Characters in Rising Sun
- Lieutenant Peter J. Smith — Special Services Officer assigned to this case. He is a divorced father with a two-year-old daughter named Michelle.
- Lieutenant Tom Graham — LAPD Homicide detective. Graham and Smith were once partners in the LAPD. Tom is on the scene of a murder at the opening party for the new Nakamoto Tower in downtown LA, but some of the Japanese nationals at the event ask for the assistance of the Special Services Liaison—Lieutenant Smith at the present moment—and so Tom calls Pete for help.
- Fred Hoffmann — watch commander at DHD downtown. After Tom has called, but before actually rolling out, Fred calls Pete and suggests that he get the assistance of semi-retired Captain John because Pete's only been on the job six months and it's a big event.
- Captain John Connor — Semi-retired officer, on indefinite leave. Helped the department solve an important case involving Japanese nationals years before, and was subsequently invited to Japan for private security work for a while, but returned. In the 1960s became the first LAPD officer to speak fluent Japanese, despite LA's status as the largest Japanese city outside the Japanese home islands. He is alternately respected and disliked by Japanese who think he understands their culture or by westerners who think he understands all too much and is no longer a loyal American. The night of the murder is the first time he and Pete Smith have met. At Connor's suggestion, they adopt a sempai/kohai (senior/junior) relationship, meaning that Pete is apparently in charge, but upon an agreed signal Connor takes over and Smith fades into the background.
- Cheryl Lynn Austin — the murder victim. A Texas-born prostitute, party girl and one-time model in Japan, given to wearing Yamamato dresses. The discovery of her body on a boardroom table on the 46th floor of the Nakamoto Tower, one floor above the high-profile opening bash, is proximate cause of the police presence — and Ishiguro's high-hand playing of the race card has already prevented the crime scene team from taking possession of the crime scene nearly one hour after their arrival.
- Akira Tanaka — an officer of Nakamoto Security, who blithely takes digital camera footage of the crime scene while the police are still being held at bay. Later killed in a high-speed chase while driving Eddie Sakamura's car (see below).
- Masao Ishiguro — a junior executive of the Nakamoto Corporation; Ishiguro, despite speaking faultless American English, is the Japanese person who has called for the Special Liaison, claiming that Graham was behaving disrespectfully to numerous distinguished guests on the floor below where the body was discovered (including the Mayor, 2 US Senators and Pete's ex-wife). Pete quickly discerns that Ishiguro has no need of a "liaison" and is merely obstructing the investigation — suggesting that the dead girl is a "woman of no importance" — but Lieutenant Smith is little more successful than Graham in getting Nakamoto people under control until Connor steps in and uses some Japanese profanity to bring Ishiguro into line. Connor explains later to Lieutenant Smith that he did Ishiguro a favor by playing the out-of-control American, because Ishiguro was being monitored by his real boss who was likewise in the background exactly as Connor was initially.
- Eddie Sakamura — a wealthy Japanese pimp, son of a wealthy man in Japan who owes Connor a favor, small-time drug dealer, and promoter of the interests of his father's business empire in Japan, which are directly contrary to those of Nakamoto. Sakamura was at the party, and made off with a security tape which captured the murder, with the help of Tanaka. He becomes the first murder suspect when he brags about knowing the girl, his picture is found in Cheryl's room, and is later seen present at the scene on the camera (this later is seen to be an alteration). When police go to his house, his car becomes the target of a high-speed chase that ends in a crash which seemingly kills him, but the driver is later revealed to be Akira Tanaka. Sakamura himself is later tortured and killed by Ishigura's men, but does not reveal the location of the original tape they were looking for.
- Ellen Farley — Assistant to the Mayor, whom Pete Smith has been dating recently, who recognizes the dead girl but is unwilling to identify her.
- Jerome Phillips — junior Nakamoto Security man on duty at the time John and Peter start their investigation, but there's been a change of shift and Ted Cole should have been on shift before him, but Phillips cannot verify that because Cole left early. By engaging Phillips in apparently irrelevant conversation, and squeezing Pete in the shoulder extremely hard to prevent him from interfering, Connor learns that the tapes from the five separate advanced security cameras that were monitoring the murder scene had been switched. They are wireless and high resolution but don't record sound.
- Ted Cole — Smith and Connor track down Cole at the Palomino bar near LAX, where they secretly advise him to stay away from home for a few days, for his safety. Cole advises them, by way of a message on a napkin (as some Japanese bar patrons are eavesdropping) that Nakamoto/Ishiguro stole the security tapes.
- Sen. John Morton — a senator who protests the Japanese industries' influence in America. He turns out to be Cheryl's real lover.
- Yoshida — CEO of Akai Ceramics America, a Nakamoto subsidiary which is looking to buy MicroCon.
- Bob Richmond — Counsel to Akai and Nakamoto, a former assistant to the U.S. Trade Representative in Japan. He attempts to get information on the investigation but Connor shrugs him off. Richmond then compares opposition by Sen. Morton to the sale, to Fujitsu's attempt to buy Fairchild Semiconductor, a company which backed Seymour Cray's supercomputer research, and calls it racist. (Connor later explains to Pete the real reason why Congress opposed this sale).
- Professor Sanders — an imaging specialist, he and his student Theresa Asakuma discover a lot about the crime from the security cameras.
- Willy "The Weasel" Wilhelm — an unethical reporter covering the case; he is biased against the police. As Pete takes over the investigation, Wilhelm attempts to blackmail him by asking questions about the way he earned custody of his daughter. It is later revealed that he did this at the urging of Nakamoto personnel.
- Lauren Davis — Pete's former wife and mother of his daughter. Works for the District Attorney. Rarely shows concern for her daughter, and only when Wilhelm calls her does she reveal wishes to take custody of the girl.
- Elaine — Michelle's nanny; she hides Michelle while Pete is confronted by hitmen outside his home.
The names Iwabuchi, Moriyama, Shirai (for some of the executives in the Nakamoto boardroom) and Koichi Nishi (a pseudonym Eddie Sakamura used to aid the police) are taken from the movie The Bad Sleep Well, which is later mentioned by Connor though not by title.
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“Though they be mad and dead as nails,
Heads of the characters hammer through daisies;
Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,
And death shall have no dominion.”
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