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Analysis Of So Far From The Bamboo Grove History Essay

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

So Far From the Bamboo Grove was written by Yoko Kawashima Watkins. The story took place in the final days of World War II from 1945 to 1953. The story happened in a time when Koreans were determined to take back their county from Japan. They were tired of the Japanese people having control of them after the war. The affects of World War II left many countries devastated and in ruins especially Japan and Korea.

The author of So Far From the Bamboo Grove Yoko Kawashima Watkins wrote this book to tell the world her story of how World War II affected her and her family. The Kawashima’s are a Japanese family living in Korea. Yoko Kawashima Watkins was born in Japan in 1933. Yoko and her family lived in Manchuria. Her father Worded as a Japanese government official in the northern region of China. Her family then moved northern Korea to Nanam; where she was given the nick name little one or Yoko. Her father was then assigned to manage the Japanese political benefits. Her family was living well in Korea until Japan started losing World War II on July of 1945. Yoko, her sister KO and their mother had to leave Korea to the mainland of Japan where they will be safe from being killed by other Koreans and Russians. Yoko finished middle and high school in Japan and attended Kyoto University where her major was the English language. She graduated and worked at the US Air Force Base as a translator, where she meets Donald Watkins an American pilot. In 1953 Donald Watkins and Yoko got married and moved to the United States. They lived in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Oregon and then later moved to Brewster, Massachusetts where they still live today. Together they had four kids. Yoko wrote her book So Far From the Bamboo Grove in 1986 and won many awards like the ALA Notable Children’s Book and the Parents’ Choice Gold Award. Yoko now travels to public schools telling her story to little kids.

So Far From the Bamboo Grove is about the author, Yoko Kawashima life and struggles in Nanam, Korea. The story starts when Yoko and her family were living peacefully in Northern Korea when Japan started losing the war. Yoko and her family had to escape Japan or face being capture by the communist’s Russian military or the Korean military. (Watkins 68) Yoko father was already separated from the family but a couple hours after Yoko brother Hideyo left to go to work at ammunition factory, Yoko sister KO, Yoko and their mother were force to flee from their house by Corporal Matsumura who was a kind and loving friend to the Kawashima family. Corporal Matsumura heard that the Korean Army was looking for the Kawashima family because of the intel that their father have. KO, Yoko and their mother followed Corporal Matsumura directions and fled to the train station where they will found Major Ryu who would get them on a train to Seoul. (Watkins 81) On their way to Seoul the train was attack and was unable to work. KO, Yoko and their mother started walking to Seoul which was about forty five miles away. On their walk to Seoul they were attack by Korean soldiers but were saved by a bomb that went off and killed the soldiers. They took the dead soldiers clothes and continue their journey. After many days and nights KO, Yoko and their mother made it to the Seoul train station. At the station they heard that Japan had lost the war. After five weeks at the Seoul station KO, Yoko and their mother tried to wait for Hideyo but were force to leave again. This time to the main land of Japan but before they left they wrote all over the station hoping that Hideyo would see it and know where to go. When they arrive on the homeland of Japan, KO and Yoko mother left them at the train station to enroll them in school and see if her parents were still alive. (Watkins101) Their mother came back in a few days and told Yoko and KO that their grandparents were dead. Few days went by and Yoko and KO mother became very ill and died a couple days later. KO and Yoko were given a free place to live by an old couple who knew Yoko and KO mother. Yoko went to school and earns straight A’s her first year there. She also won an essay contest and 10,000 yen. (Watkins139) A few days and Corporal Matsumura saw Yoko essay in a newspaper and went to her school to check and see how she was doing. Corporal Matsumura helps the two sisters anytime he was able to. He put missing people reports hoping to find Hideyo and their father.

Their brother Hideyo was working at an ammunition factory, when the factory was attack by Korean Communist soldiers. Hideyo and three of his friends Shoichi, Makoto, and Shinzo manage to escape through a bathroom window before the factory was blown up. Hideyo and his friends hike back to his house and found that his house had been ransacked. He examined the rooms carefully, the hanging scroll painting in the receiving room had been slashed to pieces, closet doors stood open and their contents had been stolen. (Watkins57) Hideyo continued to examine the room and found that his mother have let him a secret note wish told him to meet them at the train station in Seoul. Hideyo grab whatever he can to make his trip to Seoul. Hideyo and his friends went to each of their house to check on their love ones. Shinzo’s and Shoichi’s parents had fled south, where their relatives lived but Makoto’s parents were dead. Shinzo and Shoichi told Makoto and Hideyo that they can live with them in the south but Hideyo said he must found his family at the train station in Seoul. The next morning Hideyo headed to Seoul by himself. On his way there he began to get weak and then a buzzard started. He was later found by the Kim family. The Kim family was taking a very dangerous risk taken in Hideyo. If they were caught by the Korean military, they could have all been killed on the spot for helping Japanese. When Hideyo came to, he started working and he learned the way of the Korean people and how to speak the language. He helped the Kim family anyway he can until he had enough strength to continue his journey. Hideyo continued his journey to the Seoul train station hoping that his sisters and mother was still alive. When he arrived he couldn’t find his sisters or mother anywhere. He stayed there for about two weeks until right when he was about to give up he saw writing the wall that looked like Yoko hand writing telling him to go to the mainland. Hideyo took the next ship to Japan where he continue to see Yoko handwriting on the ship and the station where he arrived. He wonders the streets of Japan looking for his family. Then one month later he read in a newspaper about a little girl who won 10,000 yen in an essay contest. He ran as fast as he can to the newspaper office when he saw his sister name.

