Mitsuko Hanamura was born wanting very little out of life: a place to call her own, maybe a small garden where she could grow flowers, just a little house with a shelf for some books, where she could live alone, with no need to share a bed, or a meal, or clothes, with anyone.
But she was born in 1916 in rural Japan, the oldest girl in a family with eight children and no money, with nothing to depend on but her clever brain and indomitable spirit. Sent away at thirteen to live with relatives, hired out at fifteen to pay off a family debt, desperate for an education at any cost, this is the story of a young girl who never gave up on herself, no matter what her circumstances, no matter how bleak her life seemed to be.
It is the story of my Obachan, or grandmother, as told to me by her, an amazing story which begins in the countryside of Japan and ends in the war torn streets of Kawasaki. I wrote it down as I heard it, believing it sounded more like a movie than her life; only the names have been changed out of respect for her living family. This is the journey she took as she exchanged one set of dreams for another, as she grew from a wide-eyed, hopeful teenager to a young mother in wartime Japan.
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