You’ve Mistaken Me For A Butterfly: 3rd Instalment – the short film

You’ve Mistaken Me For A Butterfly short film version is now showing as part of Mayu Kanamori’s photographic exhibition, Teiju to wa Nandaro: Australia.

22 Feb 2022- 15 March 2022 at Osaka University Museum

*Free admission

You’ve Mistaken Me For A Butterfly short film version was created as part of 2020-2021 Shirushi no Ue o Tori ga Tobu program.

A Film By
Mayu Kanamori

Terumi Narushima

Malcolm Blaylock

Takayuki Odawara
Nick Payne
Mayu Kanamori

Editing Consultancy / Colour
Darrin Baker

Voice Recording / Engineering
Philip Muscatello

Performance / Butterfly Trick
Ryuichi Fujimura

Shigemi Nakamura-Simms

Translation & Subtitling
Junko Hirabayashi

Yasushi Nagata
Osaka University

Chie Muraoka

Historical Photographs

Commodore Matthew Perry’s Visit
Author Unknown 1854
English Wikimedia Commons

Japanese Acrobats in Australia
Author & Date Unknown
Papers of D.C.S. Sissons
Series 2 Japan & Australia, National Library of Australia (NLA)

Acrobatic Performers
Ogawa Kazumasa (aka Isshin/Kazuma) Mid Meiji
Nagasaki University Library Archives (NULA)

Butterfly Trick Yoro Takigoro Poster
Late Edo, Masaru Kawai Archives

Butterfly Trick Yanagawa Taneshirabe no den
Author Unknown Early Meiji
Masaru Kawai Archives

Women Dancers and Shamisen Player
Author Unknown, Meiji Period

Auditorium Princess Theatre
Barrie, Andrew Weedon, Henry & Talma Studios
1896, State Library of Victoria

Steamers Melbourne’s port
Author Unknown C1910s
Rick Ray/

The interior of the Princess’ Theatre
Melbourne Samuel Calvert The Illustrated Melbourne
1865 State Library of Victoria

Japanese Village Advertisement
Author Unknown Pemberton W. Willard
The Lorgnette 1886

At the Sydney Japanese Village
Phil May 1886 The Bulletin

Tea Ceremony Author Unknown
Meiji NULA

Japanese sugar cane workers at Hambledon Queensland
Author Unknown C1896
John Oxley Library State Library of Queensland

Japanese divers on lugger Thursday Island
Author & Date Unknown
John Oxley Library State Library of Queensland

Karayuki Author & Date Unknown
Papers of D.C.S. Sissons
MS 3092 Series 5 Japanese prostitutes in Australia

Women in Broome, Author Unknown, Date Unknown
Papers of D.C.S. Sissons
MS 3092 Series 23 Japanese in Australia – photographs
National Library of Australia

Author & Date Unknown
Papers of D.C.S. Sissons
Series 23 Japanese in Australia – photographs

WA Cobb and Co coach Mt Malcolm
Author Unknown C1890
National Gallery of Australia Canberra

Miners, North Star Mine
Mt Malcolm Western Australia
1896 Museums Victoria

Mt Malcolm Townsites & Map
Shire of Leonora Economics and Heritage Services

Trial of Frank Gardiner, the bushranger, at the Supreme Court
Sydney Samuel Calvert 1864
State Library of Victoria

Karayuki, Unknown Author & Date
Courtesy Yoko Hayashi
Institute for Study of Humanities and Social Sciences
Doshisha University and Kuchinotsu History, Folklore and Marine Museum

Karayuki Portraits, Unknown Authors & Dates,
Kuchinotsu Museum of History and Folklore

Document images

Japanese Passport 1866, Diplomatic Archives
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan

Acrobats & Karayuki
Papers of D.C.S. Sissons NLA

Supreme Court case file (no 2883) Depositions/Witness Statements
1898 State Records Office of Western Australia

Service & Casualty Form A112; MP1103/1
National Archives of Australia

Map, Tatura Internment Camp, Rushworth
1942-1946, Tatura Museum

Under license from
Butterfly, lexaarts; Clouds, Archao;
Seagulls, New Africa; Crescent moon, muratart;
Butterflies, micromotion; Washing, BlackBoxGuild;
Moths, gonin; Outback, Jana Schoenknecht

