My edition included not only Kitchen itself but also a novella called Moonlight Shadow. Although it dealt with the same themes, the second novella wasn't as inspiring to me as the first.
Kitchen has that title because of the main character's affinity to kitchen in general. They make Mikage feel comfortable - I loved the way Yoshimoto's writing (and Megan Backus' translation) really let us feel this. The words made me feel warm inside.
Mikage has to deal with many issues - grief, family, loss, love, transsexuality. The way she does so is beautiful. I know that can't literally be true, that it's the writing that makes it beautiful, but that's what I felt when I read. She loses her grandmother, gains some friends and then loses another person close to her, a mother-figure. So much to cope with and yet she manages and shows so much intelligence.
The way the author phrases emotions and deep thoughts is so emotive, so starkly simple and yet with so many sub-components. Here's a passage that really spoke to me:
Why is it that we have so little choice? We live like the lowliest worms. Always defeated - defeated we make dinner, we eat, we sleep. Everyone we love is dying. Still, to cease living is unacceptable.
There were many passages like this one - another (which I can't find) spoke about how ignoring death is like ignoring life since they are connected, part of one another. Beautiful sentiments.
I'm so glad I read this and hope you will try it!
Challenges: A-Z Challenge, Japanese Literature 2