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World War II from an Unusual Perspective

February 1, 2016

Keiko Itoh (MA 1976, East Asian Studies) has published her first novel, My Shanghai, 1942-1946 (Renaissance Books, 2015). It is a fictional account based on her mother’s experiences as a British-educated Japanese Christian who moved to Japanese-occupied Shanghai as a newly-wed during the Second World War.

Written in diary form, My Shanghai, 1942-46 sees the world through the eyes of a twenty-year-old woman who settles into a privileged existence in a very cosmopolitan city. The protagonist finds herself living not only among fellow Japanese ex-patriots, but also among British Quakers, Chinese nationalists and collaborators, Nazis, and Jews fleeing Europe. At first her life is hardly touched by the war and her days are filled with delightful social events.

As Japan tightens its control over China, tensions mount and relationships unravel. There are increasing shortages, curfews, and power cuts, and the streets are filled with beggars and refugees. With Japan’s defeat, the Japanese in Shanghai find themselves faced with unfamiliar hardships and humiliation.

Itoh’s first book, The Japanese Community in Pre-war Britain: From Integration to Disintegration (Curzon Press, 2001), is a social history of the small Japanese community in London in the 1920s and 30s. It is based on her dissertation. She holds a PhD in history from the London School of Economics.

Itoh has worked for the United Nations, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the World Bank as a press and public relations officer.