Other Licenses
2573 Clouds, Pixabay/Pexels Videos
Cloudy-sky-118, Jessica Ann Mccamey/Mixkit

Locations & Support
National Library of Australia
Gwalia Ghost Town & Museum
The Old Court House Law Museum
Kuchinotsu History, Folklore and Marine Museum
Kuchinotsu Museum of History and Folklore
Risho-in Taishi-do
Japan Studies Association of Australia
University of Wollongong
State Records Office of Western Australia
Shire of Leonora
Women in Asia Conference,
University of Western Australia
Poetry on the Move,
University of Canberra / Australian National University
Customs House Library

National Library of Australia Japan Studies Grant Full Bibliography

Special Thanks:
Arisa Yura
Carol Hayes
Clarissa Bell
David Hinde
Jacqueline Lo
Jenevieve Chang
Keiko Tamura
Kraig Grady
Laura Dales
Lisa Iley
Liz Paddison
Martin Edmond
Masako Fukui
Mayumi Shinozaki
Melissa Miles
Rina Kikuchi
Susan Dowell
Tessa Morris-Suzuki
Tomoko Yamada
Vera Mackie
Yuji Sone
Yuriko Nagata

Original Funding & Support
Bundanon Trust
National Library of Australia (former Japan Study Grant)
Institute of Advanced Studies, University of Western Australia

Film Funding:
Shirushi no Ue o Tori ga Tobu, Osaka University /
Agency for Cultural Affairs, Government of Japan





© Mayu Kanamori 2021


You’ve Mistaken Me For A Butterfly Performance History and Other References – 1st and 2nd Instalments

A Collaboration with Composer / Musician Terumi Narushima.

A performative poem reflecting on Okin, a Japanese woman who was caught up in a court case in 1898, when two white men were accused of sexually assaulting her. The events took place near Butterfly, an outback mining town in Western Australia.

Performance History and Publications:

1st Instalment:

Performance: Biennial Conference of the Japanese Studies Association of Australia at University of Wollongong June 2017

Text: You’ve Mistaken Me For A Butterfly script with forward by Vera Mackie.

2nd instalment:


IAS Public performance, presented by the Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS), University of Western Australia (UWA). September 2017 at the Callaway Music Auditorium, UWA, Crawley, WA.

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. September 2017 at the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, ACT.

Sex in the City, curated by Jenevieve Chang, Customs House Library, Sydney, NSW April 2018

Other References:

Book Chapter (Conclusion): Revising ‘Us and Them’ by Melissa Miles and Robin Gerster as part of Pacific Exposures: Photography and the Australia-Japan Relationship published by ANU Press.


An excerpt on YouTube:

Bibliography – Butterfly Project

Today am in need to grasp something solid and immovable, so that I may wake up tomorrow to start my second draft. Maybe.
…so with this in mind, here is the bibliography of draft 1.

Here is the Bibliography for Butterfly Project as of 8 December 2017, upon finishing the first draft of a theatre script, loosely entitled the Butterfly Project:

ABC Radio National, 2010. British Sculptor Antony Gormley, Australia: ABC Radiio National. Available at: [Accessed November 20, 2017].

Artemis International, 2015. Inside Australia, Artemis International. Available at: [Accessed November 21, 2017].

Attorney-General’s Department, 2015. DISCUSSION PAPER: OVERVIEW The National Opera Review. Available at: [Accessed December 7, 2017].

Australia, N.G. of, OUT OF THE WEST – | | WA Cobb and Co coach at Mt Malcolm. National Gallery of Australia. Available at: [Accessed August 14, 2015].

Ballantyne, P., 2002. The fascination with Australian ruins: some other meanings of “Lost Places.” University of Melbourne Postgraduate Association. Available at: [Accessed December 1, 2017]., Map of Butterfly North-South Mine in Western Australia – Bonzle Digital Atlas of Australia. Available at: [Accessed August 14, 2015]., Map of Butterfly in Western Australia showing Leonora (highlighted in purple) – Bonzle Digital Atlas of Australia. Available at: [Accessed August 14, 2015].

BURROWS, J., 1939. 12 Jan 1939 – OVER THE PLATES. EARLY MT. MALCOLM. Life in the … Western Mail. Available at: [Accessed August 14, 2015].

