Tomi Nakaji is a young Japanese-American boy growing up on the streets of Hawai’i. All his life knows is school, fishing, his baseball team, and his friends.
So when the Japanese Empire bombs Pearl Harbor, throwing America headfirst into World War Two, the American people are looking for someone to blame. Soon, his grandfather and father are detained solely for their Japanese heritage, even though they are loyal Americans. His mother is fired from her housekeeping job because it “does not look good” to give a Japanese-American woman work.
Tomi’s family lives on the property of Keet’s father, and Keet is Tomi’s bully and tormentor. Keet hates Tomi and his family for everything they are. In order to preserve his family’s honor, Tomi learns he must not fight. Since his father and grandfather are gone, he must become the man of the house. He inherits the Nakaji family Katana, a sword steeped in Samurai tradition.
Tomi must endure being stared at on the streets and in stores, to stay strong for his mother and his little sister. They must hide everything of their culture that might indicate any remaining Japanese heritage.
“Shikata Ga Nai.” It cannot be helped. It is a phrase Tomi must come to learn, as it is an important part of humility in Japanese culture. He must endure and overcome for his family, with the hope that one day his father and grandfather will return in this story of courage, honor, and survival.
Opinion: I find myself relating to this book on a personal level, because I am also a Japanese-American who grew up in Hawai’i. The further I got into the book, the more I realized I related to the childhood and lifestyle of Tomi; if I had lived just 80 some years ago, I might have experienced this very same thing. So, I get a very unique message from this book, and I am very grateful for the country we have now, and the courage Japanese-Americans had during the war to prove that they were loyal Americans. The book sends strong messages about courage and strength to survive, while still having its moments of comfort and joy, such as getting a puppy for one’s little sister, and is an enjoyable read to the very last page.