Heading East

My life inextricably is woven around food and books. Sometimes, one leads to the other.

Three years ago, I had the opportunity to dine at Guppy by Ai. Slowly and surely, I was won over by their clean yet complex flavours. You may have been brought up on sushi, but I distinctly remember the first time I had authentic sushi, the first time I took that hallowed sip of sake and the first time I was thrilled to see the bundle of enoki mushrooms floating in my clear soup.

This gastronomic experience drove me towards their culture, their books and in short, their world. I had even dropped by The Japan Foundation one Saturday afternoon and watched, transfixed, at short Japanese films. The web got more complex and I delved deeper. And then, I stumbled upon Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto. Needless to add, the title roped me in, but boy, what a treat.

I was spellbound by the way the author wove words, one sentence into another, which at first seems simple, but the end result is so fascinating that it seems otherworldly. Her innate sense to tap the reader’s hidden emotions and stirrings was uncanny. A book connected with love and loss, of udon noodles and exquisite dumplings, about being alone in the world with no relative or parent or sibling to depend upon, to face death in the family and to find solace; the story hit me where it hurts the most.

So when I stumbled upon BYOB Delhi (Bring Your Own Book) chapter’s session on Japanese Literature, my heart whooped with joy. Every participant was asked to email a picture of the book they would be talking about in the session. Even though I had read other books by Japanese authors, I picked Kitchen.

Needless to add, a major part of the session was dominated by readers yapping endlessly about Haruki Murakami. Had I read Kafka on the Shore two months earlier, I too would’ve tossed my two bits in the discussion. But listening to other readers share passionately about books left me in a trance. Sometimes, work leaves us in transparent cubicles where we lead our lives silently, without any real physical interaction with strangers. And to be sitting in a room of book lovers, divine!

I left the session with weak knees, vowing to myself to pick up more books by Japanese authors, to understand their temperament, their difficult history, their delicious cuisine and ever changing coordinates of society.

I am taking my Alexa rank to the next level with Blogchatter.

21 thoughts on “Heading East

  1. You know your post on Japan reminded me of a recent conversation we had in the book club. Someone spoke about Manga and at first I wasn’t aware of it but later on realized that they are the famous comics in Japan. I guess having heard about them so much, I surely need to get my hands on them sooner rather than later. And then obviously there’s Anime which a lot of my friends love ;).


  2. That’s a beautiful reflective post. If I were to sum up my life, it would be woven around food and happiness. Exactly the reason my blog is called that. I read Norwegian Wood by Murakami and if I was there, I would have done that too.There is a charm. A beauty.


  3. Here are my personal feelings about it––reading Murakami is like slicing open the human psyche, which one expects to be as boring as a boring man eating peanuts in a hotel bar on a rainy day. But then everything turns out neon-colored and weird. His stories are strangely touching. No matter how weird they get there’s always some hope and love in there. I’d recommend anyone to read Murakami books. I don’t know which book would make the best first read, but my first Murakami book was Kafka on the Shore. It was exciting enough to make me want to read more and more. His short stories are amazing, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had such mixed reviews about HM. I was told either I would absolutely detest him or absolutely love him, and I love him. But I need to read more titles by him, and do not want to base my emotions on just one book prematurely, even though I enjoyed Kafka on the Shore immensely. Will definitely keep an eye out for his short stories.


  4. Oh I love reading about Japanese culture and stories based in Japan…Currently I am reading Heaven’s Net is Wide, fourth in Ottori Series. Don’t like the translated versions though. I am yet to read Kitchen, will pick it up next time.


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