Mrs. Yamada’s funeral is held seven days after her death. Ichiro sent Taro a telegram, but his brother does not come. Mr. Yamada, meanwhile, loves the attention he has gotten in the wake of his wife’s passing.
Although there is no single appropriate way to deal with grief, Ichiro’s fragmented family does not even seem to mourn their matriarch.
Ichiro sits in the front row of the Buddhist church where the funeral is held, and considers the casket in front of him. Mr. Yamada spent money on a fancier one, when a simple simpler model would have worked. His father has been sober since Mrs. Yamada’s death, and has instead been “drunk with the renewal of countless friendships” and the attention from the community.
Mr. Yamada has showcased only unhealthy coping mechanisms throughout the novel. Although finally sober, his mood since his wife’s death signifies that he has not fully processed it and allowed himself to feel the grief that will allow him to move forward.
At the service a priest speaks, followed by a series of old men. Ichiro feels as though he is “hearing about a stranger.” He has trouble believing that Mrs. Yamada was ever, young, pretty, and sane. After the funeral, as the hearse takes the casket to the funeral parlor for cremation, Ichiro tells Mr. Yamada that he feels sick. Mr. Yamada insists Ichiro come along with him, but Ichiro instead spies Freddie across the parking lot, and joins his friend in the car.
Ichiro had felt the generational and cultural divide between himself and his mother, but it becomes even more explicit when comparing his own early life to hers. He had known in theory that her upbringing was Japanese while his was more American, but now, for the first time, he understands exactly what that meant for his mother.
Ichiro knows he should see Mrs. Yamada’s funeral through, and understands that she sacrificed to give him the life he had, and probably meant well. Still, he believes she made him make the wrong decision in front of the draft board, although now he understands what should have been done, and what should be done in the future. She is dead, and Ichiro is free, and he will do his best to find work and live a normal life.
Ichiro has slowly come to terms with his relationship to his family, and worked towards forgiving them and himself for the decision he made in front of the draft board. He believes that he can only go on to live a normal life if he lets go of his guilt and resentment, and his mother’s death has helped him move on.
Freddie takes Ichiro to a drive-in where they get hamburgers and coffee. They talk about their lives. Freddie thinks Ichiro is stuck in a rut, but Freddie believes he is “livin’ it up,” drinking, going out, and having sex with 2-A. Freddie is jumpy because he cut Eto after Eto harassed him at a bar, and now Eto’s friends are after him. They have already tried to hit him with a car, and he anticipates they’ll try to hurt him again.
Unlike Ichiro, Freddie is making no effort to make peace with his past in order to live a more pleasant future. Instead, he is making increasingly dangerous decisions, sabotaging any hope at a stable, happy life.
The conversation moves to their families. Ichiro is not hungry, perhaps because of grief, and Freddie tries to be sympathetic. Freddie remarks that he wouldn’t be sad if his parents died, but “guys like you take it hard.” Freddie, in contrast, believes his parents are “old country” and should never have left Japan. He blames them for messing him up, and so feels no pity for them.
Ichiro’s relationship with his parents is complicated, and he resented his mother and didn’t want to stay at the funeral, but he nonetheless understands what a key role she played in his life, and feels grief because of it.
Freddie also observes that his parents have nothing left to live for. Ichiro is surprised by this insight, but agrees. The Issei who have been unable to assimilate have nothing to do but save money and try to return to Japan. Ichiro tries to get Freddie to engage in a deeper conversation, but Freddie cannot, or will not. Ichiro is reminded that Freddie is “constantly concerned with living,” because if he ever tries to slow down, he will “sink into the nothingness” below.
The Issei who cannot assimilate or who have no desire to put down roots in America are left with little to live for. Because the devastation of WWII means they cannot return to the Japan of their youth and memories, those who cannot or refuse to embrace America struggle to find a sense of belonging in their lives. This was certainly true of Mrs. Yamada. Although Freddie is not an Issei, he too feels that he has little to live for. He, like Ichiro at the start of the novel, believes he has no future.
After eating, Freddie and Ichiro drive around town. Freddie is driving dangerously fast, but will not slow down. They talk about working. Freddie recommends Ichiro try visiting Christian Reclamation Center, where other no-no boys have been able to get jobs. He has a friend, Gary, who works at the Reclamation Center now, after being forced to give up a job at a foundry.
