So Far from the Bamboo Grove

by Yoko Kawashima Watkins

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In the book "So Far From The Bamboo Grove" by Yoko Kawashima Watkins, what does mother not go anywhere without, and what does it hold?

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Mother carried a wrapping-cloth with her wherever she went.  She used it to carry the family's important possessions, wrapped up in a bundle tied with a knot.  In it were "socks, underwear, extra trousers, and blouses".  Placed neatly at the bottom were important papers - "insurance papers, birth certificates, report sheets, and Father's name seal" made of jade (Ch.9).

It was the wrapping-cloth itself that Mother would not let out of her sight.  Even when she would go to the restroom to change, she would empty everything out of the cloth and give it all to her older daughter Ko for safekeeping.  She would then take the wrapping-cloth in with her.  Ko thinks that Mother, being a very modest person, used the wrapping-cloth as a hip-wrapper when she changed, but Yoko thinks there was another reason she took it with her everywhere.  Yoko believes it was the cloth and not the things wrapped in it that were important to Mother, because Mother's last words to Yoko before she died were, "Hang on to - the wrapping-cloth" (Ch.8).

Upon close examination, Ko and Yoko discover a pocket sewn into a corner of the wrapping-cloth.  In it are "thousand-yen and hundred-yen bills, the money Mother had drawn out of the children's bank accounts before they had to flee their home.  There is a total of thirty-six thousand yen - a hundred dollars" (Ch.9).

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