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Kitchen [Paperback]

Banana Yoshimoto
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (99 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 1 1994
Two stories, "Kitchen" and "Moonlight Shadow," told through the eyes of a pair of contemporary young Japanese women, deal with the themes of mothers, love, transsexuality, kitchens, and tragedy. Reprint. NYT.

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Product Description

From Library Journal

In this translation of a best-selling novel first published in Japan in 1987, the young narrator, Mikage, moves into the apartment of a friend whose mother is murdered early in the tale. What seems like a coming-of-age melodrama quickly evolves into a deeply moving tale filled with unique characters and themes. Along the way, readers get a taste of contemporary Japan, with its mesh of popular American food and culture. Mikage addresses the role of death, loneliness, and personal as well as sexual identity through a set of striking circumstances and personal remembrances. "Moonlight Shadows," a novella included here, is a more haunting tale of loss and acceptance. In her simple and captive style, Yoshimoto confirms that art is perhaps the best ambassador among nations. Recommended for all fiction collections.
- David A. Berona, Westbrook Coll. Lib., Portland, Me.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Ms. Yoshimoto's writing is lucid, earnest and disarming . . . [It] seizes hold of the reader's sympathy and refuses to let go." --Michiko Kakutani, "The New York Times""Banana Yoshimoto is a master storyteller. . . . The sensuality is subtle, masked, and extraordinarily powerful. The language is deceptively simple." --"Chicago Tribune""Yoshimoto shouldn't be shy about basking in her celebrity. Her achievements are already legend."--"The Boston Globe""A meditation on the transience of beauty and love...Melancholy and lovely." -"The Washington Post Book World" --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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The place I like best in this world is the kitchen. Read the first page
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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Moving Nov. 15 2008
Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto actually consists of two stories: Kitchen and Moonlight Shadow. Kitchen is just barely over a hundred pages long, and Moonlight Shadow is forty-four pages. Like her other novel, Hardboiled and Hard Luck, Kitchen is also about loss and moving on. Kitchen is well written and makes a great short read. Both of the stories are written in first person, so I was able to experience the emotions that the characters felt: their loneliness, their despair. I was hoping for more of an ending from Kitchen, but I sort of knew what would happen.


Kitchen is about Mikage Sakurai, whose parents are dead, and she was taken in by her grandparents. Her grandfather passed away, and then her grandmother. Now, Mikage is all alone, with no living relatives, with only the kitchen to console her. The sound of the refrigerator makes her forget her troubles, and allows her to sleep peacefully. While grieving, she meets Yuichi Tanabe, a man that goes to the same university as her, who used to know her grandmother, who helped her at the funeral. Mikage is taken in by Yuichi and his "mother," Eriko. They form a family, but suffer more loss.

Moonlight Shadow is about Satsuki, who has just suffered the loss of her boyfriend of four years, Hitoshi. She cannot sleep properly, and she started going jogging every morning. Satsuki meets an odd stranger, Urara, and then there is Hitoshi's eccentric younger brother, Hiiragi, who will help her deal with her loss in a surprising way.

Kitchen teaches you that no matter what happens, you have to continue living, because loss is a part of life.

