Books / Reviews | RECENTLY PUBLISHED BOOKS ABOUT JAPAN

'The Woman in the White Kimono': Love and loss in postwar Japan

by Suzanne Kamata

Contributing Writer

Tori, an investigative reporter in Michigan, is stunned to discover through her father’s deathbed confession that she may have a sister in Japan. After he dies, she sells his collectible Cadillac and uses the money for a ticket to Japan, determined to find out the truth about her father and to meet her half sibling. All she has to go on is the common name and old address of Naoko Nakamura, the woman her father left behind.

The Woman in the White Kimono, by Ana Johns.
352 pages
PARK ROW BOOKS, Fiction.

Naoko tells her own story in alternating chapters of how she fell in love and became pregnant in 1957 Japan. Although her American lover Jimmy, or Hajime as she calls him, is eager to marry her, Naoko’s family opposes the union. The U.S. military also discourages interracial marriages, making it virtually impossible for servicemen to marry Japanese women. Nevertheless, Naoko and Jimmy hold a ceremony, planning to get their paperwork in order later. However, when Hajime is shipped out, Naoko’s family swoops in and sends her off to the sinister Bamboo Maternity Home.

Author Ana Johns continually ratchets up the tension until, ultimately, these parallel narratives converge in a stunning conclusion.

In notes to the novel, Johns writes that she was inspired by her own father’s love for a Japanese woman during his time in the U.S. Navy in Japan, as well as the over 10,000 children conceived between American servicemen and Japanese women before, during and after the Occupation. “The Woman in the White Kimono” is a bittersweet love story rooted in a dark past.