‘a Jap on Anzac Day’: meanings and origin

The Australian-English phrase a Jap on Anzac Day and its variants are used of:
– anything that is absolutely unacceptable;
– any disagreeable situation or experience.

The word Jap, shortened form of Japanese, has strong derogatory connotations.

Anzac Day is the anniversary of the landing of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps in the Gallipoli Peninsula on Sunday 25th April 1915. It is a national public holiday in Australia and New Zealand, originally commemorating this landing, but later serving as the principal day of remembrance for those who served and died in military operations.
The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (acronym: ANZAC, also Anzac) was part of the allied Mediterranean Expeditionary Force during the First World War, and is best known for its role in the Gallipoli campaign of 1915. The corps was briefly re-established during the Second World War.

These are the earliest occurrences of the phrase a Jap on Anzac Day that I have found, in chronological order:

1-: From The Chocolate Frog (Sydney: Currency Methuen Drama, 1973), by the Australian playwright James Thomas McNeil (1935-1982)—as quoted by Gerald Alfred Wilkes (1927-2020) in A Dictionary of Australian Colloquialisms (Sydney University Press in association with Oxford University Press Australia, 1990):

Shirker Our mate ’ere seems ter like people . . . Tosser Like ’em! I reckon he does! He’d kiss a Jap on Anzac Day . . . red ’ot poof, fer mine.

2-: From The Canberra Times (Canberra, Australian Capital Territory) of Thursday 1st April 1976:

We hear tell of a bunch of Australian soldiers who have just returned from New Zealand—some of whom were not impressed by the beer they drink over there.
One Kiwi asked a soldier what he thought of the beer and received the reply, “I wouldn’t feed it to a Jap on Anzac Day”.

3-: From The National Times: Australia’s National Weekly of Business and Affairs (Sydney: Fairfax News) of Sunday 1st March 1981—as quoted by Gerald Alfred Wilkes (1927-2020) in A Dictionary of Australian Colloquialisms (Sydney University Press in association with Oxford University Press Australia, 1990):

The booze here is so crook you wouldn’t give it to a Jap on Anzac Day.

4 & 5-: From two reviews of the Australian musical film Starstruck (1982), by the Australian film director Gillian Armstrong (born 1950):

4-: From the review by Neil Jillett, published in The Age (Melbourne, Victoria) of Monday 12th April 1982:

In the musical scenes the sound is at a merciful level, though lips and words sometimes seem out of synch. In the general rhubarb that too often accompanies the dialogue some good lines may have been lost, but one survived and will stay with me for a long time. “Geez,” says a pub customer looking at his counter lunch, “you wouldn’t give that to a Jap on Anzac Day.”

5-: From the review by Dougal MacDonald, published in The Canberra Times (Canberra, Australian Capital Territory) of Wednesday 12th May 1982:

Linking the songs is a story of life at the Harbour View, a pub for the working man and woman, a neighbourhood escape from boredom, a surrogate family, a place where the counter-lunches are something that, in one drinker’s words, you wouldn’t serve to a Jap on Anzac Day (the film was finished before the brown dog became infamous).

6-: From Tharunka (Kensington, New South Wales) of Monday 23rd May 1983—Tharunka is the students’ journal of the University of New South Wales:


Dear Rex,
Pickle the possums pancreas, it’s me again. I’ve just dropped in from seeing Neville Wran *. Boy, is he in a bad way! With all this legal trouble, he’s in more strife than a Jap tourist on Anzac Day. So he’s resorting to his favourite passtime [sic] — doing Hitler impersonations.

* The Australian politician Neville Kenneth Wran (1926-2014) was the National President of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) from 1980 to 1986, and the Premier of New South Wales from 1976 to 1986.

7-: From Davo’s Little Something (Sydney: Pan Macmillan Publishers Australia, 1992), by the Australian author Robert George Barrett (1942-2012):

Davo managed to get the flat cleaned up and had just finished ironing a shirt and a pair of jeans when he heard Colin’s knock on the front door. It was just on ten past nine.
‘Ooh, mate, you reckon I haven’t had a nice prick of a bloody day,’ were the first words Colin said when Davo opened the door and he stormed straight past him into the loungeroom.
He stood there wearing a smart, expensive, red leather, zipfront jacket, jeans and black loafers, shaking his head as he gave Davo a baleful look.
‘Bloody Wollongong. Fair dinkum—you wouldn’t send a Jap there on Anzac Day.’