The largest cemetery in Australia, Broome’s Japanese Cemetery was established at the beginning of Broome’s pearling industry.
In the early days of the pearling industry at Broome, many Japanese men worked as divers. Most of the headstones in the cemetery pay tribute to the hundreds of individual divers who died whilst pearling – either from drowning or from the bends (decompression sickness). There are also monuments to catastrophic events, such as a large stone obelisk for those who drowned at sea during a cyclone in 1908. Such cyclones were relatively common in the area, and cyclones in 1887 and 1935 claimed the lives of around 250 Japanese divers between them.
There are 919 Japanese are buried in the cemetery. Many of the headstones are simply marked by colored rocks carried from Broome’s beaches. Before the Japanese became divers, the industry survived by kidnapping local Aboriginal people and training them to dive for pearls. Only 50 metres south of the main Japanese Cemetery lies the Aboriginal section of the cemetery. Unlike the Japanese section, the Aboriginal graves are largely unmarked and unattributed.
The Japanese Cemetery can be found on Port Drive, on the way from the Broome town center to Cable Beach. There are no opening hours or entry charges, though the cemetery has been recently restored to commemorate the lives that were lost.