The early 1970’s were so different from today
“Lois, Borthwicks would like me to go to Japan to complement New Zealander Bob Armstrong’s industry by product knowledge with my meat knowledge. We all go for three years. What about it?”
That was a summary of the way the offer was put to me. Lois’s adventurous spirit grabbed at the opportunity. Elder son Malcolm had just turned eight and was the eldest of our four children. Needless to say we spoke to them about going to Japan but at their age the adventure was beyond strong comprehension.
Economically Japan was developing as Australia’s major trading partner: particularly for agricultural products. The coal, iron ore and natural gas boom was yet to come to fruition. At the same time the UK, who had been Australia’s major export market, was moving closer to Europe and joining the European Union in January 1973. Later that year the White Australia Policy was formally disbanded. The door to China was still closed. Thus the foundation was laid for Australia to develop strong relationships with Asia.
Within our families there were varying degrees of apprehension about our venture. While only one of our uncles saw active service outside Australia, a wide spectrum of memories of the war years still lingered. The Japanese community in Australia primarily consisted of trading representatives. In bound Japanese tourism was yet to commence and no Asian languages were taught in schools. It was one thing to trade with a nation. It was another thing to learn of its people and culture.
Almost fifty years on, the image of Japan in Australia is aeons away from the 1970s. Sushi and sashimi is a popular snack meal amongst the younger generations. Even in Ballarat, with a population of 100,000 people, has ten Japanese style restaurants and takeaways: more than traditional Chinese! Japan is now a major tourist destination for Australians and vice versa. Japanese is taught in schools and a range of organisations promote cultural ties.
Older memories have faded as we have come to know the Japanese culture and people.