Pages Feature: “The Lake” by Banana Yoshimoto

“It was so gorgeous it almost felt like sadness.”

This book tells the tale of a young woman who moves to Tokyo after the death of her mother, hoping to get over her grief and start a career as a graphic artist. She finds herself spending too much time staring out her window, though … until she realizes she’s gotten used to seeing a young man across the street staring out his window, too. They eventually embark on a hesitant romance, until she learns that he has been the victim of some form of childhood trauma.

“The sky was incredibly far away, and beautiful enough to make a person wonder why our hearts are never so free.”

Reading this book is like spending a lovely day by a lake on a calm summer day. It’s a story of two people– one is broken, the other is jaded– and how they find a new home in each other’s arms.

Through a mature and healthy couple relationship, the book takes us through complicated emotions with a rather simplistic plot. What really made an impact to me was the main characters. They are both fragile people – fragile like a lake in winter. But through each other they were able to find a place of comfort against a cold and harsh world.

“Recognizing how totally ignorant you are is the only honest way to deal with people who’ve been through something traumatic.”

This is not your typical love story in the sense that it’s not really romantic, but I love it all the same for being so honest and simple. It rather focused on how we get emotionally attached to another person. Sometimes, as much as we see ourselves as a whole individual, there can still be an empty space within us that someone else is meant to fill out.


“Things look different depending on your perspective. As I see it, fighting to bridge those gaps isn’t what really matters. The most important thing is to know them inside and out, as differences, and to understand why certain people are the way they are.”

About the Author

Banana Yoshimoto (よしもと ばなな or 吉本 ばなな) is the pen name of Mahoko Yoshimoto (吉本 真秀子), a Japanese contemporary writer.

Along with having a famous father, poet Takaaki Yoshimoto, Banana’s sister, Haruno Yoiko, is a well-known cartoonist in Japan. Growing up in a liberal family, she learned the value of independence from a young age.

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.”

Despite her success, Yoshimoto remains a down-to-earth and obscure figure. Whenever she appears in public she eschews make-up and dresses simply. She keeps her personal life guarded, and reveals little about her certified Rolfing practitioner, Hiroyoshi Tahata and son (born in 2003). Instead, she talks about her writing. 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.”

Book Details

Hardcover, 188 pages
Published May 3rd 2011 by Melville House (first published December 1st 2005)
Original Title みずうみ [Mizuumi]
ISBN1933633778 (ISBN13: 9781933633770)
Edition Language: English
Setting: Japan
Literary Awards: Man Asian Literary Prize Nominee (2011)
Genres: Literary Fiction | Asian Literature | Contemporary | Cultural | Japanese Literature

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