The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House Ending Explained – can Kiyo and Sumire maintain their friendship?

January 12, 2023
Jonathon Wilson 0
Ending Explained, Netflix, Streaming Service
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Summary

A fitting conclusion stays true to the show’s themes and relationships.

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4

Summary

A fitting conclusion stays true to the show’s themes and relationships.


This article contains spoilers for The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House Season 1 Episode 9, “Passage”, including an open discussion of the ending of The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House Season 1.


The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House, a nine-episode slice-of-life drama by Hirokazu Kore-eda (Shoplifters) and adapted from Aiko Koyama’s manga series Kiyo in Kyoto: From the Maiko House, is an unusually warm and cozy Netflix series about the power of a good meal and the enduring bonds of friendship. It’s defined by its heartfelt story of a central friendship between two 16-year-olds, Kiyo and Sumire, but also touches on some longstanding traditions and their position in a contemporary context.

The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House Season 1 Episode 9 Recap

The show begins with Kiyo and Sumire leaving their rural hometown to train at a maiko house, where they train to become apprentice geiko, or geisha, with half a dozen “sisters” and two doting “mothers”, though rules and staunch traditionalism are still rampant. I expected the show’s tone to take a darker turn, but it doesn’t, instead settling into a steady, everyday rhythm as the house, cramped though it is, becomes an intimate setting for character growth and some light drama.

Crucially, while Sumire takes to the training well, clumsy Kiyo does not, and is threatened with expulsion from the program. She’s horrified at potentially having to break her promise to Sumire of being with her forever, but she discovers not only a passion but an obvious talent for cooking, and becomes the house’s makanai, or traditional chef, where she cooks wonderful, hearty meals for her sisters and mothers while continuing to support Sumire in her training and development.

This is the shape that the show takes throughout. Individual episodes center on mundane things like a lottery, a funny performance paying homage to George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, and things of that nature, but the overarching plot is the growth of Sumire and Kiyo in their specific roles over the course of about a year.

Through Kiyo’s cooking, we’re able to get a sense of the general feeling within the house, and she prepares certain dishes for certain characters depending on what’s happening in their lives. The other girls warmly refer to her relationship with Sumire as like that of an old married couple, given how well they know one another and how relaxed they are in each other’s company. The show begins and ends with the two of them eating, talking, and laughing together, and that’s no accident – the story is about the power of friendship, and this friendship is almost fantastical in its strength and consistency.

The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House Ending Explained

What it’s all building towards is the juxtaposition of the girls’ respective outcomes and how united they remain despite their differing paths. Sumire eventually debuts as the Momohana, an honorary title for the best Mai performers, Mai being a form of traditional Japanese dance. Meanwhile, Kiyo continues to embrace her role in the maiko house’s kitchen, fulfilling multiple roles for everyone who stays there, and continuing to remain closely connected to Sumire’s success. She keeps her promise to remain by the side of her best friend while also finding her true love in traditional cooking, meaning everyone, for once, gets exactly what they want.

You can stream The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House Season 1 Episode 9, “Passage” exclusively on Netflix. Do you have any thoughts on the ending of The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House Season 1? Let us know in the comments.


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