Japanese immigration in Brazil
A Japanese-Brazilian is Brazilian citizen with Japanese ascendants. The use of the term Nikkei is currently used to name the Japanese and their descendants.
The Japanese-Brazilian population are divided into:
- Isseis (Japanese first generation, born in Japan) 12.51%;
- Nisseis (children of Japanese) 30.85%;
- Sansei (grandchildren of Japanese) 41.33%;
- Yonseis (great-grandchildren of Japanese) make up 12.95%
Japanese immigration to Brazil officially began on June 18, 1908, when the ship Kasato Maru arrived in Sao Paulo, bringing 781 farmers to the country-side of São Paulo. The flow ceased almost entirely in the late 1950s, with nearly 200,000 Japanese settled in the country.
Reasons for immigration
In the late 19th century, Japan suffered a demographic crisis. The end of feudalism gave room for the mechanized agriculture. Poverty swept through the countryside and the cities became saturated. Employment opportunities became increasingly scarce, forming a mass of rural workers in state of misery. In Brazil, on the other hand, there was at that time a labor shortage in the rural area. And in 1902, the Italian government had banned subsidized immigration from Italians to Sao Paulo (the largest number of immigrants to Brazil at that time were the Italian).
Coffee farms, which produced the main Brazilian export at the time, began to feel the lack of workers with the drastic decrease in the arrival of the Italians. The Brazilian government then had to find a new source of work. This time, turning to the Japanese immigrants. And with the outbreak of World War I, the Japanese ended up being denied entry by several countries. Brazil becoming one of the few countries in the world to accept immigrants from Japan.
Despite receiving Japanese during the 19th century and the first years of the 20th, only in 1906, arrived in Brazil the first group willing to reside and establish a colony. Coordinated by Saburo Kumabe, the group was located in the interior of the state of Rio de Janeiro. The colony, located at Fazenda Santo Antônio, lasted only five years, because there were no farmers or people with a tradition of cultivating and caring for the land, failing to actually create stability for themselves.
The Kasato Maru
Kasato Maru is officially considered by historiography the first ship to bring to Brazil Japanese immigrants. On June 18, 1908, it arrived at the Port of Santos bringing 165 families who came to work in the coffee plantations of the west of São Paulo.
In the first seven years, there were 3,434 families (14,983 people). And with the beginning of World War I (1914), immigration grew: between 1917 and 1940, 164,000 Japanese arrived in Brazil. 75% went to São Paulo, which was then the state that concentrated most of the coffee plantations.
By the end of World War I, the flow of Japanese immigrants to Brazil grew enormously. The Japanese government encouraged the Japanese to go to Brazil as the countryside and Japanese cities were overcrowded, causing poverty and unemployment. The government also wanted the expansion of the Japanese ethnic group to other places of the world and making sure also that the Japanese culture was present in the Americas, beginning with Brazil.
Many of these immigrants arrived in the 1920s and 1930s. But they were no longer limited to coffee plantations, cultivating also strawberries, tea, and rice in Brazil.
Municipalities with highest concentration
The municipality with the largest number of Japanese and their descendants in Brazil is Sao Paulo. It is estimated that 326,000 Japanese live in this city.
Currently, there are 1.5 million Japanese and descendants in Brazil, 80% in the state of São Paulo and the majority in the capital (326,000 according to the 1988 census). From most of the Japanese community in Brazil, 90% live in cities. The “Liberdade” neighborhood, in the center of the capital of São Paulo, represents the landmark of the Japanese presence in the city. Other important locations with high concentration of Japanese presence in Brazil are Paraná, Mato Grosso do Sul and Pará.
Making Brazil the home of the largest Japanese population outside of Japan.