Study Guide

Father, Tadashi Mark Nakane in Obasan

By Joy Kogawa

Father, Tadashi Mark Nakane

Let's face it: Naomi obviously isn't a daddy's girl. Her dad is almost as absent from this text as her mom is, but he didn't sail away to Japan. We guess the strong women in this novel are far more important than the couple of guys who hang around. Anyway, we know two things about him: he was just like his namesake, and he liked to play music with Stephen.


Are you tired of the Japanese lessons this book is giving you yet? No? Great, because it's time for another one. Naomi's dad's Japanese name (Tadashi) means right, true, or correct. Everything about him is perfect. His slick black hair, his high cheekbones, his long thin fingers, his elegance.

Naomi says: "Everything about Father is precise and graceful as the milk-white porcelain crane, its beak pointing straight up from its long smooth neck" (9.28). If that image is not familiar to you, we'll translate: dad is superduper elegant.

Even his handwriting is perfect: "The handwriting in the letter was as even as waves along the beach, row on row of neat curls and dots, perfect pebbles and shells on an ordered shore" (19.40). That sounds like beautiful writing to us and it's significant because handwriting is an expression of character in Japanese culture. So Dad's beautiful elegant handwriting just reinforces what Naomi has told us about him.

But so what? We were really confused for a while why Naomi keeps telling us how perfect her dad is. But then we got it. Just like her mom, the dad is absent from her life. So just like her mom, Naomi only has an idealized fairytale version of him in her memory,

Father and Son… and Daughter

Considering that Naomi is obviously not her father's favorite kid, it's kind of amazing she thinks about him as such a perfect person. We're not trying to knock her daddy, but did you notice how much time he spends with Stephen? Almost all of the scenes involving music center on Stephen and Naomi's dad, and it is important to both of their characters.

You could say that Stephen is a chip off the old block. If you want know more about the connection between Stephen and his father through music, you should read Stephen's character analysis to get the goods. But we're going talk about Naomi and her dad now.

Did you notice that Naomi is the only one who doesn't play any instruments? She gets left out of the family time. Instead of playing music, she's just told to study hard. Sometimes she's totally forgotten:

We've heard from Mark. Crazy man. All he thinks about are Stephen's music lessons. He sent two pages of exercises and a melody which he thought up. He wrote about some flowers he found which he stuck on the end of his pick and says he thinks about you as he works. (14.129)

Notice who dad doesn't think about. That's right: Naomi.

In a way it's not surprising that her father isn't that involved in her life. Naomi is surrounded by strong women who raise her, and influence her adult personality. Stephen copies his dad, and Naomi copies her mom and aunts.

But even though they aren't that close, but Naomi does have one connection with her father. Her studying. Her dad is the one who tells her to be like Ninomiya Sontoku, always reading and studying hard. We're guessing that's why she becomes a teacher. She may not be daddy's little girl, but Naomi is certainly her father's daughter.