Throwback Thursday: Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

Hello, everybody! It’s time for another Throwback Thursday post 😉

Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by Renee at It’s Book Talk and is a way to share some of your old favorites as well as sharing books that you want to read that were published over a year ago.  This is a great way to bring some of your old favorites back to life.
If you have your own Throwback Thursday recommendation feel free to jump on board, and you’re welcome to use Renee’s pic as well. If you’d just link back to her@It’s Book Talk she’d so appreciate it!

For this week, I picked up Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto (translated by Megan Backus).

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This is one of my all-time favorites. For those of you haven’t read this amazing book, here’s Goodreads synopsis:

Banana Yoshimoto’s novels have made her a sensation in Japan and all over the world, and Kitchen, the dazzling English-language debut that is still her best-loved book, is an enchantingly original and deeply affecting book 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 of Kitchen, is an orphan raised by her grandmother, who has passed away. Grieving, she is taken in by her friend Yoichi and his mother (who was once his father), Eriko. As the three of them form an improvised family that soon weathers its own tragic losses, Yoshimoto spins a lovely, evocative tale that recalls early Marguerite Duras. Kitchen and its companion story, “Moonlight Shadow,” are elegant tales whose seeming simplicity is the ruse of a writer whose voice echoes in the mind and the soul.

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Like I said earlier, this is one of my favorites. This book actually has a permanent special place in my heart and I have read this more than 5 times as far as I can remember. You can read my thoughts here.

This post is going to be a bit lengthy, but I’d love to share with you why this book is so important to me.

It was in my second year in junior college when I first read this book. There was an American teacher who had been very thoughtful and supportive of me throughout my time in school, We would have weekly one-hour sessions where I had him proofread the journals that I had written in English. It was actually his suggestion that I keep journals in English to get better at English in general; he would often chided me whenever I skipped writing them more than a few days in a row.
We continued our weekly sessions up until a couple of months before my graduation and in the middle of our session on a cold wintry day, he lent this book to me, saying,

“Give it back to me when you’re through this book. Take your time. No rush.”

Being as eager as I had always been to earn his trust and confidence, I started reading this book and why, this book enthralled me. The two stories contained in the book were both on the themes of ‘death’ and ‘hope,’ and the bleak, sorrowful undertone generated by the characters’ grief and devastation were well-reflected in the delicate, stunningly beautiful writing.  As I wrote in my review, I had -and have – never read Yoshimoto’s work in its original form, I still don’t know if it was the translation magic that made this book so haunting and amazing, but I instantly fell in love with the book.

That said, I returned the book to him and didn’t get myself my own copy and the said teacher went back to the United States to finish his doctoral degree.

We lost touch.

Initially, we sent letters and postcards back and forth several times. But at sometime or other, the communication got lost and there was no way left for me to get ahold of him, so I let it go.

So many years have passed.
Until this book sprang to mind one and a half years ago.

In winter of 2015, I was hit by a strong urge to own this book all of a sudden.
As I tend to be easily driven by compulsion, I finally bought a hardback edition from Amazon Japan.

It wasn’t like I specifically looked for any particular edition, but the one arrived at my doorstep turned out to be exactly the same edition that my teacher had; with the cover in which a woman putting up her hair in a traditional geisha-style.

Oh my God.  I wasn’t expecting this!

I was completely caught by surprise; pleasantly surprised.

Since I got a used one, the cover was slightly worn out and the pages were yellow with age, but it was exactly what I wanted – something that brings back so many fond memories that I shared with my teacher.

It was genuinely coincidental that I got to have exactly the same edition that I once enjoyed, and I was so glad with the coincidence.

Sadly, I still haven’t reconnected with him, it no longer matters – I am content with owning the same edition he once had. And I love the stories in this book. That’s enough for me.

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There you have it. This is the memory attached to this book.
This revisit of my memory lane might have been a bit boring for you to read, but I just wanted to let it out and share with you all.

 

Do you have any book that sticks with you?
Are there any books that have a permanent spot in your heart?

Let me know in the comments if you don’t mind 🙂
Thank you so much for reading as always and I’ll talk to you again in my next post 😀
Happy reading!

 

Noriko

pink flower

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9 thoughts on “Throwback Thursday: Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

  1. What a beautiful blog post! I loved the story behind this book and how it affected your life. I’m sorry to hear you lost touch with your teacher. It is sad, isn’t it — the way people disappear from our lives sometimes…

    Speaking of this book, it has been on my radar for a while and I’m hoping to read it one day. I find it interesting that you are Japanese and you didn’t mind reading a Japanese novel translated into English. I know that you don’t really like reading in Japanese, and I actually feel the same about Slovak and Czech, but if I were to read a classic written in one of these two languages, I would opt for the original version. I don’t read a lot of Slovak and Czech literature, though, so I don’t really have this dilemma.

    Also, I have this weird obsession with reading EVERYTHING in the original, especially if it is a language I’m learning or aspiring to learn one day. For this reason, I will probably read The Kitchen in my retirement 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Silvia for commenting and I am glad you liked this little story of mine 🙂
      I really enjoyed my time in junior college; I’m an English nerd so it was the best moments of my life (it sounds like a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s true). So…yes, losing touch with him left me with a bittersweet feeling. But, it’s OK now. I put that behind me, most importantly, I now have so many wonderful friends in my life like you!
      Speaking of Japanese, it’s interesting; did I tell you that I don’t like reading in Japanese in general? My gosh, my memory is getting vague now lol
      This is something weird about me – despite being Japanese, I don’t particularly like watching TV dramas or movies or even reading books in my native tongue. I don’t know how to put it… but for me, the feels or emotions come into me too directly and make what it’s already cheesy EVEN cheesier. You know what I mean?? lol

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      1. I’m pretty sure you mentioned it in one of your blog posts – I think it was in the About Me section, but maybe I’m wrong!
        I don’t have this problem (with cheesiness in books written in my native language, I mean), but I can see what you mean. The reason why I read barely any books written in Slovak (or Czech) is that for me that would be a waste of time (with a few notable exceptions, of course). Reading isn’t my only hobby, I also love learning languages, so reading books in foreign languages is a perfect way of melding the two together. I mostly read in English but I can also read fluently in French. On top of that, I am also able to read books in Italian and German, although the proces is far from smooth. Right now I’m also working my way through a manga written in Japanese 🙂 – which makes even the intricacies of German grammar and composed words seem like a walk in the park.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Ah, yes! I wrote that in the ‘About Me’ section! Yes, you are so correct! It’s amazing you can handle so many languages… I can barely handle Japanese and English! I once attempted to learn French but gave up lol

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