Commonwealth of Australia, 2016. NATIONAL OPERA REVIEW FINAL REPORT. Available at: [Accessed December 7, 2017].

Correspondent, 1898. An Alleged Capital Offence – The West Australian 8 Oct 1898. The West Australian. Available at: woman gleeson&searchLimits=sortby=dateAsc%7C%7C%7Cl-state=Western+Australia%7C%7C%7Cl-availability=y%7C%7C%7Cl-australian=y%7C%7C%7Cl-title=30 [Accessed August 14, 2015].

Correspondent, The Argus 20 Oct 1898. Available at: [Accessed August 14, 2015].

David Belasco (Founded on John Luther Long’s Story), 1928. Madame Butterfly: A Tragedy of Japan. Available at: [Accessed December 6, 2017].

Degabriele, M. & Degabriele, M., 1996. From Madame Butterfly to Miss Saigon: One Hundred Years of Popular Orientalism. Critical Arts: A South-North Journal of Cultural & Media Studies, 10(2), pp.105–114.

Department of Premier and Cabinet, 1981. Government Gazette of WA 1981, Available at:$file/gg005.pdf [Accessed August 17, 2015].

Footage: Alicia Whittington, P. and W.W.K.J., Desert lakes fill with life — Kanyirninpa Jukurrpa: Martul Cultural Knowledge Program, Australia. Available at: [Accessed November 21, 2017].

Fukui, M., 2013. Madame Butterfly’s revenge. Griffith Review, 40. Available at: [Accessed August 9, 2015].

Hayashi, K., 2005. Watashi wa Senso Hanayome desu, Kanazawa: Hokkoku Shinbunsha.

Hayashi, K., Tamura, K. & Takatsu, F., 2002. War Brides Senso Hanayome: kokkyo o koeta onnnatachi no hanseiki, Tokyo: Fuyo Shobo.

Jenkins, Chadwick, C.U., New York City Opera Project: Madama Butterfly. Available at: [Accessed December 6, 2017].

Jones, N., 2002. Number 2 home: a story of Japanese pioneers in Australia, Fremantle: Fremantle Arts Centre Press.

Kaneko, Y., 1992. Baishō no shakaishi, Tokyo: Yuzankaku Shuppan.

Kato, M., 2008. Narrating the Other : Australian Literary Perceptions of Japan, Clayton, Vic: Monash Asia Institute.

Kim, I., 1980., Yujo karayuki, ianfu no keifu, Tokyo: Yuzankaku Shuppan.

Kim, I., 1997. Yujo, karayuki, ianfu no keifu, Tokyo: Yuzankaku Shuppan.

Kurahashi, M., 1990. Karayukisan no uta, Tokyo: Kyouei Shobo.

Lo, J., Diaspora, Art and Empathy. In A. Aleida, ed. Empathy and its Limits. Palgrave MacMillan.

Marinova, D. et al., 2010. Desert Knowledge CRC Working Paper 67 Profile of Leonora: A sustainability case study, Available at:

Masanao, K., 1990. Karayuki san no uta, Tokyo: Kyoei Shobo.

Mihalopoulos, B., 1994. The Karayuki-san The Making of Prostitutes in Japan : Social Justice, 21(2), pp.161–184. Available at:

Mihalopoulos, B., 2001. Ousting the “prostitute”: Retelling the story of the Karayuki-san. Postcolonial Studies, 4(2), pp.169–187.

Mihalopulos, B.V., 2001. Finding Work Through Sex: Transforming pre-war Japanese female migrant labourers into prostitutes 1870-1930. New York University.

Mining Atlas, Map of Butterfly goldmine. Available at: [Accessed September 18, 2017].

Miyakoka, K., 1968. Shofu Kaigai Ruroki: mou hitotsu no Meiji, Tokyo: Sanichi Shobo.

Museum Victoria, 1886. Negative – Men at North Star Mine, Mount Malcolm, Western Australia, 1896 – Museum Victoria. Available at: [Accessed August 14, 2015].

Nikkei Kokusai Kekkon Shinbokusha Osutoraria Shibu, Nikkei Kokusai Kekkon Shinbokusha Nyusu Reta.

Pedler, R.D., Ribot, R.F.H. & Bennett, A.T.D., 2014. Extreme nomadism in desert waterbirds: flights of the banded stilt. Biology Letters, 10(10), pp.20140547–20140547. Available at: [Accessed November 20, 2017].

