This manga holds a very special place in my heart where love and the imperfect family merge to make a heartwarming, tenacious tale.
The story revolves around the Fukuyoshi family, a mother and three daughters, who run a Japanese confectionery shop in Kyoto. Their shop has been in the family for 17 generations, over 450 years–the last few generations have been through the women.
As the story takes place in one of Japan’s most traditional areas, immediately you’re thrown into Japan-specific terminology. Such as noren: the cloth curtains on shop doorway or entrances with the families’ brand or crest or calling characters tanuki (as many who’ve read manga are happy to recognize, means “raccoon”). Customs specific to the Kyoto area are even explained for the reader. When the characters speak in round-about dialogue while talking about money, or even (not) holding hands, the narration jumps in to help the reader understand. Throughout the story there are tea ceremonies, calligraphy lessons and Kabuki theater–all very traditional parts of Japan.
Fukuya makes wagashi. Wagashi is a Japanese confectionary that plays an important role in tea ceremonies. The trials the Fukuyoshi family endures revolves many times around the success, and love, of the store.
The madam of Fukuya, the mother of three young daughters, is a tough, shrewd woman who has navigated the traditional business-landscape of Kyoto by herself for the last 10 years. Though it is obvious she loves all her children in her own way, her own expectations of them has caused difficulties in her daughters’ relationships and heartache through misunderstandings.
Eldest daughter and expected successor, Hina, is a reserved, smart young woman with a complete understanding of the shop’s business. Her life has been directed by her mother’s expectations. She’s the perfect example of a Kyoto lady.
Arare, second daughter, is jobless, dreamless, and spends her time drinking and betting with her friends. Her strong personality equals that of her mother which causes them to perpetually be at each others’ throats.
The youngest daughter, Hana, is still in middle school and loves the shop immensely. She’s incredibly observant, and is the voice of narration for the reader to learn about Kyoto and her family. Hana is very tall for a middle schooler, which causes some anxiety for her when she’s next to her crush.
True to some family dynamics, the sisters voice opinions of each other–Even though they’ve known each other forever, their observations are not always correct. As the story progresses, they realize their assumptions were wrong and they’ve hurt their sister from their actions on the stereotype.
The story walks through the lives of each of these daughters, weaving through their daily lives, marriages and loves. None of it comes easy, though, in the culture that doesn’t speak its mind. The end result is that it all culminates in love, familial or for their significant other.
There’s a marvelous 11 volumes to read through the lives of these enigmatic women. A definite must-have as a hard copy!
Do you have a manga you wish you could have in your hands? I’d love to hear what you have to say!
As an avid reader of manga scans, I click through the fan-translated manga pretty quick. Many times, I don’t recall the name of the manga once I click on a new page. Or the characters’ names. Or the plot.
Other times, though, there is a series that captures my attention that I keep going back to.