Life of Pi

Life of Pi

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Tomohiro Okamoto Character Analysis

An official from the Maritime Department of the Japanese Ministry of Transport, Okamoto is sent to interview Pi in Mexico and investigate the sinking of the Tsimtsum. He is skeptical of Pi’s first (animal) story, but agrees that it is more compelling than the second story, and in his official report Okamoto praises Pi for surviving with a tiger.

Tomohiro Okamoto Quotes in Life of Pi

The Life of Pi quotes below are all either spoken by Tomohiro Okamoto or refer to Tomohiro Okamoto. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Survival Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Harcourt edition of Life of Pi published in 2001.
Chapter 99 Quotes

“If you stumble at mere believability, what are you living for? Isn’t love hard to believe?... Life is hard to believe, ask any scientist. God is hard to believe, ask any believer. What is your problem with hard to believe?”
“We’re just being reasonable.”
“So am I! I applied my reason at every moment… Nothing beats reason for keeping tigers away. But be excessively reasonable and you risk throwing out the universe with the bathwater.”

Related Characters: Piscine Molitor Patel (Pi) (speaker), Tomohiro Okamoto (speaker), Tomohiro Okamoto
Page Number: 297-298
Explanation and Analysis:

In this crucial section of the book, Pi is confronted by a two interviewers who want to know how a young man could survive such an incredibly long and dangerous journey across the oceans. The interviewers find it nearly impossible to believe that anyone could survive in a boat with a tiger. Pi fends off the interviewers' criticisms for a while--but then he becomes exasperated. There's no point, he insists, in poking holes in the truth of his story. His story might not be totally reasonable, he admits, but it's still a good story.

Pi's defense is as interesting for what it doesn't say as for what it says. Pi never claims that his story is literally true--indeed, he even hints that he's been making up the story all along. And yet he makes an eloquent argument for the usefulness of believing in his story: people need to maintain their faith and their sense of wonder and meaning. To rely too excessively on truth and science, as the interviewers do, is to lose one's reason to live--to throw out the whole "universe with the bathwater."

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“So tell me, since it makes no factual difference to you and you can’t prove the question either way, which story do you prefer? Which is the better story, the story with animals or the story without animals?”
Mr. Okamoto: “That’s an interesting question…”
Mr. Chiba: “The story with animals.”
Mr. Okamoto: “Yes. The story with animals is the better story.”
Pi Patel: “Thank you. And so it goes with God.”

Related Characters: Piscine Molitor Patel (Pi) (speaker), Tomohiro Okamoto (speaker), Atsuro Chiba (speaker), Tomohiro Okamoto, Atsuro Chiba
Page Number: 317
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Pi has revealed a surprising twist: the story of the animals (i.e., the book we're almost finished reading) was never exactly "true." In other words, the story of Pi and Richard Parker may have been a metaphor for what literally happened--Pi was stranded on the lifeboat with a group of other people, who turned to increasingly violent and dangerous means to survive. It's possible that Pi was so disturbed by what he's witnessed on the boat, and by his own actions, that he transforms his experiences into a more satisfying story of animals--i.e., creatures who aren't answerable to the law or to religion for their acts of violence.

In the true climax of the novel, Pi's interviewers are faced with a tough decision: print the story of how Pi came to be stranded in a boat with people, or print the story of how Pi survived with animals. In the end, they choose the story of the animals, because it is a "better" story.

What makes the story of the animals "better?" In the absence of total knowledge (i.e., the interviewers can't possibly know for sure which story actually happened, as Pi is the only survivor) they choose to embrace spiritual truth, with some redeeming religious value, rather than literal truth, which reveals nothing but the ugliness of human nature. The passage sums up everything the novel has been suggesting about the value of religion and storytelling. Reality is ugly and often depressing--stories, by contrast, have the power to inspire humans to achieve better and behave better. This idea of choosing to believe the "better story" is then intimately equated with religion, particularly in Pi's words--"so it goes with God."

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Tomohiro Okamoto Character Timeline in Life of Pi

The timeline below shows where the character Tomohiro Okamoto appears in Life of Pi. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 95
Storytelling Theme Icon
...Maritime Department of the Japanese Ministry of Transport. These officials, whose names were Mr. Tomohiro Okamoto and Mr. Atsuro Chiba, were in California on unrelated business when they were called to... (full context)
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...taped the conversation. The author has since received a copy of this tape and Mr. Okamoto’s final report. (full context)
Chapter 96
Survival Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
...with the Japanese portions translated and in a different font. The interview begins, and Mr. Okamoto gives the date as February 19th, 1978. Mr. Chiba is a junior official, and Okamoto... (full context)
Chapter 98
Survival Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
Okamoto and Chiba tell Pi that his story is interesting, but they express their disbelief to... (full context)
Chapter 99
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
...Pi challenges this and pulls two bananas from under his bedsheet for them to test. Okamoto fills the sink and puts the bananas in, and they do float. Okamoto responds to... (full context)
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
...says that they don’t believe in the island just because they haven’t seen it, but Okamoto claims that it is “botanically impossible.” Chiba interrupts that he has an uncle who is... (full context)
Survival Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
Okamoto moves on, challenging Pi about Richard Parker. He says that no one has spotted a... (full context)
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
Chiba becomes distracted by Pi’s responses and Okamoto berates him in Japanese, asking him to help with the situation. The officials finally give... (full context)
Survival Theme Icon
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Pi is unwilling to give up discussing his story, however, so Okamoto asks him about the blind Frenchman he met. Okamoto says that the cook aboard the... (full context)
Survival Theme Icon
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Okamoto and Chiba are horrified by this story, but they note the parallels between Pi’s two... (full context)
Survival Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
Boundaries Theme Icon
...story explains the sinking of the Tsimtsum, and neither really matters for the officials’ business. Okamoto and Chiba both agree that the animal story is the “better story.” Pi responds with... (full context)
Chapter 100
Survival Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
The author then gives Okamoto’s report of the interview. Okamoto says that the Tsimtsum possibly sank because of an engine... (full context)