Banana Yoshimoto

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Banana Yoshimoto
Born (1964-07-24) July 24, 1964 (age 50)
Tokyo, Japan
Occupation Novelist
Nationality Japanese
Genre Fiction

Banana Yoshimoto (よしもと ばなな Yoshimoto Banana?) (born 24 July 1964[1]) is the pen name of Japanese writer Mahoko Yoshimoto (吉本 真秀子 Yoshimoto Mahoko?). She writes her name in hiragana.


Yoshimoto was born in Tokyo on July 24, 1964. Her father is the famous poet and critic Takaaki Yoshimoto, and her sister, Haruno Yoiko, is a well-known cartoonist in Japan. She grew up in a liberal family.

She graduated from Nihon University's Art College, majoring in literature. During that time, she took the pseudonym "Banana" after her love of banana flowers, a name she recognizes as both "cute" and "purposefully androgynous."[2]

Yoshimoto keeps her personal life guarded, and reveals little about her certified Rolfing practitioner husband, Hiroyoshi Tahata and son (born in 2003). Each day she takes half an hour to write at her computer, and she says, "I tend to feel guilty because I write these stories almost for fun." She keeps an online journal for English-speaking fans.


Yoshimoto began her writing career while working as a waitress at a golf-club restaurant in 1987. She named American author Stephen King as one of her first major influences, and drew inspiration from his non-horror stories. As her writing progressed, she was further influenced by Truman Capote and Isaac Bashevis Singer.

Her debut novel, Kitchen, had over sixty printings in Japan alone. There have been two films made of the story, a Japanese TV movie and a more widely released version produced in Hong Kong by Yim Ho in 1997. She won the 6th Kaien Newcomer Writers Prize in November 1987 for Kitchen. The novel was also nominated for the Mishima Yukio Prize. And then she won the 16th Izumi Kyōka Prize for Literature in January 1988 for a novella Moonlight Shadow.

Another one of her novels, Goodbye Tsugumi, was also made into a movie in 1990, directed by Jun Ichikawa. The novel received mixed reviews.

Her works include 12 novels and seven collections of essays (including Pineapple Pudding and Song From Banana) which have together sold over six million copies worldwide.[3] Her themes include love and friendship, the power of home and family, and the effect of loss on the human spirit.

In 1998, she wrote the foreword to the Italian edition of the book Ryuichi Sakamoto. Conversazioni by musicologist Massimo Milano.

Writing Style[edit]

Yoshimoto claims that her two main themes are “the exhaustion of young Japanese in contemporary Japan” and “the way in which terrible experiences shape a person’s life”.[4]

Her works describe the problems faced by youth, urban existentialism and teenagers trapped between imagination and reality. It is targeted not only to the young and rebellious, but also to grown-ups who are still young at heart. Banana’s characters, settings and titles have a modern and American approach, but the core is Japanese. She addresses readers in a very personal and friendly way, with warmth and outright innocence, writing about the simple things such as the squeaking of wooden floors or the pleasant smell of food. Food and dreams are recurring themes in her work which are often associated with memories and emotions. Banana admitted that most of her artistic inspiration derives from her own dreams and that she’d like to always be sleeping and living a life full of dreams.


Yoshimoto was awarded the 39th edition Best Newcomer Artists Recommended Prize by the Minister of Education in August 1988 for Kitchen and Utakata/Sankuchuari. In March 1989, Goodbye Tsugumi was awarded the 2nd Yamamoto Shugoro Prize. In 1994 her first long novel, Amrita, was awarded the Murasaki-shikibu Prize.

Outside of Japan, she was awarded prizes in Italy: the Scanno Literary Prize in 1993, the Fendissime Literary Prize in 1996, the Literary Prize Maschera d' argento in 1999, and the Capri Award in 2011.[5]

The Lake was longlisted for the 2011 Man Asian Literary Prize.


Title Publish date
Japanese English
Moonlight Shadow 1986
Kitchen 1988 1993
Asleep 1989 2000
Goodbye Tsugumi 1989 2002
N.P 1990 1994
Lizard 1993 1995
Amrita 1994 1997
Sly 1996
Hardboiled & Hard Luck 1999 2005
Daisy's Life 2000
Argentine Hag 2002
The Lake 2005 2010


External links[edit]