About Yoko Kawashima Watkins
“I competed with life and death when
I was young. And I won.” –Yoko Kawashima Watkins
Questions to Answer
So Far From the Bamboo Grove
Yoko Kawashima has lived all her
in Korea. This book
follows the experiences of young Yoko as World War II comes to an end and Korea is engulfed
in turmoil. Koreans revolt to take back
their homeland. Yoko and her family are forced to leave their home in Korea and to flee
back to Japan in this story
of heartbreak, cruelty, survival, and courage.
My Brother, My Sister, and I
as refugees in Japan in 1947 while trying to locate their missing father,
thirteen-year-old Yoko her older brother and sister must endure a bed fire,
injury, and false charges of arson, theft, and murder.
Tales From The Bamboo Grove
folktales told around the dinner
Table when Yoko
was a child.
About Yoko Kawashima Watkins
Yoko Kawashima Watkins was
born in Japan in 1933. Her family lived in Manchuria
a region in northern china where her father was stationed as a Japanese
government official. This region of China had been under Japanese control since 1931. The family
later moved to Nanam in northern Korea, where her father was overseeing Japanese political
interests. Japan had taken control of Korea in 1910. Although the family lived in Korea they followed many Japanese traditions. Yoko, her
brother Hideyo, and her sister Ko practiced calligraphy, the art of serving and
receiving tea, and classic Japanese dance. Yoko’s family lived very comfortably
in Korea until July of 1945, when it became clear that Japan was losing WW2. Yoko, her sister and her mother had to
flee Korea to ensure their safety. Because Japans presence in Korea was greatly resented there comfortable life became a
life on the run, as they made there was back to Japan. Yoko survived the journey back to Japan where she finished her secondary schooling. She then attending Kyoto University where she was in an English-language
based program. She graduated and
worked at the US Air Force Base as a translator, where she met her future
husband. She married Donald Watkins, and American
pilot in 1953. In 1955 her husband was
transferred to the US, where they lived in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Oregon, and finally settled in Brewster,
Massachusetts where they still live. Together the couple had four
children. In 1976 Yoko began writing So Far From The
Bamboo Grove. It was published in 1986, and has won many awards. In 1994 she
published a second book My Brother, My sister, and I. In addition to writing
Yoko gives lectures, visits schools, answers questions, and gives advice to
In 1945 Japan, Germany, Italy, and other
Axis countries were losing against Great
Britain, the US, the Soviet Union, and other
allied counties. During this time the tension between Korea and Japan was growing.
The Japanese has controlled Korea since 1910
and many Koreas did not like
their presence. Korea is positioned
between Japan, China, and Russia, it the
1800’s Japan wanted to use
Korea as a hub for
trading. Korea resisted
trade because they had a policy of isolation, when they did not cooperate the
Japanese military forced them to sign a treaty of trade and friendship. Many
Japanese ports were opened as a result. The Chinese did not like Japanese
influence in Korea, because they
were using the new trade agreement as an excuse to interfere in Korea’s affairs. China forced Korea to sign a
treaty of trade along with other countries including the US. Japan and China continued to
struggle over Korea; in 1894 it
resulted in war. The Japanese won and began to give orders to Korea. Russia watched as
all of these events took place, and in 1904 competion
resulted in the Russo-Japanese war. Russia had to sign a
treaty giving Japan unquestioned
authority. In 1910 Japan took full
control of Korea, establishing
military and governmental control. They denied many basic rights, such as the
right to assemble, freedom of speech. Korean schools were closed and new
Japanese ones opened, where students could only study Japanese language and
history. Japanese surrender in 1945 ended almost 36 years of Japanese control.
The Allies decided that Korea could not
govern itself after so many years of foreign rule. China, Great Britan, the US, and the Soviet Union set up a
trusteeship to supervise the governing of Korea. Korea was divided
along the 38th parallel, the north occupied by the Soviet Union, and the
south occupied by the US. In 1948 the
division became official when Korea divided into
two republics; North Korea, and South Korea.
At there closest
point Korea and Japan are 140 miles
apart. Although they are so close the two cultures are distinctly different. Korea is very
mountainous so the railroads tend to hug the coast, and the major cities lie on
the coastal area.
Questions to Answer as you Read So
Far From The Bamboo Grove
Why dose Yoko’s family live in Korea? How does
being Japanese affect them as the war progresses?
What saves the Kawashima’s from Korea communist soldiers?
What is ironic about this situation?
Yoko calls her sister Ko
“honorable sister.” Sometimes they exchange words that are no so honorable.
What kind of relationship do they have? Why does Ko seem bossy to Yoko?
Where does Hideyo go when he escapes from the factory? While he is
there what shows his cleverness and forethought?
Describe the living conditions in the train station is Seoul, and then in
the warehouse in Pusan?
What values does Yoko’s mother have? What shows that the girls share
How would you describe Ko?
If you were in a difficult situation would you want her with you?
How does Yoko treat Mr. Naido? What
does this teach you about Yoko’s character?
What happens when Yoko’s mom returns from her trip? How does
this affect Yoko and Ko?
What skills and qualities does Ko have? Will they help her succeed later in life?
to Answer After You Read This Web page
What did Japan want to use Korea for in the beginning?
What was being fought over in the Russo-Japanese war?
What year was Yoko born?
What were some Japanese traditions Yoko and her siblings
practiced growing up?
Why did Yoko and her husband move to the US?
Why did Japan loss their control over Korea?
Why did Yoko’s Family leave Korea?
Web-page by Elizabeth King