The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House – Episode 1 “Change” Recap & Review


Episode 1 of this manga-based drama, Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House, gets off to a gentle start. 16-year old Kiyo wakes up in her quiet and peaceful hometown where she lives with her grandmother. Kiyo’s friend Sumire arrives and they greet her and eat breakfast.

Kiyo and Sumire gather their luggage. A boy named Kento arrives and he and Kiyo’s grandmother walk with them to the bus station where they see them off, but Sumire’s family doesn’t come to say goodbye. Off to Kyoto they go.

The two girls arrive at Maiko House, eager to start their apprenticeship as maiko entertainers. They meet the head ladies of the house, Mother Azusa and Mother.

Kiyo has a bit of a clumsy start with the introductions but Sumire behaves flawlessly.

After happily touring their new room, a non-maiko girl that lives there warns them that they are just “slaves” to Mother and tells them they should run away.

Fast forward three months later and the makanai (chef for the maikos) of the house, Ms. Sachiko, throws her back, so Kiyo has to help out more.

The girls learn flower arranging, how to play instruments, and Kiyo struggles to be perfect as she dances. The instructor scolds her and calls her aside in the dance lesson and Kiyo she sits out. She tells her if she doesn’t want to improve that there is no point in her trying. But despite being scolded, all Kiyo can think about is food and how the instructor’s noodles will get soggy if she doesn’t eat them soon.

Over the span of many days, Kiyo fascinatedly talks about food as she carries out her tasks, and Kiyo always struggles a little more than Sumire does.

Sumire accompanies a maiko, helping her with her dress as she goes from one place to another, and people ask to take the Maiko’s photo. Then, Sumire gets to peek at the Maiko as she performs. She watches in complete admiration. At a bar, three men sit and chat, one shows photos that he took of Sumire.

One day, Kiyo returns from shopping for Ms. Sachiko, who asks Kiyo to eat with her. Kiyo makes her grandma’s tomato curry. Ms. Sachiko tells Kiyo that she is used to cooking with different foods and spices so she needs to be aware of this when cooking for others.

The maikos are eating and discussing Sumire’s admirable qualities. Kiyo is contentedly watching them talk when the house gets a phone call, and Kiyo’s voice narrates that the phone call will change her life forever.

The Episode Review

Even though there is little we know about Kiyo at this point, she is still a really likeable and endearing protagonist. Seeing how her thoughts always drift toward food and getting a glimpse of ingredients and cooking shots is really nice to see.

So far, this is a very enjoyable, cute, and calm Japanese drama that has a really gentle feeling to it. Kiyo’s past is a bit of a mystery (where are her parents?). But hopefully, the next episode will give us some insight.

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You can read our full season review for The Makanai here!

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