Asian Brazilians

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Asian Brazilians
Brasileiro Asiático
Brasileiro Oriental
Total population
1.09% of Brazilian population identified as amarela (yellow) in the 2010 census[nt 1][1][2]
Regions with significant populations
Mainly in São Paulo and Paraná
Predominantly Portuguese, Arabic, Chinese dialects, Japanese, Macanese Patois, Korean, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Konkani, Gujarati, Marathi,Bengali, Hindustani (Hindi-Urdu) and Tamil
Majority Christian:[3] 61.2% Roman Catholicism, 13.3% Protestantism, 12.5% Non-religious, 0.8% other Christian beliefs[4]
Minority: Buddhism, Judaism, Shintoism and Shinto-derived Japanese new religions, Taoism, Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism and Druze[5]
A Japanese family in Brazil

Asian Brazilians (Portuguese: brasileiros asiáticos) refers to Brazilian citizens or residents of Asian ancestry. The vast majority trace their origins to Western Asia, particularly Lebanon,[6] or East Asia, namely Japan. The Brazilian census does not use "Asian" as a racial category, though the term "yellow" (amarela in Portuguese) refers to those of East Asian origin. Beyond the descendants from West Asia and East Asia, there has also been much smaller immigration from Southeast Asia and South Asia, as well as those from the Asian diaspora in the Caribbean and Mozambique.

Due to the census categories, the exact number of Brazilians with Asian ancestry remains unknown. In the 2000 census, only 761,000 Brazilians declared themselves to be yellow, an increase of 173.7% in ten years. This big increase was initially explained as a result of an increase in the migration of East Asians to Brazil, the return of Brazilian decasséguis from Japan, and an increase in the reaffirmation of ethnic identity, just as it happened among other races in Brazil, such as the browns and the blacks. However, as Revista Veja found out, in the last IBGE census, many people who have no East Asian origin were classified as yellow in the census, especially in the state of Piauí. This inflated the real number of people of East Asian ancestry living in Brazil.[citation needed]


Recent research has suggested that Asians from the early Portuguese Eastern Empire, known as Luso-Asians first came to Brazil during the sixteenth century as seamen known as Lascars, or as servants, slaves and concubines accompanying the governors, merchants and clergy who has served in Portuguese Asia.[7] This first presence of Asians was limited to Northeast Brazil, especially Bahia, but others were brought as cultivators, textile workers and miners to Para and other parts of the Northeast. These Asians intermarried people of European and African ancestry and left a legacy in the food, early art and boat-making traditions of the Northeast.

The first substantial Asian immigration to Brazil were a small number of Chinese people (3,000) during the colonial period as coolie slaves. Later, significant immigration from Asia to Brazil would start in the late 19th century, when immigration from Lebanon and Syria became important. Until 1922, Levantine immigrants were considered "Turks", as they carried passports issued by the Turkish Ottoman Empire, which then ruled over present-day Lebanon.[8] Various estimates for Lebanese ancestry in Brazil place them at about 7 million.[9][10]

Another important Asian immigrant group to Brazil were from Japan. The first Japanese immigrants arrived in Brazil in 1908. Until the 1950s, more than 250 thousand Japanese immigrated to Brazil. Currently, the Japanese-Brazilian population is estimated at 2.1 million people. It is the largest ethnic Japanese population outside Japan, followed closely by the Japanese community in the United States. Other East Asian groups are also significant in Brazil. The Korean Brazilian population is estimated to be 50,000, and the Chinese Brazilian population around 250,000. Over 70% of Asian Brazilians are concentrated in the state of São Paulo. There are significant populations in Paraná, Pará, Mato Grosso do Sul, and other parts of Brazil.

Japanese immigration to Brazil[edit]

In 1907, the Government of the State of São Paulo authorized Japan's Imperial Immigration Company to transfer, annually, a certain number of emigrants to Brazil. On June 18, 1908, the Japanese vessel Kasato Maru arrived at Santos' harbor with the first group of immigrants composed of 165 families, a total of 786 people. From the harbor they went to coffee farms, in the Mogiana region, State of São Paulo, to work as "colonists". There they started a new life in a foreign country with different climate, culture and language. Other quotas followed them and almost all of them went to live in coffee farms.

