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
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.