What news does Hideyo hear from the old man on the train tracks?

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When the munitions factory where Hideyo works is ambushed by Korean Communist soldiers, Hideyo just barely escapes with his life. Along with three of his co-workers (Shoichi, Shinzo, and Makoto), Hideyo carefully makes his way home. When Hideyo enters his home, he is shocked to see that the place has been ransacked. However, he soon discovers that his mother has left a note for him. In the note, she tells him that the family will be waiting for him at the train station in Seoul.

Hurriedly, Hideyo packs whatever provisions, utensils, and bedding he can safely carry with him. Concerned that their clothes would identify them as Japanese students, Hideyo's friends are wary of venturing too far. Hideyo suggests that they stop at a family friend's home to borrow some Korean clothes. However, when they get to the Lee's home, they find Mr. and Mrs. Lee dead. Even though the Lees were Koreans, the couple did not escape the brutality of the Korean Communist soldiers. The friends borrow whatever clothes they can find and are soon on their way.

As they walk south along the train tracks, an elderly man asks the young men whether they are Koreans or Japanese. Hideyo answers that they are all Koreans, although they are not affiliated with the Korean Communist Party. Although this is a lie, Hideyo knows that their lives are in danger and that they cannot afford to expose their Japanese identities to strangers who could turn them in. Hideyo asks the old man where he is headed, to which the old man replies that he is on his way home to Japan, as Japan has already lost the war.

Hideyo and his friends are openly shocked. The old man tells them that the war ended two days ago, when the Americans dropped powerful atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He says he only knows this because he heard the Emperor of Japan announcing it over the radio. Even though Hideyo wants to comfort the old man, he knows that he cannot risk showing any emotion that could unmask his Japanese identity to anyone. Without further ado, the young men continue making their way southward.

Read the study guide:
So Far from the Bamboo Grove

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