Banana Yoshimoto – Kitchen
Japanese Writers have a very special way to turn the most banal and mundane things into outerworldy mysterious experiences and fill this mix with dark poetic melancholy. This can turn you quickly into a japan-ophile atmosphere junkie craving for more and more of this. OK this is at least what happened to me after my first Murakami and Bananan Yoshimoto. Both are similar and at the same time completely different.
„Kitchen“ was the first book I read by Yoshimoto and one of the few that I’ve read a couple of times. Something draws me back to this book. „Kitchen“ is about loss, about loosing people you’ve loved. The young protagonist in the book, Mikage Sakuri has difficulties getting over the loss of her beloved grandmother with whom she was living. She is lonely, feels lost and without any roots and keeps herself completely isolated from the outside world in her Grandmothers kitchen. She is an orphan without any relatives and she knows she needs to look for a new apartment and start her own life, but this is easier said than done…
“..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’m grateful for it.”
Someday she bumps into an old friend of her grandma, Yuichi Tanaba, who worked in her grannies favorite flower shop for a while. He offers Mikage to move in with him and his mother Eriko. Reluctantly she accepts, but after seeing their kitchen she agrees to move in. Hey, kitchen are incredibly important, especially for Mikage.
“The place I like best in this world is the kitchen. No matter where it is, no matter what kind, if it’s the kitchen, if it’s a place where they make food, it’s fine with me. Ideally it should be well broken in. Lots of tea towels, dry and immaculate white tile catching the light…”
This small philosophical little book has an incredibly lively and interesting protagonist that you will not forget. I really wanted to stand by Mikage, wanted to support her and give her courage. Yuichi, the small modest boy turns into Mikages soulmate and then there is Eriko, who was originally Yuichis father who became his mother after a sex change. She is the owner of a gay bar and has an amazing wonderfully warm personality…
“Why is it that everything I eat when I’m with you is so delicious?’ I laughed. ‘Could it be that you’re satisfying hunger and lust at the same time?”
A short story of love lost and won, grief, pain but also hope, optimism and beauty. A wonderful mix that I highly recommend.
OK – how do you feel about Japanese writers? Do you have a favorite and what is it for you that you like (or not) about japanese novels?