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The Contemporary Pacific 13.1 (2001) 287-288

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Book Review

Nanshin: Japanese Settlers in Papua and New Guinea, 1890-1949

Nanshin: Japanese Settlers in Papua and New Guinea, 1890-1949, by Hiromitsu Iwamoto. Canberra: Journal of Pacific History, 1999. ISBN 0-9585863-0-6, iv + 179 pages, tables, maps, illustrations, bibliography, index. Paper, A$27, US$30.

Set in the political and intellectual context of the Japanese Nanshin (Southward Advancement) Project from the late nineteenth century, this book documents an interesting history of some two hundred Japanese settlers in Papua New Guinea between 1890 and 1949. Originally part of a PhD dissertation at the Australian National University, the main thesis looks into Japanese emigration to America and the South Pacific in the western capitalist "world system" of the late nineteenth century, as the result of a "peripheral" nation providing labor to the western powers. The surprising twist in the case of Papua New Guinea, as this book documents, is how a Japanese community, though negligibly small in terms of population, served a national ambition to colonize the South Seas, when Japan became a formidable, core colonial power.

The book has six numbered chapters, in addition to a separate introduction. The introduction explains theoretical and methodological concerns and provides statistics (1894 to 1939 ) of Japanese travelers and settlers in New Guinea and their home places in Japan. The author proposes that the combination of Japan's national interest in southern expansion and Australia's rejection of Asian settlers under the White Australia immigration policy determined the fate of Japanese long-term residents in and around Rabual for almost half a century.

The book reads like a chronicle of the rise, development, and sudden ending of a Japanese national discourse--Nanshin-ron (southern advancement discourse), or expansion of immigration and trading in the South Seas (including Micronesia, Melanesia, Australia, and so on). The story of the Japanese living in New Guinea is used as an example by Iwamoto to illustrate how it fitted into the larger picture of expansionist plotting in Tokyo, which involved politicians and intellectuals, especially members of the Colonization Society (established in 1893 ).

Each chapter covers a different historical period since the late nineteenth century and has identical subdivisions, beginning with an account of the activities and proposals of the southern expansion advocates in Tokyo. Iwamoto then discusses how the Japanese perceived New Guinea, how they conducted business and involved themselves in local politics in New Britain, how migration and settlement became relevant to political development in their homeland, and how the Australian colonial administration responded to their advancement in New Guinea.

The second main theme that runs through the entire volume and is intertwined with a reconstruction of Japanese southern ambitions, tells a fascinating story of a single Japanese pearl diver and adventurer, Isokichi Komine. [End Page 286] He explored the New Britain islands in the 1890 s, and published notes of his adventures in the official journal of the Colonization Society in Tokyo. In 1895 Komine was introduced to Japan's Foreign Minister Enomoto, an important southern expansion advocate (48). The enterprising Komine advanced in Rabaul during the German administration from schooner owner to shipbuilder, plantation operator, and head of a thriving trading company. At the turn of the century Komine imported dozens of Japanese artisans and laborers to Rabaul to work for his enterprises.

Iwamoto must be complemented for his research efforts in the Australian and Papua New Guinea government archives, in hunting down and interviewing dozens of Japanese descendants of New Guinea settlers in Japan as well as those in Papua New Guinea born of indigenous women. He has also demonstrated his able handling of extensive Japanese government publications and prewar literature, by providing a succinct and convincing account of the rise and fall of the Japanese national discourse on, and action for, the colonization of the South Seas.

The deportation and internment in Australia of some dozens of Japanese residents from Rabaul in 1940 ended this little-known story of the Japanese intent to colonize Papua New Guinea. Both scholars...