Goldfields of WA – part 1

Following signs upon signs, coincidences upon coincidences without logic, other than the ones formulated in hindsight, there I was, in the bustling Leonora Whitehouse Hotel.

 

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Water pipe of the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme, Kellerberrin, WA. Photo by Mayu Kanamori

As our train named Prospector traveled alongside the seemingly never ending steel water pipeline that delivers water along the 530 km stretch to the Eastern Goldfields from Perth, I am once again reminded of the vastness of Australia, the aridity of this land’s interior, and that how our struggle for fresh water created much conflict since the time of first contact between its original inhabitants and new settlers.

The construction of the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme started in 1898, the same year Okin, a Japanese woman working in the town of Malcolm in the Eastern Goldfields, was allegedly raped. Gold had just been discovered in Malcolm, yet another 230 kms further north from Kalgoorlie into the arid interior of Western Australia.

The thought of how she travelled from her village in Japan with plentiful fresh water from the mountains, what drove her so far into the interior of this dry land, makes me feel ashamed of my air-conditioned comfort. Something about the act of documenting this landscape and my journey to the place Okin had travelled to, lived and worked, with an expensive toy-like video recorder, a GoPro purchased recently especially for this trip makes me feel like a fraud, not to mention the chit chatting with my travel companions, and the sparkling wine from the train kiosk I had been sipping.

My travel companions are both women, both with Australian fathers and mothers from the UK. They had only met that morning for the first time in Perth, when I introduced them as my two long-time friends, who for their own reasons, decided to come along on this journey. Although this was the first time I had companions on a project related research trip, it seemed apt in a loose synchronistic way, considering I originally started this project with a vague idea that I would write about 3 Japanese women in Australian history and their relationships with Australian men, and as a result, my digital parent folder for this project is still labeled “3 Women”.

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Travel companions Sue Dowell and Lisa Iley in the Eastern Goldfields near the fence line of the Butterfly Mine owned by Nex Metals Explorations Ltd, WA. Photo by Mayu Kanamori

After hiring a car in Kalgoorlie the following afternoon, we drove up the Goldfields Highway, north to Leonora for the night. Leonora is 19 kms west of, and the nearest town to the now abandoned ghost town site of Malcolm where Okin had once lived and worked in a house she said was a laundry, and others said was a brothel.

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Wild flowers along the Kookynie Malcolm Road near the original town of Butterfly in the Eastern Goldfields., WA. Photo by Mayu Kanamori

Other than the two barmaids, one who was a beautiful young blonde haired ‘Skimpy of the Day,’ dressed in a tight black vinyl g-stringed body suit, the clientele in the main bar of the Leonora White House Hotel were all men. Many worked in nearby mines, others worked on pastoral stations or on road works. I was glad my friends were with me to assist my mission for the night to find local information, especially about the historic town of Butterfly, which used to exist 30 kms south of Malcolm and about the current Butterfly gold mine.

This project has never really had a planned route and destination. All I have really done is to follow signs and gut feelings as it revealed itself in time. The first sign was that I found the results of our 2015 National Opera Review Discussion Paper, which mentioned Puccini’s Madama Butterfly as one of the family favorites in Australian opera as problematic. I applied to the National Library of Australia’s Japan Study Grant (now Asia Study Grant) to research on the history of Japanese women in Australia to find out why. There I found Okin’s story nestled amongst the original manuscripts of historian D.C.S. Sissons, and upon googling the town of Malcolm where she had lived, found the town of Butterfly only 30 kms away. Then I found also through google, that there was a current goldmine called Butterfly too.

I have just been following signs upon signs, coincidences upon coincidences without logic, other than the ones formulated in hindsight, there I was, in the bustling Leonora Whitehouse Hotel with my girlfriends.We decided to go around the bar, buying beers for the men, asking them questions and pumping them for information.

 

You’ve Mistaken Me for a Butterfly (1st and 2nd instalments)

 – Photo by D. Nishi

When Professor Vera Mackie asked me to take part in the 2017 Biennial Japanese Studies Association of Australia (JSAA) Conference   , I thought I would be talking about my research on Japanese women in Australia, and specifically about the Karayuki-san.  Being excited to partake as an artist among scholars, I accepted without much thought. I didn’t know then she was to propel this project in a direction I had not imagined.

