A novel of Japan before, during, and after World War II

…and the story of an American-born boy, who becomes a Japanese warrior,
then a promoter of cultural understanding and peace

A Thousand Stitches is a novel set in the mid-twentieth century on the world stage of two rival countries: the United States and Japan. It is about how people build their lives in times of war and in times of peace, about romance, and about crossing cultures.

The central plot (which is largely inspired by the true life and career of Professor Shigeo Imamura) concerns Isamu Imagawa, an American-born boy raised from the age of ten in Japan. Isamu joins the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II and eagerly volunteers for the Kamikaze Corps. After the war, Isamu works for the U.S. Occupation Forces and becomes interested in language education, ultimately devoting his life to promoting peace through international education and cultural understanding.

This book is also the story of Isamu’s high school sweetheart, Michiko Miyazawa. Their lives and stories diverge, yet are held together by the senninbari that Michiko gives to Isamu. A senninbari is a belt of a thousand stitches made by a thousand female hands given by wives and sweethearts to Japanese men on their way to war.

A Thousand Stitches portrays Japan’s fierce nationalism during the build-up to World War II and the patriotic (even suicidal) spirit embraced by the nation’s youth; the spiritual, economic, and psychological devastation of a nation defeated in war; and the mending of fences through cultural exchange. Importantly, the novel makes a strong anti-war statement, summed up thus by Michiko’s friend Keiko: “How stupid, stupid, stupid everything about this war is!”

Constance O’Keefe (1948-2011) taught English for a year in Japan. She worked at the Japan National Tourist Organization, the Japan Society, and the Consulate General of Japan in New York. With Eiji Kanno, she co-authored Japan Solo, a guide to Japan for foreign travelers and residents. She worked for twenty-five years as a lawyer in international aviation law, and as an adjunct law professor at several institutions on the East Coast. She was co-editor with Isako Imamura, widow of Shigeo Imamura; Johnnie Johnson Hafernik; and Stephanie Vandrick of Shig: The True Story of an American Kamikaze–A Memoir by Shigeo Imamura.


A Thousand Stitches
A Novel

Constance O’Keefe
264 pages, paperback, $16.95

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