Japanese Occupation of Tawau in 1942

Before the 1900’s, the Japanese were already in Tawau venturing into agriculture, timber and fishing business. By the 1930’s, the 2 big “giants” operating in Tawau were Kuhara (Nissan) and Kubota (Mitsubishi) .These two names still exist in Tawau until today.

The attacks on Sabah begun on 1st January 1942 in Labuan (Victoria) followed by Membakut and Beaufort. A week later Kota Kinabalu (Jesselton) was captured followed by Sandakan (Elopura). Tawau was occupied on 24th January 1942. The photo below shows Japanese armies delivering speech to the local people, declaring Tawau is occupied.

                                       Tawau occupied by the Japanese on January 24, 1942

During the Japanese occupation, the local currency was replaced with an “Emergency” notes which were called the Nissan Rubber Estate Issues. This was used in Tawau district only.

These  Japanese occupation-“Emergency” notes of  British North Borneo 1942 or also named the Tawau Emergency Issues with red seal and Manager's signature. It was recorded in book "The Japanese Occupation Of Malaya (Singapore) and its Currency " by Wong Hon Sum, pg 85.

Manager's signature in purple blue color
Manager's signature in purple blue color
No Manager's signature
Tawau was under the Japanese occupation for 3.5 years but finally liberated by units of North Australian Division. Eventually, the Japanese in Tawau were repatriated to their homeland.

Source: http://www.discovertawau.com

#These three pieces of  Japanese occupation-“Emergency” notes of British North Borneo were listed in the Collectors Auction House for its inaugural auction on 28th July 2012 in Singapore.


  1. Mr.Niew,i want to ask...
    My Straits Settlement Edward Coin have strange chinese mark on it...why is that?

  2. Hi Anonymous,
    Those strange Chinese marks likely are the countermarks.
    It served as tally to counter check the authenticity of a silver coin.
    A selected mark was punch on the coin to certify that this silver coin was given out from this merchant and had certified it is a genuine silver.