Schickling, D. & Vilain, R., Puccini’s “Work in Progress”: The So-Called Versions of “Madama Butterfly.” Music & Letters, 79, pp.527–537. Available at: [Accessed December 1, 2017].

Shoaf, J.U. of F., The stories of Madame Butterfly. University of Florida. Available at: [Accessed December 6, 2017].

Sissons, D., Japanese in Australia – war brides, Papers of David Sissons, National Library of Australia, Series 27, Box 60 MS3902

Sissons, D., Japanese in Australia – photographs, Papers of David Sissons, National Library of Australia, Series 23, Box 58 MS3902

Sissons, D., Japanese prostitutes in Australia, Papers of David Sissons, National Library of Australia, Series 5, Box 13 MS3092

Sissons, D.C.S. (David C.S., 1977. ’Karayuki-san: the Japanes prostitutes in Australia, 1887-1916. Historical Studies, University of Melbourne, 17(68 & 69).

Sissons, D.C.S. (David C.S., 1990. Japanese Performers in Australia in the Nineteenth Century: The Sakuragawa Troupe (1873-1888). , pp.1–7.

Sissons, D.C.S. (David C.S., 1999. Japanese Acrobatic Troupes Touring Australia 1867 – 1900. Australasian Drama Studies, 35, pp.73–107.

Sissons, D.C.S., 1977. Karayuki-san: Japanese prostitutes in Australia, 1887 – 1916 – I. Historical Studies University of Melbourne, 17(68), pp.323–342.

Sissons, D.C.S., 1977. Karayuki-san: Japanese prostitutes in Australia, 1887-1916 – II. Historical Studies, University of Melbourne, 17(No 69), pp.474–488.

Smith, E., 2008. Representations of the Japanese in contemporary Australian literature and film. New Voices, 2(1978), pp.41–62.

Sone, S., 1990. The Karayuki-San of Asia, 1868-1938: The Role of Prostitutes Overseas in Japanese Economic & Social Development. Murdcoh University.

State Library of WA, Mount Malcolm – Outback Family History. Available at: Malcolm [Accessed August 14, 2015].

State Library of WA, Outback Family History | Home. Available at: Malcolm [Accessed August 14, 2015].

Strickland, B., Antony Gormley’s “Inside Australia” – Lake Ballard. Available at: [Accessed December 7, 2017].

Tamura, K., 2001. Home Away From Home: The Entry of Japanese War Brides into Australia. In P. Jones & V. Mackie, eds. Relationships: Japan and Australia 1870s-1950s. Parkville: The History Department, The University of Melbourne.

Tamura, K., 2002. An Ordinary Life? Meanjin, 60(1), pp.127–131.

Turnbull, C.M., 1997. Ah Ku and Karayuki-San: Prostitution in Singapore 1870-1940. Pacific Affairs, 70(2), pp.292–293.

WA Now and Then, GHOST TOWNS | Western Australia. Available at: [Accessed August 14, 2015].

Walkatjurra Cultural Centre, Aboriginal Australian Art and Culture in Leonora Western Australia. Available at: [Accessed August 14, 2015].

Warren, J.F., 1993. Ah ku and karayuki-san: prostitution in Singapore, 1870-1940, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Western Australia News, A Bicultural Future for Leonora Aboriginal Languages. Available at: [Accessed August 14, 2015].

Yamada, M., 1992. Joshigun aishi: karayuki, shofu, ito kojotachi no sei to shi, Tokyo: Kojin Sha.

Yamazaki, T., 1973. Sandakan Hachiban Shoukan: teihen joseishi josho, Tokyo: Chikuma Shobo.


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.


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”.

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.

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.

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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

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



As a guest at Keiko and David’s

On transformations and where a small change can result in large differences in a later state.

For someone studying about Japanese women in Australia, how lucky can I get than to stay in Canberra with my friend and colleague Dr Keiko Tamura, an ANU anthropologist, who is Australia’s foremost expert on Senso Hanayome (Japanese WWII War Brides).

