Return of company records to Japan

Media release: Thursday, 20 July 2017

On Tuesday 18 July the National Archives of Australia agreed to return to Japan many thousands of archival records that were seized during World War II.

This important event highlights the National Archives of Australia's standing in the international archival community through the signing of a memorandum of cooperation with the National Archives of Japan.

Under the memorandum of cooperation, the National Archives of Australia will transfer 3300 archival boxes, measuring more than 800 metres in length, of trading company records to its Japanese counterpart. This will be the largest donation of its kind accepted by the National Archives of Japan.

'This memorandum of cooperation is a symbol of the highly valued and ongoing friendship and collaboration between Australia and Japan,' said National Archives of Australia Director-General  David Fricker. 'The role of archives as memory institutions is fundamental to the preservation of significant documents and archival material, to enable the telling and retelling of both countries' shared histories.'

The Japanese trading company records were seized as enemy property by the Australian Government during World War II, and have been held by the National Archives of Australia since the 1950s.

The records were created between 1899 and 1941 by Japanese companies based in Australia. They include ledgers, journals, shipping documents and financial statements, as well as personal records such as photographs. Together, they provide a fascinating insight into the personal and business lives of the Japanese living in Australia at the time.

The National Archives of Australia has long been an active and respected member of the international archival community, providing leadership and advice in digital information management through to preservation of and access to records. Working with Japan to return these confiscated records is a significant component of its work in the international arena. The National Archives thanks the Australia-Japan Foundation for the support of preservation work completed on the Japanese records.

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Contact information

  • Sophia McDonald (Senior Communications Officer)
    t (02) 6212 3697 m 0417 247 157 e

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