Mr Torao Wakamatsu, Japanese Consul-General in Sydney, to Mr J.A. Lyons, Prime Minister

Letter SYDNEY, 17 February 1939


I have the honour to bring under your notice certain events that have occurred recently and certain influences prevailing here, which are having a disturbing effect upon my functioning as a representative of a country in amicable relationship with the Commonwealth of Australia, and which may, if allowed to continue unchecked, give rise to fears as to the future relations of our two countries.

Quite recently-as you will see from a report entitled ‘X39 DROPS MORE DARK HINTS’, in the Sydney ‘Sun’ (Final Edition) of February 10th (cf. attached cutting No. 1) [1]-an alleged threat to assassinate me was notified to the newspapers in Sydney on several occasions. Whilst I appreciate the fact that immediate steps were taken by the police authorities here to investigate the matter, as well as to afford me personal protection, for which I am grateful, and whilst the action may be proved to be the work of a fanatic, you will quite realise that, if such untoward incidents are to continue, I shall be placed in such a position that I shall find it difficult to fulfil with confidence and a sense of security my duty of fostering the friendly relations between Japan and Australia.

The most remarkable fact in connection with the above-mentioned incident is that the Sydney ‘Daily News’, in its issue of February 9th (cf. attached cutting No.

2), reported a conversation between myself and a member of its editorial staff which actually had at no time taken place. This may possibly be indicative of the origin of the whole affair, particularly in view of the entirely prejudiced manner in which this newspaper has, in the past, treated reports concerning Japan.

Furthermore, anti-Japanese feeling and Japanophobia have spread so widely among the Australian people-even among school children-that, according to the enclosed cuttings (Nos. 3 and 4) from the Sydney ‘Daily Telegraph’ of November 18th, 1938, a correspondent received an unanimous reply that ‘Japan is Australia’s greatest enemy’, as one of the answers to a questionnaire put to school children in Sydney.

It seems to me quite evident that the state of affairs to which I have referred has been brought about by the various factors to be mentioned hereunder:

(1) The manner in which most of the newspapers in Australia have handled reports or articles concerning the Sino-Japanese conflict has been decidedly prejudiced. In most cases the only reports published by them have been those calculated to give readers an impression unreasonably unfavourable to Japan, while the tone of their leading articles has seemed intentionally biased. Furthermore, not only preposterous views of irresponsible persons, but also misleading or unfounded statements of certain responsible persons, have often been published, whilst most of the press, particularly the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ and the ‘Daily News’, have been disinclined to print our statements refuting or criticising such misleading reports or statements.

(2) Certain newspapers have even gone to the extreme length of explicitly designating Japan as the potential enemy of Australia. For examples, I refer you to articles in the ‘Daily News’ of January 10th and 11th last, entitled, respectively, ‘Snobs Reject Wharfinen’ and ‘Helping Japan against Britain’ (cf. attached cuttings Nos. 5 and 6).

(3) At times, responsible Australian Ministers or Government officials-even those who are in charge of external affairs-have been reported in newspapers to have implied in their speeches or articles that Japan has aggressive designs on Australia: for example, The Right Honourable W.M. Hughes’ broadcast address on ‘Democracy and War’on January 22nd, 1939 [2], and Lt Col Hodgson’s address to the Empire Parliamentary Association on December 1st, 1938 (cf. cuttings Nos. 7, 8 and 9 herewith).

(4) In schools, ill-feeling toward Japan is being instilled into the minds of the children either consciously or unconsciously. I cite the case where, according to information received by me, the following questions were put to a class of boys in a Sydney High School last winter:

(i) In case Japan comes to Australia in about 15 years’ time, should Australia defend herself mainly by naval force or aerial force? and (ii) Should Australia adopt conscription or voluntary military service to meet this emergency? (5) Among the cinema news-reels imported to Australia are some, such as the ‘March of Time’ series, which have been produced with the sole intention of stimulating ill-feeling against certain foreign countries by depicting scenes of alleged terrorism. In this connection I must specially mention that, when I imported from japan, last May, some news-reels concerning the Sino-Japanese hostilities, the Board of Censors in Sydney insisted that certain parts, showing the actual results of Chinese atrocities, be cut, whereas, in Melbourne, films imported by the Victorian section of the Australian League for Peace and Democracy, and showing alleged Japanese atrocities, were allowed last October to be shown after the scenes of the actual committal of the alleged brutalities had alone been deleted, the results of such alleged brutalities being permitted to be screened.

