Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1028
Section 1: Kitchen
The first half of the story starts with Mikage’s praise for kitchens of all kinds, clean or dirty, large or small. This becomes a description of her situation: with the death of her grandmother “the other day,” Mikage is alone in the world. That situation, however, lasts only briefly, for the first plot twist appears a few pages into the novella, with the appearance of Yuichi Tanabe at her front door. Mikage does not know Yuichi, but she remembers having seen him at her grandmother’s funeral, and she later remembers her grandmother having mentioned him as the nice boy who worked in the flower shop she went to every day. “I just stopped by to ask you something,” he explains. “I was talking to my mother, and we were thinking that you ought to come to our house for a while.” Mikage agrees to come for supper that night, and while she is there she falls in love with their kitchen and becomes fascinated with Yuichi’s mother, Eriko, who was his father before having a sex-change operation. “Dumbfounded, I couldn’t take my eyes off her,” she says of their first meeting, before knowing of Eriko’s male past. She finds that she sleeps well on the sofa, which is next to the kitchen, and the next day when Eriko asks her to come and live in the apartment with her and Yuichi, Mikage accepts.
Once, while removing things from her old apartment, she receives a phone call from Sotaro, her old boyfriend. When they meet, he says that he knows she is living with “that Tanabe guy,” that everyone knows it at the school she has dropped out of, that Yuichi’s girlfriend slapped him during a loud, jealous argument in the cafeteria. Mikage does not think that it is the big deal that the others do, and when she later asks Yuichi if he doesn’t think her living there is “a little weird,” he assures her it’s not.
Mikage has a dream that is recounted in detail, about her and Yuichi cleaning her old apartment as a final step for her leaving it. In the dream, they sing a love song together, and then Yuichi, who “was suddenly revealed to be a prince,” says, “After we finish cleaning up here, I really feel like stopping at the ramen noodle stand in the park.” Waking from the dream, Mikage goes into the kitchen and runs into Yuichi, who woke in the night with a hunger for ramen noodles. He correctly guesses the color of the floor tile in the kitchen of the old apartment, indicating that they both had the same dream at the same time. The first section ends with Mikage content and happy with living in the Tanabe apartment, just vaguely aware that she will have to move out some day.
Section 2: Full Moon
The second half of the novella opens with Mikage describing the circumstances under which Eriko died: she was stalked by a patron of the nightclub that she owned, and when he found out that she had once been a man, he stabbed her, although she managed to beat him to death with a barbell before she died. After relating these events, Mikage, as narrator, explains that she had not been living at the Tanabe apartment for months at the time of the murder; in fact, she had found her own apartment and was working as an assistant at a cooking school. Yuichi’s call to break the news about Eriko’s death comes long after her funeral. Mikage races over to be with him that night and finds that since Eriko’s death he has withdrawn into himself, much as she had after her grandmother’s death in the beginning of the story. They stay up all night talking about Eriko, and the next morning, before he leaves for school, they decide to have a magnificent meal together, “a dinner to end all dinners,” that evening. When he brings home the groceries for the meal, they notice the beauty of the nearlyfull moon and speculate about how it affects one’s cooking in a non-mystical, “human” sense.
After the meal they discuss the possibility of Mikage moving back into the apartment again, but neither of them can decide if it would be as Yuichi’s lover or his friend. In the morning, Mikage is wakened by the phone, but the caller hangs up when she answers, and she assumes it is a jealous girl. Yuichi’s old girlfriend Okuno visits her at the cooking school where she works to tell her to stay away from Yuichi: “You say you’re not his girlfriend, yet you go over there whenever you want, you spend the night, you do what you please, don’t you?” she says with angry tears. “That’s worse than living together.” Unsure of her relationship with Yuichi, Mikage arranges to go on a business trip in order to avoid deciding which apartment she will live in.
Before leaving, though, she receives a call from Chika, who was one of Eriko’s friends. They meet for lunch, at which Chika expresses amusement that Yuichi and Mikage do not realize that they are in love with each other, even though it is obvious. One night on her trip, Mikage phones Yuichi at an inn in Isehara. They complain to each other about the dull food that they have been served at the inns they are staying at, and when Mikage hangs up the phone, she eats some katsudon at the diner she phoned from and finds it delicious. So she gets a take-out order and takes a cab to Isehara, sixty miles away, dropping off the food and then leaving just as mysteriously as she came: “A matter of love, is it?” the cab driver asks, and she responds, “Something along those lines.” On the last day of her trip, Yuichi phones Mikage at her hotel. He is over his grief and has returned to Tokyo, and he arranges to pick her up at the train station when she arrives the next day.
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