Episode 14: Banana and the Bubble

“White Fox Mirror” by Yoshimi Okamoto, 1980 (via Ukiyo-e.org)

Check out Episode 14 of the Read Literature podcast.

In this episode, we’re talking about Japan’s bubble economy of the 1980s and the work of Banana Yoshimoto.

Runaway consumer spending.

Everything kawaii.

A Nobel laureate’s contempt.

And a young author whose career challenged the publishing powers that be.

Content warning: This episode addresses transphobia as well as hate crimes against Asian Americans and trans women.

Support this podcast by buying from Bookshop.org.

Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto (translated by Megan Backus)

Lizard (translated by Ann Sherif). Includes the story “Newlywed”.

Dead-End Memories by Banana Yoshimoto (translated by Asa Yoneda)

More by Banana Yoshimoto:

This episode also recommends:

I Think Our Son Is Gay by (translated by Leo McDonagh)

Find Out More

The History of Japan Podcast, hosted by Isaac Meyer

Ichimon Japan Podcast, Episode 39: What Should I Know about Japan’s Bubble Era?—An irreverent and funny look at 1980s pop culture in Japan.

The Japan Foundation of New York’s lecture on Shojo Manga: The Power and Influence of Girls’ Comics

Kawaii 101 at Best of Kawaii

Banana Yoshimoto’s Official Website (English)

Book critic Willow Heath on “The Genius of Banana Yoshimoto” at Books & Bao.

Book critic Willow Heath on Kitchen at Books & Bao. Includes a discussion of Eriko’s role in the novel.

My review of Dead-End Memories at Asian Review of Books

IMDB page for 1989’s Kitchen

IMDB page for 1997’s Kitchen (Wo ai chu fang)

Lindsay Ellis’s YouTube video on Tracing the Roots of Pop Culture Transphobia. Ellis’s 60-minute video traces the problematic history of transgender representation in English-language media.

Siobhan Donegan on “Trans Representation in Cinema and TV” at LGBTHealth.org.uk.

Alexander Cross on Kitchen and “The Coming of Age of Transgender Representation in Japan” at An Injustice!

Translator Leo McDonagh on “Translating Gender from Japanese to English” at his site, Leocalization.wordpress.com.

“Literature” at Japanese Wiki Corpus

Japanese Literature at Facebook


Aoyama Tomoko. Reading Food in Modern Japanese Literature. U Hawaii, 2008.

Chilton, Myles. “Realist Magic and the Invented Tokyos of Murakami Haruki and Yoshimoto Banana” in Journal of Narrative Theory, 2009.

Cross, Alexander. “The Coming of Age in Transgender Representation in Japan: An Analysis of Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto” at An Injustice!, 2021. (free)

Fincher, Alison. “‘Dead-End Memories’ by Banana Yoshimoto” at AsianReviewofBooks.com. (free)

Fukushima Yoshiko. “Japanese Literature, or ‘J-Literature,’ in the 1990s” in World Literature Today, 2003.

Gordon, Andrew. A Modern History of Japan: From Tokugawa Times to the Present, 4th ed. OUP, 2019.

Heath, Willow. “Review: Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto” at Books & Bao, 2021. (free)

Marcus, Marvin. Japanese Literature from Murasaki to Murakami. Association for Asian Studies, 2015.

Margolis, Eric. “How the English Language Failed Banana Yoshimoto” at Metropolis, 2021. (free)

Olson, Lawrence. “Intellectuals and ‘The People’; On Yoshimoto Takaaki” in The Journal of Japanese Studies, 1978.

Roquet, Paul. “Ambient Literature and the Aesthetics of Calm: Mood Regulation in Contemporary Japanese Fiction” in The Journal of Japanese Studies, 2009.

Saito Satomi. “Narrative in the Digital Age: From Light Novels to Web Serials” in Routledge Handbook of Modern Japanese Literature, ed. Rachael Hutchinson and Leith Morton, 2016.

Seaman, Amanda C. “Inner Pieces: Isolation, Inclusion, and Interiority in Modern Women’s Fiction” in Routledge Handbook of Modern Japanese Literature, ed. Rachael Hutchinson and Leith Morton, 2016.

Sherif, Ann. “Japanese without Apology: Yoshimoto Banana and Healing” in Ōe and Beyond: Fiction in Contemporary Japan, ed. Stephen Synder and Philip Gabriel, U Hawaii, 1999.

Treat, John Whittier. “Yoshimoto Banana Writes Home: Shojo Culture and the Nostalgic Subject” in The Journal of Japanese Studies, 1993.

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