(6) Australian magazines, such as ‘Pix’, often contain photographs of alleged Japanese brutalities, some of which bear unmistakable evidences of having been forged. Even were they not forged, they should, for the sake of consistency, also be subject to censorship, as was the case with the cinema films imported by me. I refer you to the undermentioned issues of ‘Pix’- May 21st, 1938 P. 3 September 17th, 1938 P. 22 December 10th, 1938 PP. 3/5 Further, foreign magazines, such as the American ‘Ken’ and ‘Life’, often contain photographs and articles of a nature similar to those in the above-mentioned ‘Pix’. This type of publication also frequently contains cartoons of a type extremely disrespectful and even insulting to the Sovereign of a foreign country. In this connection I wish to emphasise that the fact that such cartoons are freely circulated among the Australian people is intolerable to Japanese subjects, who are traditionally loyal to, and hold in the highest esteem, their Imperial Family. For examples, I refer confidentially to ‘Ken’- issues of April 21st, 1938 (p. 67), June 16th, 1938 (P. 53) and September 8th, 1938 (pp. 2012 1). Cartoons in the ‘Daily News’ of January 4th and 6th last were of a similar nature (cuttings Nos. 10 and 11).

Although control over speech, publications and education is generally a matter of domestic concern, in which I have naturally neither the right nor the intention to intervene, it comes within the range of international affairs when it affects international courtesy and the amicable relations between two nations.

Nevertheless, I have refrained from making any comment on the situation described above, lest 1, as the representative of a foreign country, should be involved in undesirable issues that might ensue and cause embarrassment to Governmental authorities concerned in this country, and, as a matter of fact, I have long hoped and expected that sound judgment would some day voluntarily prevail, or be advocated by the Governmental authorities, to arrest the development of such an undesirable state of affairs as above- mentioned. However, the further gradual aggravation of this tendency compels me to ask for your serious consideration of the matter.

At this point it will not be inopportune to mention that not only are the general public in Australia influenced by what appears in their newspapers, but also a number of Australian newspapers, including even the ‘Daily News’, are carefully read in certain of the Government Bureaux in Tokio, and the attitude of the Australian press as above-mentioned is having a disturbing effect. Further, the political and economic relations between Japan and Australia being an object of keen attention on the part of the Japanese people, such occurrences as I have referred to-in conjunction with events such as the anti- Japanese shipping boycott by Australian workers, the embargo on the export of iron ore from Australia, and the refusal by the State of New South Wales (cf. cuttings Nos. 12 and 13 attached) of the invitation issued by the Board of Tourist Industry, Department of Railways of the Japanese Government, to women High School teachers to visit Japan (although the States of Victoria and Queensland accepted the invitation) -are engendering a bitterness of feeling on the part of the Japanese people towards Australia.

In view of this deplorable situation, I cannot but be sincerely anxious about the future relations between our two countries, especially when I am reminded of the fact that the combined results of anti-Japanese education, propaganda and boycotting in China were the fundamental factors which led to the present Sino- Japanese hostilities.

It is for this reason that I am requesting you to be good enough to give serious consideration to the deplorable phenomena in the relations of our two countries, and their causes, and to take steps to correct such an undesirable trend of affairs, for the sake of the maintenance of friendship and the promotion of economic co-operation between Japan and Australia.



1 This cutting, and the others referred to in this Document, are not printed (on file AA: A981, Japan 101, ii).

2 Hughes said that Australia must be prepared to offer effective resistance to an enemy and that the Far East was full of menace for Australians.

3 Lt Col W.R. Hodgson, Secretary of Department of External Affairs, expressed the view that if and when the naval authorities secured the upper hand in the Government of Japan the tendency would be towards Japanese expansion southward in the Pacific.


[AA: A981, JAPAN 101, ii]