Although Mr. Toda always manages to scrounge treats for Yuki and her family, he does not really work for anyone. He is a lonely old man with no family; in Berkeley, he lives "upstairs in the building behind (the) Japanese church which serves as a bachelors' dormitory," and when the Japanese members of the community are relocated first to the racetrack at Tanforan and then to Topaz, he is forced to live in the quarters reserved for the bachelors.
Mr. Toda is a close friend to the Sakane family. Realizing that he is alone in the world, the Sakanes invite him over frequently to share a meal and some company. Since he lives with other older men with connections with the Japanese community at large, Mr. Toda is privy to news about what is going on, and he quickly and kindly shares what he thinks is important with the Sakanes. Yuki looks at Mr. Toda as a grandfather-figure, and he plays the part willingly, reveling in being able to give them little, hard to procure items, like a small bag of peanuts for her, or a tin of coffee for the family.
In the book, Mr. Toda represents the older generation, the Issei, or those who were actually born in Japan. The reaction of the nation following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, culminating with the forced relocation of the entire West Coast Japanese American population, is especially hard on this social group. Prohibited by law from becoming citizens in the United States, they find themselves to be individuals without a country when the war breaks out. Unlike the younger generations who identify completely with their American peers, the Issei love both their adopted country and the land of their birth, but can feel that they belong in neither.