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Color of the Sea

3.98  ·  Rating Details ·  347 Ratings  ·  75 Reviews
Growing up in a time between wars, Sam Hamada finds that the culture of his native Japan is never far from his heart. Sam is rapidly learning the code of the samurai in the late 1930s on the lush Hawaiian Islands, where he is slowly coming into his own as a son and a man.

But after Sam strikes out for California, where he meets Keiko, the beautiful young woman destined to b
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published April 4th 2006 by Thomas Dunne Books (first published January 1st 2006)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Alan Matsumoto
I loved this book. If you enjoying reading about Japanese culture, Japanese-American culture, WWII, the ways of the samurai, the Japanese-American internment, Hawaii, and even romance; you will like this book. So many great plots in such a small book (321pg). I kept wishing the book would go on and on.....
Noel M.
Dec 15, 2008 Noel M. rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Noel by: SJSU Reading Program
“Color of the Sea” was a pretty great novel. It follows a nine year old as he matures, eventually becoming a sergeant for the US army during WWII. The story follows his love, his learning, his evolution. When he is young, his father takes him away from Japan and the rest of his family to live in Hawaii. Isamu transforms into Sam, his father’s lottery ticket. Making a move to Lodi, California, Sam is determined to study at Berkeley and give his family a better life (and local flavor to the story) ...more
Jun 03, 2012 Isabel rated it liked it
Shelves: novel
I enjoyed this book. From time to time it felt a bit melodramatic. Other parts were vivid and felt authentic, though. Individual emotions were described brilliantly, but they lacked the complexity of mixed emotions. I guess in a way, I wanted the author to reveal all the "colors" of the human spirit. A character can be bitter, angry, contain hate, and still be loving, nurturing and kind. The scene with the barber and the haircut was reminiscent of a Hallmark movie, in that the resolution came so ...more
Feb 18, 2008 Scot rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There were parts of this book I liked very much, and I found both the opening and the ending strong, but at times I felt the author was trying to do too much, cover too much, and characters became flattened into stereotypes or two dimensions often as a result. At first it seemed it was going to be primarily a sensei-training-the grasshopper story, but then it wanted to focus mostly on sensual love/romance, then in wanted to be a neo-feminist Asian woman story (in the tradition of MuLan), then a ...more
Jun 24, 2010 Wanda rated it really liked it
This is a gorgeous book. Not perfect, but this is, after all John Mamamura’s first book. I could only wish that my first attempt outside of academe could be this good. I am really, really surprised that Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is so much better known, because I discovered this gem completely by accident. No book club recommendation here. AND it is a much, much better book.
The story concerns Isamu or Sam as he comes to be called. It begins in Japan prior to WWII when Sam leaves h
Jul 07, 2009 Mary rated it it was amazing
I loved this book, which reminded me of Cold Mountain and Snow Falling on Cedars. Hamadu Isamu (Sam) was born in Hawaii, lived for about 9 years in Honura, Japan, and returns to Hawaii to live with his father until after his father's death, when he goes to Lodi, CA. There he meets Keiko, the sister of his cousin Dewey's best friend al. Sam falls in love with Keiko, but because of his promise to a woman (Yuriko) from Hawaii, he cannot be with Keiko. As WWII approaches and begins, it becomes incre ...more
Jul 20, 2010 JoyfulK rated it it was amazing
This is a touching, beautifully written novel about two American youths of Japanese descent as they deal with the transition into adulthood as well as integrating the culture of their parents and the culture in which they are living. Nevertheless,I had difficulty pursuing it because it's set in the 1930s and 1940s. I knew what was coming, and I resisted reading it because of the historical context and the effects I knew it would have on these people I had come to like. However, the author handle ...more
Nov 27, 2009 Jeph rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
John Hamamura's Color of the Sea was a page turner, no doubt about it, and was one of the first books I have been assigned to read that I've really enjoyed. The story follows Isamu a.k.a. Sam, a Japanese-American who was born in Hawaii but raised in Japan, giving him access to both worlds. He is sent to America by his father, as the first U.S. citizen of his family, trained as a samurai in Hawaii and goes to college. His dual lineage is challenged when World War II breaks out and Pearl Harbor is ...more
Jul 21, 2008 Marie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This is the story of Sam, born in Hawaii, raised in Japan, educated in the U.S., his early samurai training, his falling in love with a beautiful "samurai woman," and how World War II affects both them and those they love.