Book cover, Michi’s Memories: The story of a Japanese War Bride by Keiko Tamura; ISBN (print): 9781921862519 ISBN (online): 9781921862526 Publication date: September 2011 Imprint: ANU Press

Keiko is the author of Michi’s Memories: The Story of a Japanese War Bride, and was the facilitator of communications and exchange for the Australian chapter of the Nikkei Kokusai Kekkon Shinbokukai, an international forum, through events, meetings and newsletters, connected senso hanayome in Australia to their counterparts in other parts of the world, mostly from North Americas and the UK.

Whilst during the day I read books and articles, many of which were written by Keiko, at night, over a glass of gin & tonic (sometimes two), I would ask Keiko questions and air my views about the senso hanayome and my wider research about Japanese women in Australia.

keiko and david
Dr Keiko Tamura and Professor David Hinde in their home; photo by Mayu Kanamori

During these informal discussions, I was inspired by the notion that the senso hanayome were courageous women, who had embraced the new era within the devastation of post-war Japan with a sense of hope and a pioneering spirit. They were not afraid to form relationships with their former enemies, risked being judged as traitors, they learned a foreign language and left their homes to live in a foreign country they had never visited before. At first glance, this may seem obvious, but things are not always what it seems.

A women who became senso hanayome, were often seen in Japan as a woman of loose morals, despite her relationship with a Western man later becoming a conventionally accepted sexual liaison in a form of marriage. They were often labeled as pan-pan, a slang term then used for prostitutes who serviced the servicemen of the Allied Occupational Forces, despite them meeting their future husbands in normal jobs such as being canteen workers, typists, or house girls inside the Allied camps.

At this point I began to see a similarity, although not the same, with the karayuki. I am sure that such thought would be regarded as severely disrespectful to the senso hanayome – they were not prostitutes, but young women in love, who married, raised families and worked in respectable jobs. Keiko may not necessarily agree with me, but I see a similarity in so far as they both appear to have courageously boarded that ship to go abroad to the unknown, and lived in best way they can, despite being judged negatively as women of ill repute.

Much to my delight, Keiko’s husband, Professor David Hinde is a nuclear physicist at the ANU. Not only can I discuss details of my research with Keiko with her expertise and humanities background, I was given the opportunity to think laterally and pick David’s brain in areas of science and physics.

A plot of Lorenz’s strange attractor for values ρ=28, σ = 10, β = 8/3. The butterfly effect or sensitive dependence on initial conditions is the property of a dynamical system that, starting from any of various arbitrarily close alternative initial conditions on the attractor, the iterated points will become arbitrarily spread out from each other; source: Wikipedia

In so far as this project began with my interest in Madama Butterfly, and the way in which I wanted to somehow create art that changed the way we celebrate the suffering of Cho-cho san, I thought it apt to ask David about metamorphosis and the life cycle of butterflies as well as the butterfly effect in chaos theory. Over dinner, after the gin & tonics, the three of us discussed meaning of transformations and its stages as well as ideas of a deterministic nonlinear system where a small change initially can result in large differences in a later state.

I do not know exactly yet how these discussions will transform itself into a theatre work. I just somehow know that there is something bubbling under the surface and I am somehow on the right track.

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Dr Keiko Tamura is a Research Associate, School of Culture, History & Language, ANU College of Asia and the Pacific. She published widely on Japanese immigrants to Australia, Western expatriate communities in Japan and memories of the Pacific War in Australia and Japan.  Her publications include Michi’s Memories: The Story of a Japanese War Bride, From a Hostile Shore: Australia and Japan at war in New Guinea (with Steven Bullard); Forever Foreign: Expatriate Lives in Historical Kobe, and Reframing National Memory: Stories from Australia and Japan about the Pacific War (in Japanese with Mayumi Kamada et al.) She held research positions at The Australian National University, Kobe University and Kyoto University and was awarded research fellowships from the National Library of Australia, the National Film and Sound Archive, and the Australian Prime Minister Centre in the Museum of Australian Democracy.  She worked for the Australia-Japan Research Project at the Australian War Memorial since 1997 and appointed as manager between 2007 and 2009.

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Professor David Hinde is the Head of Department of Nuclear Physics and a Researcher of Nuclear Physics at ANU. He has completed his B.Sc. at the University of Manchester, then commencing a PhD degree in Nuclear Physics at ANU in 1978.

He was a School Postdoctoral Fellow from 1982 to 1984, when he was awarded a Queen Elizabeth II Fellowship. In 1986 he moved to RCNP, Osaka University, Japan and in 1987 to the Hahn-Meitner Institute, Berlin, Germany. He returned to the Department of Nuclear Physics in 1989.

