“The Child of the World’s Old Age”: Australian Perceptions of Japan-as-Child

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This article focuses on the important symbolic role of photographs of children in the context of developing diplomatic and trade relationships between Australia and Japan between the 1880s and 1920s. A fascinating series of studio, commercial and tourist photographs are examined, including commemorative postcards marking the Anglo-Japanese Alliance and hand-coloured lantern slides produced commercially in Japan. Building on political and military studies of Australian–Japanese relations, it explores the ways that Australian–Japanese relationships were mediated and reproduced through photography practices operating across private and public domains. In these photographs, children feature simultaneously as the face of Japan and an interface for political and cultural interpretation. As photographs of children helped to reinforce conflicting conceptions of Japan as a children’s paradise, a budding military power and an industrial threat, they offer insight into Australian anxieties about what modernity meant for the two Asia-Pacific nations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Australian Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Australia–Japan relations
  • childhood
  • photography

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