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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 325

The characters in the novel are often referred to by the nicknames that Botchan, the protagonist, bestows on them.

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Botchan is a teacher on Shikoku, a Japanese island. Originally from Tokyo, he moves there to teach mathematics in junior high school. Because his impetuous nature and naiveté make him ill-suited to the local politics and gossip, he leaves the post in less than a year. With his youth and inexperience, he cannot maintain discipline in the classroom. Porcupine befriends and helps him, but his conflict with Red Shirt, the headteacher, and Clown, a sycophant to Red Shirt, includes a violent altercation.

Badger is the school principal of the school. He is pompous and condescending but considers himself an idealist. An indecisive administrator, he is often manipulated by Red Shirt. His nickname echoes the animal’s traditional Japanese characterization, include ineffectual authority.

Red Shirt, the head teacher, is a duplicitous, manipulative narcissist who delights in stirring up trouble and derailing others’ plans. Competing with Koga for Miss Toyama, he schemes to get Koga transferred. His actions against Botchan include deceiving him about Porcupine’s loyalty and inciting unrest among the students.

Yoshikawa, or Clown, is the art teacher. Surviving primarily through flattering the powerful, he tries to get Botchan in league with Red Shirt. An alternate translation of the nickname is “pimp.”

Porcupine, whose real name is Hotta, is the senior mathematics teacher. A warm-hearted man with a rough exterior—like his animal namesake—he befriends Botchan but becomes suspicious of his loyalties. Realizing he has been misled, he becomes the younger man’s ally and supports him before the administration.

The English teacher Koga, or Squash, is engaged to Miss Toyama, but is transferred to a distant school because Red Shirt wants to break them up and seduce the young woman.

Kiyo is a servant who works for Botchan’s family back home. A surrogate mother, she supports him with advice and gifts of money.

Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 464


Botchan, a very impulsive, unsophisticated young man from Tokyo. Sometime after the death of his parents, he accepts a job as a mathematics teacher in a junior high school in a small town on the island of Shikoku. His innocence is threatened repeatedly by the school’s rambunctious students, devious and fractious teachers, and cravenly weak administrators. His personality and values conflict with those of the small town, and he lasts less than a year at the school. Botchan gets into one scrape after another but leaves with his honor and innocence intact after giving Red Shirt and Clown a well-deserved physical drubbing with the help of his friend, Porcupine.


Kiyo, a longtime servant of Botchan’s family who dotes on her young master and wants to keep house for him. She advises Botchan, sends him money, and serves as his mother figure and standard of values.


Badger, the principal of the school. He studiously assumes an air of superiority and encourages Botchan to become a model teacher and mentor. He cannot live up to the ideal he requires of others, however, and is easily manipulated by Red Shirt.

Red Shirt

Red Shirt, the school’s head teacher, a two-faced man who lies and connives to ruin other teachers and force them out of the school. He engineers Koga’s transfer to another school to steal Miss Toyama’s love, makes Botchan believe that Porcupine has stirred up the students against him, and involves both Porcupine and Botchan in a student riot to bring about their resignations from the school.


Yoshikawa, nicknamed Clown by Botchan, a drawing teacher who slavishly flatters the educational establishment, Badger, and Red...

(The entire section contains 1178 words.)

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