No-No Boy

Mr. Yamada Character Analysis

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 move back to Japan and live a comfortable life. Instead, he’s stuck in the U.S. without much hope of returning to his home country, unable to feel American, but unlikely to see Japan again. He runs a grocery store with Mrs. Yamada, and drinks heavily to deal with the pain of his wife’s mental illness and the prospect of living in America forever. He loves Ichiro but doesn’t understand him, offering him money as a way to bridge the gap between them. After Mrs. Yamada dies Mr. Yamada seems freer and happier. Without his wife, whose mental life was firmly rooted in Japan, Mr. Yamada is allowed to finally put down roots in his adopted home.

Mr. Yamada Quotes in No-No Boy

The No-No Boy quotes below are all either spoken by Mr. Yamada or refer to Mr. Yamada. 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:
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the University of Washington Press edition of No-No Boy published in 1976.
Chapter 1  Quotes

“Why don’t you do something about it?”

“I tell [Taro]. Mama tells him. Makes no difference. It is the war that has made them that way. All the people say the same thing. The war and the camp life. Made them wild like cats and dogs. It is hard to understand.”

“Sure,” he said, but he told himself that he understood, that the reason why Taro was not a son and not a brother was because he was young and American and alien to his parents, who had lived in America for thirty-five years without becoming less Japanese and could speak only a few broken words of English and write it not at all, and because Taro hated the thing in his elder brother which had prevented him from thinking for himself. And in this hate for that thing, he hated his brother and also his parents because they had created the thing in their eyes and hands and minds which had seen and felt and thought as Japanese for thirty-five years in an America which they rejected as thoroughly as if they had never been a day away from Japan.

Related Characters: Ichiro Yamada (speaker), Mr. Yamada (speaker), Mrs. Yamada, Taro Yamada
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 6 Quotes

“I came to America to become a rich man so that I could go back to the village in Japan and be somebody. I was greedy and ambitious and proud. I was not a good man or an intelligent one, but a young fool. And you have paid for it.”

“What kind of talk is that?” replied Kenji, genuinely grieved. “That’s not true at all.”

“I will go with you.”

“No.” He looked straight at his father.

In answer, the father merely nodded, acceding to his son’s wish because his son was a man who had gone to war to fight for the abundance and happiness that pervaded a Japanese household in America and that was a thing he himself could never fully comprehend except to know that it was very dear. He had long forgotten when it was that he had discarded the notion of a return to Japan but remembered only that it was the time when this country which he had no intention of loving had suddenly begun to become a part of him because it was a part of his children and he saw and felt in their speech and joys and sorrows and hopes that he was a part of them. And in the dying of the foolish dreams which he had brought to America, the richness of the life that was possible in this foreign country destroyed the longing for a past that really must not have been as precious as he imagined or else he would surely not have left it. Where else could a man, left alone with six small children, have found it possible to have had so much with so little?

Related Characters: Kenji Kanno (speaker), Mr. Kanno (speaker), Ichiro Yamada, Mr. Yamada, Mrs. Yamada
Page Number: 108
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

It had mattered. It was because he was Japanese that the son had to come to his Japanese father and simply state that he had decided to volunteer for the army instead of being able to wait until such time as the army called him. It was because he was Japanese and, at the same time, had to prove to the world that he was not Japanese that the turmoil was in his soul and urged him to enlist. There was confusion, but, underneath it, a conviction that he loved America and would fight and die for it because he did not wish to live anyplace else. And the father, also confused, understood what the son had not said and gave his consent. It was not a time for clear thinking because the sense of loyalty had become dispersed and the shaken faith of an American interned in an American concentration camp was indeed a flimsy thing. So, on this steadfast bit of conviction that remained, and knowing not what the future held, this son had gone to war to prove that he deserved to enjoy those rights which should rightfully have been his.

Related Characters: Mr. Kanno (speaker), Ichiro Yamada, Mr. Yamada, Mrs. Yamada, Kenji Kanno
Page Number: 109
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 9 Quotes

As he shouted, Ichiro listened and, it was as if he were hearing about a stranger as the man spoke of the girl baby born in the thirty-first year of the Meiji era to a peasant family, of her growing and playing and going to school and receiving honors for scholastic excellence and of her becoming a pretty young thing who forsook a teaching career to marry a bright, ambitious young man of the same village. And as the large man transported the young couple across the vast ocean to the fortune awaiting them in America, Ichiro no longer listened, for he was seeing the face of his dead mother jutting out of the casket, and he could not believe that she had ever been any of the things the man was saying about her.

