Mahoko Yoshimoto was born in Tokyo in 1964. Her father, Takaaki Yoshimoto, was a famous literary critic, poet, and commentator who with his liberal views greatly influenced the young Japanese generation during the radical youth movement in the 1960s.
An arts and literature major, Mahoko graduated from the Nihon University in Tokyo in 1987, quickly gaining fame and recognition as an author. Having won the Department of Arts Award for her novella Moonlight Shadow during her university time, she was awarded the prestigious Kaien Magazine New Writers' Prize for Kitchen in 1987. Published in Japan in 1988, Kitchen sold more than two million copies. In the same year, she took the pen name "Banana" because she thought it was cute. In 1992, her publisher extensively advertised the book in the U.S., thus catapulting her on the bestseller lists. Moreover, Kitchen has been adapted into movies in 1989 and 1997.
Due to its rather simple language, which may be a result of translating the work from Japanese into English, many critics found the novella Kitchen to be cute and favorable but did not consider it a work of art. Nevertheless, Banana Yoshimoto has a strong base of ecstatic fans, who anticipate each of her works with great enthusiasm coined 'banana-mania.'
Her work combines traditional Japanese themes, contemporary liberal and American influences, as well as elements that are typical for manga comics, such as androgyny and psychic phenomena. Therefore, it is not surprising to find references to the Peanuts, Denny's, or Bewitched in a novella with a transgender mother figure who deeply cares for the main character suffering from grief and loneliness.