Some passages I liked:
"Although I was raised with love, I was always lonely." (21)
"The night was so deathly silent that I felt I could hear the sound of stars moving across the heavens." (31)
"...[T]his moment, too, might become a dream." (41)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Banana's work may a-peel.... to some in the bunch Jan. 30 2001
I am happiest whenever I'm standing in front of a lot of bookshelves. On a gray winter afternoon, when the light seeps in from the frozen gray clouds and wet streets outside, I like to wonder what I will read next. Last time, I looked up at a shelf of Japanese literature and (boinggg!) Banana Yoshimoto's work fell down at my feet. I picked it up and realized that I had never read any of her books yet. The carpet was a kind of yucky green. My wife called from the kitchen to say that she was making curry lamb and okra with rice. I had opened KITCHEN at the same time. Unbelievable.
In the blue light of early morning, a thin orange edge to the clouds streaming off over the Atlantic Ocean, a wedge of geese flew by. I read this youthful tale of sadness and loss, loneliness and final reunion. I bit into some toast (crunch) with unsalted butter on it, plus some Scottish orange marmalade. I read more. In the end, I felt that I had read an excellent novel as written by a high school student. Gosh. But when the chips were down, and what I wanted was more than to curl up on the sofa (green velvet with Indian brocade cushions) with an entertaining novel, KITCHEN just didn't have what it took. "Cutesy" "Yuppie-esque" or "excruciatingly earnest" are adjectives that could apply. "You have to appreciate novels for what they are, Bob." I kept telling myself. But this one wasn't much. I remembered how I loved reading Balzac, Kawabata, Turgenev, Soseki, Mishima, Machado de Assis and Bulgakov. Their ghosts waved to me in the early morning light. But I just could not put KITCHEN alongside their works. Sorry, folks. I know most of you thought it was great, but I didn't. It is clear. It is youthful. It touches on human emotions. But not in a deep way. That's why. The end.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Delicious food for thought: two courses June 4 2004
Kitchen contains two stories, both of which concern a different young woman living her life in the aftermath of a terrible loss. In the title story, Mikage has just been left alone in the world after the passing of her grandmother, who was her last living relative. She is generously taken in by an acquaintance, a boy named Yuichi who knew her grandmother, and his transsexual mother Eriko. Eriko lets her stay for free as long as she promises to cook for them from time to time, and the three of them build a new family of sorts. Eventually, though, Mikage finds herself confronted with another tragedy.
The second story is called "Moonlight Shadow." Satsuki has lost a boyfriend in a car crash which also claimed the life of his younger brother's girlfriend. One day she meets a mysterious woman with a secret she wants to share. This story has a slight element of fantasy to it, a touching piece of magical realism.
The author has a deceptively simple style of writing which enables her to deal with weighty issues without them feeling oppressive. These works are deeply affecting, but they are poetic rather than doom-laden. I preferred the second story, which is tighter and has a definite resolution, whereas the first is more of a slice of life and though longer, felt a little incomplete. As always, I enjoyed the look at Japanese daily life.
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KITCHEN was the first book I read from bestselling author, Banana Yoshimoto and I fell in love with her graceful and seemingly effortless style of writing on the very first page. While I've now read several other books by Banana Yoshimoto, I think KITCHEN is her best to date and it's certainly my favorite.
Banana Yoshimoto is, I think, the only one of today's writers capable of capturing perfectly the exact moment when we must leave the carefree innocence of childhood behind and face the fact that all of our dreams aren't going to come true, that all of our wishes aren't going to be fulfilled and that life hits sour notes just as often as it hits ones that are sweet.
The protagonist of KITCHEN is Mikage Sakurai, a woman just entering adulthood who, after the death of her grandmother, finds herself all alone in the world. Feeling bereft and adrift, Mikage, who loves kitchens-any kitchen-begins sleeping beside her refrigerator for comfort.
When her college chum, a charming young man named Yuichi Tanabe becomes concerned about Mikage and her emotional state, he invites her to move into the apartment he shares with his mother, Eriko.
Mikage gladly accepts Yuichi's invitation and, partly to assuage her grief and partly to repay Yuichi and Eriko for their kindness, Mikage begins preparing elaborate dinners for the three of them.
As the friendship between Mikage and Yuichi deepens, Yuichi suffers a loss of his own, a loss that only brings him closer to Mikage. Mikage, meanwhile, has "found" her calling in the kitchen, in the preparation of food.
Although Banana Yoshimoto is the grand master at depicting the first loss of childhood innocence, she has many other talents as well. For example, her books contain wry and subtle humor.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts...
"The place I like best in the world is the kitchen." So begins Banana Yoshimoto's off-beat, quirky yet charming novella. Read more
Published on May 30 2011 by Reader Writer Runner
4.0 out of 5 stars Better than Amrita
Read the book in about half an hour. It's a bitter sweet tale of loss and friendship. I enjoyed this book much more than Amrita. Read more
Published on June 11 2004 by Sarah Sammis
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful
This is one book that does live up to its reputation, that became a pop-culture phenomenon because of the its quality, and not because it was bland and inoffensive. Read more
Published on May 5 2004 by Henry Platte
5.0 out of 5 stars Soulfood
To me the non-americanized Japanese culture has always been about being subtle yet effective. Even to a point where the effectivness is so thorough that is starts to hurt. Read more
Published on Dec 27 2003 by Peeter Talvistu
4.0 out of 5 stars Two stories
This book by Banana Yoshimoto is a refreshing story (actually two novellas). The book is comprised of two stories, Kitchen and Moonlight Shadow. Read more
Published on Dec 16 2003 by Donna Nazarchyk
1.0 out of 5 stars poor in substance and form
In the end, I found this book extremely unchallenging. I read it in an hour, finding little to actually engage my senses. Read more
Published on Aug. 20 2003 by Mr. Richard K. Weems
5.0 out of 5 stars Savor the simplicity
Roughly the length of Hemmingway's Old Man and the Sea, Kitchen is equally profound. Published with the short story Moonlight Shadow that won Yoshimoto critical success and made... Read more
Published on June 21 2003 by Beardyjin
5.0 out of 5 stars Food forThought!!
What first caught my attention about this book was its original title. "Who on earth would write a book on kitchens?", I had wondered. Read more
Published on May 20 2003 by "fizzycola"
5.0 out of 5 stars Uplifting.
I was drawn to this book from its first line "The place I like best in this world is the kitchen" -- these simple, even childish words have hooked me to this book. Read more
Published on April 29 2003 by Tsila Sofer Elguez
5.0 out of 5 stars Elegically Beautiful
This book reads like poetry - calming, lyrical, drawing you in for a spell of meditation. The language is unpretentious, unconventional, unafraid, never forced or artificial. Read more
Published on Feb. 19 2003 by bliss
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