Symbolism in Banana Yoshimoto’s Kitchen

In the Banana Yoshimoto’s novel, “The Kitchen”, families are considered as essential elements in people’s lives, and Yoshimoto achieves this through the use of several literal devices such as symbolism. Yoshimoto has successfully used symbolism to illustrate the responsibilities and significance of a family towards human beings.  Family obligations include; accepting, comforting, loving and being supportive towards the people who surround us. Regardless of Yoshimoto’s liberal up bring, through the use of symbols, she has her strong view about family life.

The author has used plants to symbolize life and puts more emphasis on the theme of the kitchen being the source of hope for Mikage. The use of plants symbolizes goodness and beauty. Plants also symbolize a link to someone’s memories and past. Mikage recalls her grandmother’s love for flowers since the ones in the kitchen were not allowed to wilt Banana (Yashimoto 29). The use of flowers symbolizes how the kitchens provide life as they connect with nature and personal appreciation of the natural beauty of life. Moreover, it puts emphasis on the way Mikage views the kitchen as a source of hope.  Also, the plants hanging in the ‘Tanabaes’ flats create the impression that Mikage is not lonely. Eriko heals Mikage after the loss of her loved ones through watering and nurturing the plants.  Eriko’s watering of the plants symbolizes her caring nature towards Mikage.

In “Kitchen”, pineapple acts as a symbol of something more than just a mere good luck. The pineapple also represents the memories Mikage shared with Eriko, which she refers to as the saddest one of all because she remembers the pineapple plant first. The summer, Mikage spends with Eriko and Yukichi symbolizes the comfort Mikage finds in times of her reflection on the quality time she spends together with her new family. Therefore, Mikage’s remembrance of the time spent with the family brings her strength in case of loss or disaster. Also, the author uses the moon and light to symbolize emotions and magic. Like in the incident soon after the death of Mikage’s grandmother, her eye rested on the still new moon penetrating across the sky (Yashimoto 15). Afterward, she describes the incident as a pale moonbeam and bursts into tears.

In the novel, “Kitchen”, the sharing of food is used to symbolize the bond established by the family in the place where the food is being prepared, which is the kitchen. The statement, “The hum of the refrigerator kept me from thinking of my loneliness”, suggests that the kitchen is seen as a place where Mikage seeks comfort after she is left lonely in the world (Yashimoto 6). The kitchen makes the loneliness feeling less absolute. Food creates incidences in which characters spend time as a family in the novel the “The Kitchen”. This symbolizes the bond which is ever growing among the people living under the one roof as a family. Mikage says her grandmother and herself would spend some time before bed, sometimes eating, sometimes drinking coffee, watching television and drinking tea together.

In Japanese tradition, symbolism is used to show the significance of kitchen to a family. Traditionally, the kitchen is termed as ‘kimado’ meaning stove. ‘Kimado’ is seen to represent a family or the house. The literal meaning can be a divide between a stove and a family, but the symbolic significance of ‘kimado’ is to separate a family. Therefore, more emphasis is put on the use of the kitchen as a theme to imply a family or house. The author uses the symbolism, kitchen all through the novel. For example, Mikage’s love for kitchen shows the author’s view when it comes to people’s love for their families. Also, the happiness obtained from the kitchen by Mikage shows how happy families make people.

The use of the kitchen as a place of understanding and comfort symbolizes the family’s significance to humankind and role as a supportive element. Hence, this connects to the application of the ‘kimado’, which is a symbol of family or home. Mikage uses ‘kimado’ as a way to deal with the crisis she undergoes with the deaths of Eriko and her grandmother. According to (Yashimoto 4), the use of gleaming symbolizes shelter and the hope the kitchen offers Mikage, which is also what a family can offer. This is seen after Mikage steps into the kitchen. The kitchen changes Mikage’s feelings from the dark despair to pleasant feelings (Yashimoto 35). The scenario above describes the kitchen as a place that is soothing and uplifting.

Conclusion

Yashimoto, in his novel, “The Kitchen” has used symbolism in several incidents throughout to show the importance of a family to people’s lives. Through symbolism, the natural beauty of life is highly appreciated.  Therefore, family relationships should ensure that all aspects of the family such as comfort, support, love and acceptance are put into consideration since they are all essential in human’s life. This is so because they comfort during the times of loss and celebrate the events of achievements.