Ishmael has been in love with Hatsue for as long as he can remember. He was heartbroken when her family was interned, and even more devastated when she broke up with him in a letter written from the internment camp. Ishmael was deeply traumatized by the war and lost part of his arm when it had to be amputated after an injury. After the war and after getting his college degree, Ishmael returned to the island to run his father's newspaper. He is emotionally frozen, unable to move on from the war and his feelings for Hatsue.
Kabuo is a man who is proud of his heritage. His family comes from a long line of samurai warriors, and Kabuo trains in the art of kendo under his father's guidance. Although his family is interned, Kabuo volunteers to fight in the American Army during the war and serves bravely. His family loses the strawberry farm they had tried to buy for him, and after the war Kabuo becomes obsessed with getting the farm back. He has a tense relationship with Carl because Carl's family deprived his family of their farm. Still, he hopes to make a deal with Carl. Now he is charged with murdering Carl.
Hatsue is a beautiful woman who grew up on the island. She and Ishmael are childhood sweethearts and each other's first romantic relationship. Hatsue dislikes the fact they have to conceal their romance because her parents will not approve. After her family is interned, she decides she does not love Ishmael and sends him a letter breaking up with him. She gets to know Kabuo better in the internment camp and they marry just before Kabuo ships out with the Army. Now Hatsue worries Kabuo's desire to get his family's farm back has led him to do something terrible.
Carl grows up on his family's farm. He is friends with Kabuo in high school and serves in World War II, surviving when his ship sinks during a major battle. After the war, Carl returns to the island, gets married, and becomes a fisherman. He wants to be a strawberry farmer and arranges to buy the land Kabuo also wants. This puts him in conflict with Kabuo, who already blames Carl's family for taking their land away during the internment. Carl is gentle with his wife and kids, but seems prone to bursts of anger, perhaps because of his war experiences.