Several months later, I found out that instead of me giving a talk, she wanted me to perform at the conference. Yikes.  I was no where ready to perform this work. I wasn’t even thinking of performing it myself, and I was still researching the material. As a matter of fact, I’d stopped researching since my health issues last year, and this project had been stagnant for a good nine months.

Composer and musical performer Terumi Narushima, who I had collaborated with before on Yasukichi Murakami – Through a Distant Lens and Awase Miso, also happened to be on the JSAA Conference steering committee. She advised me that if I read my talk slowly, and with long pauses, and if she played the piano for me during my pauses… well, we would have a show.

So Terumi and I have decided to collaborate again.

As this work was still in progress, we especially compiled our first instalment of You’ve Mistaken Me for a Butterfly for the 2017 JSAA Conference at the University of Wollongong, and performed it for the conference delegates on the last night of the conference.

So now… we’ve got a show… and we are performing it again in September for the POETRY ON THE MOVE Boundary Crossings: A Festival of Poetry.

I will also be travelling to the goldfields of Western Australia for further research, and Terumi will join me in Perth as artists-in-residence at  University of Western Australia’s (UWA) Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS). We will develop and present our second instalment of  You’ve Mistaken Me for a Butterfly as its public event presented by IAS, and at the pre-opening of the Women in Asia Conference at UWA organised by the Schools of Humanities, Social Sciences and Music.

What I am really chuffed about is that this work is presented in context of performed poetry. I have dabbled in amateur poetry since I was a kid, fancying myself as a poet, yet too shy and not confident enough about my poems. But now, thanks to Vera and Terumi (and Carol Hayes, Rina Kikuchi, Laura Dales, Lyn Parker and many others), I might just add writing poetry to my job description.

*           *          *

Here are the dates and venues available to the public:

You’ve Mistaken Me for a Butterfly (the first instalment)

POETRY ON THE MOVE Boundary Crossings: A Festival of Poetry, presented by International Poetry Studies Institute (IPSI) in the Faculty of Arts and Design at the University of Canberra.

16 September 2017, 2PM at the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, ACT.

You’ve Mistaken Me for a Butterfly (the second instalment)

IAS PUBLIC PERFORMANCE, presented by the Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS), University of Western Australia (UWA).

25 September 2017, 6PM at the Callaway Music Auditorium, UWA, Crawley, WA

*           *          *

Can I be so brave to tell… some of my poems are on Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/mayukanamori/

 

 

You’ve Mistaken Me for a Butterfly (1st and 2nd instalments)

– Photo by D. Nishi

When Professor Vera Mackie asked me to take part in the 2017 Biennial Japanese Studies Association of Australia (JSAA) Conference   , I thought I would be talking about my research on Japanese women in Australia, and specifically about the Karayuki-san.  Being excited to partake as an artist among scholars, I accepted without much thought. I didn’t know then she was to propel this project in a direction I had not imagined.

Several months later, I found out that instead of me giving a talk, she wanted me to perform at the conference. Yikes.  I was no where ready to perform this work. I wasn’t even thinking of performing it myself, and I was still researching the material. As a matter of fact, I’d stopped researching since my health issues last year, and this project had been stagnant for a good nine months.

Composer and musical performer Terumi Narushima, who I had collaborated with before on Yasukichi Murakami – Through a Distant Lens and Awase Miso, also happened to be on the JSAA Conference steering committee. She advised me that if I read my talk slowly, and with long pauses, and if she played the piano for me during my pauses… well, we would have a show.

So Terumi and I have decided to collaborate again.

As this work was still in progress, we especially compiled our first instalment of You’ve Mistaken Me for a Butterfly for the 2017 JSAA Conference at the University of Wollongong, and performed it for the conference delegates on the last night of the conference.

So now… we’ve got a show… and we are performing it again in September for the POETRY ON THE MOVE Boundary Crossings: A Festival of Poetry.

