He studied writing at the Fresno State University, the University of Oregon, and the University of Iowa.
Born May 26, 1938, Inada is a third-generation Japanese American (Sansei). In May 1942, at the age of four years, Inada and his family were interned for the duration of World World War II at camps in Fresno, Arkansas, and Colorado. After the war, the Inadas returned to Fresno and once again ran the fish market, having trusted the business to family friends who operated it on their behalf during their confinement.
Inada cites jazz and his time in the internment camps as his chief influences as a poet.
Inada"s first teaching job was at the University of New Hampshire, from 1962 to 1965. He moved to Oregon and earned an Master of Fine Arts from the University of Oregon in 1966, beginning teaching poetry at Southern Oregon University later that year.
In 2006 Inada was named Oregon"s fifth poet laureate, the first person to fill the position since William Stafford in 1989. He was succeeded by Paulann Petersen in 2010.