. The first story, Kitchen, is about a student who finds herself completely alone following the death of her grandmother. She is taken in by a boy and his unusual mother, and their relationship, as well as the time she spends cooking, help her to move forward. The second story, Moonlight Shadow, is about a girl who has recently lost her first love to a traffic accident and how her relationship with the young man's brother along with an encounter with a strange woman help her move toward closure. One might think that these themes would make for gloomy reading, but the surprise is that Yoshimoto's writing is at once poetic and fresh, grounded in a zen-like appreciation for taking things as they are, and the hopeful message that embracing difficulty brings it's own rewards. Inspiring.… (more)
LibraryThing member carrieprice78
This was not a bad book. The writing was a little clunky, but I think that was the translation.
LibraryThing member akeela
Both the novella, "Kitchen", and the short story, "Moonlight Shadow", in this volume are gentle and introspective, and the backdrop is a wintery cold Japan, which I enjoyed. They deal with themes of young love, death, loss, grief and also trans-sexuality, and there are elements of magic interweaved. It was engaging, but lacked a punch.… (more)
LibraryThing member tzander
My book is Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto. The story is mostly about a girl named Mikage Sakurai who lives in Japan. She is the narrator of the story. Mikage loves everything about kitchens and has a passion for cooking. Her grandmother is the last closest relative to die in her family so she lives alone in an apartment. One day a boy named Yuichi Tanabe a boy who knows Mikage s grandmother asks Mikage if she wants to go live with him and his mother for a while. She moves out of her apartment and when she moves in she is surprised about the way Yuichi s mother looks Eriko . Later Yuichi tells Mikage that Eriko use to be his biological father, that when Yuichi s real mother died from cancer Eriko changed his sexual appearance. Eriko talks to Mikage a lot about how he cares about Yuichi as a mother and father. Later Eriko dies from being stabbed by some guy who was obsessed with her.

­ Now Mikage is not the only one that is depressed about a family member passing away. Yuichi and Mikage become close friends in a relationship kind of way. Mikage goes to a cooking school after high school. Yuichi goes to an inn to calm down about his transsexual mother s death. Somehow a close friend of Eriko "Chika" finds Mikage s phone number and calls Mikage to have an important conversation with her at a restraint. She talks to Mikage about Yuichi's suffering.Mikage sneaks into the inn where Yuichi is and they have a talk. In this book it mostly has death, because of the passing of close relatives, love, food, physical beauty, sexual ambiguity, and following your dreams.
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LibraryThing member spinsterrevival
I thought this was an absolutely beautiful novella about grief and how people deal with it and each other in the aftermath of death. There is so much packed into this little book, and I highly recommend it. There is an additional story called "Moonlight Shadow" that is just as beautiful and touching as "Kitchen."
LibraryThing member wildwoodsflwr
This is one of the few books that I can read over and over again. It's actually two short novellas but both should be read while wearing thick wool socks and sipping burning hot green tea.
LibraryThing member LJuneOsborne
The third novel I've read for this spring's English class, and also my favorite so far. There are two different stories, the first with the theme of food, and both centering around the themes of death and love. I always like to read before I go to sleep, but each time I started one of these stories I stayed up late finishing it. Yoshimoto is a master of using casual and simple language to describe complex but universal human emotions. A reader will find themselves caught in emotion without warning.

From the very first paragraph of the first story, even the very first sentence, the narrator Mikage speaks of her love of the kitchen. Throughout the rest of the story, she always returns to the kitchen, always relishes in its familiarity and comforts in its order. I found this story to be very easy to relate to, except for being taken in by near-strangers, as that hasn't happened to me before, but a lot of Mikage's feelings and observational comments on life, death, and love reverberated in my brain as I read them. And because I felt as if I could connect so much with what this main character said and felt, I began to interpret her feelings through my own. I think food is very important to happiness – we've all had bad days where we envisioned something tasty we've been saving in the fridge, telling ourselves, “I'll be all right if I can just eat that when I get home.” The act of cooking also brings people together, whether someone is cooking for someone else or if people are cooking something together. I've always thought food is very closely connected to love. When people go on dates, they very often go out to eat food together, and after a new couple has been dating a short while, they both begin to gain weight.

In the second story, "Moonlight Shadow," Satsuki mourns the death of her boyfriend Hitoshi, and meets a woman filled with vague, mysterious promises. Food also plays a healing role here, although brief. A vivid idea of pain and grief is presented again in this story. I don't know how much more I can talk about this second story without giving away anything that happens, so I'm going to leave it there.

I would recommend this book to anyone experiencing grief or anyone interested in a couple of unique romance stories. Or if you're just interested in something new, check it out.
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