He was awarded the Pawsey Medal by the Australian Academy of Science in 1992. He is currently Head of the Department of Nuclear Physics at the ANU.  Professor Hinde is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Physics and a Fellow of Institute of Physics, UK. He was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science in 2006.

His research specialty has been developing novel experimental equipment and techniques allowing elucidation of the time-scales associated with heavy ion reactions, to understand the dynamical processes as two individual quantum systems start to overlap.  His work has led to a significant change in our knowledge of nuclear dynamics, resulting in a re-direction of international research.

Lunch with Jacqueline Lo

An invaluable benefit of spending time in Canberra is the great minds I get to brain storm my project ideas with.

Professor Jacqueline Lo (ANU) is my dear friend and mentor. She has seen my performance works, listened to my concerns and aspirations during their creative processes, gave me feedback, written papers about some, and has instigated pivotal insights and guideposts for me as an artist and as a human being.

I met her for lunch at the restaurant in Street Theatre.

With Jacqueline Lo at the Street Theatre
With Jacqueline Lo at the Street Theatre

Bursting out of my long silent reading and thinking time at the National Library, I blurted out to her:

I wanted to write a love story that didn’t reinforce tragically inclined storylines, emotions and behaviors. Not that I wanted to necessarily write a Cinderella storyline, but neither did I want to pass on the beautification of the long suffering love of Cho Cho san in Puccini’s opera Madama Butterfly.

Yet, post colonial and feminist critiques aside, somehow the glorification of heightened emotions of sorrow caused by unreturned romantic endeavour actually existed within me. Actually, I thought it existed/ exists within all of us, Japanese or otherwise… and that was why I was working towards writing a play that transforms these repetitive karmic forces at play, reinforced by popular stories, not only of those from my own life time, but from many previous life times.

Furthermore, It was up to all of us in the present moment to change not only our future, but also our past; by learning our karmic lessons, it was possible to change the past in the here and now; to heal past wounds through our art making process and in the theatre, just like it was possible in quantum physics that the here and now can change the past.

I told her about the historical alleged rape case of Okin.

There were many unknown factors about what may or may have not happened to Okin; that historical facts cannot be taken at face value; that nothing is ever what it seems; and if we can put aside critical thinking and preconceived judgements which our karma has engendered in us; then those areas we are never to know will give us an opening to change our past and future simply by how we imagine or reimagine them to be.

Does any of this make any sense to you? I’m raving.

But Jacquie, within minutes of me blurting all this out, understood what I was saying.

She said that I am using the term karma, but in her area of trauma and memory studies, this could be called trans generational memory (through a diasporic lens.)

She then discussed the work of an amazing artist, John Young Zerunge, who I had the pleasure of meeting several years ago. John and I (and artists Owen Leong and Savandhary Vongpoothorn) had shared our respective works during roundtable discussions with delegates from New York University’s Global Arts Exchange, hosted by Jacquie at the ANU.

'Bonhoeffer in Harlem', 2011 by John Young 'Bonhoeffer in Harlem', 2009 St Matthauskirche Kulturforum Berlin, installation view
‘Bonhoeffer in Harlem’, 2009 by John Young
St Matthauskirche Kulturforum Berlin, installation view

She later sent me a chapter in the book Empathy and its Limits she had written called, Diaspora, Art and Empathy. It was primarily about John Young’s art over a period of time. Reading this gave me further guideposts to my work in progress.

To me, John’s work goes far beyond racial, diasporic or transcultural concerns (He was born in Hong Kong, studied in Australia, and is part of the first wave of Chinese Australian artists). His work concerns those of humanity as a whole.

In her writing, Jacquie characterises Marianne Hirsch’s concept of postmemory:

the relationship that the generation after those who witnessed cultural or collective trauma bears to the experiences of those who came before, experiences that they ‘remember’ only by means of the stories, images, and behaviors among which they grew up. But these experiences were transmitted to them so deeply and affectively as to seem to constitute memories in their own right. Postmemory’s connection to the past is thus not actually mediated by recall but by imaginative investment, projection, and creation.

Yes! This is what I am doing, working on, remembering, imagining, projecting, and creating.

