A journal entry inspired by Banana Yoshimoto’s Kitchen & A short review on it

The navy sky stays still in the minutes before 5 AM, darkness blankets the earth as the crack of dawn hovers by. The arrival of dawn is signaled first by a sound of one bird’s chirp followed by the sky’s transition to cobalt blue.

Morning came as fast as night went yet the transition can be described by the minute. A steady rise like that of one bird’s chirp becoming the harbinger of other sleeping animals. This is how morning sounds like.

The early morning sky casts a hazy blue glow on the walls of my house, and I attempt to capture the “golden hour” of the early morning but my phone automatically enters night mode and alters the photo to resemble what’s to come and not what still is.

I often wish that early morning lasts longer than just a few minutes. I come to realize that my favorite parts of the day are often fleeting, like sunsets and the period before the sky breaks into full light.

The silence of the new day before everyone else awakes makes me feel a kind of serenity that can’t be found any other part of the day. The kind of light the sky casts isn’t harsh and demanding. The sun is still sleepy and covered in her blanket of clouds. These few minutes allow me to move slowly, the stillness around me reminding me that I too should take my time to fully wake up. Though drowsy and not yet reaching top energy, I find myself moving more intentionally.

Something I drew to accompany this piece. Ever-changing skies :)

Review of Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

There’s something so powerful about simple narratives that are able to evoke such deep emotion and rootedness in the mundane. Different mediums of art, whether that be through film or literature, that try to capture the complexity and simplicity of living will always capture my attention and speak to me so directly in ways that mirrors truths in my own life.

(Some noteworthy mentions: Before Sunrise trilogy, Whisper of the Heart, A Little Life, A Gentleman in Moscow)

Banana Yoshimoto’s Kitchen is no extraordinary story, it just follows a life of loss, and with that premise is a tale filled with nothing short of magical and surreal aspects of life. It loosely follows a tale of two girls breezing through life with a constant feeling of loss and sadness and yet they persist. With their respective stories, the sense of hope is planted not because of a wise figure or life changing advice, but when they finally accept that no one escapes the hardships of life. Love and loss go hand in hand, and with the highest of highs come the lowest of lows.

Kitchen is divided into two tales: Kitchen and Moonlight Shadow. The narrative of Kitchen is written in a quirky style of personal journalistic writing that isn’t consistent with time and plot and instead rooted in a place (I think which place is obvious) and a person (Yuichi). This isn’t to say that it revolves around it though, this rootedness symbolizes a sort of constancy and consistency even when they are not physically present. In the girl’s character, even without the presence of the kitchen and Yuichi, they trail in her story in subtle ways. It kind of reminds me of people and places that mean a lot to me and have become central in my life story even without being physically near them, or in my case even when they’re gone.

Moonlight shadow is shorter and is more poignant in its vignettes. I also liked this story more as the writing style appeals to me (I lean more towards essay style writing rather than personal journal entry writing). One specific scene that is etched on my mind is that of Satsuki running in the early morning after another restless night, only to arrive by the misty river — the only place her heart feels steady. I won’t do damage to this seemingly normal scene by trying to describe it further but safe to say that Yoshimoto went beyond describing mere surroundings. She intertwined her descriptions with the inner conflict of Satsuki, casting obscurity where clarity once was when Hitoshi was still alive.

Needless to say that this book is one of my favorites, and it’s one I’ll go back to from time to time. It has a timelessness to it that can’t be replicated even with its common themes, each life is just so unique in every way. It’s not often I stumble upon art that I connect with, and writing about it is another way I’m able to personalize it and understand the contents that I want to carry with me. To quote from the novel itself, this book has “beauty that seems to infuse itself into the heart”.

Thank you to my dear friend Sab Precilla for recommending this gem to me!

Noteworthy excerpts

When was it I realized that, on this truly dark and solitary path we all walk, the only way we can light is our own?

The conversation we just had was like a glimpse of stars through a chunk in a cloudy sky — perhaps, over time, talks like this would lead to love.

“Yes. But if a person hasn’t ever experienced true despair, she grows old never knowing how to evaluate where she is in life; never understanding what joy really is. I’m grateful for it”

Which is better? Who can say? everyone lives the way she knows best. What I mean by “their happiness” is living a life untouched as much by the knowledge that we are really, all of us, alone. That’s not a bad thing.

Beauty that seems to infuse itself into the heart.

In the uncertain ebb and flow of time and emotions, much of one’s own life history is etched in the senses. And things of no particular importance, or irreplaceable things, can suddenly resurface in a cafe one winter night.

A kindness spoken out of reflex, at once impersonal and generous but by no means bridging the distance established between two people — it always produces in emotion I was being reminded of right then. An unbearable sense of loss.

He had never said anything like that. It was odd — that was the first time I had seen him express such emotion: sympathy as open and unguarded as a child’s.

A place for the thoughts I occasionally make some time for. (felicia.singson@gmail.com)