No-No Boy


John Okada

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Ichiro Yamada

The protagonist of the novel, Ichiro is a twenty-five-year-old “no-no boy,” who has just returned to Seattle for the first time in four years. He has spent two years in an internment campread analysis of Ichiro Yamada

Mr. Yamada

Mr. Yamada is Ichiro and Taro’s father, and Mrs. Yamada’s husband. He moved to the United States from Japan as a young man, with the intention of earning enough money that he could… read analysis of Mr. Yamada

Mrs. Yamada

Mrs. Yamada is Ichiro and Taro’s mother, and Mr. Yamada’s wife. Although she has lived in the United States for over three decades, she still loves Japan, and has no affinity for or… read analysis of Mrs. Yamada

Taro Yamada

Taro is Ichiro’s younger brother, the son of Mr. Yamada and Mrs. Yamada. Unlike Ichiro, who feels torn between his Japanese and American identities, Taro feels distinctly American, dropping out of school on… read analysis of Taro Yamada

Kenji Kanno

Kenji is a veteran and an old acquaintance of Ichiro’s. The two reconnect after Ichiro is released from prison and spend several days together. Kenji has progressive ideas about how the world should be—he… read analysis of Kenji Kanno
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Freddie Akimoto

One of Ichiro’s friends from before the war, and a fellow no-no boy. After being released from prison, Freddie is unable to readjust to society, instead just gambling, drinking, and having sex with… read analysis of Freddie Akimoto


A twenty-seven-year-old Japanese-American woman who lives by herself on a farm outside of Seattle. Emi and Kenji are close friends, and Kenji introduces Emi to Ichiro, with whom she begins an affair. Emi’s husband Ralphread analysis of Emi

Mr. Carrick

An engineer who offers Ichiro a job as his company. Mr. Carrick is a white man who feels incredible guilt and shame regarding the United States’ treatment of its Japanese citizens. Although Ichiro turns down… read analysis of Mr. Carrick

Mr. Kanno

The father of Kenji, Hanako, Toyo, Tom, and Hisa. Like the Yamadas, he first came to America from Japan in order to get rich and then return home. Unlike the… read analysis of Mr. Kanno
Minor Characters
Eto Minato
Eto is a young veteran from Seattle. He and Ichiro knew each other before the war, but now that Ichiro is a no-no boy Eto has no respect for him, and actively harasses him and Freddie.
A no-no boy who has found a job painting signs at the Christian Rehabilitation Center. He believes that his incarceration was the best thing that ever happened to him, as it gave him a sense of clarity and purpose.
A friend of Ichiro’s from the internment camp. Tommy was religious and encouraged Ichiro to attend local churches with him. When Ichiro noticed the white parishioners discriminating against a black man, Ichiro refused to return—but Tommy was just grateful that they weren’t discriminating against him for being Japanese.
Mike’s brother and Emi’s husband. Ralph served in the military during WWII, but was so ashamed by his brother’s behavior that he has refused to come home, signing on for increasingly longer deployments.
Ralph’s brother and Emi’s brother-in-law, Mike is a middle-aged man whose family was from Japan but who was born in California. Mike fought in WWI, but was so upset by the prospect of internment at the beginning of WWII that he decided to repatriate to Japan.
Mrs. Ashida
A family friend of Mr. Yamada and Mrs. Yamada.
Mr. Ashida
A family friend of Mr. Yamada and Mrs. Yamada.
Reiko Ashida
The teenage daughter of Mrs. Ashida and Mr. Ashida. A family friend of Mr. Yamada and Mrs. Yamada.
Mrs. Kumasaka
A family friend of Mr. Yamada and Mrs. Yamada. The mother of Bob, a soldier who died in the army.
Mr. Kumasaka
A family friend of Mr. Yamada and Mrs. Yamada. The father of Bob, a soldier who died in the army.
Bob Kumasaka
A young man the same age as Ichiro, who served in the United States military and was killed in service.
A young Japanese man who served with Bob in the military.
A woman who lives in the same apartment as Freddie. The two frequently have sex but it is unclear if they have any romantic feelings for each other.
Baxter Brown
A white professor at Ichiro’s former university.
An argumentative Japanese-American man who often hangs out at the Club Oriental. He has no respect for no-no boys.
Mr. Maeno
A Japanese-American farmer who lives on Emi’s land. He offers Ichiro a job, but Ichiro repeatedly turns him down.
Kenji’s sister.
Kenji’s sister.
Kenji’s brother.
Kenji’s sister.
An African American friend of Gary’s. The two of them worked together at a foundry until harassment and threats forced Gary to leave.
Jim Eng
The Chinese owner and manager of the Club Oriental.
An African American man who works at a shoeshine parlor and as an (unconfirmed) pimp.
Mr. Morrison
The manager at the Christian Rehabilitation Center, where Gary works and Ichiro interviews. He speaks some Japanese and offers Ichiro a job.