Ichiro believes that he needs a job in order to start securing a stable future. Freddie, in contrast, is not working, and seems to have no desire to make a future for himself. However, both of them face the same challenge in finding work—many people discriminate against the Japanese, and those who don’t still often discriminate against men who rejected the draft.
Freddie drops Ichiro off at the family store. Ichiro makes tea and plays with Taro’s old deck of cards. He thinks back to his childhood, when he would listen to the radio or a phonograph, which Mrs. Yamada disliked. One day, while he was gone, she came into his room and smashed the phonograph to pieces, even cutting apart the wires. She denied him access to music, comic books, and other aspects of American culture. He thinks that she should have made some small concessions, and that doing so would have “kept her sons a part of the family.”
Mrs. Yamada was so committed to preventing her children from becoming Americanized that she was willing to sacrifice their happiness and her own personal relationship to them. However, by so aggressively rejecting America, which became a part of her sons despite her best intentions, she could not help but reject her sons themselves.
Ichiro hears a knock at the door. Emi has come to visit and give her condolences for Mrs. Yamada’s passing. Ichiro invites her inside and they talk. She tells him that Ralph has asked to get a divorce. She also tells him Mr. Maeno has offered him a job again, which he turns down. She tells him she’s lonely, and asks Ichiro to come see her again, but he responds that he’s not good for her. Emi turns to leave.
Emi is lonely because she has no family left. Her mother has died, her father has returned to Japan, and her husband, after years away, finally wants to divorce her. Kenji was her only close friend, and now she only has Ichiro. Ichiro rejects Mr. Maeno’s job offer because of Kenji’s advice—to do his best to interact with people who are not Japanese in order to better integrate the world.
Before Emi can leave, Ichiro changes his mind and decides to join Emi, and the two of them go dancing. They find a club with an orchestra and dance together. Ichiro is happy. He feels like it doesn’t matter that he rejected the draft, and it doesn’t matter that he’s Japanese. He feels the way he used to—and realizes that maybe he can change his attitude and “love the world the way I used to.” There is room for him in the world if he can see past his bitterness.
Over the course of the novel Ichiro is reminded that, although he believes he made a mistake in rejecting the draft, his life is not ruined and there is something left for him to live for. In this moment, Emi’s company helps him see the potential in his future. Additionally, a rare moment in which he doesn’t feel like an outsider makes him think that a future without racism really is possible.
After dancing for a while, Emi and Ichiro sit down. They don’t speak, but smile at each other. A middle-aged man comes over, and although Ichiro is suspicious, he relaxes when the man buys them a drink. Emi and Ichiro discuss the man. Ichiro wonders if he had Japanese friends, or is Japanese but doesn’t look it, or if he just liked the look of him and Emi.
Although this stranger does not have the same effect on Ichiro as someone like Mr. Carrick, he is an important reminder that there are good people in the word, and that although Ichiro is Japanese and rejected the draft, people can and will still accept him.
Ichiro arrives home late that night. Mr. Yamada is tying up packages to send to Japan. Mr. Yamada doesn’t expect he will be lonely after Mrs. Yamada’s death. He will keep the store and plans to make improvements to it. Mr. Yamada even seems happy, although his wife has just died. Ichiro thinks, “the packages were the symbol of his freedom,” and his new future.
Even if Mr. Yamada does miss his wife, her insistence in living in a fantasy prevented him from living a real, happy life. Now, Mr. Yamada can acknowledge his starving and struggling Japanese family, and begin to put down roots in America, which his wife would never have allowed.
Ichiro sees that Mr. Yamada was not sick like Mrs. Yamada had been. Now that Mrs. Yamada has died, he is able to “exercise his reasonable ways.” He tells Ichiro it is important to live in the real world. Although life is not always happy, it can still be good. Mr. Yamada tells Ichiro he can take his time readjusting to society. He can go back to school if he wants, but he doesn’t have to. Ichiro knows Mr. Yamada is doing “what he should have long ago,” but believes it is too late.
Unlike Mrs. Yamada, Mr. Yamada understands that what will make his son happy is not a rigid commitment to Japan and his Japanese identity. Although Mr. Yamada does not fully know or understand his son, he is happy to give him the space and time he needs to recover and secure a future for himself.