CANBERRA – The National Archives of Australia on Tuesday ceremoniously returned thousands of historical Japanese company records that had been seized by the Australian government during World War II.
Japanese Ambassador to Australia Sumio Kusaka said at a reception in Canberra that the handover of 3,300 boxes of documents not only signifies how far Japan-Australia relations have come since the last world war but provides an “invaluable snapshot of the history of business activities of Japanese enterprises in Australia.”
“It will now be possible to obtain a broader understanding of Japanese people and their businesses in the country in the early 1900s, providing us with considerable insight into the very early stages of trade and business relations between our two nations,” Kusaka said.
The documents, which were created between 1899 and 1941 in Sydney and Melbourne, include ledgers, journals, shipping documents, financial statements and personal records such as photographs.
One such snapshot, taken by a Japanese photographer based in Sydney in the early 20th century, was gifted by Director General of the National Archives of Australia David Fricker.
The photograph, by Ichiro Kageyama, shows staff members of the Japanese Consulate in Sydney enjoying New Year’s Day with a recently built Sydney Harbour Bridge in the background.
“His images, (captured) through a Japanese lens, of Australian life show important moments of intercultural encounters between Japanese and Australians in Sydney,” Fricker said.
The photo shows a time when Japanese and Australians lived side by side and were forging strong business and personal bonds with Australia and Australians, he added.
Takeo Kato, president of the National Archives of Japan, said the documents, which arrived in Japan in late October, will now be carefully analyzed.
A formal donation contract will be signed by the two countries in March 2018, and the documents will be open to the public from the spring of 2019.