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Debunking a Widely Held Japanese Myth

By C. Denis George Abstract by Anna Kerrig

Historical Aspects on the Early Discovery of the Pearl Cultivating Technique

Japanese scientists, Nishikawa and Mise are typically recognized for discovering the technology that led to cultivating spherical pearls. C. Denis George was an Australian enthusiast who challenged the credit given to the Japanese for this discovery. George argues that Nishikawa and Mise's step-father were first exposed to successful pearl cultivation at Thursday Island under the guidance of William Saville-Kent, a British expatriate living in Australia. In his article, "Debunking a Widely Held Japanese Myth: Historical Aspects on the Early Discovery of the Pearl Cultivating Technique," George campaigns for William Saville-Kent to receive proper respect for pioneering fundamental pearl culturing techniques. By using texts and personal experience as evidence, George places Nishikawa and Mise's step-father in Australia during Kent's pearl operations on Thursday Island. This trip to Australia predates Nishikawa and Mise's application for patent. Furthermore, George cites Japanese reluctance to acknowledge Saville-Kent's pearl research in text and conversation as evidence of deception. 

The evidence C. Denis George presents convincingly argues that Saville-Kent shared his bead and tissue-piece technique with the two Japanese, they went back to Japan, repeated the technique in akoya mollusks and claimed it as their own. Several of George's key points are:

  • Nishikawa felt the need to predate his pearl discoveries eight years to mask the information he probably gleaned while in Australia in 1900.  
  • George highlights the unlikelihood that two Japanese scientists simultaneously discovered the technology that would produce cultured pearls. He notes that even the Japanese are not quite sure which of their pioneers (Mise or Nishikawa) truly discovered the pearl culturing technique. George deduces that the uncertainty of ownership stems from both of them becoming privy to "intimate information from someone else who was familiar with the subject of pearls."
  • George also practiced pearl cultivation techniques independent of Japanese research. He conducted his tests in Australia near Thursday Island. When George was asked to attend a pearl symposium in Japan, he presented his findings in detail, and his pearls were examined and accepted by the board. However, when he revealed that he believed pearls to have originated in Australia under the guidance of William Saville-Kent, George says that friendly discussion ceased and silence prevailed. George believes that the Japanese have intentionally neglected to respect early Australian pearling techniques and that their indifferent and cold response to his mention is evidence of the ongoing misconception that pearl techniques originated in Japan.

C. Denis George spent years encouraging others to give Saville-Kent the recognition and respect he deserves. George has written numerous reports, established "The William Saville-Kent Memorial Pearl Museum," and even named his pearling boat after him: "TSMV WILLIAM SAVILLE-KENT." George concludes his article by appealing for proper respect and honor to be bestowed upon William Saville-Kent and his groundbreaking pearl experiments.

To read the full story download this PDF, compliments of Pearl World: The International Pearling Journal.

DEBUNKING A WIDELY HELD JAPANESE MYTH