Kitchen

by

Banana Yoshimoto

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Kitchens Symbol Analysis

Kitchens Symbol Icon

In Yoshimoto’s Kitchen, kitchens symbolize the natural, repetitious rhythms of life, which is often what pulls the protagonist, Mikage Sakurai, out of a moment where she feels overwhelmed by the presence of death in her life and feels she might break. For example, when Mikage is overcome with grief after Eriko Tanabe dies, she starts cleaning Eriko’s kitchen. The more she scrubs, the better she feels. Eventually, Mikage feels as if she is turning a corner and knows she will get through her pain. Kitchens are active spaces, full of tasks that must be repeated over and over again, such as cleaning, chopping, scrubbing, boiling, and so on. For Yoshimoto, the actions that are repeated endlessly in kitchens are the stuff of life itself: the cycle of living that goes on day after day. Once a person reconnects with this rhythm, they are able to push past the suffering that throttles them and keep going.

Kitchens Quotes in Kitchen

The Kitchen quotes below all refer to the symbol of Kitchens. 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

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:

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:
Part 2: Full Moon Quotes

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:
Get the entire Kitchen LitChart as a printable PDF.
Kitchen PDF

Kitchens Symbol Timeline in Kitchen

The timeline below shows where the symbol Kitchens appears in Kitchen. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1: Kitchen
Death and Grief Theme Icon
Mikage Sakurai’s favorite place is the kitchen. She thinks lived-in kitchens, with “vegetable droppings,” tea towels, and fully stocked fridges are the... (full context)
Death and Grief Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Joy and Suffering Theme Icon
...she couldn’t sleep. After a few days she dragged her futon into the “deathly silent” kitchen, curled up by the refrigerator, and lulled herself to sleep as it hummed beside her.... (full context)
Death and Grief Theme Icon
Joy and Suffering Theme Icon
...Mikage walks in to Yuichi’s place, noticing an enormous sofa in the middle of the kitchen. Yuichi makes tea while Mikage explores the kitchen, mesmerized by light bouncing off plates, sparkling... (full context)
Death and Grief Theme Icon
Joy and Suffering Theme Icon
...the “delectable” sofa, surrounded by plants, knowing that she’ll sleep well. She peeks at the kitchen one more time, and smiles to herself, thinking it’s funny that even here she sleeps... (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 the plant leaves. Eriko is hungry... (full context)
Death and Grief Theme Icon
Joy and Suffering Theme Icon
...a window in the dark, and hears voices, soup boiling, and pans clanking. It’s a kitchen. Puzzled that she’s able to suddenly feel “wonderful,” Mikage stands up, smooths her clothes, and... (full context)
Death and Grief Theme Icon
Joy and Suffering Theme Icon
...into the sofa, and sleeps soundly after her cry. She dreams about scrubbing the yellow-green kitchen floor in her grandmother’s apartment. Yuichi’s there, also scrubbing, and they stop to drink tea... (full context)
Joy and Suffering Theme Icon
Suddenly, Mikage wakes up. She goes into the kitchen thinking about her strange dream, which is fresh in her mind. In the chilled silence... (full context)
Gender Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Joy and Suffering Theme Icon
...over, she also knows that each time she’ll keep going. There will be many “Dream kitchens” in her “heart” or “reality,” in all the places she’ll live. (full context)
Part 2: Full Moon
Death and Grief Theme Icon
...Mikage lays on the sofa, thinking of the sound of Eriko’s slippers clattering about the kitchen. Mikage misses Eriko so much that she feels she’ll go mad. She wonders if she... (full context)
Death and Grief Theme Icon
Joy and Suffering Theme Icon
...face flashes in front of her eyes, and her heart twists. Mikage starts cleaning the kitchen, which is dirty and dark. As Mikage scrubs every surface, she starts to calm down,... (full context)
Family Theme Icon
Joy and Suffering Theme Icon
...sweet, affluent, well-trained, polite young ladies. Mikage enjoys prepping food with them in the light-flooded kitchen. Suddenly, a girl named Okuno walks in asking for Mikage. Okuno tells Mikage to stay... (full context)