The 115 Years of Japanese Immigration in Brazil. A Journey of Culture, Integration and Cooperation

Since the moment the first Japanese ship docked in Brazilian lands, 115 years ago, Japanese immigration has intertwined with Brazilian culture in a profound and enriching way. The celebration of this historic milestone not only reverberates in the histories of descendant families, but also reflects the remarkable contribution that this community has brought to the country. Japanese immigration is a narrative of cooperation, culture and resilience that deserves to be remembered and celebrated.

Japanese descendant in Brazil, working in agriculture. Illustrative image (Photo:

The celebration of 115 years of Japanese immigration to Brazil is a time to look back and recognize the value that this community brought to the nation. Also, we can look to the future by continuing to build cultural bridges and strengthen the ties that unite Japan and Brazil.

Today, Brazil has one of the largest populations of Japanese descent outside of Japan. According to data from the 2010 Brazilian census, there are approximately 1.9 million Brazilians of Japanese descent in the country.

As a curiosity, Canada also has a significant population of Japanese origin, although much smaller compared to Brazil. According to the 2016 census data, there are approximately 121,485 people of Japanese descent in Canada. This population is distributed across several provinces, and British Columbia, in particular the Vancouver region, is home to a substantial part of this population.

Interchanged Culture and Identity

On June 18, 1908, the Kasato Maru docked in Santos, São Paulo, bringing with it the hopes and dreams of around 800 Japanese who were looking for opportunities in distant lands. Brazil, at the time, was in full economic growth and needed manpower to meet the demands of coffee plantations. Thus, this courageous first wave of immigrants began a story of ties between Japan and Brazil that continues to this day.

Japanese immigration brought invaluable cultural richness to Brazil. From culinary traditions to colorful festivals and religious ceremonies, the Japanese presence has been a strong influence on Brazilian culture, especially in the states of São Paulo and Paraná. Festivities such as “Tanabata Matsuri” and “Bon Odori” have become an integral part of the festive calendar, providing a glimpse into Japan’s rich heritage. These events also promote cultural exchange, inviting Brazilians of all backgrounds to celebrate and appreciate Japanese traditions.

Economic and Scientific Contributions

The contribution of Japanese descendants to the economic and scientific development of Brazil is remarkable. In various areas such as agriculture, industry, medicine and technology, individuals of Japanese descent have left their mark. An important example is agriculture: innovative techniques introduced by the Japanese revolutionized agricultural production and contributed to the development of rural areas in Brazil. In addition, scientists and academics of Japanese origin have played key roles in scientific and technological advances in the country.

Resilience and Integration

The journey of Japanese immigrants is also marked by remarkable resilience and a desire to integrate. Facing linguistic and cultural challenges, many immigrants and their families have adapted and integrated into Brazilian society. This ability to adjust and thrive in a new and diverse environment is an inspiring lesson in perseverance and determination.

Bilateral Partnerships and Cultural Diplomacy

The celebration of 115 years of Japanese immigration also serves as a powerful reminder of the strong relationship between Brazil and Japan. This relationship is not only built on economic aspects, but also on a flourishing cultural diplomacy. Artistic, academic and cultural exchanges have strengthened ties between the two countries, enriching mutual understanding and promoting harmonious cooperation in diverse fields.

Japanese cultural influence in Brazil

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The Japanese cultural and artistic influence in Brazil is a testament to culture’s ability to transcend borders and enrich a nation’s diversity. Over the decades, Japanese immigration and cultural exchanges between the two countries have given rise to a number of valuable contributions.

The introduction of dishes such as sushi, sashimi, tempura and yakisoba transformed the Brazilian palate in many regions of the country. These dishes not only conquered Brazilians, but were also incorporated into the country’s food culture, giving rise to specialized restaurants and even adaptations that combine Japanese elements with local ingredients.

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Visual arts
Japanese art, known for its delicate and contemplative aesthetics, also found space in Brazil. The watercolor technique, for example, gained popularity among Brazilian artists and influenced their creations. In addition, Japanese architecture, with its simplicity and harmony with nature, has inspired construction projects that seek balance and sustainability.

Innovation and Technology
Japanese influence also extends to the world of innovation and technology. The emphasis on precision, research and development has been an inspiration for sectors such as the automotive and technology industries. The pursuit of excellence and continuous improvement is a characteristic shared between Japanese and Brazilian cultures. In Brazil, the presence of Japanese cars is significant and diversified. Japanese automakers have an important share in the country’s automotive market, offering a variety of models ranging from compact cars to luxury vehicles. Some examples of Japanese automakers and models in Brazil include: Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Lexus and others.

Traditional and modern arts
The combination of traditional Japanese arts, such as ikebana (flower arrangement) and origami (paper folding), with contemporary approaches has generated new forms of artistic expression in Brazil. Artists and designers have experimented with merging these elements, creating works that honor traditions while exploring new possibilities.

Japanese music and dance have also found their way into Brazilian festivals and cultural events. “Bon Odori”, a traditional Japanese dance, is often performed at Brazilian cultural celebrations, incorporating elements from both cultures. In addition, interest in Japanese music, such as J-Pop and musical anime, has increased among young Brazilians, contributing to the dissemination of contemporary Japanese culture.

Strengthening ties between future generations of Brazilians and Japanese descendants will ensure that this bilateral connection is always maintained.

Brazilians will not need a visa for Japan

The Japanese government revealed a new measure that will come into force from September 30, 2023, eliminating the need for a visa for Brazilian tourists who wish to explore the archipelago for up to 90 days.

The announcement comes in a timely manner, coinciding with the celebration of 115 years since a significant Japanese migration to Brazil began. Japan’s Foreign Ministry emphasizes that the visa waiver “will not only promote the development of human, cultural and commercial exchanges, but will also boost the tourism sector”.