Over the years, I have continuously read Yoshimoto’s Kitchen. During summer of 2015, when I felt like my life was going downhill, I absentmindedly reached out for the book–in the very back of my bookshelf–and began reading it. Nowadays, when I feel extremely lonely (plus missing my brother), I find myself re-reading Kitchen. Although Kitchen is basically about how people handle death, it gives out a pleasantly homey sense when I’m reading it. Yoshimoto really has a knack of knotting simple words into heart-warming sentences, which eventually warps up into impressive, touching short stories.
The novel itself consists of two short stories, which are “Kitchen” and “Moonlight Shadow”. The first short story (Kitchen) is about a young woman named Mikage who loses her grandmother, the last family member she has ever had. During her grieving, she finds herself being more attached to her most favorite place in her grandmother’s house, which is the kitchen. Mikage only wishes to sleep her life away as she is deeply affected by the death of her beloved grandmother. Fortunately, a young man named Yuichi offers Mikage to live with him and his transgender mother, Eriko, for awhile. Blanketed with Yuichi and Eriko’s companionship, Mikage finally stops herself from grieving and starts living instead. Nonetheless, an accident involving a drunken man kills Eriko in the end. Mikage, who has already assumed Eriko as her own mother, has to face the deep agitation again, of losing someone forever. Yuichi’s response to his mother death is also extreme; he decided to stay in a rural area indifferently, like a living ghost.
Moonlight Shadow tells a story about a woman named Satsuki who loses her boyfriend, Hitoshi. Since Hitoshi’s death, Satsuki has not been able to sleep for even a minute. To clear out her anxiety and depression, she always jogs along the river. One day, during her jogging session, she meets a woman named Utara who also loses someone. Utara offers Satsuki an experience which basically helps one to say the last farewell to his/her deceased significant other. In the end, Satsuki is able to meet the late Hitoshi and say her last good-bye. During the experience–which is called The Weaver Festival Phenomenon–Satsuki becomes greedy and holds Hitoshi’s body on her dear life. Nevertheless, Hitoshi slowly disappears after the phenomenon ends. Satsuki is left alone again, but now with relief.
Both stories always leave me drained and just.. genuinely sad. I can’t help thinking about the possibility of losing every single individuals I adore: my brother, parents, aunt.. If I ever lost one of them–God forbids–I would probably go downright insane. I’d probably be like Yuichi, leaving everything behind and living my life with apathy. But these short stories teach me that you should keep moving on and attempt to find hope, even if it is as silly as believing a phenomenon of meeting someone you lost for several seconds. This particular novel has both the ability to make one’s heart flutters delightfully with warmth, and one’s mind drenched with loneliness. I adore this novel with all my heart, and I highly recommend you to read it! It’s a short one, only 150 pages. But it will surely leave you feeling some type of way. And I love how the food is described (hint: katsudon, donuts).
My favorite quotes:
- “Although I was raised with love, I was always lonely.“
- “We are really, all of us, alone.“
- “I realized that the world did not exist for my benefit. It followed the 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.“