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An analysis of Japanese prostitution in Australia 1877-1916

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posted on 2022-03-29, 01:07 authored by Harriet Blankevoort
This project is an attempt to analyse the presence of Japanese prostitutes in Australia, with particular reference to Thursday Island in the later part of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries within van den Berghe's typology of race - relations. Japanese prostitutes (Kara-yuki-san) also, and not inappropriately, referred to as imbaifu, that is, secret prostitutes, mainly from Kumamoto and Nagasaki prefectures, were brought to Australia by Japanese and other International syndicates as well as smaller Chinese Immigrant procurers who functioned either as individuals or as syndicates, for the purposes of prostitution, predominantly in the pearling industry - an industry which had rapidly become almost exclusively dependent on the labour of Japanese men. The women who made the long and hazardous journey across the Pacific Ocean to Thursday Island's already flourishing plural society, were predominantly from working class backgrounds and poorly educated, if at all. They were sent out of Japan clandestinely. The means by which this process was achieved included travelling under false names, using the passports of deceased women who had sojourned to countries such as America and India for similar purposes; at times they passed for the wives or sisters of the men engaged in this traffic. More often than not, however, they were smuggled on board freight and passenger steamers, hidden in boxes marked as freight, or in specially built secret compartments, which at times became death chambers as they caught on fire and burnt alive those hidden within it.The fact is that in 1902, the pearlshelling industry in Broome and Thursday Island officially became the only exception to excluding indentured coloured labour. In the Commonwealth Archives the Register of Prosecutions, commenced under the Federal Immigration Restriction Act, for the years 1902-3 indicates that no Japanese woman was ever refused entry into Australia under section d.(f). That is, "any prostitute or person Living off the prostitution of others". These two factors give some indication as to (a) the extent of dependency the industry had on Japanese labour, and (b) the lengths a basically racist system was prepared to go to fulfil its economic needs.The presence of Japanese imbaifu and indentured labourers in North Queensland, in particular, due to their large numbers, and the role these played in race relations in the area, can be analysed by employing van den Berghe's typology of race relations. The latter closely parallels the well known distinction in social science between 'gemeinschaft' and 'gesselschaft' and is divided into two ideal types - 'paternalistic' and 'competitive' race relations. These concepts have been used to briefly examine Thursday Island's pluralistic social structure, economic inter-ethnic relations, Japanese ethnocentrism, as applied in particular to the "Yokohamas", or Japanese quarters, and Japanese-Aboriginal miscegenation. It is argued that the introduction of Japanese women to Australian shores was a concerted effort by government officials and other interested groups to retain a cheap and effective labour force which could not be effectively replaced by the indigenous community.



Typescript. Bibliography: leaves 82-85

Degree Type

Thesis masters coursework


Thesis (M.A.) , Macquarie University

Department, Centre or School

School of History, Philosophy and Politics

Year of Award



Copyright Harriet Blankevoort 1990. Copyright disclaimer: This thesis was digitised for the purposes of Document Delivery. Macquarie University ResearchOnline attempted to locate the author but where this has not been possible; we are making available, open access, the thesis which may be used for the purposes of private research and study. If you have any enquiries or issues regarding this work being made available please contact Macquarie University ResearchOnline -




1 online resource (viii, 85, [55] leaves, bound) ill., map, ports

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