With Japan situated in East Asia and Brazil in South America, both countries seem like worlds apart. But did you know that Brazil has the largest Japanese population outside of Japan?
How It All Began
The fusion of both cultures go as far back as the early 19th century. During that time, many agricultural workers in Japan suffered from poverty and unemployment. Meanwhile, Brazil had abolished slavery in the country and needed to employ workers to cater to Brazil’s thriving coffee trade, which led to both governments signing a treaty allowing Japanese migration to Brazil. Today, the largest Japanese diaspora in Brazil, also known as nikkei, is in the city of São Paulo with 1.6 million Japanese in residency.
São Paulo’s Japantown: Liberdade
Today, the harmonious blend of the two cultures can be seen through the streets of Liberdade. Known as the Japanese district of São Paulo, the streets will certainly make you feel like you’re in Tokyo, with oriental stores and traditional Japanese restaurants all around. Every weekend, the Liberdade Street Market takes place with a wide array of activities to enjoy such as arts, crafts, and of course, food. If you’re ever in São Paulo in July, don’t miss the chance to experience the Tanabata Matsuri Festival in Liberdade, also known as the Festival of Stars!
Immerse Yourself in Art & Culture
The Japanese culture is still alive and thriving in São Paulo till today. Remnants of its rich history in Brazil have been immortalised in the form of museums, architecture and temples. Experience what life was like for the earlier Japanese settlers at the Museum of Japanese Immigration in Brazil, where the exhibitions display an array of agricultural content and even weapons used in WWII by Japanese spies who operated from Brazil. For a more spiritual journey, visit the Zu Lai Temple, the largest Buddhist temple in South America – the intricate Chinese architecture and peaceful ambience is sure to draw you in.