Kitchen Banana Yoshimoto
Death and the progression of the seasons • Why do you think Yoshimoto splits the novella into two parts, both of which begin with the death of someone close? • Why does Yoshimoto move the novella from spring (when Mikage moves into the home of the Tanabes) to summer (when Mikage learns to cook) to late autumn (when Eriko dies) to winter by the end?
Other symbols • Two main symbols in Kitchen are kitchens and the full moon. What do you think these other symbols represent? • The dirigible Mikage emotionally clings to which floats away from her: ‘I was determined to keep that dirigible, so far off in the sky, in sight no matter what. (34) • The sharing of food, especially the katsudon at the end of the novel: ‘Yuichi eating katsudon, me drinking my tea, the darkness no longer harboring death.’ (101)
Indoors and outdoors • Characters in the novel tend to be mainly associated with either outdoors or indoors. • Why is Mikage associated with outdoors? What does this suggest about her? • Why is Yuichi associated with indoors? What does this suggest about him?
Dreams, flashbacks and premonitions • Another device used in the construction of the novella is Yoshimoto’s manipulation of chronological time – by including shared dreams, flashbacks and premonitions the author is able to highlight ideas about our experience of life. • It is the purpose of this next section in lesson 2 to explore what ideas about life Yoshimoto might be developing in her manipulation of time and reality.
Nostalgia • A key theme in the novella is that of nostalgia, also an important component of shoujo, outlined in lesson 1. NOSTALGIA:1. A bittersweet longing for things, persons, or situations of the past. 2. The condition of being homesick; homesickness. • What function does nostalgia play in our lives? Why do we have this feeling of ‘homesickness’ and ‘bittersweet longing for things, persons or situations of the past?
Flashbacks • We will refer especially to pages 79-82, the flashback to Eriko’s discussion with Mikage about his wife’s death. • By placing this scene here, at a late stage of the text and outside chronological time, Yoshimoto is able to emphasize the theme of nostalgia and it effects on Mikage. • How does the experience of nostalgia affect Mikage in this scene? • Why does Yoshimoto explore the theme of nostalgia in the novel? What does it highlight about our experience of life?
Magic Realism - Dreams • We will refer especially to pages 36-41, the shared dream that Mikage and Yuichi experience. • Yoshimoto is interested in occult experiences, and thus it is no surprise to find such things in her novels. • The episode has a surreal effect; what is the purpose of this effect?
Mikage on her shared dream experience • Examine the quotation below. ‘While what had happened was utterly amazing, it didn’t seem so out of the ordinary, really. It was at once a miracle and the most natural thing in the world … in the endless repetition of other nights, other mornings, this moment, too, might become a dream.’ (41) • Why does Mikage feel the boundary between reality and fantasy is blurred? • Have you ever had an experience like this? What provoked it?
The unreality of life • Mikage often describes her experiences as having a dreamlike quality, as if she doubts the reality of what she experiences. For example she says ‘seemed like a far-off dream’ (99), ‘even if this is a dream’ (99) or ‘the night before seemed like a dream’ (102). • This feeling of the unreality of life is an important theme in the novel. Why do you think Yoshimoto draws our attention to the fact life can feel like a dream?
Moonlight Shadow • In Mikage’s dream Yuichi sings lyrics from a Momoko Sakuchisong. • With Yuichi, Mikage repeats this lyric: A lighthouse in the distance To the two of us in the night The spinning light looks like Sunshine through the branches of trees. • The final big image of the novella is ‘the beacon of the faraway lighthouse revolved. It turned to me, then it turned away, forming a pathway of light on the waves.’ (104) Right after this Mikage phones Yuichi. • Both the image of the lighthouse in the lyric and in the main text of novel are connected with Yuichi. What is the purpose of the author’s connection of the song with this last image of light flipping from Mikage to ‘the endless sea … shrouded in darkness’? (104)
Magic Realism - food • In Kitchen Japanese cuisine and tea have almost miraculous powers of renewal – the main example being pp. 98-101 when Mikage takes Yuichi the katsudon and drinks the tea he gives her. • ‘He made tea. I drank it, holding the cup in both hands. Relief at last. I was coming back to life.’ (99) • Yuichi eating his katsudon, me drinking my tea, the darkness no longer harboring death.’ (101)
Premonitions • A more minor, also rather occult idea, is the use of premonitions. This occurs in connection with Yuichi: ‘I had an uneasy premonition and it didn’t prove wrong.’ (95) • How does this represent Mikage’s growing self-confidence, self-awareness and trust in her intuition? How is it connected to the themes of LOVE and DESTINY? • Mikage says Yuichi and her share a ‘kind of telepathy’? (65) Is this possible with another person? • TOK: What is intuition? Should it be trusted?