When was the term “No-No Boy” first used?

Thanks to theSuyama Project panelists 60 who joined us on March 12 at the Suyama Project panel to hear about the life of John Okada and how he wove his experiences into his landmark novel NO-NO BOY.

At the panel, historian Roger Daniels asked a provocative question: “When does the term ‘no-no boy’ first appear in print?” No one in the room could say. 

Frank Abe speakingRoger said you would think the term would appear in the camp newspapers of the time, but he said he’s been methodically searching copies of the Tulean Dispatch and so far has not found the term mentioned.

It’s not likely that Okada coined the term with publication of his landmark novel in 1957.  Please comment below with the earliest mention you’ve found of the term. Inquiring minds want to know: When was the first time the term “no-no boy” was used in print? 

3 thoughts on “When was the term “No-No Boy” first used?”

  1. I’ve been doing research for an exhibit and have in my various piles of papers a copy of what I think might have been in the Gila camp newspaper. It’s dated Sept 22, but I don’t have the year. The headline is: DISLOYAL JAPANESE ARE TROUNCED BY THE ‘YES’ BOYS. The article is about the baseball game between the “Yes Yes” and the “No No” boys. It goes on to say, “The “Yes Yes” boys scored the victory over the “No No” players before their scheduled departure for the disloyal segregation camp at Tule Lake, CA.”

    I would be happy to scan the article if you could email me back with an address I can send it to.

  2. Had a chance to ask Hiroshi Kashiwagi, a Tule Lake “no no,” and Jimi Yamaichi, a Tule Lake draft resister (a “yes yes”), whether or not they used the “no no” terminology during the war. Both could not recall ever referring to others as “no no.”

    Both thought they started to hear the terminology after the war. Hiroshi said he didn’t use the term but that it was the younger generation who started referring to him as a “no no.”

    However, both Hiroshi and Jimi were not sure whether the publication of John Okada’s book had any influence as to the rise of the term.

    Both Hiroshi and Jimi were at Tule Lake from the beginning – before it became a segregation center.

    On the other hand, Bill Nishimura, who was imprisoned at Poston (Colorado River) and sent to Tule Lake AFTER segregation, thought he heard people call each other “no nos” during the war.

    Bill’s recollection may also be accurate since he would be placed with the other “no nos,” while Hiroshi and Jimi, the original Tuleans, may have been living with people who were “yes yes” but wished not to be forcibly moved a third time (once from their homes, second from the so-called assembly centers, and third out of Tule Lake).

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