I will also be travelling to the goldfields of Western Australia for further research, and Terumi will join me in Perth as artists-in-residence at  University of Western Australia’s (UWA) Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS). We will develop and present our second instalment of  You’ve Mistaken Me for a Butterfly as its public event presented by IAS, and at the pre-opening of the Women in Asia Conference at UWA organised by the Schools of Humanities, Social Sciences and Music.

What I am really chuffed about is that this work is presented in context of performed poetry. I have dabbled in amateur poetry since I was a kid, fancying myself as a poet, yet too shy and not confident enough about my poems. But now, thanks to Vera and Terumi (and Carol Hayes, Rina Kikuchi, Laura Dales, Lyn Parker and many others), I might just add writing poetry to my job description.

*           *          *

Here are the dates and venues available to the public:

You’ve Mistaken Me for a Butterfly (the first instalment)

POETRY ON THE MOVE Boundary Crossings: A Festival of Poetry, presented by International Poetry Studies Institute (IPSI) in the Faculty of Arts and Design at the University of Canberra.

16 September 2017, 2PM at the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, ACT.

You’ve Mistaken Me for a Butterfly (the second instalment)

IAS PUBLIC PERFORMANCE, presented by the Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS), University of Western Australia (UWA).

25 September 2017, 6PM at the Callaway Music Auditorium, UWA, Crawley, WA

*           *          *

Can I be so brave to tell… some of my poems are on Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/mayukanamori/

 

 

Temple, goddess, prayer and contributions

In a trance like state, I prayed.

In Shimabara, there is a small hill called the Benten-zan, which has a shrine and a temple. The shrine enshrines the Benzaiten goddess, who is the goddess of everything that flows: water, time, words, speech, eloquence, music and extension of knowledge. Her origins are with goddess Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge, music, arts, wisdom and learning. I thought it apt to pay my respects, as it was in my making of a performance that brought me to this place.

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Entrance to the shrine with Benzaiten; photo by Mayu Kanamori

Further up the hill is the Risho-in Taishi-do, a Buddhist temple established in 1895 by Gonsho Hirota. In 1906 Gonsho went on a pilgrimage to India, and whilst on his journey through South East Asia, he met hundreds of karayuki san, many who were born in this area.

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Entrance to Risho-in Taishi-do temple; photo by Mayu Kanamori

At the highest point on the hill is their tennyo-to (could be translated as goddess tower), to enshrine a Buddhist statue he brought back from India. Gonsho built the tower with donations of his followers, many who were karayuki san he met during his travels. Women’s names, the amounts of contributions, and the places they lived, like Singapore, Ipoh, Siberia and Rangoon are inscribed on the stone fence posts surrounding the tower.

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Tennyo-to at Risho-in Taishi-do temple; photo by Mayu Kanamori

It is worth mentioning that karayuki san had sent much of their earnings back to their hometowns. D.C.S. Sissons wrote that Osaka Shimbun newspaper, before WWII, calculated that annual remittances home from Amakusa women exceed 200,000 yen, which went a long way towards covering the import surplus of the region. *

Sissons also wrote that the earnings of karayuki san in Australia was much higher than their counterparts in other countries.* I carefully looked at the 286 stone fence posts to see if I could find contributions from Australia, but couldn’t any. Although many of the engravings in the posts had faded, it is probably because Gonsho did not travel to Australia.

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Posts with names of contributing karayuki san

Opposite the tennyo-to, there is a stone monument by Tomoko Yamada, the author of Joshi-gun Aishi: Karayuki, shofu, itokoujo tachi no sei to shi (could be translated as Tragedy: Karayuki, prostititutes and the silk factory women’s sex and death). The monument is dedicated to not only the karayuki san, but also to the Comfort women in Asia.

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A monument for karayuki san and Comfort Women.

Many of the books with information about karayuki san I had read at the National Library of Australia during my residency, also had chapters on WWII Comfort women. Writers like Tomoko Yamada, Yoshimi Kaneko, Ill-myon-Kim and others elaborate on the connection between the long history and culture of often state endorsed institutionalized prostitution in Japan and the atrocity of the WWII Comfort women.

