by Banana Yoshimoto

Paperback, 2006




Grove Press (2006), Edition: 1st Black cat ed, 160 pages


Fiction. Literature. HTML:The acclaimed debut of Japan's "master storyteller" (Chicago Tribune). With the publication of Kitchen, the dazzling English-language debut that is still her best-loved book, the literary world realized that Banana Yoshimoto was a young writer of enduring talent whose work has quickly earned a place among the best of contemporary Japanese literature. 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. Mikage, the heroine, is an orphan raised by her grandmother, who has passed away. Grieving, Mikage 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. "Lucid, earnest and disarming . . . [It] seizes hold of the reader's sympathy and refuses to let go." ??Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times… (more)

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½ (1275 ratings; 3.7)

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
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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 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
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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.​
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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
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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.
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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
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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 akosikulot-project52
"I had a feeling that I wasn't crying over any one sad thing, but rather for many. [...] I wished my heart would break and get it over it." Thoughts on Kitchen and Moonlight Shadow, both by Banana Yoshimoto (translated from Japanese by Megan Backus)

Banana Yoshimoto made me cry on my birthday. She
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made me think of my past year, and she made me think of you, too.

It wasn't my intention, really, to read Kitchen and Moonlight Shadow on the night of my birthday; in fact, it wasn't my intention to read Yoshimoto anytime soon at all. I was still sorely amused by her fruity first name to take her book seriously (this coming from someone who lives in a country where Apple is a fairly common name).

But there I was, bored on my 21st, eyeing my shelf for a quick enough read for the night, and so I pulled out her slim little book, plopped myself down on the couch with a bag of chips and a glass of soda, and read until the wee hours of the night.

By two in the morning I was holding back sobs and wiping my nose, wanting so much to go about the house with arms flailing because, goddamnit, how can I think of you on a special night like this?

And why, oh why, did I read two such bittersweet novellas on a supposedly happy night?

"When I'm dead worn out, in a reverie, I often think that when it comes to die, I want to breathe my last in a kitchen," says Mikage, whose only remaining blood relative, her grandmother, dies and leaves her completely alone. Then she meets Yuichi, a boy her age who was very close to her grandmother, and who invites Mikage to live with him and his charming - albeit unusual - mother, Eriko. The relationship of these three people is the story of Kitchen - a story of love and loss and of moving on.

"Maybe all I had been hoping for was a bed in which to be able to stop thinking, just for a little while, about what happened before and what would happen in the future," and I knew then and there that this book was in some way speaking to me; that I would love this character Mikage because she was speaking my language; that she was me, and I was her, and that at one point in my life I have said, or I've been meaning to say, the same things. "From the bottom of my heart, I wanted to give up; I wanted to give up on living. There was no denying that tomorrow would come, and the day after tomorrow, and so next week, too. I never thought it would be this hard, but I would go on living in the midst of a gloomy depression, and that made me feel sick to the depths of my soul."

I saw how apt the whole thing was; I saw how all this was already laid out before me, that this was gift of sorts from some great entity I barely knew. Because this was the story of my past year, only of a varied kind, and that sitting on the couch reading this book was in truth a kind of retrospection of my life, and that lo, here was my 20th year written down for me in someone else's words so that I may grasp it more fully and take something from the experience of it all. Granted, I did not have someone die on me, unlike Mikage, but I knew the feeling of a loss so great it consumed me for the past year and dug a hole in my person, a void that I thought would always and forever be gaping and which scared the shit out of me because it felt that nothing and no one could save me from it. "There are many days when all the awful things that happen make you sick at heart, when the path before you is so steep you can't bear to look. Not even love can rescue a person from that." So true, so true.

And then there was Satsuki, who in Moonlight Shadow experienced a loss of a different kind - the death of a lover, Hitoshi, who died in a car accident. How do you deal with that, an instant parting without a chance to say goodbye? And it is here that I remember you, and I am thrown back into the past full of uncertainty and regret mingled with blissful happiness and the need to make things work, how it all ended without a good enough explanation and an incomplete resolution. What then? "All I wanted was to get through this as quickly as possible, to see the day when memories would be just memories. But the more I wanted that, the further away it seemed. Thinking of the future only made me shudder." Thinking of the future only reminded me of how you're not a part of it anymore.

"The times of great happiness and great sorrow were too intense; it was impossible to reconcile them with the routine of daily life," and so I got rid of the routine altogether, wallowed in self-pity and abused the bed. But, "After my painful, fitful sleep, whether or not I had been able to see him, on awakening I would know it had been only a dream - in reality I would never be with him again. And so I tried not to wake up."

