Dead-End Memories

Banana Yoshimoto, Asa Yoneda (trans.)

Dead-End Memories
United States
15 November 2022

Dead-End Memories

Banana Yoshimoto, Asa Yoneda (trans.)

First published in Japan in 2003 and never before published in the United States, Dead-End Memories collects the stories of five women who, following sudden and painful events, quietly discover their ways back to recovery.

Among the women we meet in Dead-End Memories is one betrayed by her fiancé who finds a perfect refuge in an apartment above her uncle’s bar while seeking the real meaning of happiness. In “House of Ghosts,” the daughter of a yoshoku restaurant owner encounters the ghosts of a sweet elderly couple who haven’t yet realized that they’ve been dead for years. In “Tomo-chan’s Happiness,” an office worker who is a victim of sexual assault finally catches sight of the hope of romance.

Yoshimoto’s gentle, effortless prose reminds us that one true miracle can be as simple as having someone to share a meal with, and that happiness is always within us if only we take a moment to pause and reflect. Discover this collection of what Yoshimoto herself calls the “most precious work of my writing career.”


Banana Yoshimoto’s acclaimed and internationally beloved 1988 novella Kitchen was one of my favourite reads of this year, and it was always going to be a hard act to follow. With Dead-End Memories, I had nothing to worry about. First published in Japan in 2003, Yoshimoto’s latest work to be translated into English is a heartfelt collection of five stories about five women discovering happiness and healing, and how those things might look different for each person. In the story ‘House of Ghosts’, we meet a woman unfazed by the ghosts of a couple who used to frequent her family’s restaurant when they were alive. In ‘Not Warm at All’, the protagonist reflects on the early death of a companion and discovers where exactly the warmth of the living comes from. My favourite story, however, is the one that provides the collection’s title, ‘Dead-End Memories’, in which a woman heals from heartbreak by relinquishing herself from expectations and by giving herself the same space and patience she would afford others.

With the huge rise in popularity of translated fiction, particularly Japanese literature, it can be hard to know which book to start with, or which one to pick up next. If you’ve finished the Before the Coffee Gets Cold series or want to introduce a friend to the world of Japanese fiction, look no further than Dead-End Memories. In true Yoshimoto fashion, this collection bundles together gentle yet gleaming prose, slice-of-life nostalgia, and loving descriptions of food, to create the ultimate storytelling balm and a perfect taster to Japanese literature.

Tracy Hwang is from Readings Emporium

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