Related Characters: Ichiro Yamada, Mr. Yamada, Mrs. Yamada
Page Number: 172
Explanation and Analysis:
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He was enjoying it and he felt that Emi was too. This is the way it ought to be, he thought to himself, to be able to dance with a girl you like and really get a kick out of it because everything is on an even keel and one’s worries are only the usual ones of unpaid bills and sickness in the family and being late to work too often. Why can’t it be that way for me? Nobody’s looking twice at us… Everything’s the same, just as it used to be. No bad feelings except for those that have always existed and probably always will. It’s a matter of attitude. Mine needs changing. I’ve got to love the world the way I used to. I’ve got to love it and the people so I’ll feel good, and feeling good will make life worth while. There’s no point in crying about what’s done. There’s a place for me and Emi and Freddie here on the dance floor and out there in the hustle of things if we’ll let it be that way. I’ve been fighting it and hating it and letting my bitterness against myself and Ma and Pa and even Taro throw the whole universe out of perspective. I want only to go on living and be happy. I’ve only to let myself do so.

Page Number: 186
Explanation and Analysis:
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Mr. Yamada Character Timeline in No-No Boy

The timeline below shows where the character Mr. Yamada appears in No-No Boy. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1 
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Prejudice, Discrimination, and Racism Theme Icon
...to his new home—a grocery store his parents have purchased since leaving the internment camp. Mr. Yamada described it to him in a letter, written in simple Japanese characters with explicit directions... (full context)
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Mr. Yamada greets his son happily. Ichiro’s father speaks mostly in Japanese; Ichiro speaks mostly in English.... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Taro, Ichiro, Mrs. Yamada, and Mr. Yamada eat in silence. Taro eats quickly and leaves. Ichiro’s father explains that Taro never studies.... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
...to be unable to think for himself, and so is rebelling against his entire family. Mr. Yamada and Mrs. Yamada only came to America to make money, and say they plan on... (full context)
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Ichiro eventually makes it back to the grocery store. Mr. Yamada is drunk, which surprises Ichiro, and is going through a stack of letters from Japan.... (full context)
Chapter 2 
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
...Japanese and, no longer being Japanese,” he is dead. She explains that because she and Mr. Yamada remain Japanese, they are alive, and so is Ichiro. However, if Ichiro were to enlist,... (full context)
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Ichiro gets up to leave, and Mr. Yamada tries to stop him. Ichiro punches him in response. Mrs. Yamada slumps to the floor... (full context)
Chapter 3
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
...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.” (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Ichiro, Mr. Yamada , and Mrs. Yamada stand stunned in Taro’s absence. His mother lets out a single... (full context)
Chapter 5
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
...stack of letters, finds one from Japan, and gives it to Ichiro to give to Mr. Yamada . (full context)
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Mr. Yamada lewdly asks Ichiro what he was up to. Ichiro jokes that he had fun, but... (full context)
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Ichiro delivers the newest letter to Mr. Yamada . It’s from Mrs. Yamada’s sister. Mr. Yamada calls his wife into the room and... (full context)
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
After finishing the letter, Mr. Yamada goes to chop cabbage in the kitchen. Mrs. Yamada sits, the truth and the untruth... (full context)
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
At lunch, Mrs. Yamada refuses to get up and eat. Distressed, Mr. Yamada begins to backslide, agreeing that the letter “could be nothing,” and maybe it isn’t her... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Prejudice, Discrimination, and Racism Theme Icon
As they talk, Ichiro realizes that Mr. Yamada thinks Ichiro did the right thing by going to prison. This shocks Ichiro. He believes... (full context)
Chapter 8
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
At Ichiro’s house, Mr. Yamada returns from the liquor store with three bottles of alcohol. He begins drinking immediately. (full context)
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Mr. Yamada goes to the kitchen and sees Mrs. Yamada’s untouched plate of food. She has not... (full context)
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Mr. Yamada implores Mrs. Yamada to eat, and she considers for a second, before turning back to... (full context)
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Mr. Yamada continues to drink. He thinks how Mrs. Yamada’s sister calls her Kin-chan again now that... (full context)
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Mr. Yamada calls out to his sons, Taro and Ichiro, but they are not home and do... (full context)
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
...the phonebook. When he turns on the light to read more clearly, he sees his Mr. Yamada ’s body on the floor.  His father is not dead, only drunk, and Ichiro shakes... (full context)
Chapter 9
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
...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. (full context)
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Ichiro arrives home late that night. Mr. Yamada is tying up packages to send to Japan. Mr. Yamada doesn’t expect he will be... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Ichiro sees that Mr. Yamada was not sick like Mrs. Yamada had been. Now that Mrs. Yamada has died, he... (full context)
Chapter 11
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
...fun. Ichiro is hesitant, but Freddie convinces him to “get out and live” a little. Mr. Yamada insists that Ichiro take a little spending money. They discuss the future briefly, and Ichiro... (full context)
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Mr. Yamada tells Ichiro that Mrs. Yamada would have liked Ichiro returning to school and working with... (full context)
Family and Generational Divides Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
...happy future, thanks to the help of Emi, Mr. Carrick, Kenji, and even his parents, Mr. Yamada and Mrs. Yamada. Ichiro asks his friend if anything is wrong, but Freddie claims he... (full context)