Kitchen

by

Banana Yoshimoto

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Kitchen can help.
The central maternal figure in Kitchen. Eriko is an empowered transgender woman who runs a nightclub, raises her son Yuichi, and takes on a motherly role with Mikage after Mikage’s grandmother dies. Yoshimoto leverages Eriko’s character to emphasize that transgender womanhood is just as valid as cisgender womanhood, in particular through descriptions of Eriko’s feminine beauty and through Eriko’s own assertions about identifying as a woman. Yoshimoto also voices the guiding philosophies of the plot through Eriko. For example, Eriko urges Mikage to see that a person cannot really understand joy without experiencing suffering. Suffering, therefore, is both insightful and necessary and it cannot be eradicated but must be embraced. Eriko also becomes a mother to Mikage, which underscores Yoshimoto’s view that family is not bound up with biology. Eriko is tragically murdered by a stalker halfway through the story, and her death motivates part of Yoshimoto’s exploration of grieving, as well as the complicated path that Mikage and Yuichi walk while trying to navigate love in the midst of bereavement.

Eriko Tanabe Quotes in Kitchen

The Kitchen quotes below are all either spoken by Eriko Tanabe or refer to Eriko Tanabe . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Death and Grief Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Grove Press edition of Kitchen published in 2006.
Part 1: Kitchen Quotes

Usually, the first time I go to a house, face to face with people I barely know, I feel an immense loneliness.

Related Characters: Mikage Sakurai (speaker), Yuichi Tanabe, Eriko Tanabe
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:

This was his mother? Dumbfounded I couldn’t take my eyes off her. Hair that rustled like silk to her shoulders; the deep sparkle of her long, narrow eyes; well-formed lips, a nose with a high, straight bridge—the whole of her face gave off a marvelous light that seemed to vibrate with life force.

Related Characters: Mikage Sakurai (speaker), Eriko Tanabe , Yuichi Tanabe
Related Symbols: Light
Page Number: 11
Explanation and Analysis:

Yes, but. Could you call someone who looked like that ‘Dad?’

Related Characters: Yuichi Tanabe (speaker), Eriko Tanabe , Mikage Sakurai
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:

You’re a good kid, too.

Related Characters: Eriko Tanabe (speaker), Mikage Sakurai, Yuichi Tanabe
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:

Little by little, light and air came into my heart.

Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:

I loved the Tanabes’ sofa as much as I loved their kitchen. I came to crave sleeping on it […] I slept like a baby. There wasn’t anything more I wanted: I was happy.

Related Symbols: Kitchens
Page Number: 22
Explanation and Analysis:

It was like watching Bewitched.

Related Characters: Mikage Sakurai (speaker), Eriko Tanabe , Yuichi Tanabe
Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:

Looking up, I saw white steam rising, in the dark, out of a brightly lit window overhead. I listened. From inside came the sound of happy voices at work, soup boiling, knives and pots and pans clanging. It was a kitchen. I was puzzled, smiling about how I had just gone from the darkest despair to feeling wonderful. I stood up, smoothed down my skirt, and started back for the Tanabes’.

Related Symbols: Kitchens
Page Number: 34-35
Explanation and Analysis:

Yes. But 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.

Related Characters: Eriko Tanabe (speaker), Mikage Sakurai
Page Number: 41
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 2: Full Moon Quotes

One night, screaming that he had been made a fool of he lunged at her with a knife. Eriko, wounded, grabbed a barbell off the bar—it was part of the club’s decor—with both hands and beat him to death. “There!” she said. “Self-defense, that makes us even.” Those were her last words.

Page Number: 44-45
Explanation and Analysis:

She, too, is a very precious child of mine.

Related Characters: Eriko Tanabe (speaker), Mikage Sakurai, Yuichi Tanabe
Page Number: 53
Explanation and Analysis:

For an instant I had a vision of Eriko’s smiling face, and my heart turned over. I felt an urge to get moving. It looked to me like the kitchen had not been used in quite a while. It was somewhat dirty and dark. I began to clean. I scrubbed the sink with scouring powder, wiped off the burners, washed the dishes, sharpened the knives. I washed and bleached all the dish towels and while watching them go round and round in the dryer I realized that I had become calmer.

Related Characters: Mikage Sakurai (speaker), Eriko Tanabe
Related Symbols: Kitchens
Page Number: 56
Explanation and Analysis:

Nothing, nothing at all has any flavor for me know.

Related Characters: Yuichi Tanabe (speaker), Mikage Sakurai, Eriko Tanabe
Page Number: 76
Explanation and Analysis:

I realized that the world did not exist for my benefit. It followed that the ratio of pleasant to 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.

Page Number: 81
Explanation and Analysis:

The endless sea was shrouded in darkness. I could see the shadowy forms of gigantic, rugged crags against which the waves were crashing. While watching them I felt a strange, sweet sadness. In the biting air I told myself, there will be so much pleasure, so much suffering. With or without Yuichi. The beacon of a faraway lighthouse revolved. It turned its light toward me, then turned away, forming a pathway of light on the waves. Nodding to myself, my nose dripping, I returned to my room.

