Summer vacation is nearly over and Korean undergraduate SanjunIm (Japanese name: Hayashi) is returning to his school in Tokyo from his home in Hokkaido. On the way he stops in Morimachi, in Hakodate, to visit Sunchun Jong (Japanese name: Akio Matsumoto), his father’s best friend. It has been 10 years since Sanjun has seen Matsumoto, in Sakhalin. He is married to a Japanese named Toshi and has a stepdaughter named Kayako. Kayako is now a junior high school student. Sanjun was born in Japan, the son of Korean immigrants. After Japan lost the war, Sanjun, with his father and brothers, remained in Japan. As a nisei (second generation), Sanjun lacks the sense of his Korean roots that the first generation of Koreans who came to Japan possess. In Tokyo, Sanjun lodges in a tiny room and has to work as a part-time laborer to support himself. He talks with other Koreans and visits friends living in a Korean area. He gradually becomes aware of his heritage. One day he finds himself thinking about Kayako in Hokkaido. In May of the next year Sanjun visits Morimachi again and goes boating on a lake with Kayako. On the boat Kayako tells him the secret of her life. According to her story, her actual name is Miwako and she was abandoned as a child in the confusion following the war. Left by Japanese parents, she was rescued by a Korean and was named Kayako after the musical instrument kayagumu, a Korean harp. Sanjun and Kayako start exchanging letters. Meanwhile Toshi, Kayako’s stepmother, has increasingly come to regret marrying a Korean. In the difficult home atmosphere created by her quarreling stepfather and stepmother, Kayako begins to feel confused and unwanted; she finally decides to leave home. In the fall of that year, Kayako suddenly disappears. Sanjun arrives from Tokyo to look for Kayako. He finally locates her in a small town in Eastern Hokkaido. The two begin living together in Tokyo. They are happy but their destinies are not yet resolved. Early one morning Kayako’s stepfather and stepmother come to their lodgings. They lament that they have been robbed of Kayako, whom they so cherished. Sanjun has no words to comfort them. Late that night, Sanjun and Kayako lie down on the street trying to hear the sound of the water running underground. There are tears in Kayako’s eyes. Ten years have passed. Sanjun goes back to Morimachi because he has heard that Matsumoto has died. But when he arrives he finds out that the person who died was not Matsumoto but Toshi. Sanjun sadly tells his father’s friend, “Kayako left me 10 years ago. I have looked for her ever since.” Matsumoto then tells him that Kayako lives not far from his house and that she visits him every day. Leaving his house, Sanjun finds a girl playing in the snow. She is three years old; her name is Miwako.
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