Joe Cantelli is a young college instructor, whom Mary meets when she is in school. Joe is the first white man Mary dates. Joe and Mary eventually elope, are married in Nevada, and have a daughter, Laurie. After Joe comes into Mary’s life, Mary cuts herself off from her parents and their Japanese culture. Joe offers his home to Mary’s parents after they are interned; however, Mary does not encourage her parents to accept Joe’s offer, and Joe does not insist.
Laurie Cantelli is the baby girl born to Mary and Joe. Laurie does not make an appearance in this story until Taro’s death. At Taro’s funeral, Hana sees her granddaughter for the first time.
Ellen Davis is the good-hearted wife of a surgeon and one of the few white people who befriend the Japanese characters in this story. Ellen employs Hana and also provides work for Taro. She transports Hana and Taro to the internment camp and give them certain provisions to make their stay more comfortable. She does not in any way protest their internment. She supports Hana as best she can, usually by giving her money. She treats Hana humanely, without degrading her, when Hana works as a cleaning woman in Ellen’s house.
Doctor Sojiro Kaneda
Wise Dr. Sojiro Kaneda is a friend of Taro’s and a big supporter of the Japanese community. He treats many of the immigrants without expecting pay and often helps them with psychological problems as well as physical ailments. Dr. Kaneda was married, but his wife died of tuberculosis. He is a stabilizing member of the community, even during most of his internment.
When Kiyoshi Yamaka dies from influenza, Dr. Kaneda walks to Hana’s house to break the sad news. He understands how much Kiyoshi means to Hana. Kaneda is the helpful one in the midst of trouble and confusion as the new immigrants attempt to adjust to changes in their lives. But in the end, after spending years in the internment camps, Kaneda loses his faith and determination. Right before Taro is shot, Taro receives a letter from Kaneda, espousing his own defeat. This depletes Taro’s reserve to stay strong. At the end of the story, there is no further information given, and readers do not know Kaneda’s fate.
Mrs. Mitosa lives in the horse stall next to Hana’s. She is a widow when she comes to the camp and has a daughter, Sumiko, who is close to Kenji Mishima’s age. A quiet woman, Mrs. Mitosa suffers from asthma. When the Japanese prisoners are taken to the desert in Utah, she has trouble breathing because of the dust. She is taken to the hospital. Because she needs medical treatment beyond the scope of the camp, she is transferred to a facility in Salt Lake City, thus giving her daughter and Kenji an opportunity to leave the camp to attend to her.
Sumiko Mitosa, the daughter of the widow Mrs. Mitosa, is attracted to Kenji Nishima and begins a relationship with him. When the couple marries, Taro gives Sumiko away, as if he were her father. Hana watches Taro walk down the aisle with Sumiko and wishes that her own daughter, Mary, were more like Sumiko.
Kenji Nishima is first introduced when he is shamed by the actions of his boss, the superintendent of the Sunday school at Taro’s church. Kenji, a seminary student, is overwhelmed by the guilt of the superintendent’s actions, as well as by the responsibility as a student and as a practicing leader of the church. He is lonely and homesick, not psychologically or physically well. Hana suggests that she and Taro take Kenji into their home so she can nourish Kenji back to health.
Upon his recovery, Kenji is permanently grateful to Hana and Taro and counsels Hana on several occasions on how to deal with Taro when Taro is being difficult. Kenji is even more supportive when they are all transferred to the internment camps. Kenji helps Hana and Taro with their luggage and setting up their room, and helps Taro get over his depression. Before their internment, Kenji becomes the head of the church. While imprisoned, he continues his leadership role. By the end of the story, Kenji is happily married, supposedly the last factor in ensuring his future peace of mind.
Reverend Okada is the head of the church when Hana first arrives in California. He, like Dr. Kaneda, often ministers to the Japanese immigrant population, both in the city and in the country. Okada is a generous man, who counsels his parishioners on many subjects, including how to overcome the challenges they face among white Americans.
Okada announces, toward the last part of the novel, that he is going back to Japan with his wife and children. He had come to California on a temporary basis, wanting to help the immigrants to establish a church and a community of support. He wants to take his family back to Japan before his children forget what it means to be Japanese. He leaves before the war breaks out. Hana reflects on his departure and realizes it is too late for her to instill Japanese qualities in her own daughter, which Hana regrets.
Hana Omiya Takeda
Hana Takeda is the protagonist of this novel. When the novel begins she is on her way to the United States. She has decided to take up an unknown man’s offer of marriage rather than spend the rest of her life in her small Japanese village.
Hana is determined to make her life better than that of her sisters. She is pretty and intelligent and has received an education higher than many of her Japanese peers....
(The entire section is 2350 words.)