There were 8 Buddhist figures surrounding the tennyo-to, each a protecting diety for one or two of the animals on the Chinese zodiac. I slowly walk around the tennyo-to in an almost trance like state, and prayed.

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  • * Sissons, D.C.S. (1977) ‘Karayuki‐San: Japanese prostitutes in Australia, 1887–1916—       I*’, Historical Studies, 17(68), pp. 323–341. doi: 10.1080/10314617708595555.

Shimabara & Kuchinotsu Port

Acknowledging the contribution made by women

Shimabara today is a pretty place with hot spring bathing houses, streams of running spring water all around town, a castle with infamous history of the Shimabara Rebellion (1637-8) and a series of well-preserved homes of samurai who worked for the daimyo who occupied the castle. I decided to walk the town to understand the historical context of those who had ruled this land.

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Shimabara; photo by Mayu Kanamori

Heavy taxes imposed for the costly building of the Shimabara Castle, combined with poverty and famine, and local discontent due to the preceding persecution of Catholic Christians in the area were what caused the rebellion. It resulted in the beheading of 37,000 rebels and sympathisers as well as the ruling daimyo for misruling. Local interpretive boards and pamphlets provide tourists with history of the area with series of names of important rulers and rebels – all men.

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Samurai houses in Shimabara; photo by Mayu Kanamori
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Shimabara Castle; photo by Mayu Kanamori

Travelling just over an hour south from Shimabara on a local bus,  I arrived at Kuchinotsu. Kuchinotsu Port was one of the first modern ports in Japan that accepted foreign traders. From around 1888, karayuki san boarded a ship from this port to go abroad, often as a stowaway hidden in the bottom of a coal export ships. Many travelled to East and South East Asia in places like Singapore, Hong Kong, and Malaya, but they also settled in many other parts of the world such as India, Siberia, Manchuria, South Pacific, Australia and the United States. Today the port services local fishing boats and a ferry that connects Kuchinotsu to Oniike in Amakusa.

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Kuchinotsu Port; photo by Mayu Kanamori

It is noteworthy that Kuchinotsu Port is where Manzo Nagano (1855–1923), a local 15 year old boy boarded an British ship bound for Shanghai as a trainee sailor. In 1877 he arrived in New WestminsterBritish Columbia, and became the first official Japanese immigrant in Canada. The Canadian Mount Manzo Nagano is named in his honour. Although the term karayuki san is generally used for women who went overseas and worked as prostitutes, in so far as the term comes from this district, and it means someone who goes to or has gone overseas (literally it means going to China, but in those days, going to China equated to going abroad), Manzo Nagano can also said to be a karayuki san.

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Kuchinotsu History, Folklore and Marine Museum; photo by Mayu Kanamori

At the mouth of the port was the Kuchinotsu Museum of History and Folklore & Marine Museum, which had a significant section dedicated to information about the karayuki san with displays of their belongings such as a suitcase, contracts signed with traffickers of the trade, historical photographs and a video display of a modern-day documentary on their plight.

After spending most of the day understanding the history of the area through efforts of local men, I was glad to see that finally in this museum was acknowledgement of the contribution made by countless women who left this port to support themselves and in many cases, the livelihood of their impoverished families.

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Section on Karayuki san at the Kuchinotsu History, Folklore and Marine Museum; photo by Mayu Kanamori

Much information was provided about karayuki san in South East Asia, but I could not find any information about those who lived and worked in Australia. I thought of Okin. I thought of the many graves of Japanese women in Japanese Cemeteries in Broome, Thursday Island and Cowra. I thought of other women who had made Australia their home: of the war brides that married Australian servicemen, of the young working holiday women who have found husbands in Australia… and of myself.

Shiranui – atmospheric ghosts

Shiranui is an unknown fire, atmospheric ghost fires peculiar to Kyushu.

The sun was beginning to set as the train I had boarded in Isahaya slowly travelled along the Ariake Sea coast and down the Shimabara Peninsula. The villages on this peninsula and in neighbouring region of Amakusa were the two places in Japan on the island of Kyushu where many of the karayuki san , the early Japanese prostitutes who came to Australia had come from. The Ariake Sea lies between the two.

