Banana (born Mahoko) Yoshimoto was born in 1964 in Tokyo. Her father was Takaaki (also known as Ryūmei) Yoshimoto the poet and influential intellectual of Japan’s »new left.« Banana began writing at the age of five, and went on to study Japanese literature at Nihon university. Her dissertation, the novella »Moonlight Shadow« in 1986 garnered the dean’s prize.
Yoshimoto’s first novel, »Kitchen,« was published in 1987 and »Moonlight Shadow« is included in most editions of it. It has twice been adapted for the screen, most recently in 1997 by well-known Hong Kong director Yim Ho. Like the earlier novella, »Kitchen« is also a story about the loss of someone close to you, a theme that recurs in much of Yoshimoto’s work, along with portrayals of gay sexuality (in the form of a transgender character in the novel) that is unusually open for Japan and the appearance of supernatural phenomena. The writer has said herself that her two main subjects are the influence that terrible events can have on a person’s life, and the exhaustion that so many young people in Japan today feel, which may explain why that demographic reveres her as a cult author. So far, ten of her novels have been translated into German, along with three story collections, such as most recently »Karada wa zenbu shitte iru« (2000; tr: The Body Knows Everything). The novel »Kanojo ni tsuite« (2008; tr: About Her) is another tale of an frightening borderline experience and how it’s dealt with. Yumiko lives with panic attacks. But it is not until she is with her full-of-life cousin that she is able to uncover repressed memories of something terrible that happened in her childhood, and begin, through the power of love, to heal the deep emotional wounds the event caused. Her novel »Mizuumi« (2005; Eng.: »The Lake,« 2011) is also about two young people, who by finding each other also find themselves. A review in Germany’s »SonntagsZeitung« newspaper praised Yoshimoto’s delicate, gentle, and poetic way of sketching out the relationship. Her most recent novel to be published in German was »Moshi moshi Shimokitazawa« (2010; tr: Hello Shimokitazawa). It is also a variation on the subject of an emotional healing process, which the young female protagonist Yotchan undergoes after her father’s suicide raises issues.
Among the numerous awards the author has received for her work are the Yamamoto Shūgorō Prize (1989), the Murasaki Shikibu Prize (1994), and the 2011 Capri Award.