Banana Yoshimoto

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Themes and Colors
Death and Grief Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Joy and Suffering Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Kitchen, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Death and Grief

Banana Yoshimoto’s Kitchen is a moving exploration of the processes of grieving. The story, which is divided into two parts, begins with death and explores how people survive painful losses and are able to move on without breaking. At the start of the novel, the protagonist, Mikage Sakurai, is grieving her grandmother, who raised her. The second part opens with Mikage learning that Eriko Tanabe, the woman who took her in after…

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Banana Yoshimoto’s Kitchen, which was written in Japan in the 1980s, questions gender conventions in Yoshimoto’s time through the story’s central characters. Towards the end of the story, the protagonist, Mikage Sakurai, and her love interest, Yuichi Tanabe, poke fun at traditional notions of masculinity by showing that Yuichi’s desire to be “manly” when grieving his mother is damaging. Yuichi’s mother, Eriko Tanabe, is transgender. Her backstory reveals that she was…

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Banana Yoshimoto’s Kitchen is a love letter to the non-traditional family. None of the story’s central characters are raised in a conventional family environment by two biological parents. The protagonist, Mikage Sakurai, was raised by her grandmother, who has just died when the story begins. Mikage’s love interest, Yuichi Tanabe, is raised by his transgender parent Eriko (who was Yuichi’s biological father but now identifies as his mother). The most central family dynamic…

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Joy and Suffering

Banana Yoshimoto infuses Kitchen with frequent references to “light” and “dark” to impart her philosophy about the balance of joy and suffering in life. Throughout the story, the protagonist, Mikage Sakurai, struggles to connect with joy while grieving, and worries that life is really just about enduring pain, or dwelling in darkness. Yoshimoto, however, speaking through the voice of Eriko Tanabe—the woman who takes Mikage in at the start…

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