A Note on Shiraishi & Shiraishi, The Japanese in Colonial Southeast Asia

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Shiraishi, S., & Shiraishi, T. (1993). The Japanese in Colonial Southeast Asia (Vol. 3). Ithaca: SEAP Publications.

The fact that many Japanese immigrant communities did not continue on pass the Japanese withdrawal from Southeast Asia at the end of the second World War has led many to describe these as “shallow communities,” economic extensions of Japan’s own expansionist economic policies of the time (6). Communities, while never large when compared with the immigrant communities of Chinese or Europeans, were to be found in most major urban centers in Southeast Asia and Davoa (7). Turn of the century Japanese communities were largely centered economically around prostitution, but with the disruptions caused in Europe by the first World War caused an increasing dependance on Asian-produced goods (8,9). Fledgling Japanese communities increasingly became conduits for Japanese-produced goods, and economic growth at least in some places such as the Dutch East Indies was assisted by the higher status gained by Japanese after a series of Japanese martial victories against China and Russia (9). From the 1890s onward, Japanese shipping and Japanese trade offices in Southeast Asia increased, Japanese banks opened, and Japanese increasingly sought employment and business opportunities in colonial extractive industries such as rubber and mining which in turn helped meet growing Japanese state demands for raw materials in the expansionist economy (10). Simultaneously, Japanese consulates were established in major urban areas such as Singapore and Manila, with several established in the first two decades of the twentieth century in Batavia, Surabaya, and Davao (13). These consulates collected information on the population, including number and occupation for Japanese bur varying somewhat for non-Japanese citizens of the Japanese controlled colonies (14). With the gradual economic growth of other sectors, the importance of prostitution was diminished and it was formally abolished in many areas from 1912 onwards (15). In some ways the abolition was a milestone in the Japanese movement from a marginal community built around the sex trade to “first class citizens” on par with Europeans in Southeast Asia; Japanese were increasingly integrated into the complex communities of urban Southeast Asia, with associations and schools established to serve the communities as with other communities (17). The abolition also marks the coalescence of Japanese state aspirations and expectations, expressed formally through the consulates, and the aspirations of Japanese living in Southeast Asia, to be “first class citizens” of the modern world.

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