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Mixing sushi and samba – meet the Japanese Brazilians

June 22, 2013 Destination North Asia No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59As you walk through the Liberdade district of Sao Paulo, you could be forgiven for thinking you are in down-town Tokyo. Bright red torii gates of Shinto shrines line the streets, and myriad Asian restaurants and supermarkets display advertisements in Japanese characters.

This is the center of the biggest Japanese immigrant community in the world. Over 1.8 million people of Japanese descent live in Brazil, 600,000 of them concentrated in Liberdade.

First settlers arrived in 1908, escaping poverty and unemployment in Japan, and were heading for the coffee plantations of Brazil’s south which were in pressing need of laborers after the abolition of slavery.

They were housed in former slaves’ barracks where they slept on the floor, and suffered from illnesses new to them, like malaria, which they didn’t know how to treat. They also had to adapt to a culture vastly different to their own.

But in spite of the initial hardship, the contribution Japanese immigrants made to Brazilian society has been far-reaching.

Written by : Bill Hurley

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