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Tommy Fujii Closeup: 03-03-2013
Tommy Fujii Closeup: 03-03-2013

Photographs supplied by John Huth

Memorial bust commemorates Tommy Fujii, Japanese Pearl diver and businessman.

Tommy was the only survivor of the 6000-odd young Japanese imported into the Torres Strait between the 1870s and 1940. Those who escaped death by drowning, collapsed lungs or the bends were ungratefully shipped home at the end of their six-year contracts. Tom Fujii was allowed to stay, in the words of an old friend, "because he was the best. His boss kept claiming he didn't have enough money to pay his fare back to Japan." Tom himself, aged 19 in 1925, had followed an elder brother to Australia.

When Tom began diving, air was supplied through hand pumps. At 50 fathoms-plus in the Darnley Deeps, it came into the helmet a faint breath at a time. Only the toughest and bravest men worked that deep, an hour on the bottom collecting up to half a ton of shell and then another two coming up. Two hundred luggers were working out of Thursday Island, all of them with Japanese crews and divers. A week seldom passed without a lugger returning with a body. Many of them were buried with scant attention to identity. Some inscriptions read simply "George, Japan."

With the outbfreak of war against Japan, Tom was shipped off to an internment camp at Hay in south-western NSW. He dug market gardens until 1945, when he was allowed to return to his islander wife Josephine, whom he married in 1928. Tom dived until 1951, when he joined a Japanese-Australian firm culturing pearls. Just before he retired in 1973, Tom borrowed $10,000 and built himself the $80,000 Rainbow Motel on Thursday Island. Tom  became an Australian citizen in 1961.


Address:Victoria Parade , Thursday Island, 4875
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -10.584914
Long: 142.218023
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
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Monument Type:Sculpture
Monument Theme:People


Approx. Monument Dedication Date:July-1987
Source: MA
Monument details supplied by Monument Australia - www.monumentaustralia.org.au
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