(Contributed by Shannon)
Australia and Japan have quite a short history, owing to both Japan’s isolation during the Edo period and Australia not becoming a country until 1901. Nonetheless, we have quickly become close friends and important partners.
Despite having a White Australia Policy that restricted immigration in the early 20th Century, we did have a number of Japanese people living in Australia at the time. Most of them worked as farmers or pearl divers and became well known as hard workers. We also conducted a lot of trade in Japanese textiles and Australian wool.
After the outbreak of the war, Australia and Japan became enemies for a short time and most of the Japanese immigrants were interned in camps and then deported back to Japan. During the war the Japanese military reached Sydney and Darwin, and after the war Australian soldiers occupied Japan. Our relationship didn’t improve again until the late 1950’s when many Australian soldiers returned home with Japanese wives. They acted as diplomats and helped the Australian community warm to the Japanese again. After that, our shared economic interests also became an important reason to improve relations.
Nowadays Japan is Australia’s second largest trading partner. We largely export raw materials such as coal, iron, wool and beef to Japan, and import technology such as cars, televisions and computers. We also have a lot of tourists travelling between the two countries. Unsurprisingly, the most popular Australian spot for Japanese tourists is Cairns, and the most popular Japanese spots for Australians are Kyoto and Nagano. We love Japan because the people are so friendly, the history is interesting, the food is great, and we can go skiing there! There are also a lot of people choosing to immigrate between countries. We have a Japanese population here of over 71,000 people, and there are around 9,000 Australians living in Japan. So it’s not too difficult to buy Japanese food and other products in Australia now!
Last year Australian Prime Minister declared Japan to be “Our closest friend in Asia”. As island nations and constitutional monarchies in Asia we have a lot in common! I hope we can continue to have such a strong and warm friendship for many years to come.