OPT is commemorating the 120th anniversary of New Caledonia’s Japanese community by issuing a new souvenir sheet comprising three 110-XPF stamps.
Japanese immigration to New Caledonia began when a ship carrying 599 Japanese workers sailed into harbour here on 25 January 1892. The new arrivals, unmarried men mostly of peasant extraction, were under a five year contract to work in the nickel mines. They hailed from the south of Japan (Okinawa, Kumamoto, Fukuoka, Hiroshima...) and played an active part in founding the village of Thio. When their contracts ended, many of them decided to remain and settle in New Caledonia. They married or formed partnerships with local women and found work as fishermen, farmers, craftsmen or small shopkeepers.
Following the attack on Pearl Harbour on 7 December 1941, all New Caledonia’s Japanese residents were considered to be enemy aliens; they were forcibly separated from their families, arrested and interned on Nou Island. Their goods and possessions were seized and they were sent to internment camps in Australia – where many of them died – before being repatriated to Japan in 1946.
Their descendants have organised a host of commemorative events, scheduled to take place in Poindimié, La Foa, Thio and Noumea between 26 June and 8 July, to mark this 120th anniversary year, foster friendship between Japanese and New Caledonian communities and heighten awareness of Japanese cultural traditions.
Programme highlights include: the laying of the foundation stone for a Japanese memorial in Thio cemetery, cultural and historical exhibitions, concerts, performances of traditional dances, conferences, workshops... and, of course, moments of remembrance and opportunities to meet people and share ideas and experiences.