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IOP- Banana Yoshimoto's Juxtaposition of Light and Dark to Characterize Mikage's Depression in Kitchen

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David Walsh

on 11 March 2014

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Transcript of IOP- Banana Yoshimoto's Juxtaposition of Light and Dark to Characterize Mikage's Depression in Kitchen

Her mood quickly changes, however, when Yuichi Tanabe knocks on the door. She describes a straight road leading from herself to Yuichi, and explains that he "seemed to glow with white light (7)
Soon after, she cheers herself up by saying that "the only way we can light is our own," and uses that as her justification for living with the Tanabes.
She receives a call from her ex boyfriend Sotaro, who wants to meet up at a park. Her outlook on life immediately changes, and she explains that "in this world there is no place for sadness. Not one." (23)
In the end of the book, Mikage and Yuichi both escape the depression and despair they felt when they lost their loved ones.
One of Yoshimoto's intentions when writing this book was to describe the processes of depression, and how it is not a simple down then up experience. Mikage was in constant search of hope, but was quickly brought back down by a new hardship. Yoshimoto made the book an up and down rollercoaster, but ultimately left us with a state of contentness




In the book, the lighthouse is used as a symbol to represent both despair and hope. During the dream that Mikage and Yuichi shared, they sing a song together that epitomizes their loneliness:
"A lighthouse in the distance
To the two of us in the night
The spinning light looks like
Sunshine through the branches of trees"
The two are searching for hope at difficult times in their respective lives, and these lyrics explain the elusiveness of hope in a state of depression
At the beginning of chapter 2, Eriko's death is bluntly announced. Mikage responds with utter despair, explaining her desire to give up on life entirely (48).
When Mikage is alone, she begins to reflect on Eriko's legacy. She says that "truly great people emit a light that warms the hearts of those around them. When that light has been put out, a heavy shadow of despair descends."
Mikage then reunites with Yuichi, who is a drunken mess, which subsequently drags Mikage's mood down
Happiness is defined as good fortune; pleasure; contentment; joy.
Yoshimoto uses light as a symbol of peace, comfort and happiness by writing with a magical realism-type approach.
In Japanese art and literature, happiness plays a major role. Light usually holds a positive connotation, like in this anonymous 19th century piece.
Depression is defined medically as a condition of general emotional dejection and withdrawal; sadness greater and more prolonged than that warranted by any objective reason.
In Japan, depression is often recognized as the nation's most prevalent health issue: "Kenzo Denda, of the Department of Psychiatry at Hokkaido University Graduate School of Medicine, has reported that 1 in 12 elementary school pupils suffers from depression, while at the middle-school level the figure may be as high as 1 in 4. Studies show that at least one-third of the prison population is made up of the clinically depressed." (Pulvers)
In Banana Yoshimoto's novella Kitchen, depression is a major theme. It is suffered by both Mikage and Yuichi as a result of death, in Yuichi's case the death of Eriko and in Mikage's case the deaths of both Eriko and her grandmother.
Psychological symptoms of depression in Kitchen include: continuous low mood or sadness, feeling hopeless and helpless, feeling tearful, feeling guilt-ridden, feeling irritable and intolerant of others, having no motivation or interest in things, not getting any enjoyment out of life, feeling anxious or worried, having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming yourself.Social symptoms of Depression in Kitchen include: not doing well at work, taking part in fewer social activities and avoiding contact with friends, neglecting your hobbies and interests, having difficulties in your home and family life.
In Japanese art and literature, darkness usually holds a negative, foreboding connotation, like in this 20th century painting
"Depression Is a National Ailment That Demands Open Recognition in Japan." The Japan Times Online: News on Japan, Business News, Opinion, Sports, Entertainment and More. N.p., 12 Feb. 2012. Web. 21 Jan. 2013.
"Clinical Depression - Symptoms." Clinical Depression. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Jan. 2013.
On page 4, when Mikage begins to explain the loss of her grandmother, she describes how she was "all alone," and how it felt like "the blackness of the cosmos"
Mikage's depressed attitude returns on page 21, when she expresses her belief that "someday, without fail, everyone will disappear, scattered into the blackness of time"
On page 22, she revisits her old apartment where she lived with her grandmother and describes it as "cold and dark," with "not a sigh to be heard," She attempts to cope with the reality of her grandmother's death, when the phone rings.
Eriko's death served Yuichi and Mikage by bringing them back together. On page 50, when the two are first reconnecting, Mikage describes Yuichi's face as "radiating a dim glow", representative of the positivity they were both seeking in the face of tragedy
Following an extended state of depression, Mikage finds solace with her new job as a cooking assistant. She describes the kitchen as blissful.
Finally, Mikage and Yuichi find their ultimate brightness in one another. On Mikage's last day traveling with her cooking team, she wakes up to a bright snow and reconnects with Yuichi, and the implication is that the two are now together.
On the second to last page of the book, when Mikage has finally escaped her depressed haze and finds love with Yuichi, she sees a lighthouse in the distance. "It turned to me, then it turned away, forming a pathway of light on the waves," she says. She explains this in an optimistic context. The light is supposed to be guiding her to her love, Yuichi, in Tokyo, and she finally escapes her depression there, with him.
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