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View of the Ariake Sea from my train window on the Shimabara Railiway Line with Amakusa in the distance; photo by Mayu Kanamori

According to D.C.S. Sissons, there are no definitive sources of the birthplaces of Japanese women who came to Australia, but varying sources, such as Alien Registration in 1916 and inscriptions on Japanese tombs stones in places like Thursday Island and Broome indicates that more than half of the women were from Nagasaki prefecture where Shimabara is located, followed by those from neighbouring Kumamoto prefecture, where Amakusa is. Other studies show that more than half of the karayuki san worldwide appears to have been from Shimbabara Peninsula and from the Amakusa Islands.* I am here to find out more about them.

It had been a long day for me, having left Tokyo early in the morning, and changing trains six times to reach the castle town of Shimabara for the night. Hoping to reach my hotel before dark, I gazed out to the sea, counting the number of stations until I reached my destination. I thought of the women before me who left this land and sailed on this sea to what they thought was to find a better life for themselves. I thought about my leaving Japan to come to Australia. I was chasing an Australian boy. I wasn’t driven abroad to support myself and my family. I thought of people I love in Sydney and Tokyo, and imagined the shiranui* before my eyes.

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“Shiranui” from the Shokoku Rijindan by Kikuoka Tenryo; source Wikipedia

But by the time the train left Omisaki station, I felt as if I was transported to another realm, another time…

18:02 local time, 7 June 2016 on Shimabara Railway Line between Omisaki and Matsuomachi on Shimabara Peninsula, Kyushu; video by Mayu Kanamori

Sissons, D.C.S. (1977) ‘Karayuki‐San: Japanese prostitutes in Australia, 1887–1916—       I*’, Historical Studies, 17(68), pp. 323–341. doi: 10.1080/10314617708595555.

*Shiranui means unknown fire. It is peculiar to Kyushu. They are atmospheric ghost fires, much like the St Elmo’s fire in the West. Shiranui is said to appear several kilometers from the beach in the open sea on days of the noon moon when the wind is weak and are seen at night. There would first be one or two fires, which would split off to the left and right and multiply, and in the end, several hundred to several thousand fires would be lined up on the surface of the sea.

About Okin – part 2 (State Records Office of Western Australia)

Nothing is as simple is as it seems. Why didn’t the police know?

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Depositions of Witnesses, State Records Office of Western Australia Item no 210 1898 – Supreme Court case file no.2883 Okin & Kuchinotsu Port; montaged by Mayu Kanamori

According to newspaper reports of the time, during the trial Okin spoke through an interpreter, and was rigorously cross-examined by the defence. But there are no records left of what she had to say. However in the State Records Office of Western Australia, we can still find the original copy of her pre trial witness disposition along with those of Enaba and Constable John Donovan. There are also statements by the accused, Charles Francis, William Gleeson and Charles Edwards, prepared by their defence lawyer, along with a witness statement for the defence by John Harford, a regular client of Okin’s.

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State Records Office of Western Australia, Perth; photo by Mayu Kanamori

From an overall point of view, visiting the State Records office didn’t yield much beyond what I had already known of this case. However some previously unknown details sang out: Constable John Donovan, the arresting officer, who testified that he didn’t know that Okin’s house was a brothel, said in his statement that he had “… not had the occasion to watch this house as a brothel. I have not been long at Malcolm.” Another point of interest was that he had rushed to the house with another police officer, Buttle.

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Witness disposition by Constable John Donavan, courtesy, State Records Office of WA.

From what I had previously read about the times, it seems highly unlikely that both police officers not know that Okin’s house was a brothel and that she was a prostitute.

I cannot help but to think that things are not as simple is as it seems.

About Okin – part 1 (National Library of Australia)

I met Okin for the first time buried inside a folder entitled ‘Violent Crimes’

I met Okin for the first time nestled amongst the original manuscripts of D.C.S. Sissons at the Special Collections reading room in the National Library of Australia (NLA). Okin was buried inside a folder entitled ‘Violent Crimes,’ inside a box full of folders dedicated to karayuki san.[1]

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Some of the boxes containing papers by D.C.S. Sissons at NLA’s Special Collections.

