In the story, Mrs. Kawashima, Ko, and Yoko flee their home in Nanam, Korea, and eventually arrive in Kyoto. Even though both Yoko and her sister, Ko, beg Mrs. Kawashima to take them north with her to Aomori, where their grandparents live, Mrs. Kawashima refuses. She tells the girls that Kyoto is the only place that has escaped the bombings. The implication is that Kyoto is a far safer place for the girls than anywhere else at the moment. The story is set during WWII and the girls and their mother have just escaped a perilous situation in Korea, where Japanese are being slaughtered every day.
Mrs.Kawashima also has a good reason for stopping in Kyoto. She wants the girls to go to school there; as she was educated in Kyoto herself, she is confident that the girls will receive a good education there. She enrolls Yoko at the Sagano Girls' School while Ko is admitted to the University. Mrs. Kawashima and Yoko are welcomed by the friendly principal of the school, Mr. Ishida, and the clerk, Miss Asada. However, the girls laugh at Yoko's foreign ways and look down on her shabby clothes. Mrs. Kawashima assures Yoko that she will soon learn how to handle the different kinds of people in the world and advises her never to forsake the good values she has been raised with. Ko, having passed all the entrance examinations to the University, tells Yoko that even though she was also laughed at, her academic prowess allowed her to navigate her first day on her own terms.
Mrs. Kawashima leaves for Aomori the next day and promises the girls that she will be back the following Friday.