Friday, January 11, 2013

#BookReview: Kitchen - Banana Yoshimoto #BP2W (Japan)

I knew when I started this challenge that there might be some books I wouldn't get because of cultural differences.  Two weeks in and I've come across that first book.  I really wanted to like Kitchen, but it was strange and otherworldly.  It was a huge hit in Japan though, so perhaps it's just me.

Though the book has one name, it's actually two short stories.  The first, Kitchen, tells the story of Mikage.  Most people have a favorite room in their house and for Mikage, it's the kitchen.  However, it's more than just her favorite room, it's where she feels most comfortable.  So when her last living relative dies and she's offered a chance to move in with a classmate and his crossdressing father, she gladly accepts, based on the level of comfort she feels in their kitchen.

In the second short, Moonlight Shadow, young Satsuki mourns the loss of her boyfriend.  Though she's comforted by the presence of her deceased boyfriend's brother, who dresses in the school uniform of his deceased girlfriend, she longs to see Hitoshi again.  An encounter with a stranger on her morning run offers her that opportunity, but only if everything goes according to plan.

Both stories dealt with death and crossdressing men.  I don't even know what to do with that honestly.  I've not read anything else from the author, so I don't know if these are focused on in her other works.  It just seems strange that both topics would play such prominent roles within the same book.

Published: 1988
In 1603, after decades of civil warfare, the Tokugawa shogunate (a military-led, dynastic government) ushered in a long period of relative political stability and isolation from foreign influence. For more than two centuries this policy enabled Japan to enjoy a flowering of its indigenous culture. Japan opened its ports after signing the Treaty of Kanagawa with the US in 1854 and began to intensively modernize and industrialize. Following three decades of unprecedented growth, Japan's economy experienced a major slowdown starting in the 1990s, but the country remains a major economic power. In March 2011, Japan's strongest-ever earthquake, and an accompanying tsunami, devastated the northeast part of Honshu island, killing thousands and damaging several nuclear power plants. The catastrophe hobbled the country's economy and its energy infrastructure, and tested its ability to deal with humanitarian disasters. - CIA World Factboo

Location: Eastern Asia, island chain between the North Pacific Ocean and the sea of Japan, east of the Korean Peninsula 
Size: 377,915 sq km, slightly smaller than California 
Population: 127,368,088 
Ethnic groups: Japanese 98.5%, Koreans 0.5%, Chinese 0.4%, other 0.6%. Up to 230,000 Brazilians of Japanese origin migrated to Japan in the 1990s to work in industries; some have returned to Brazil (2004)
Languages: Japanese
Theme: Kimigayo

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