Karayuki, literally means going to China, and is the term commonly used for Japanese women, mostly from Kyushu, who worked overseas for subsistence. According to an article in the Tokyo daily newspaper Kokumin in early 1896, often the women were smuggled outside onboard steamers; usually went to Hong Kong first, where they were found by agents, and sold to brothels including those in Australia. At the time there were about 200 Japanese brothels, perhaps more according to further research by Sissons, operating in Australia. Most Japanese women living in Australia around this time were prostitutes, although various census results showed that they had listed their occupations as seamstresses, laundress, servants and alike. [2]

Around 3pm on the 29th of July, 1898, three men allegedly forced themselves into a house occupied by a Japanese man and several Japanese women in Mount Malcolm (Western Australia). The two of the younger men, William Gleeson and Charles Francis raped Okin in her bedroom whilst the older man, Charles Thomas Edwards, stood guard at the door. The Japanese manager Enaba went to the police for help. When Constable John Donovan arrived on the scene, Edwards was no longer there, but he heard a woman screaming, and he found Okin lying on the bed with Gleeson at the foot of the bed, and Francis standing at her head. Clothing of all three were in disarray. Donovan arrested the two men. The third man Edwards was arrested at a later date. [3]

Francis stated that two days prior to the alleged offence, he had visited Okin and was entertained by her. On the day in question, he visited again in company of his friends. His friends waited in the next room whilst he was with Okin. He called his friend Gleeson for a loan of a pound to offer to her. Gleeson entered the room to lend him the money, whilst Okin replied she had no change. Gleeson was “making overtures ” to her, when the police arrived and arrested them.

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Okin’s case notes found in the original manuscripts of D.C.S. Sissons, NLA Special Collections MS 3092, Box 13 Karayuki, folder entitled: Women violent crimes

Okin’s rape case went to the Criminal Court in Western Australia on 7 October, 1898 before his Honour Justice James and a jury of 12. Francis and Gleeson were charged with “carnally knowing against her will,” and Edwards, for having aided and abetted Francis. The men pleaded not guilty. All women and youths under 18 years of age were ordered out of court.

The Crown Solicitor, R. B. Burnside detailed the case, and stressed the importance of protecting the chastity of women whatever her “colour and creed.” He added that even if she was “only a courtesan, and however low her character, if she did not consent she was entitled to the protection which the law gave to her in common with the most virtuous of women.”

Okin and Enaba gave statements through an interpreter. They both denied that the place they and several other women lived was a brothel, and that Okin had been working there as a laundress. Her hour long cross examination by the defence lawyer Vyner was mostly to elicit facts regarding her mode of living, which at times were delicate, and solicited laughter from the court as well as from the accused.

Justice James summed up the case, referring to the difficulty of obtaining evidence from Japanese witnesses through an interpreter; that there was no evidence that Okin was a prostitute, and on the contrary, the evidence given by Constable Donovan showed that the house where she lived was not known, as usually was, as a brothel; that he agreed with the Crown Solicitor that rape was rape regardless of the reputation of the woman; and that the charge was most serious: rape was a capital offence.

The jury could not agree in the first instance and the court adjourned. [AN ALLEGED CAPITAL OFFENCE. THREE MEN CHARGED. THE JURY UNABLE TO AGREE., 1898]

The jury eventually returned a not guilty verdict and then men were acquitted on 18 October, 1898.[4]

[1] Sissons, D. C. S. & Horwitz, Solis.  1950,  Papers of D.C.S. Sissons, 1950-2006 [manuscript]

[2] Sissons, D.C.S. (1977) ‘Karayuki‐San: Japanese prostitutes in Australia, 1887–1916—       I*’, Historical Studies, 17(68), pp. 323–341. doi: 10.1080/10314617708595555.

[3] AN ALLEGED CAPITAL OFFENCE. THREE MEN CHARGED. THE JURY UNABLE TO AGREE. (1898) The West Australian, 8 October, p. 7.

[4] THE MOUNT MALCOLM CASE. ACCUSED ACQUITTED (1898) The West Australian, 19 October, p. 7.