Kitchen

by

Banana Yoshimoto

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Light Symbol Analysis

Light Symbol Icon

In Kitchen, light symbolizes joy or happiness. Every time Mikage Sakurai, the protagonist, experiences a person, place, or time when she feels warm and happy, Yoshimoto uses the symbol of light to represent Mikage’s joy. Yoshimoto establishes that light stands for joy by consistently describing Mikage’s moments of happiness as encounters with light that emanates from a character, a lamp, or the sky. Mikage always describes kitchens—which she loves, and feels happy in—by emphasizing the way the light falls in those spaces. Similarly, Mikage describes people who make her happy—typically, Eriko and Yuichi Tanabe—as “glowing” with light that draws her towards them. For example, Mikage says her love interest Yuichi “seemed to glow with white light.” Soon after, Mikage says Yuichi and his mother Eriko “shone like buddhas” when she reflects on her gratitude for finding a safe and supportive home with them. Similarly, when Mikage is able to see a glimmer of hope in a dark moment, she often imagines she sees something that lights up in the dark. For example, after crying in an alley over her grandmother’s death, Mikage looks up and sees light pouring out of a kitchen window from a building that’s near her. Mikage worries that her life will always be sad and painful because of her experiences with death and loneliness in her life. However, when Mikage accepts that suffering is necessary to understand joy, and that there is always a balance of both in life, she finds peace, which is symbolized by a dark space that’s dotted with light. For example, towards the end of the story, when Mikage accepts that she will be alright despite her suffering, she sees a lighthouse that casts its light beam over a dark ocean. Yoshimoto thus argues that nobody can run from darkness, because it will always be there, but they can infuse darkness with light, and that’s when they’ll find peace of mind.

Light Quotes in Kitchen

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

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

Light Symbol Timeline in Kitchen

The timeline below shows where the symbol Light appears in Kitchen. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1: Kitchen
Death and Grief Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Joy and Suffering Theme Icon
...she’s bewitched. She hears a “spirit call [her] name.” Yuichi seems to “glow with white light” that draws her towards him. (full context)
Death and Grief Theme Icon
Joy and Suffering Theme Icon
...the middle of the kitchen. Yuichi makes tea while Mikage explores the kitchen, mesmerized by light bouncing off plates, sparkling glasses, appliances, and serving dishes of all sizes. Mikage usually feels... (full context)
Gender Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Joy and Suffering Theme Icon
...Yuichi’s mother. Eriko has silky hair, long legs, and sparkling eyes, and she radiates with light that “vibrate[s] with life force.” Eriko welcomes Mikage warmly, explains that she’ll be stuck at... (full context)
Death and Grief Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Joy and Suffering Theme Icon
...feels like she can trust their kitchen, and she likes the way their faces shine light “like buddhas when they smiled.” (full context)
Death and Grief Theme Icon
Joy and Suffering Theme Icon
...kitchen. Outside the window, the rain has stopped, and the sky has filled with the light of twinkling stars. Somehow, Mikage doesn’t feel lonely, and her mind is eased from the... (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 and Mikage... (full context)
Death and Grief Theme Icon
Joy and Suffering Theme Icon
...sleeping on the enormous sofa. She sleeps soundly each night, and wants for nothing more. “Light and air” starts to come back into Mikage’s heart, and she is grateful for finding... (full context)
Death and Grief Theme Icon
Joy and Suffering Theme Icon
...and she’s in a daze. The shift itself had been “agony.” Mikage thinks about the light-filled empty apartment, which no longer contains the smells of her life there, her warm bed,... (full context)
Death and Grief Theme Icon
Joy and Suffering Theme Icon
...her grandmother’s death, and also, somehow, over many things. Looking up, Mikage notices steam and light pouring out of a window in the dark, and hears voices, soup boiling, and pans... (full context)
Death and Grief Theme Icon
Joy and Suffering Theme Icon
...money isn’t just for juicers. Yuichi starts mopping and sings about two people seeing a lighthouse’s rotating light. Mikage joins in and they sing loudly and cheerfully. Suddenly, Mikage blurts out... (full context)
Joy and Suffering Theme Icon
...mumbling sleepily that he’s hungry and wants some ramen. As they sit under the kitchen light in the little room suspended in the dark night, Mikage suddenly thinks: “ramen! What a... (full context)
Gender Theme Icon
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Joy and Suffering Theme Icon
...experiencing hopelessness that a person can truly understand joy. Mikage is moved, and notices the light around Eriko’s “slender, graceful hands” forming a rainbow in the water she pours. Mikage thinks... (full context)
Part 2: Full Moon
Death and Grief Theme Icon
Joy and Suffering Theme Icon
...dead. His sad, cheerful face radiates a “dim glow.” Outside the window, tiny points of light flicker through the dark. Yuichi reflects that he’s an orphan now, as tears stream down... (full context)
Death and Grief Theme Icon
Joy and Suffering Theme Icon
...dies. Mikage 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)
Joy and Suffering Theme Icon
...truly alive. Inching her way through the dark at the brink of despair, the moon’s light appears and a special kind of beauty permeates the heart.  (full context)
Joy and Suffering Theme Icon
...alright. The feeling passes in a flash, and Mikage is confused. She’s dazzled by the light from his eyes. (full context)
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Joy and Suffering Theme Icon
...are 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... (full context)
Death and Grief Theme Icon
Joy and Suffering Theme Icon
...how Mikage was the same when grieving her grandmother. Mikage hopes that the glow of light surrounding them in the warm coffee shop warms his soul. (full context)
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Joy and Suffering Theme Icon
...Okuno too, and she suddenly becomes jealous. She feels like they are two streams of light floating towards a “critical juncture” in the dark. As they walk toward the station in... (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 when Yuichi’s biological mother was dying of cancer and wanted... (full context)
Death and Grief Theme Icon
Joy and Suffering Theme Icon
...her relationship with Yuichi and her grief about Eriko, who was the “dazzling sun” whose light illuminated them both. Mikage yearns for peace. Mikage wanders through the town in the evening,... (full context)
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Joy and Suffering Theme Icon
Spotting a light, Mikage enters a near-empty eatery with relief, and orders a hearty meal of fried pork... (full context)
Death and Grief Theme Icon
Joy and Suffering Theme Icon
...must be a matter of love, and Mikage smiles sheepishly. She dozes off under the light of the full moon, and wakes when they arrive, feeling more awake than her body.... (full context)
Gender Theme Icon
Joy and Suffering Theme Icon
...dark windows. Somehow, she just knows that the window in the corner reflecting the green light is Yuichi’s. Mikage climbs up onto the ledge, and keeps climbing towards the window, until... (full context)
Death and Grief Theme Icon
Joy and Suffering Theme Icon
...spirits start to lift, and the “glittering crystal” of their warm and happy memories together lights up and she knows it will keep them going. She thinks about the swish of... (full context)
Death and Grief Theme Icon
Joy and Suffering Theme Icon
...beach. She’s freezing as she watches the dark, “jet black” waves glittering with dots of light from the lighthouse far away, which forms a path of light towards Mikage. She feels... (full context)