Related Characters: Mikage Sakurai (speaker), Yuichi Tanabe, Eriko Tanabe
Page Number: 104
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Kitchen LitChart as a printable PDF.
Kitchen PDF

Eriko Tanabe Character Timeline in Kitchen

The timeline below shows where the character Eriko Tanabe appears in Kitchen. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1: Kitchen
Gender Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Joy and Suffering Theme Icon
...sudden, a woman bursts in who is so beautiful that Mikage gasps. Her name is Eriko, and she’s Yuichi’s mother. Eriko has silky hair, long legs, and sparkling eyes, and she... (full context)
Death and Grief Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Joy and Suffering Theme Icon
Yuichi explains that Eriko eloped with Yuichi’s biological mother—a strange-looking woman with short hair—when they were young. Before that,... (full context)
Death and Grief Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Joy and Suffering Theme Icon
Mikage wakes to the sound of Eriko bustling around cheerfully in the kitchen as light streams through the window and shines on... (full context)
Death and Grief Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Joy and Suffering Theme Icon
Eriko says that Mikage reminds her of Yuichi’s old dog, which is probably why Yuichi feels... (full context)
Death and Grief Theme Icon
Joy and Suffering Theme Icon
...and Mikage slips into an easy rhythm of working at her part-time job, cooking for Eriko and Yuichi, watching TV, and sleeping on the enormous sofa. She sleeps soundly each night,... (full context)
Death and Grief Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...spills her tea. She protests that it’s not like that: Yuichi lives with his mother, Eriko, and they more or less took her in like a pet. (full context)
Joy and Suffering Theme Icon
...were together, she felt sad being herself. Now she feels more drawn to Yuichi and Eriko’s “strange cheerfulness.” Mikage looks up at Sotaro and wonders if he still has feelings for... (full context)
Family Theme Icon
Just as Mikage is thinking she should move out soon, Eriko bursts in with a new juicer. Mikage chuckles at the Tanabes’ frequent electronics purchases. Yuichi... (full context)
Death and Grief Theme Icon
Joy and Suffering Theme Icon
...stay with them longer, knowing she’s not well enough to leave yet, and jokes that Eriko’s money isn’t just for juicers. Yuichi starts mopping and sings about two people seeing a... (full context)
Gender Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Joy and Suffering Theme Icon
One evening, as Eriko waters the plants, she imparts her outlook on life to Mikage. Eriko thinks that taking... (full context)
Part 2: Full Moon
Death and Grief Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
A few months ago, Eriko was murdered by a stalker who had grown obsessed with her but then was “Shocked... (full context)
Gender Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Mikage frantically tries to recall the last time she saw Eriko. Was it the day Mikage moved out, when Eriko cried a little? No. It was... (full context)
Death and Grief Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Joy and Suffering Theme Icon
...and he relaxes. Yuichi explains that he felt functional for the first time today. When Eriko died, everything went dark and he went blank. Eriko was everything to him—“She was my... (full context)
Gender Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Yuichi hands Eriko’s will to Mikage, and goes to bed. It’s a cheerful letter joking about the silliness... (full context)
Death and Grief Theme Icon
Mikage is wearing Eriko’s sweater and her heart lurches as she thinks of the smell of Eriko’s perfume fading.... (full context)
Death and Grief Theme Icon
Joy and Suffering Theme Icon
...stares out of the window at the grey fog outside. Mikage misses the “light” that Eriko emitted, which has been replaced with a dark “heavy shadow of despair.” (full context)
Death and Grief Theme Icon
Joy and Suffering Theme Icon
...up at the ceiling. When Mikage’s grandmother died, she thought things couldn’t get worse. Now Eriko’s dead, and things are worse. Mikage wonders if adulthood is just understanding that pain won’t... (full context)
Joy and Suffering Theme Icon
Over the summer, Mikage had learned to cook. Mikage cooked so much that Eriko and Yuichi had thought Mikage had gone crazy. The more she cooked, the more she... (full context)
Family Theme Icon
...of stew, salad, pie, vegetables, and all sorts of things, she avoids the topic of Eriko’s death. It feels unreal, and she needs to approach it gently and slowly. For now,... (full context)
Death and Grief Theme Icon
Joy and Suffering Theme Icon
...tells Yuichi to stop talking like that. The apartment feels silent, heavy, and lost without Eriko. Mikago imagines her and Yuichi standing side by side, staring into the depths of hell.... (full context)
Family Theme Icon
Joy and Suffering Theme Icon
...deeply hurt and pushes back, firmly telling Okuno she knows nothing of Mikage’s history with Eriko and Yuichi. Okuno turns around curtly and leaves. Nori and Kuri comfort Mikage, saying she’s... (full context)
Gender Theme Icon
Joy and Suffering Theme Icon
Yuichi opens the door for Mikage and they joke about how Eriko insisted on having the car door opened for her, even though she “was a man.”... (full context)
Gender Theme Icon
Joy and Suffering Theme Icon
Mikage recalls a bittersweet memory. Eriko was watering the plants, looking “thrillingly beautiful” in the light. She talked about the time... (full context)
Death and Grief Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
Mikage is packing. Suddenly Chika—Eriko’s coworker at the club (who wears drag but isn’t explicitly female)—calls, saying they need to... (full context)
Death and Grief Theme Icon
Joy and Suffering Theme Icon
...from the complicated highs and lows of her relationship with Yuichi and her grief about Eriko, who was the “dazzling sun” whose light illuminated them both. Mikage yearns for peace. Mikage... (full context)
Death and Grief Theme Icon
Joy and Suffering Theme Icon
...up and she knows it will keep them going. She thinks about the swish of Eriko’s skirt, the color of a dragonfly, the sharp tug of Eriko tightening her obi, a... (full context)
Death and Grief Theme Icon
Joy and Suffering Theme Icon
...inn to a raging, windy snowstorm outside the window. Looking out, Mikage truly feels that “Eriko is no more.” She gets up to start another day. That evening, after a feast... (full context)