Jacquie then goes on to write that John’s work, although not that of conventional postmemory in a sense that it was bequeathed to him as a member of a particular diasporic or national community, but that of ‘affective communication and imaginative contamination,’ and thus postmemory is ‘less about veracity… but rather about the structures of feeling that the memory-making inspires, and the ways in which this memory-making echoes something of the ethics and history of the memory-maker.’

Suddenly, I felt liberated.

Over the last decade, somehow I have found myself working in what Jacquie describes as ‘conventional diasporic frameworks in our multicultural paradigm.’ This it seems is what John had experienced: an ‘ethnic’ artist charged with the weight of representing a social or cultural group.

So then my concerns about Madama Butterfly need not only be because I am a woman of Japanese heritage. The discourse on diaspora and diasporic art may have made me take notice of this particular story, and kept me awake at night, knowing something had to be done, but now my work no longer need to be just about the Japanese, or more specifically, a Japanese woman who had suffered.

I would so much like think that my concerns to be wider and deeper, and not only within the context of diaspora or perhaps even gender. For the sake of evolution our consciousness, I would like my art to take part in a transmutation of our accepted behaviors and emotional responses, especially of those that are repeated throughout generations, and are often judged, celebrated or criticised, without it ever being questioned.

…. A big task ahead…


Professor Jacqueline Lo is Associate Dean (International) for the ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences, Executive Director of the Australian National University’s Centre for European Studies and the Chair of Academic Board (2016-2018).  She is also an Adjunct Research Fellow of the Centre for Interweaving Performance Cultures at the Free University of Berlin.


John Young Zerunge was born in Hong Kong in 1956 and moved to Australia in 1967. He read philosophy of science and aesthetics at the University of Sydney and then studied painting and sculpture at Sydney College of the Arts, specifically with the conceptual artist Imants Tillers and musical prodigy (the late) David Ahern. His investigation of Western late modernism prompted significant phases of work from a bi-cultural viewpoint, including series of paintings in the last four decades – the Silhouette Paintings, The Polychrome Paintings, the Double Ground Paintings and the Abstract Paintings.


Artists and the Butterfly Trick

Japanese women in Australia, pioneers, artists, entertainers, butterfly, tricks: revealing / concealing in performance

A musician and two dancers were the first Japanese women to set foot on Australian shores, according to records immaculately researched by D.C.S. Sissons.[1] Shamisen player Mitsuko, and dancers Otake and Otome were part of the acrobatic team, Buhicrosan’s Troupe, who disembarked in Melbourne on the 14th of November in 1867 to perform at the Princess Theatre. The first recorded Japanese to ever been born in Australia was the daughter of members of another group of acrobats, the Great Dragon Troupe, aboard the S. S. Penola enroute from Melbourne to Adelaide. Billed as “Iranim Penola the South Australian Japanese,” she was displayed to audiences by her proud grandfather at the Theatre Royal, Adelaide and Port Adelaide Town Hall.[Sissons, 1999]

This print was found in the Papers of D.C.S. Sissons, NLA MS 3091 Box 2 Folder 14 pertaining to D.C.S Sisson’s Completed Research of Japanese Acrobats in Australia, and although other prints from this folder had been provided with captions, this particular print was not captioned.

These are some of the lessor known historical facts about Japanese women in Australia I am discovering through the Papers of D.C.S. Sissons held at the National Library of Australia’s Special Collections.

The first Japanese women in Australia were artists and entertainers. I am a Japanese migrant in Australia and a performance maker. In the first two weeks of my research residency as part of NLA’s Japan Study Grant, I am beginning to find not only historical records, but threads and motifs that seems to be guiding my next performance work.

The Manuscript Collection at the NLA I have asked to study during my residency.  Most are from the Papers of D.C.S. Sissons – Photo by Mayu Kanamori

The butterfly motif,  which reference my concerns with the popularity of Puccini’s opera Madama Butterfly (see blog entry You’ve Mistaken Me For A Butterfly) has appeared in history of the Japanese acrobats. The two earliest acrobatic groups to arrive and perform in Australia, the Great Dragon Troupe and the Buhicrosan’s Troupe both showcased as part of their repertoire: the Butterfly Trick (Ukare no Cho / devised by Osaka juggler Tanigawa Sadakichi [Sissons, 1999]in 1820’s[2])

The Bendigo Advertiser’s article about the Butterfly Trick performed by the Great Dragon Troupe, read that one of their jugglers, “… took his seat, tailor fashion, on a table in the centre and back of the stage. Tearing a strip of paper in pieces he took a small piece and twisted it into the shape of a butterfly… (He) took a fan, and waving it with a short and rapid motion, kept the butterfly fluttering in the air like a thing of life, sometimes alighting on his hand, at another time on his fan, and again on a flower. A second butterfly was formed, and two were kept flying about with as much ease as the one… The feat was greeted with great applause.”

