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Dear America Wiki

Ben on the cover

All of the characters that appear in The Journal of Ben Uchida by Barry Denenberg. Some of the characters also appear in the stage play.

Main characters[]

Ben Uchida[]

Main article: Ben Uchida

Ben Uchida (born January 23, 1930)[1] was the son of Mrs. and Masao Uchida, and the younger brother of Naomi. He was Japanese-American and grew up in San Francisco, California. After the attack on Pearl Harbor in late 1941, Ben's father and several other Japanese-born men were taken away and imprisoned. Ben, his mother, and sister were sent to an internment camp, called Mirror Lake, some months later. There Ben befriended Mike Masuda and Kenny Okada, whom he played baseball with. Ben coped with the experience through humor, baseball, and writing in his journal. Throughout his stay at Mirror Lake, he kept in contact via letters with his best friend Robbie Bradley.

Supporting characters[]

Masao Uchida[]

Masao[2] Uchida ("Papa"; 1891[3] – 1945)[4] was the father of Ben and Naomi and the husband of Mrs. Uchida. He was from Japan, where his parents still lived. Masao became an optometrist and set up his own business in San Francisco. He was a member of the Japanese Businessman's Association. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Masao was taken away. He was brought to Missoula, Montana, where he was likely tortured. Masao sent his family letters occasionally, which Ben remarked "did [not] sound like [him]." In January 1943, he joined his family at Mirror Lake. Masao was changed by his experience, being sickly and often sitting in silence. After the war, his health quickly worsened and he died not long after.

Mike Masuda[]

Mike Masuda was a friend of Ben. His father worked in the administration building at Mirror Lake. Mike developed a friendship with Ben over baseball. The young boys in the internment camp started a baseball league, and Mike and Ben played for Block B. Mike was called a good pitcher. As the months went on, he began fighting with his parents frequently over what he was doing or where he was going. He later became involved with the shady Mr. Shibutani. His erratic behavior began to isolate him from his friends Ben and Kenny Okada. After throwing a baseball game for Mr. Shibutani, Ben started avoiding him. Presumably after the war, Mike was killed by California State Troopers while robbing a bank.

Naomi Uchida[]

Naomi Uchida (born c. 1928)[5] was the older sister of Ben and only daughter of Masao and Mrs. Uchida. She was always spoke what was on her mind and, as such, sometimes did not take others' feelings into account. Naomi was also confident in herself, finding it easy to talk to new people. Her hobby was drawing and she spent most of her time wandering the camp with her sketchpad and pencils. She later began drawing for the camp's newspaper, the Mirror Lake Free Press. Naomi went back to San Francisco with her family after the war. Two years later, she moved to Denver with her then fiancé. The couple married and had three sons together. Her brother often came to visit.

Robbie Bradley[]

Robbie Bradley (born c. 1928)[5] was the best friend of Ben. For his tendency to say grandiose things, Ben nicknamed him "Motto Man." Robbie often acted like an older brother to Ben. Before Ben left San Francisco, Robbie gave him a notebook to record his experiences. He wrote to Ben often, usually jokingly complaining that Ben never wrote back. In one of his letters, Robbie sent Ben his baseball cap which he left in his old school locker. As adults, Robbie and Ben opened a store called R and B Sporting Goods. The same year, he married Veronica Brooks, with whom he had a son and daughter. Ben was close to both of Robbie's children, whom called him "Uncle Ben."

Mr. and Mitsuko Tashima[]

Mr. Tashima and his sister Mitsuko Tashima were roommates of the Uchidas at Mirror Lake. Mitsuko originally came to America as a "picture bride," but ended up not marrying. In 1941, Mr. Tashima's wife and daughter Midori were on their way home from visiting Japan when the attack on Pearl Harbor happened. Their boat was turned away. Mr. Tashima, his son Jimmy, and Mitsuko were sent to Mirror Lake. Mitsuko took on a motherly role for Jimmy. Mr. Tashima, a carpenter, used his skills in the camp and was later appointed block manager. His wife and daughter were killed by the atom bomb in 1945. The family moved to Chicago, where he became a successful furniture maker. Mitsuko handled the administrative end.