The story itself is compelling; it wasn't predictable, it was human, and you care about the people. Even better, though, is how the story is written. Hamamura conveys the beauty of the Japanese culture using vivid poetry and imagery. (It is so vivid that I often found myself d
Feb 01, 2010 Scott rated it it was amazing
I liked this book a lot more than I thought I would. It deftly handles multiple themes (romance, honor, war's horrors, cultural differences) in a readable, don't want to set it down format. I liked the short chapters - each one a succinct little scene vividly described with interesting imagery and readable prose.

It helps that I'm living in Japan and familiar with much of the Japanese culture described so nicely in the book - I'm not sure I would have liked it as much if I wasn't as familiar wit
Mar 11, 2016 Laura rated it really liked it
Shelves: ap, biography-memoir, 2015
Lyrical "memoir" (based in great part on the experiences of the author's father) of the Japanese-American experience leading up to and during WWII. Perhaps not surprisingly, loyalty and honor are significant themes throughout. Sections of the second half felt rushed and there were questions left unanswered, but beautiful language and could have certainly been a longer book. Would be interested in a sequel / follow-up. Impressive debut novel.
Feb 04, 2008 Susan rated it it was amazing
This book is so beautifully written. I would encourage anyone with an appreciation of achingly beautiful prose to read this. Even better, read it aloud.

The story seems to jump around a little, but in the end it all makes sense. Once again, the descriptions throughout the book paint such a vivid picture, you would swear you have been living in the same places alongside the characters.
An epic novel centering around the coming-of-age of a young Japanese boy during WW2. The plot covers a lot of ground and although ambitious, it does a good job. I would recommend this book to teens as well as adults. One of the main character's traits is a love for martial arts, which may be very appealing for the right reader, but for me the passages detailing this dragged.
Jul 23, 2010 Cathy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Powerful book about a Japanese boy growing up around WWII. When he moves to Hawaii to be with his father, get and education and become the family's "great future hope," the son meets a learned master who teaches him much about life, technique, and power.

A beautifully written book for a first novel.
Feb 01, 2008 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first half is really calm and controlled with utterly great description and excellent prose and character development. However the second half seems like Hamamura got bored with his own story and rushed the ending. Could have easily been another 200 pages but overall I like it.
Jun 02, 2009 Janet rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Charise and Lesley and Allison
It is a beautifully written story about inner strength, true love and World War II.
Dec 04, 2010 cheryl rated it really liked it
I always feel a bit odd saying that a book about darker times was "an enjoyable read," but there it is nonetheless.

This novel focuses on a man who was born in Hawaii to Japanese parents, returned briefly to Japan in his youth, and then spent most of his school years in Hawaii and moved to the mainland U.S. as a young man. He grows up in the Depression and comes of age as WWII opens. In his time in Hawaii, he studies in school and also with an expert in the ways of the samarai, which provide a l
Nov 01, 2008 Alan rated it it was amazing
This story follows the life of Isamu (Sam) Hamada, beginning in pre-WWII when Sam leaves his mother and siblings in their family home in Hiroshima, Japan to join his alcoholic father working the cane fields of Hawaii. While on Hawaii, fate brings Sam and an old eccentric sensai together, and for many years, Sam painstaking studies the fine art of self-defense. Sam eventually leaves Hawaii for California, where he hopes to better himself by attending college. He learns that his marital arts train ...more
Sep 22, 2010 Toocutedobs rated it really liked it
I thought this was a wonderfully written book. The author, John Hamamura, has a great style that is tight and still very descriptive. The author's own story seems to a shadow of the book as his father was a Japanese lanuguage instructor and his mother's family was in a Japanese internment camp in the Arkansas delta region. Also his father's family had relatives that survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