Had I known that such a small book could contain so much beauty and power in a thousand strings of words, I'd have done two things, depending on my state: on one hand, I would have run away, delayed reading this for as long as possible, because to read a story not unlike mine, not unlike ours, unfold before my eyes, teeming with lines that pierced straight through the heart - it was both beautiful and lovely that it was sad to see it pass. But I didn't run away; I held my ground. And amidst the small pangs of hurt I found solace in two stories that spoke of moving on. "People aren't overcome by situations or outside forces; defeat invades from within, I thought," and again I realized yes, this is true. "In this world, there is no place for sadness. No place; not one."

If I could take hold of time and wind it back like a clock, I think I would have given you this book on the night I flew away and told you to read it, goddamnit, because it is everything I have failed and will never be brave enough to tell you, and if fate were a person I'd have hoped he'd handed this to me one day and told me to read it, because it would prepare me for everything that's headed my way. But now I know better, now I know that was and never will be the case. "I realized that the world did not exist for my benefit. It followed that ratio of pleasant and unpleasant things around me would not change. It wasn't up to me. It was clear that the best thing to do was to adopt a sort of muddled cheerfulness." Ah, there it is, a word to describe my state - muddled cheerfulness. Muddled, yes, but cheerful all the same.

Sigh. If there was only one thing to be thankful for on my 21st, it would be that for some reason I chose Yoshimoto's Kitchen among the handful of books on my shelf. It was meant to be - I just know it.

PS. "Parting and death are both terribly painful. But to keep nursing the memory of a love so great you can't believe you'll ever love again is a useless drain on a woman's energies."

PPS. The best line I've read in a book, ever: "Believe in the me that you knew."

PPPS. I climbed a window ledge for you on your birthday, too. You never knew, of course. You never knew.

Originally posted here.
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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 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
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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
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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 Danielle23
A lovely story about relationships and the scene with the noodles is beautiful.
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
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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 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
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that one that I couldn't seem to get over. Overall, a nice read.
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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
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touching as "Kitchen."
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LibraryThing member itadakimasu
This is Banana Yoshimoto's first novel, and my first time reading anything by this author. The book contains two stories, Kitchen and Moonlight Shadow, both of which are rendered with precisely placed moments of great sorrow and joy, simplicity and complexity. Told in the first person, both
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protagonists are young Japanese women in their early 20s who have experienced death of their loved ones, and are trying to "find their way back" to lives of meaning. Beautifully illustrates the juxtoposition of deep emotions and mundane every- day actions that foster those exquisite moments of revelation that move positive change and healing just one step closer...
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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 Saretta.L

In Kitchen Mikage, rimasta senza famiglia dopo la morte della nonna, dovrà suprerare questa assenza e le saranno di supporto un coetaneo e la sua particolare madre disposti a accoglierla in casa.
Romanzo giapponese piuttosto diverso da altri autori che ho già avuto modo di leggere, più
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simile, come immagini e situazioni ai manga: il concreto delle abitudini e degli stili di vita contrapposto alle riflessioni della protagonista.
Kitchen mi è piaciuto, il racconto in coda (Moonlight shadow) un po' meno, troppo buonista soprannaturale.

In Kitchen Mikage, without any family after the death of her grandmother, will have to face this emotional void and she will be helped by a guy and his particular mother, both willing to have her in their home and family.
This japanes novel is different from the ones of other authors, it's more similar, in images and situations, to a manga: the reality of habits and lifestyles opposed to the reflections of the main character.
I liked Kitchen, the ending story (Moonlight shadow) not quite, to much sentimental paranormal .
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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 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
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emotions that come with loosing someone.
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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
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interweaved. It was engaging, but lacked a punch.
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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
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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.
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LibraryThing member carrieprice78
This was not a bad book. The writing was a little clunky, but I think that was the translation.
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.
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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 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
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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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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
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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 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
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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 bookczuk
d. It's two stories, one more a novella and the other more a short story, each about love, loss and loyalty told in a minimalist, ethereal sort of style. Kind of like a haiku version of fiction writing. Characters were beautifully drawn, though I think the improbably Eriko with his/her zest for
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life charmed me the most. The snippets of Japanese life and culture were fascinating, especially in Kitchen 1, and the bits focused on food (I must admit I chuckled over the dismay at which Yuichi faced yet another tofu meal when staying in Isehara and Mikage's rescue mission, wall scaling included.) Kitchen 2 (Moon Shadow) was the more mystical story -- and is a beautiful lesson on learning to live with terrific loss.
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Original language


Original publication date

1988 (Japanese)
1993 (English)

Physical description

160 p.; 7.2 inches


0802142443 / 9780802142443
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