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Free Study Guide-Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson-Book Notes
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While seating in his jail cell eating lunch, Kabuo looks at his face in a handheld mirror. Hatsue says he looks like one of Tojo’s soldiers, and he wants to see if this is true. Kabuo sees what had once been a boy’s face. But now, this boy’s face has on top of it his war years. Kabuo remembers killing a young German boy in the war.

His face has been molded by his experiences as a soldier. He wants to project innocence and a haunted spirit. He feels that his detachment from the world should be self-explanatory to the judge, jurors, and people in the gallery. He thinks they should recognize the face of a war veteran who had sacrificed his tranquility so they could have theirs. Instead, he sees a face that appears defiant and that refuses to respond to anything that has happened or been said in the courtroom.

He wants his face to suggest war and strength. Instead, it communicates haughtiness and superiority. This is the face he has worn since the war, and he is unable to alter it. It is the guilt of murdering men in the war the he wears on his face. Though, the tries not to communicate this guilt, there is no way he can stop it.

He liked attorney Nels Gudmundsson from the start. On the day they met, Nels brought cigars, candy, and a chess board. But, Nels also told Kabuo the prosecutor was serious and seeking the death penalty. As a Buddhist, Kabuo believes in the laws of karma, so it makes sense that he will have to pay for his war murders.

After eating his lunch, Kabuo lies down on his bed and daydreams of the island. He remembers seeing Hatsue picking in the strawberry fields when she was 16. He remembers working beside her in the internment camp garden. He remembers his love deepening for her. He remembers explaining that he had to go to war because it was a matter of honor. Honor could not be turned down, and he would not be worthy of her if he didn’t go. He asks that she only acknowledge who he is, and she asked that he marry her before leaving. He recognizes now that it was a hurried war marriage. They had only known each other a few months, but they both felt it was destiny. He returned, a murderer, and Hatsue’s fear that he would no longer be himself is realized.

Kabuo remembers his father taking a katana, or sword, that had been in the Miyamoto family for 6 centuries, wooden kendo practice swords, and other items and burying them in the strawberry field. Kabuo kendo training began when he was 7 years old. His father taught him to fight with a sword. His great-grandfather had been a samurai. He learned many kendo strokes including the most common: “a horizontal thrust a right-handed man could propel with great force against the left side of his enemy’s head.” By the time Kabuo was 16, no one could defeat him. Many said that, in comparison to his father, Kabuo had a “greater willingness to draw on his dark side in order to achieve a final victory.” After killing 4 Germans in the war, Kabuo feels they had been right. He feels that the suffering he now experiences, accused of killing Carl Heine, is the price he must pay for taking lives in the war. A price he would pay in his lives to come.


In this chapter, we enter Kabuo’s thoughts. We learn of the guilt he feels for the murders he committed in the war. Kabuo wants to project innocence. He wants the community to see the face of a war veteran that has fought for them. Instead, his face only portrays the guilt he feels. As a Buddhist, he believes he must pay for his sins, in this lifetime and in future lifetimes.

We also learn that not only has Kabuo been trained in the art of kendo but that at one time he was the best kendo fighter in the community.

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