Our main character, Sam, born in Hawaii, raised in Japan until 9 years old when is moves
Jul 17, 2007 Holly marked it as to-read
Hamamura's broad debut follows a Japanese language teacher raised in Hawaii as he finds love and as the U.S. and Japan drift into war. Isamu "Sam" Hamada, born in Hawaii to Japanese parents and raised in Japan until age nine, leaves Japan in 1930 to be reared by a Japanese-American family in Hawaii, before moving to California. A constant for the intense but likable Sam is his dedication to the martial arts, a passion shared by Yanagi Keiko, the American-born young woman he meets in California. ...more
May 28, 2013 Alenette rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite-books
The novel Color of the Sea by John Hamamura is a page-turner. It is very interesting, exciting, and compelling. The story is unique, new, and perfect. John Hamamura did a great job on the character-building and he chose the setting and time period very well. The conflict is the perfect conflict Sam Hamada, the main character, would face during those times. Mr. Hamamura molds the story in an original way. I still have unanswered questions about certain things but I can never praise him enough for ...more
P.D.R. Lindsay
Oct 03, 2013 P.D.R. Lindsay rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary

This is the novel everyone should read, not just because it's a nicely layered book, with depth and meaning, beautifully written, and well balanced, but because it deals with a topic which many people still don't understand.

John Hamamura, the author, is part of the reason why it's a must read book. He is a Japanese American and he knows, from the inside, what it feels like to be torn between cultures. This honesty is reflected in his writing and no, this is not a book about cultural angst, it's
Dec 03, 2015 Lu rated it it was amazing
The best book I have read this year. I am an old coot and it has been a long long time since I have been so impacted from characterization to get emotionally touched by fiction. This author drew me into the Japanese culture and the trials of living as a Japanese/American citizen. It was a beautiful exploration of morals, strength and self growth. The art and veracity of this book guides the reader to the universal truths which transcends the historical backdrop or specific cultures.
Jun 26, 2014 Yoonmee rated it really liked it
At my library this book had a heart sticker on the binding indicating it was a romance, so I initially ignored it because romance generally isn't my genre. Thankfully I picked it up, leafed through it, and decided to give it a chance.

Yes, it's a romance, but it's not the corny, bodice-ripping type (not that those aren't fun every once in a while) nor is it the "chick lit" type. I wouldn't even consider this a romance novel, except for the fact that there is a couple who fall in love. This is mo
Jun 01, 2011 Luke rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There were times when I thought the writing in this book was over the top with description and imagery, almost to the point of being distracting, but that may just be a matter of taste. Overall though, I thought the storyline was really well done. I was personally very moved by this book because of my Japanese ancestry and the fact that much of the story could have been about my grandparents. Not to mention the fact that even today I feel torn about being a Japanese American. On the inside I fee ...more
Oct 03, 2013 Parker150159 rated it really liked it
After reading this book, I can say for certain that I am going to definitely read more of John Hamamura’s works. If you enjoy learning about Japanese culture and the hardships of Japanese before and during WWII, then this book is perfect. The Color of the Sea follows a Japanese-American boy named Sam Hamada. Sam, a hardworking, student who trains to become a samurai, comes from a very troubled, and scrambled family. His father, who has a drinking problem is abusive and cold-hearted. When his fat ...more
Feb 11, 2012 Terry rated it really liked it
This novel obviously came out of the experiences of the author and his family. As such, it gives a personal dimension to historical contexts and events. After visiting Hawaii, I found the evocation of the sugar cane culture there very incisive. Despite having read several novels and histories of the war in the Pacific and the internment of the Japanese Americans, I found interesting insights in Hamamura's depictions. I know have read something very similar to the "cave episode" - anyone out ther ...more
Feb 14, 2014 Kelsea rated it it was amazing
ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY one of the most well written books I've ever had the pleasure to read. HIGHLY recommend this book for its prose - plus John Hamamura is a Bay Area Local!
Aug 15, 2015 Mckinley rated it really liked it
Enjoyed this. Moves along with a lot of interesting parts for a 'lite' read.
Jun 14, 2015 Mohammed rated it it was amazing
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