Mt Alexander Mail wrote about Buhicrosan’s Troupe’s Butterfly Trick as “… The famous butterfly fanning was neatly done, but the amazement which this feat raises was soon brought to termination by an explanation being given of how the trick, for trick it is, was done…”[Sissons, 1999]

The Butterfly Trick seems to have been performed by men and not the women in the performances… and very curious to know more about how this trick was performed!

These people are not Japanese women, but unidentified cross-dressed performers. According to D.C.S. Sissons, one of the performers was possibly Katsujiro of the Lenton & Smith Group. Photographer Unknown (Courtesy of Mitchell Library collection, PXA 362-6 item 72); Print courtesy of the Papers of D.C.S. Sissons, NLA MS 3092 Box 2 Folder 14

Japanese women in Australia- pioneers – artists – entertainers – butterfly – tricks which reveal and conceal in performance – are some of the concepts floating around in my mind as I continue the research phase of this undertaking.

[1] Historian and academic. David Carlisle Stanley Sissons was an historian in the Research School of Pacific Studies at the Australian National University where he was a research fellow from 1961-1965 and a fellow from 1965-1990. His principal fields of research were the history of Australia-Japan relations and the Second World War war crimes trials. In 1991, following his retirement from the ANU, Sissons took up a three-year post to establish an Australian Studies Centre at the Hiroshima Shudo University in Japan. Sissons died in Canberra in October 2006. (Mayumi Shinozaki, The National Library of Australia )

[2] Sissons, D.C.S. (1999) ‘Japanese Acrobatic Troupes Touring Australia 1867 – 1900’, Australasian Drama Studies, 35, pp. 73–107.

[3] Hur, N.-L. (2000) Prayer and Play in Late Tokugawa Japan: Asakusa Sensōji and Edo Society. Harvard Univ Asia Center.




You’ve Mistaken Me For A Butterfly

I am now old enough and ugly enough to write a love story.

– Photo by D. Nishi

You don’t need to read the 382 page National Opera Review Discussion Paper released last September to know that Puccini‘s Madama Butterfly is one of the most popular opera productions performed by Australia’s four major opera companies. These companies have had so many revivals of this production that most opera audiences must have seen it several times in their life times. Typically with beautiful music, costumes, sets and lighting, I can understand why people love this opera. Yet coming out of the theatre, watching audience members with tears in their eyes, listening to them excitedly discussing how beautiful their experience of the show had been, I have to say, crosses my grain. Being a woman of Japanese heritage in the year 2016, I have serious problems in accepting the way its archaic story-line continues to perpetuate stereotypes about Japanese women and their relationships with Western men.

I’m not blaming the opera companies, and certainly not our talented opera singers. The findings of the Discussion Paper suggests that these companies need to stage popular productions like Madama Butterfly to financially survive. Opera Australia has evolved and moved with the times in recent years too, casting talented Japanese and other Asian Australian sopranos for the part of Cio-Cio san instead of an European soprano in Orientalist traditions. But why do we need to continue to enjoy this spectacle that celebrates and beautifies suffering of this woman? Why are concepts of faithful waiting in perseverance for an impossible one sided love and its ultimate betrayal be enjoyed by so many?

My answer is not to criticise Puccini nor those involved in re-staging this 102 year old opera. Nor do I want to write a postcolonial and or feminist critique about Madama Butterfly and a host of other stories with a similar portrayal of Japanese women – its been done before, and relationships aren’t that simple.

My answer is to create a performance that may be able to address some of these issues that the continuing popularity of this opera presents to me, and in the process, re-imagine the way in which Japanese women and Western men relate to each other.

This is my new performance project for the next few years.

I am now old enough and ugly enough to write a love story.

Watch this space.


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