Photo Essay: Mayu Kanamori on Japanese Collective Amnesia
Yasukichi Murakami arrived in Cossack in WA from a fishing village in Wakayama, Japan in 1897 at the age of 17. He worked as a photographer, inventor and entrepreneur in Broome and Darwin until the war broke out. He was interned as an enemy alien, and died whilst in internment in 1944. He was survived by his Australian born wife Theresa Shigeno Murakami (nee Murata) and his nine children.
I am a photographer and a performance maker living and working in Sydney. I came to Australia in 1981 at the age of 18 from Tokyo, Japan.
Yasukichi Murakami’s grave at the Japanese War Cemetery in Cowra. All Japanese who died during World War II on Australian soil are buried here. His grave looks identical to everyone else’s, all neatly in a row one after another. Every person buried here has a story to tell. Even the unknown airman who died during the air raid on Darwin. But they are not all the same.
Yasukichi Murakami applied for naturalization in 1939.
Not accepted because of established government policy
To not naturalise Asiatics and other coloured persons.
Heritage listed Stone Houses on Cavanagh St, Darwin.
Yasukichi Murakami had his home and photographic studio here.
The day after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbour,
Murakami was arrested.
Like all Japanese in Australia on this day,
Murakami and his family were taken away and interned.
In our national archives are lists of items confiscated by the authorities.
There is no mention of his photographs or negatives.
What happened to his photographs and where are they now?
His life-time worth of photographs, missing.
Like memories of Japanese people who once lived in Australia.
A friend showed me old photos found in Japan by a historian from Western Australia,
taken at by Y. Nishioka, a name used by Yasukichi Murakami and Eki Nishioka
from the Nishioka Photo Studio in Broome in the early 1900’s.
These were the first photographs of Murakami’s I found.
They were portraits of Japanese people who once lived in Australia.
Julie Murakami is Yasukichi Murakami’s great granddaughter.
She lives in Darwin.
Researching her family history on the net, she found my blog.
Together we researched her family history.
She will pass on her knowledge to her children.
I will write a play about her great grandfather.
I traveled to Yasukichi Murakami’s hometown in Tanami
with his photograph on my iPad
and gum nuts and bark found by his grave in Cowra.
Looking for his photographs to find a remedy
for our collective amnesia
about the Japanese people who once lived in Australia.
Actors Arisa Yura and Kuni Hashimoto are in my theatre production
Yasukichi Murakami — Through a Distant Lens.
Like me, they are part of post-war Japanese diaspora in Australia.
We tell the story of Yasukichi Murakami and my search of his
Composer, musician and sound designer for our work,
Terumi Narushima was born in Australia.
We create together
to jog our memories
and to pass on the story
of Yasukichi Murakami, who once lived in Australia.
We gathered by Murakami’s grave.
Murakami’s grand, great grand and great great grand children
from Darwin, Perth and Tokyo.
Arisa, myself and other friends
to remember together
The life of Yasukichi Murakami and others buried here
and we photographed for our children and their children.
Mayu Kanamori was born in Tokyo, Japan and moved to Australia in 1981. She is a photographer and performance maker based in Sydney. Mayu is the writer and creator of ‘Yasukichi Murakami – Through a Distant Lens‘. Co-presented by Griffin Theatre and Performance 4a, the theatre production will be showing in February 2015 in Sydney.