Japanese Pearling MemorialPrint Page Print this page

Japanese Memorial : 28-04-2013
Japanese Memorial : 28-04-2013

Photographs supplied by John Huth

The monument was erected by the Monument Building Committee of Japan to commemorate the Japanese who worked, lived and died in Torres Strait between 1878 and 1941 and their contribution to the pearling and fishing industies.  

The monument on the left honours who died while pearling in the Torres Strait area while the monument on the right honours Japanese shop owners and other business people who died on Thursday Island. A resident of Japan established a trust of about $100,000 to ensure the future maintenance of the Japanese gravestones. Japanese divers made a significant contribution to the development of the pearl-shell industry in the Torres Strait.

Europeans who established the industry in the Strait in the late 1860s and early 1870s relied initially on South Sea Islander labour, who tended to dominate (often violently) the Torres Strait Islanders. In the 1870s boats equipped with helmeted apparatus for divers appeared, and in the 1880s the pearl-shellers turned to a more skilled and less confronting labour supply - Japanese divers recruited principally from Hong Kong and Singapore. In the 1880s the proportion of Japanese divers in the Strait was no greater than any other ethnic group, but from 1891, when the Japanese Government removed its ban on emigration, numbers increased significantly. By 1893 the Japanese were the largest ethnic group in the Torres Strait pearl-shell industry, and completely dominated the industry between 1900 and 1940.


Address:Aplin Road, Cemetery, Thursday Island, 4875
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -10.575689
Long: 142.216797
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
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Monument Type:Monument
Monument Theme:Technology
Approx. Event Start Date:1878
Approx. Event End Date:1978


Actual Monument Dedication Date:Wednesday 15th August, 1979
Front Inscription

This monument has been erected in memory of the centenary of the Japanese people who worked, lived and died here in the Torres Strait area.

From 1878 to 1941 thousands of Japanese were employed in gathering of pearl shells, and this constituted the principal enterprise of northern Australia.

They worked hard together with the islanders, contributing to the development of the fishing industry.

During this period approximately 700 of the Japanese people died in the Torres Strait area.  May the Japanese rest in peace here.

Aug 15, 1979

Monument Building Committee in Japan

Source: MA
Monument details supplied by Monument Australia - www.monumentaustralia.org.au