Ichiro walks down Jackson Street, away from Freddie. He wonders if he and the other no-no boys have “renounced their American-ness” irrevocably. He asks himself, “was there no hope of redemption?” He remains an American with the rights of a citizen, and predicts that in time people will forget his crime.
Ichiro spends much of his time and mental energy worrying about his future, and how the decisions of his past have affected his life. He worries that because he rejected America for a moment, it will reject him forever.
Ichiro imagines a future in which “there will again be a place for me.” He’ll buy a home and start a family. He and Freddie will visit the families of men who went to the army, instead of to prison, and the difference between them will be irrelevant. He is hopeful in his heart, but in his mind he believes there is no happiness in his future.
Ichiro gets on a bus, which takes him towards the university where he used to study engineering. He loved being in school, and believes that his education was something he would have gone into the army and killed for.
Constantly struggling with regret, Ichiro often imagines how a different situation could have led him to make a different decision. He thinks if he had remembered the things he liked about America, he would’ve been able to fight for it.
Ichiro thinks that being American and fighting for America is complicated and “incomplete” “if one’s face is not white and one’s parents are Japanese”—and especially Japan is one of America’s enemies. Ichiro feels that he “forgot” the things about America that he treasured. However, Bob, Jun, and thousands of others did not.
Ichiro understands that the promise of the American Dream is fully available only to those who are white. Almost everyone else is excluded, but nonetheless expected to dedicate their bodies and their lives to a nation that does not fully accept them.
Ichiro gets off the bus at the university and goes to the office of a former professor, Baxter Brown. He had not planned to visit, but now he feels compelled. Mr. Brown doesn’t seem to recognize his former student, who reintroduces himself. Mr. Brown notes that the evacuation was “tough,” and tells Ichiro he has a “right to be sore.” Ichiro insists that he has moved on. Mr. Brown asks Ichiro if he served, and Ichiro says he didn’t, but is relieved that he is not forced to admit he is a no-no boy.
Ichiro lives in constant fear of revealing his status as a no-no boy, which he knows from experience often turns others against him, as they perceive him as un-American. Although Mr. Brown’s acknowledgement of the trauma of internment suggests he would be sympathetic to Ichiro’s decision, Ichiro is nonetheless nervous.
Mr. Brown encourages Ichiro to return to school, although it is too late to enroll this quarter. Although the conversation is pleasant, as he leaves Ichiro reflects that the interaction felt lifeless and impersonal. He wonders if this is his problem or Mr. Brown’s. He suspects he “reduces the conversation to the inconsequential” because he feels he has forfeited the right to hear about the life he could have led.
Ichiro is actively sabotaging his own life. He is so convinced that his decision has ruined his future that he then begins to ruin his own future by ignoring opportunities and refusing to interact with people who he fears will judge him.
Ichiro eats lunch at a nearby diner. As he sits and eats, an old acquaintance of his, Kenji, taps him on the shoulder. The two sit and talk, and then Kenji invites Ichiro on a drive. His car is a brand-new Oldsmobile. Kenji says it’s a present from “Uncle Sam.” Ichiro had noticed Kenji walked with a cane, but in the car he can see that his right leg has been amputated above the knee. Kenji explains that he got the car as a reward for being a good patient, but “it wasn’t worth it.”
Unlike Ichiro, Kenji chose to serve in the U.S. military, and he was rewarded for his service and for the injuries sustained in battle. Although Kenji doesn’t feel the reward is enough for what he has lost, compared to many of the other individuals and families Ichiro has interacted with since his release, Kenji is shockingly well adjusted.
Ichiro things that he would trade both legs to be in Kenji’s position. He feels that, although his body is strong, it is “only an empty shell.”
Ichiro is so unhappy with his life that he would trade body parts to feel confident that he had earned a place in America.
Ichiro asks Kenji about this leg. Initially it was amputated below the knee, but it continued to hurt, and the doctors realized there was some kind of infection, and were forced to amputate higher and higher. The leg has begun to hurt again, and Kenji knows he will have to go in for an additional amputation. He expects to live for two more years at most, if the rottenness cannot be cured. Kenji also says sometimes he thinks about killing himself. Ichiro is surprised and angry to hear this. Kenji explains that he has eleven inches of his leg left, whereas Ichiro has fifty or sixty years of life. He wonders which Ichiro would rather have.
Kenji has everything Ichiro wants. Although Kenji has lost a leg, Ichiro feels that his status as a respected veteran is easily worth the loss of limb. This is why he is so shocked that Kenji would ever contemplate suicide. Kenji sees the eleven inches of his leg as a ticking clock, representing the limited amount of he has left.
As horrible as Kenji’s situation is, Ichiro says he would still trade with his friend. This confession surprises the veteran. Ichiro explains that he was a no-no boy. Kenji did not know this, but does not judge him for it. Ichiro believes that Kenji has earned the right to stand tall, and to call America his own. Kenji notes that both men have big problems. Ichiro tells Kenji he would trade with him, even for just two inches of leg.
Ichiro is so unhappy with his life that even the looming threat of death would not discourage him from trading his life with Kenji’s. Because Kenji has no ill will towards Ichiro, it is difficult for him to understand the discrimination Ichiro has experienced, which makes his life feel so unlivable.
Kenji drops Ichiro off at home and the two make plans for later in the evening. At home, Taro is playing solitaire in the kitchen. He turned eighteen today, and so has dropped out of school and plans to join the army. Both Mr. Yamada and Mrs. Yamada are upset, but Ichiro understands Taro’s perspective. Taro feels like he is not rejecting his family, because Ichiro already rejected Taro when he refused the draft.
Taro feels fully American, and so, when Ichiro rejected the draft, effectively choosing Japan over America, Taro felt that Ichiro was choosing his Japanese parents over his American little brother. Now, Taro sees dropping out of school and joining the army as a way to rebuke the brother who he feels rebuked him.
Taro feels Mrs. Yamada’s influence and needs desperately to free himself. However, he doesn’t say this. Instead he just packs a bag and leaves. Mr. Yamada watches Taro go—“not a son but a stranger…an enemy leaving to join his friends.”
Taro is so much more American than his family that he is practically a stranger to them. Having seen the way his mother’s influence corrupted and confused Ichiro, Taro knows he must escape while he can.
Ichiro, Mr. Yamada, and Mrs. Yamada stand stunned in Taro’s absence. His mother lets out a single cry, and then composes herself, asking about nickels as “if Taro had never been born.” Mr. Yamada gets back to work. Ichiro realizes that “the strength of Japan had failed,” and he knows that his mother understands this as well.
Mrs. Yamada only takes ownership of her sons as long as they remain loyal to her and to Japan. Now that Taro has left, she feels that he is not Japanese and therefore not her son.