Oliwia's posts

‘Middlesbrough’s “Forgotten Japanese”: the Japanese Community in Middlesbrough during the inter-way years’ by Marie Conte-Helm

The focus of this blog post is an article titled ‘Middlesbrough’s “Forgotten Japanese”: the Japanese Community in Middlesbrough during the inter-war period’ by Marie Conte-Helm.


The article is well structured and has an aim of investigating the context of the history of Japanese emigration and the North-East past and present associations with Japan. The article is very detailed and presents the reader with an overview of the motivations behind Japanese emigration, as well as their reasons behind the migrants’ settlement in Middlesbrough.


In terms of history, the article explains that Japanese migration to Britain was a result of Japanese investment which brought over companies and families. The people involved in this movement where often short-term migrants and typically stayed for a period of up to 5 years before returning home. The first documented Japanese visitors are said to have been in Newcastle in 1862, however it wasn’t until the Meiji government overturned the Isolationist policies in 1868 that movements of Japanese nationals became more frequent. The article argues that the emigration of Japanese nationals was a result of industrialisation as it led to an increase of land taxes – therefore forcing farmers off their land. Between the years of 1880-1893 367,000 Japanese farmers faced this situation.

The article also states that the Meiji government also played a significant role in the process of emigration as it not only encouraged people to travel overseas, but also played an active part in overseas contract labour business between the years of 1885-1894, and although the rate of emigration did not peak until 1902-1904, this encouragement was essential in laying the foundation for future emigration.


In terms of attraction to the North-East, the Rivers Tyne, Tees and Wear contributed majorly to Japanese commercial shipping, later also the development of passenger ships. The most relevant example being the European Line Service which made Middlesbrough their port of re-fuelling and loading, therefore allowing passengers to depart there. Between 1896-1902 the article states 29,777 passengers were transported from Japan to Europe via this service. Also, for the Japanese sailors, the article argues, Middlesbrough was their home away from home.


The article also states that the most significant wave of Japanese incomers – in the context of Middlesbrough – took place in the second decade of the 20th century and by 1920, approximately 250 Japanese nationals were living there. The article also conveys that the Japanese community within Middlesbrough was very tight-knit as it was vastly concentrated in the Marton Road area. The article also notes that the Japanese community seemed to be generally accepted by the host community and their treatment was considerably better than that of the Italian migration, for example.


The article uses a lot statistical evidence to illustrate the extent of the importance of the Japanese community and also contains pictures of some of the members of the community.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *