This thesis examines images of Japan and the Japanese as viewed by Australians, and the influences of these images on Australian society from the early nineteenth century to 1901.
The earliest contacts between Australia and Japan resulted from accidental incidents caused by whalers from Australia. The opening of Japan by the Western powers from 1854 caused an outflow of information on Japan to the West, including Australia. The progress of Japan as a Westernising country favourably impressed many Australian visitors to Japan, whose travel accounts were widely read and accepted by Australian readers prior to 1890.
Japan's participation in the Australian exhibitions in the 1870s and 1880s also contributed to the creation of the general concept of Japan among Australian colonists as one of the civilised countries in the world. The success of The Mikado also contributed to a rise in Australian interests in Japan.
Most Japanese writings on Australia in the latter half of the nineteenth century introduced the newly ' known country to the Japanese as a great potential trade market of the future. On the other hand, Australia was not regarded as a popular destination for Japanese migration. While the Meiji government attempted to regulate Japanese entertainers and artisans going overseas, such classes of Japanese contributed to the creation of positive images of the Japanese in Australia.
Some business sectors and leading newspapers contributed to the spread of certain positive images of Japan by arguing the colonies to join the Treaty of Commerce and Navigation between Great Britain and Japan of 1894 in order to secure the potential future trade profits from the treaty. However, a majority of Australia's influential political leaders were more concerned about the influx of Japanese that might occur after joining the commercial treaty.
During the colonial parliamentary debates during the late 1890s, negative and dangerous images of Japanese immigration to Australia were further intensified. Although the first Commonwealth government at first succeeded in gaining Japan's approval for the Immigration Restriction Bill of 1901 with the English language test, they were forced to amend the test to a European language due to pressure from the British government and the Opposition. In the ensuing debates, the Commonwealth Attorney-General argued that the Japanese were a race equivalent to Australians, but then paradoxically used this "equivalence" to justify their exclusion from Australia.