Location 10: Cowra Japanese War Cemetery – 10.2 Who’s Buried Here

Masu Kusano’s Story (Audio: 2 min 54 sec; 2.8MB)


Masu Kusano arrived in Darwin in 1901 and worked as a prostitute. She was just 19 years old. The first Japanese settlers in Australia were mostly men who were single. They worked in the pearl shell and sugarcane industries in northern Australia. Women were few and far between. Some were wives of merchants or diplomats, while others were prostitutes, like Masu. They were often called karayuki san, which means women who ventured overseas to work. Masu eventually settled on Thursday Island in far north Queensland. There was already a vibrant Japanese community there called Yokohama. And women continued to arrive on Thursday Island up until the 1920s. By 1897 there were 54 Japanese prostitutes working in brothels there. Most of the women spoke little English. In 1901, the White Australia policy was introduced, yet Yokohama continued to thrive. That’s because Japanese pearl shell divers were exempt from the policy. They were considered highly skilled and hard working. Officials on Thursday Island turned a blind eye to arrivals of young Japanese women.

Softly spoken, Masu was affectionately called Omasu san by her community in Yokohama. In her later years, Masu worked as a housekeeper in a boarding house for workers in the pearl shell industry. Masu remained single her whole life, as did most Japanese prostitutes, though a few women did marry, and had families. In 1941 the Pacific War broke out, and Masu was arrested as an ‘enemy alien’, as were all Japanese in Australia. She was later interned in Tatura internment camp in Victoria, where she lived out the rest of her days.

Masu was born in a small town called Shimabara in the southern island of Kyushu on August 16th, 1882. She died in a camp in Victoria on May 18th, 1943. Masu’s remains were moved from the Tatura campsite to Cowra in 1964. And here, Masu Kusano, Omasu san, rests.

Written by Dr Yuriko Nagata
Read by Mayu Kanamori

Producer/Sound Design: Masako Fukui

Music Credits: Clean Soul by Kevin MacLeod (freemusicarchive.org) CC by 3.0

Photo Credits: Photo 1: Masu Kusano’s grave plate in the Japanese War Cemetery; Photo by Mayu Kanamori

Photo 2: Masu Kusano’s Internee Wartime Service and Casualty record kept by Australian authorities during WWII; NAA: MP1103/1, QJF16234

Photo 3: Masu Kusano’s Internee Report kept by Australian authorities during WWII; NAA: MP1103/2, QJF16234








英語原文 永田由利子 PhD
朗読 金森マユ

プロデューサー: 福井真佐子

音楽: ケビン・マクラウドの「クリーン・ソウル」(freemusicarchive.org) CC by 3.0

写真: 写真1: クサノ・マスの墓標。カウラ日本人戦争墓地にて(撮影:金森マユ)

写真2:クサノ・マスの「戦時中の抑留者の任務と死傷者の記録(Internee Wartime Service and Casualty record)」。第二次大戦中にオーストラリア当局が保管していた(NAA: MP1103/1, QJF16234)

写真3:クサノ・マスの「抑留者報告書(Internee Report」。第二次大戦中にオーストラリア当局が保管していた(NAA: MP1103/2, QJF16234)

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