Mrs. Uchida[]

Mrs. Uchida[6] ("Mama") was the mother of Naomi and Ben and wife of Masao. She was born in Japan but came to California at some point. Mrs. Uchida stayed strong for her children when her husband was taken away and they were subsequently sent to an internment camp. She was initially frustrated about having to share a small apartment with the Tashimas, but eventually became good friends with Mitsuko. Mrs. Uchida was often worried about her husband and was happy when he was allowed to come to the camp. After the war, the Uchidas found that their house had been burned down. They were taken in by Mr. Mills. Mrs. Uchida's husband died in 1945 and she never remarried.

Minor characters[]

  • Billy Smith was the only black student in Ben Uchida's class in San Francisco.
  • Charles Hamada was a classmate of Ben whom he described as "part Japanese, part jerk." His family was also sent to Mirror Lake, where he reunited with Ben. Charles was not self-aware and never caught on that Ben did not like him.
  • Danny McManus was a classmate of Ben whom called him a "Jap" during a game of football. Ben tackled him in the next play, injuring him pretty bad.
  • Frankie Lemon, Larry Light, and Tommy La Motta were friends of Ben and Robbie Bradley. They all played touch football together. Tommy's family were from Italy.
  • Jimmy Tashima was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Tashima. He was deeply upset about leaving behind his puppy, Night-Night. In the camp, he became closer to his aunt Mitsuko and also enjoyed spending time with Ben. After the war, Jimmy's family moved to Chicago. Jimmy, known later as "JT," became a better carpenter than his father and joined the family business in 1956.
  • Kenny Okada was a member of Block B's baseball team whom became a good friend of Ben and Mike Masuda. During a game of splits, Mike stabbed Kenny by accident in the ankle. Kenny stopped being friends with Mike afterwards.
  • Mr. Korematsu (died April 1942)[7] was a florist. He could not accept that the government was sending all of the Japanese citizens to camps. Mr. Korematsu committed suicide in his shop.
  • Miss Kroll was Ben's teacher at Mirror Lake. She was often exasperated with her students not turning in their homework, especially Ben.
  • Mr. Maly was Ben's and Robbie's principal at their school in San Francisco. Ben forgot to empty his locker, so Mr. Maly gave his belongings to Robbie.
  • Midori and Mrs. Tashima (died August 6, 1945)[4] were the daughter and wife of Mr. Tashima. The pair were on their way home from visiting relatives in Japan when the Pearl Harbor attack happened. They stayed with Mr. Tashima's brother in Hiroshima and were killed when the Americans dropped an atom bomb on the city.
  • Mr. Mills was the Uchidas landlord in San Francisco. After the family was sent away, he told Mrs. Uchida not to worry about the rent and allowed her to store some things in the basement. He kept in touch with the family and sometimes sent them gifts while they were at Mirror Lake. After the war ended, Mr. Mills took the family back in.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Murase were neighbors of the Uchidas. Mrs. Murase accompanied her husband and children to Mirror Lake, though she did not have to because she was white.
  • R.R.[8] Josselit was the project manager of Mirror Lake Internment Camp. He often gave speeches to the internees, which Ben did not feel were genuine.
  • Ricky Yatabe was a member of Block B's baseball team. He batted second and played left.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Shibutani was a married couple with a bad reputation in the camp. Mr. Shibutani was a gambler whom Ben called "real creepy." He lured in Mike, who he later paid him off so he would throw a baseball game.
  • Mr. Vale was Ben and Robbie's homeroom teacher at school.
  • Mr. (died October 1942)[9] and Mrs. Watanabe were neighbors of the Uchidas in San Francisco. The couple was also sent to Mirror Lake like the Uchidas. Mrs. Watanabe gave birth to their child in September 1942. Mr. Watanabe was shot by a soldier the following month. His death caused a lot of unrest in the camp, especially after the review board released their findings.
  • Mrs. Yamashiro was friend of the Uchidas. Her son, who was mentally disabled, was sent to a hospital instead of going to Mirror Like with his mother.

Epilogue characters[]

  • Veronica Bradley (née Brooks) was the wife of Robbie Bradley. The couple had two children together, a boy and a girl.


See also[]