One year had passed since Yoko seen her brother or father, then one day when Yoko and KO came from school, a man was standing in front of their door. They started crying and hugging each other. It was there brother Hideyo who final reach his family. Yoko’s father was later released from a prison camp in Siberia six years later.

1945 was a terrible time live especially if you were a Japanese girl living in Northern Korea. The Koreans hated the Japanese people for conquering their country. The Russians were about to join England and the United States in the war against Japan. The United Sates were already starting to bomb industrial sites in northern Korea. The history and interest in Korea started because Korea’s geographic position has made it main ground of power struggles between Russia, China and Japan. (Watkins174) In the seventeenth century, the Russia fought with China for control of many territories of Manchuria and southern Siberia. Japan was interested in Korea more than two thousand years.(Watkins174) The Japanese warlord Hideyoshi invaded Korea in 1592 in an attempt to control the country and conquer China. The invasion failed and caused Korea to have hatred toward Japan. Early in the seventeenth century Korea began to be dominated by China and was called the Hermit Kingdom. After Hideyoshi’s death in 1598, Japan began its own period of isolation that ended with the arrival of the American Commodore Matthew C. Perry, who opened trade with the West in 1854. (Watkins175) In 1876, Japan showed renewed interest in Korea by forcing a commercial treaty. The first Sino Japanese War started in 1894 and was fought for control of Korea. The war ended one year later in 1895. By the 1900, the Japanese had a strong base in Korea’s capital city, Seoul. (2) They controlled the Korean royal family and had begun to take over their political and economic life of the people. (3) Korea was at war again with Japan and Russia. When Japan won, Theodore Roosevelt from the United States sustained a claim with Japan for special interest in Korea and Manchuria. (4) In response, Japan agreed not to terrorize the United States position in the Philippines. The Treaty of Portsmouth allowed Japan to convert Korea into a colony. Korea was no longer a nation but continued to exist as a nation in the hearts of its people. Most people continued to live in their homeland under the strict Japanese rule. Other people who couldn’t stand the Japanese military and wanted Korea to have their own Independence moved to China, United States, Siberia and Manchuria. Manchuria was north of Korea and was a refuge for Korean nationalists. Many people turned to the communists for aid and as guerilla soldiers and fought the Japanese military with increasing intensity during the 1930s and 1940s. (9) The Chinese Communists controlled a number of the supporter groups. These groups were called the Northeast Anti-Japanese United Army. The Soviets also supported the Korean independence movement. Japan established military and governmental control in Korea and denied Koreans basic rights, the right to bear arms, freedom of press and freedom of the speech. The Japanese closed Korean schools and opened new ones making Korean students study the Japanese language and were forbidden to study Korean language or history. Japan’s surrender to the Allies in 1945 and ended the thirty six years of Japanese rule in Korea. (2) The emperor announced the surrender of Japan on August 6 and Nagasaki on August 9. (5) Korea did not gain its independence because the Allies decided that, after so many years of foreign rule, Korea would not be able to govern itself immediately. (6) Great Britain, China, the United States, and the Soviet Union set up a trusteeship, which meant the four countries would supervise the governing of Korea. Korea was divided along the thirty-eighth parallel. The area north of this line was occupied by the Soviet Union. The land south of this line was occupied by the United States. In 1948 Korea was officially divided into two separate republics North Korea and South Korea.

Many book open different doors to other countries and cultures. Many books like So Far From the Bamboo Grove give an understanding of the consequences of domination and war. War alone is bad and the after effects can leave a country in ruins. Japan was in this position because of their domination and determination to still win the war even after they were hit with two atomic bombs. Japan was given a chance to surrender even before the bombs were drop on the city of Hiroshima and on Nagasaki. These bombings happen three days apart given Japan plenty of time to surrender because of this over a 100,000 people were killed. Japan surrender on August 14, 1945 five days later after the bombings. The after affects not only left Japan cripple but Korea as well. In 1950 on June 25 the Korean War broke just 5 days after World War II. The Cease Fire Line was established after the end of the Korean War three years later in 1953 on July 27.

Stories like Yoko Kawashima Watkins teach the important value of life and family. Also how the story of courage and survival bring out the best of a individual person in the time of war. Also how Yoko’s brother is an inspiring reminder of the strength and resilience of the human spirit.


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