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Making of a Japanese Community in Prewar Period (1841–1941)

  • Benjamin Wai-ming Ng

Abstract

The Japanese in prewar Hong Kong were a medium-sized but fast-growing, united, and influential foreign community. They played an important role in promoting Sino-Japanese and Anglo-Japanese political, economic, and cultural interaction. Yet Hong Kong people had mixed feelings toward the Japanese in this period. Japanese investment in Hong Kong and Japan–Hong Kong bilateral trade strengthened Hong Kong’s position as a leading trading port in Asia as well as a business and industrial base in South China. The Japanese also introduced a new cultural diversity to Hong Kong. However, due to anti-Japanese sentiments, many Hong Kong people have chosen to ignore or deny the Japanese legacy in Hong Kong, seeing the involvement of the Japanese in Hong Kong’s history solely as a succession of imperialistic acts. There have been almost no studies in English on the Japanese in prewar Hong Kong. 1 Using Japanese primary sources as the main references, this chapter aims to provide a balanced historical overview of the Japanese community in prewar Hong Kong, focusing on its political and economic activities and its impact on Hong Kong’s politics, its economy, and its society.

Keywords

Late Nineteenth Century Bilateral Trade Japanese Government Japanese Firm Japanese Product 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 2.
    Chan Cham Yi, Ribenren yu Xianggang: shijiu shiji jianwenlu (The Japanese and Hong Kong: Records of the Nineteenth Century) (Hong Kong: Hong Kong Educational Publishing Co., 1995), p. 10.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Hong Kong was one of the most popular Asian cities among the Japanese in the pre–Second World War era. Only Taibei (Taipei) (under Japan), Seoul (under Japan), Singapore, and Shanghai could compete with Hong Kong. In contrast, Macau had few Japanese. The number of Japanese in Macau reached its all-time high of only 23 in 1941. See Yonoza Nobuharu, Makao no Nihonjin (The Japanese in Macau), in The Third Macau Symposium on Japanese Studies (Macau: Publications Center, University of Macau, 1997), p. 78.Google Scholar
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    Regarding the gender, profession, and geographical distribution of the Japanese population in Hong Kong between 1909 and 1917, see Honkon jijo (Conditions in Hong Kong) (Tokyo: Gaimusho tsushokyoku, 1917), pp. 348–49.Google Scholar
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    According to the official figures about Japanese residents in Hong Kong in 1917, the five most common professions were, employees of Japanese companies and banks (307), prostitutes (188), kimonorelated businesses (115), dining-related businesses (67), and tailors (58). See Honkon jijo, pp. 348–49.Google Scholar
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    It is said that there were more than 200 unlicensed Japanese prostitutes in Hong Kong in the late nineteenth century. See Chan Cham Yi, “Xianggang zaonian de Riben changji” (Japanese Prostitutes in Early Hong Kong), in Hara Takemichi, Chan Cham Yi, and Wang Xianghua, eds., Riben yu Yazhou Huaren shehui: lishi wenhua pian (Japan and Chinese Communities in Asia: Essays on History and Culture) (Hong Kong: Commercial Press, 1999), p. 139.Google Scholar
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    In 1900, 19 percent of Japan’s total exports were shipped to Hong Kong. This dropped to 4.3 percent in the 1910s, 3.5 percent in the 1920s and 1.8 percent in the 1930s. See Chan Cham Yi, “Ershishijichu zhi 1931 nianjian de Gang-Ri maoyi—Rimao shu Gang bufen,” (Hong Kong-Japan Trade between the Early Twentieth Century and 1931: Japan’s Exports to Hong Kong), in Quality Japanese Studies and Japanese Language Education in Kanji-using Areas in the New Century (Hong Kong: Society of Japanese Language Education, 2002), p. 203.Google Scholar
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    Japan exported apples from Aomori Prefecture to Hong Kong from 1911. Most were reexported to China and Southeast Asia. Japanese apples were popular among Westerners in Hong Kong. See Nakahada Tatsumi, Meiji jidai ni okeru Aomori ringo kaiai hanbaishi (History of Selling Aomori Apples Overseas in the Meiji Period) (Tokyo: Aomoriken keizaibu, 1952), pp. 30–53, 58–60.Google Scholar
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    For example, Hong Kong (in particular Swire) imported raw sugar from Taiwan for refinement and then sold it to Japan.Google Scholar
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    See Toa kenkyujo, ed., Honkon ni okeru Eikoku no keizaiteki toshi (British Investment in Hong Kong) (Tokyo: Toa kenkyujo, 1941), pp. 7–8.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Cindy Yik-yi Chu 2005

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  • Benjamin Wai-ming Ng

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