In Moshi-Moshi, Yoshie’s much-loved musician father has died in a suicide pact with an unknown woman. It is only when Yoshie and her mother move to Shimo-kitazawa, a traditional Tokyo neighborhood of narrow streets, quirky shops, and friendly residents that they can finally start to put their painful past behind them. However, despite their attempts to move forward, Yoshie is haunted by nightmares in which her father is looking for the phone he left behind on the day he died, or on which she is tryingunsuccessfullyto call him. Is her dead father trying to communicate a message to her through these dreams?
With the lightness of touch and surreal detachment that are the hallmarks of her writing, Banana Yoshimoto turns a potential tragedy into a poignant coming-of-age ghost story and a life-affirming homage to the healing powers of community, food, and family.
Published in 2010 in Japanese in Tokyo, it has sold over 29,000 copies there so far. In Moshi-Moshi, Banana’s narrator addresses the poignant question, how do you rebuild your life when your much-loved father loses his life in shocking circumstances?
Review By Ben Hunter
Ever since the groundbreaking first pages of her 1988 debut Kitchen, people the world over have been finding and falling in love with Banana Yoshimoto. In her latest book to be translated to English, the beautifully understated Yoshie sets herself up in Tokyo’s Shimokitazawa district following her father’s sudden death in a suicide pact with an unknown woman. Her family home, secluded in a leafy upper-middle class suburb, has suffocated her with her dead father’s presence. She wants Shimokitazawa to become a refuge where she can create a life for herself. The neighbourhood is famous around the globe as a haunt for artists and bohemians – cramped streets of restaurants, thrift stores and record shops bustling with foreigners and young people. For Yoshie, it’s a new beginning. Something that she wants desperately. But her widowed mother wants it just as badly.
A simple coming-of-age story is made much more complex and beautiful when Yoshie’s newly-widowed mother moves into her small, aging apartment to build a new identity of her own. Together they witness each other change and recreate their relationship. They’re each haunted by Yoshie’s father in their own remarkable ways. The author’s carefully curated observations take readers on a small but deeply satisfying journey of discovery.
About the Author
Banana Yashimoto was born in Tokyo in 1964 and graduated from Nihon University, College of Art, where she majored in literature. She debuted as a writer in 1987 with Kitchen, a novella that won her the 6th Kaien Newcomers' Literary Prize. In 1988, Moonlight Shadow, her thesis story, was awarded the 16th Izumi Kyoka Prize for Literature. Then, in 1989, she received two accolades: the 39th Recommendation by the Minister of Education for Best Newcomer Artist, for Kitchen and Utakata/Sanctuary, and the 2nd Yamamoto Shugoro Literary Prize, for Goodbye Tsugumi.
In 1995 she won the 5th Murasaki Shikibu Prize, for Amrita, a full-length novel. And in 2000, Furin to Nambei, a collection of stories set in South America, received the 10th Bunkamura Deux Magots Literary Prize. Her works have been translated and published in more than 30 countries. Outside of Japan, too, she has won several awards. In Italy she won the Scanno Literary Prize in 1993, the Fendissime Literary Prize in 1996, the Maschera d'argento Prize in 1999, and the Capri Award in 2011. Recent works include Tori Tachi, Circus Night, Funa-Funa Funabashi, and Iyashi no Uta.
Asa Yoneda was born in Osaka and translates from Japanese. She currently lives in Bristol.
"Yoshimoto offers another story of youth, grief, and redemption in this ephemeral yet lovely portrait of an unformed woman...[a] pressing emotional alchemy emerges that leaves everyone changed at the end...A fleeting portrait of a critical moment in a young woman's life, one with which the late John Hughes might have felt some kinship." --Kirkus