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Black-and-white photograph of Yoshiko Ishikawa and Victor Creagh on their wedding day, both facing the camera. Victor stands on the right with his hands clasped at his front, wearing a dark suit. On the left is Yoshiko, holding Victor’s arm and a bouquet of flowers. She wears a cream-coloured dress which falls below the knee, light-coloured shoes and a veil. - click to view larger image

Yoshiko Ishikawa wore this dress when she married Victor Creagh in Tokyo in 1956. Yoshiko was one of about 650 Japanese women who migrated to Australia after the Second World War as the fiancées or wives of Australian servicemen.

Life in Australia was difficult and complex for many war brides though their arrival forced a relaxation of the White Australia policy.

Japan and the Second World War

Yoshiko Ishikawa was born in Tokyo in 1932. After the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the end of the Second World War, Yoshiko worked as a waitress at the Ebisu army camp in the Japanese capital.

There, she met Victor Creagh, a member of the Royal Australian Regiment stationed in Japan. They married in June 1956 in a small ceremony in Japan.

Portrait photograph of Yoshiko Ishikawa and Victor Creagh on their wedding day. They are standing next to each other and cutting their wedding cake. They are both holding the knife, with Yoshiko’s hand placed on top of Victor’s. Yoshiko wears a long-sleeved cream and metallic silver dress, white gloves and a white veil. Victor wears a dark-coloured suit jacket with a white shirt and deep red tie. - click to view larger image

Australians in Japan

More than 12,000 Australian servicemen were deployed to Japan as part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force, after Japan's defeat in the Second World War.

Australian servicemen were forbidden to establish relationships with Japanese citizens. Despite this strict no fraternising policy, relationships developed between servicemen and Japanese women.

White Australia policy

Acceptance did not come easily from an Australian community that still thought of Japan and the Japanese as the enemy.

Servicemen campaigned for the government to acknowledge their marriages to Japanese women and allow their wives to come to Australia. In 1952, Australian Immigration Minister Harold Holt agreed to the arrival of Japanese war brides.

The arrival of war brides including Yoshiko Ishikawa marked the first major relaxation of the White Australia policy. Although not fully abolished until 1973, amendments to the racial aspects of Australia’s immigration laws marked an important step towards a more diverse Australia.

Japanese war brides

Japanese war brides in Australia were initially granted 5-year visas and had to meet several conditions.

Husbands needed to prove that they had a suitable home and would be able to provide for their wives. Couples needed to prove that their marriage took place legally and according to Christian rites.

A black and white wedding photograph of seven people in a church, five men and two women. Standing on the left are two women, one of whom is the bride. To the right of her are four men. They are all facing away from the camera, standing in front of a man who appears to be a priest.

Wedding photograph

Brides also needed to supply X-rays and medical certificates and pass character and security checks, which was standard for people applying for long-term residency. They could bring their children to Australia, but not other relatives.

Many women faced hostility when they arrived. Often living in regional areas and with the difficulty of a language barrier, the experience could be very isolating and distressing.

Alternative text: A landscape-oriented postcard, showing a large ship. The bottom of the postcard reads ‘China Navigation Company m. v. “CHANGSHA” - m. v. “TAIYUAN”’. - click to view larger image

Yoshiko Ishikawa collection

The marriage between Yoshiko Ishikawa and Victor Creagh ended in 1974. Yoshiko remained in Australia.

She worked as a housekeeper and continued to socialise with friends, including those she met through army connections, and other Japanese war brides. Yoshiko died in 2016.

The Museum holds a range of material that belonged to Yoshiko. These objects tell the story of her marriage to Victor and migration to Australia as well as Yoshiko’s ongoing connection to Japan.

The collection includes Yoshiko’s engagement and wedding rings, photographs, marriage certificate and wedding dress. It also includes her official migration documentation, traditional Japanese kimonos and accessories.

In our collection

Dark cream silk damask dressIt is possible that this dress was worn by Mary Deane on her wedding day when she married pastoralist and founder of Springfield sheep station, William Pitt Faithfull at Saint James' Church Sydney on January 20, 1844. Between 1844 and 1859, William Pitt Faithfull and Mary had nine children.
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