Thursday, April 01, 2010

Broome's Japanese Connection

As you know I have been sharing with you my trip to North Western Australia. Many Australians do not know this but Broome, its main town, has a Japanese connection.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s Japanese pearl divers where brought in to Australia to help in the pearling industry of Broome.

Some of the pearl divers died due to drowning or what the called diver's paralysis.

Some of the Japanese also died in the cyclones and their bodies are buried here in Broome's Japanese cemetery.

As you can see there is not a few of them.

The tombstones used are those of the sandstones found in Broome's beaches.

Some of the families of these Japanese pearl divers settled in Australia and have intermarried with those with Aboriginal or European heritage. So from time to time I have seen people with Asian features but are quite tanned/dark.

This cemetery is still used today by those people with Japanese ancestry. Those who have stayed behind.

I noticed that these tombstones face the setting sun, the west. Yet the Chinese cemetery near by has its tombstones face the east, the rising sun. I want to ask Augustinian Successor about this, why is that noticeable difference?

This cemetery has only 2 Japanese Christians buried here. Here is one of them and it is fairly recent at that. His grave is located at the back part of the cemetery, alone.


Steve said...

Pretty interesting history, LPC.

Great photos.

I guess ther are just not a lot of Japaneese converts to Christianity.

I wonder what it is that makes hearing the gospel so much harder (than most) for people from Japan?

L P said...


I think less than 1% are Christians.

Becky (Raggedy Lamb) lives in Japan and she can probably enlighten us as to why Japan has slow growth of Christianity there.


Raggedy Lamb said...

Very interesting, Lito. Since you mentioned me, I'll post some info from wikipedia on Christianity in Japan.

I've been here over 30 years now, and I am still amazed at how welcoming Japan is on one hand to Christian influences. After WWII, many "mission" schools were established. Most of them are among the best schools in the country, and many of them still are able to employ Christian staff (Japanese now, though 50 years ago most were US missionaries), but almost none of the students are Christian.

Perhaps it's because 1) their Bushido ethics are deeply ingrained in the culture, even though they no longer have a visible Samurai class, 2) they have a strict family system which compels family members to continue their Shinto-Buddhist customs even if they know nothing about the actual teachings of those beliefs, 3) they see themselves as unique to all other peoples, and have been able to adopt foreign elements into their way of life without losing their own traditional views, 4) they are pantheistic, do not see themselves as sinners in need of salvation, and they accept that someday their soul will mingle with the elements in perfect harmony.

I'm no expert. This is just the way I've come to see them over the years.

L P said...


I have twice now been in Japan. You are right, they told me, that Japan copies and makes things better. An example I was told that Sukiyaki was not original to Japan, but it was inspired by French cooking. But the Japanese, took it, adopted it and gave it their own genius. It is yummy food. But I think the rest is true in other matters.

If they believe that they get mingled with nature after death, then the Law must be brought in view. Luther said we also need the Law to make us believe we are sinners.

I was researching, I am not sure but I read somewhere, some small number of folk from the samurai caste became Catholics.

I also read that Bach is making an impact on the Japanese, and through him, a few are becoming Christians. Heard of this?

Thanks for dropping a comment.


Augustinian Successor said...

A blessed Easter to you Kuya, and to all!

L P said...


You have a good easter too.

God bless,

Kuya Lito

'acroamaticus' said...

Thanks for the pics. The Japanese connection at Broome is an interesting side-light in Australian history. I have always found Japanese culture quite fascinating, maybe because as a kid I grew up watching 'The Samurai' show on TV! Perhaps you saw it in the Philippines, too?
Btw, there are many similar small enclaves of Asian cultures around the country that pre-date more recent immigration, like the Sikhs who have been living around Coffs Harbour in NSW for ninety years or so (working on and later owning banana plantations). As far as I know, there has been little penetration of Christianity there, either. As one drives north on the pacific Hwy about 25 kms north of Coffs Harbour one soon sees a large Sikh Temple looming ahead, something you don't expect to see in rural Australia. And, of course, there were the Chinese on the Victorian goldfields.

L P said...

Pr. M.

Yes I saw the Samurai in PI.

In Bendigo and Ballarat, during the gold rush, Chinese workers were brought in to help mine the fields. In my church - Thomastown, German workers were brought in by Westgarth to farm. I think it was a normal course of events to bring in foreigners to help progress a young nation.

I did notice though that the Japanese tombstones face the west.This is odd for me.


'acroamaticus' said...

Yes, there was a labour shortage in the late 19th century. Many came from Denmark to Queensland to take up farming, but alas too many of these were lost from the Lutheran to the Anglican Church. Apparently they found the confesionalism of the Germans here too stifling, plus it was politically incorrect to be associated with a German church when WWI broke out.
There have also been Russians in QLD since before the Revolution of 1917, including an Old Believer community near Gladstone.
And Italians in north Queensland.
And also one must not forget the 'kanakas', Pacific Islanders who were brought to QLD as as indentured labourers for farms in the north.

Augustinian Successor said...

Dear Kuya,

Sorry, I only read this now. I'm not sure about the Chinese burial customs. I'm sure it has to do with some superstitious beliefs, just I haven't a clue what that is.