August full moon in Broome

Candles and incense were lit and chochin lanterns decorated the Japanese Cemetery in Broome on the first full moon of August this year.

On 2 August 2012, a historically significant Obon kuyo ceremony was held at the Japanese Cemetery in Broome. Conducting traditional hoyo was Reverend Shigenobu Watanabe from the Hongwanji Buddhist Mission of Australia with 250 community members of Broome. I had the honour of taking part in this ceremony.

Japanese Cemetery in Broome photo by Mayu Kanamori
Craig Hamaguchi speaking on behalf of the Broome Japanese / Nikkei community with Reverend Shigenobu Watanabe and guests. Photo by Mayu Kanamori

In Broome, Obon was celebrated every year before WWII on the full moon in August, as a time when the pearl luggers returned to Broome during spring tide and a suitable time to pay their respects to the deceased, especially for those who have passed away during the year. At the outbreak of WWII, the Japanese in Broome were interned and most returned to Japan after the war. In the 1950’s, the Japanese returned to the pearling industry in Broome and Obon was again celebrated, however since the decline of the pearling industry, Obon celebrations had ceased. The last time there was a Buddhist priest conducted an Obon kuyo ceremony in Broome was in 1968.

Present on the day with Reverend Watanabe were former pearl divers and their descendants, including Akira Masuda, Tsunehiro Tanaka and his wife Tadami Tanaka, Pearl Hamaguchi, the wife of late Hiroshi Hamaguchi, Indigenous actor Stephen “Baamba” Albert (Bran Nue Dae, Corrugation Road), who grew up with his Japanese father and Lucy Dann (The Heart of the Journey), who’s father was a Japanese pearl lugger builder in Broome. Also present was Consul Hideki Sakamoto from Consulate-General of Japan in Perth,  teachers and students from Taiji, Wakayama and many others. Taiji is  sister city to Broome  and many buried in the Japanese Cemetery were from Taiji and surrounding towns.  Assisting the event was artist Kazuko Chalker, President of Japan Club of Sydney.

Broome community members at the Obon Ceremony photo by Mayu Kanamori

There are more than 900 headstones in the Japanese Cemetery in Broome. The first recorded Japanese death was on the 20th of July 1890 and the latest burial at the cemetery was only two years ago. The cemetery continues to service the Japanese / Nikkei community in Broome.

The 2012 Obon kuyo ceremony was organized by myself and the oldest daughter of Akira Mausda, Cauline Masuda and her wonderful sisters with Pearl Hamaguchi and her fantastic sons, and was made possible by a fundraising art auction held at Yuga Floral Café (Glebe, Sydney) in March this year with Setsuko Yanagisawa with the help of many artists and volunteers.

Participating artists were:

Hayley Anderson, Satomi Aoki, Hiromi AshlinFred AwAlfonso Calero, Kazuko Chalker, Felicity Clark, Hideo Dekura, Sandy EdwardsKaty FitzgeraldLuke HardyAmanda James, Jumaadi, Miyuki Kishida, Michele Mossop, Yukie Ota / Koto Music Institute of AustraliaVienna ParrenoMoshe RosenveigDeborah Ruiz Wall, Yutaka Sawasaki, Lisa Sharkey, Roslyn Sharp, Mitsuo ShojiPeter Solness, Maree Stenglin, Mary Van Den BerkKay WatanabeTom WilliamsTomoko YamadaYuko Yamamoto / Koto Music Institute of AustraliaSetsuko YanagisawaRen Yano and me (Mayu Kanamori).

Ryoko Freeman and members of Uraasenke Sydney Association donated their time for the exquisite tea ceremony demonstration, their donation from the tea tasting and made delicious rice balls.

Japan Club of Sydney gave valuable promotion and support.

Sydney Packaging Pty Ltd gave perfect plates and napkins.

FDC Fitout gave clipboards and donation of wine and leather carrier.

Cassie French from Pop Up-Publicity & Photography gave us her expert publicity.

Katy Fitzgerald from Images of Life Force Auction gave us expert advice.

We find that when we give, we gain so much more in appreciation of those around us that gave so much.

Mayu Kanamori


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