A poster used in Japan to attract immigrants to Brazil
Little Tokyo in São Paulo City

Between 1910 and 1914, approximately 14,200 immigrants arrived from Japan, who, after ending their labor contract in the coffee farms, went to the interior of the State, to the coast near the Santos Juquiá railway or to the suburbs of São Paulo, in order to get their independence. During the 1910s, they established several immigration centers in the region of the North West railway as well as alongside the banks of Ribeira River in Iguape. From 1925 to 1935, these centers spread statewide and became localities. By this time approximately 140,000 immigrants had arrived in Brazil.

The immigration influx was interrupted for 10 years because of World War II. In 1959 it started again but the quotas were smaller, especially those that arrived from 1961 on, date of the beginning of Japan's economic recuperation. Up to the present, approximately 260,000 immigrants have arrived in Brazil.

The biggest concentration of immigrants are:

Japanese immigration
State Percentage
São Paulo 73%
Paraná 20%
Mato Grosso do Sul 2.5%
Pará 1.2%

The others are living countrywide.[citation needed]

Their labor force is employed as follows: Agriculture (50%); Commerce (35%), Industry (15%). The industry has grown quickly in view of the establishment in Brazil of Japanese enterprises during the 60's. We believe that 800,000 people compose the Japanese community in Brazil, which is already in its 4th generation. The descendants of the immigrants perform all kind of activity within the cultural and economic sectors. In the past two decades we have had two State Ministers in the Brazilian Government.[citation needed]

Following their 80-year-old path immigrants and their descendants who have already close ties with Brazil take part and contribute with love and dedication to the construction of a better and developed country. This year, on June 18, they will celebrate with great rejoicing the beginning of the Japanese immigration into Brazil, since this day symbolizes a landmark of a history started 80 years ago.[citation needed]

Japanese in Brazil[edit]

The migration continued through the 1970s, despite the interruption of World War II, with a total of 250,000 people crossing the seas. Not only farmers, but also politicians, engineers and entrepreneurs among Japanese Brazilians appeared one after another. A reversal of that flow, and a swift increase of migrant workers in Japan, was triggered by the 1990 revisions to the immigration control law. At the request of the business community, second- and third-generation Japanese from Brazil were granted residence status without employment restrictions.[citation needed]

These Japanese-Brazilians are now 210,032 strong, exceeding the number of Japanese who originally moved to Brazil.[11] While more of them have permanent residency, how to educate their children has become a particularly acute problem. There is no shortage of cases in which such children stop attending school due to the language barrier and descend into delinquency. Even when they stay in school, many can form no tangible ambitions for the future. While it is natural to expect parents to take responsibility for their children's education, the success of such efforts depends upon adequate support in the classroom.[citation needed]

This experience has been portrayed in the works of Japanese-Brazilian film director Tizuka Yamasaki. Yamasaki visited Japan in the late 1990s to film a sequel to her first work (Gaijin - Os Caminhos da Liberdade aka Gaijin, a Brazilian Odyssey) with the objective of exploring why recent immigrants, despite being accepted into Japan under a so-called national policy, were treated as gaijin (aliens). She focused on the lifestyles of the Japanese-Brazilians, tracking the plights of their fourth-generation children, many of whom dropped out of school after being unable to adapt to Japan's educational system.[citation needed]

Japanese immigration to Brazil
Source: (IBGE)[12]
Ethnic group Period
1904-1913 1914-1923 1924-1933 1945-1949 1950-1954 1955-1959
Japanese 11,868 20,398 110,191 12 5,447 28,819

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The exact number of Asian descendants remains unknown. Brazil's census does not officially use the term "Asian" as a racial category, instead using the term amarela (yellow) in reference to East Asians. Older estimates for other Asian communities in Brazil, particularly the Lebanese-Brazilian community, make up an estimated 7 million people.


  1. ^ 2010 Census (in Portuguese). O Globo. 2011. Retrieved 2011-05-30.
  2. ^ The Japan Times Online
  3. ^ Adital - Brasileiros no Japão Archived 2007-03-29 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ (in Portuguese) Study Panorama of religions. Fundação Getúlio Vargas, 2003.
  5. ^ Brazil
  6. ^ Petruccelli, Jose Luis; Saboia, Ana Lucia. "Caracteristicas Etnico-raciais da Populacao Classificacoes e identidades" (PDF). IBGE. p. 53. Retrieved 28 July 2021. descendentes e os asiáticos – japoneses, chineses, coreanos, libaneses, sírios, entre outros
  7. ^ East in the West: Investigating the Asian presence and influence in Brazil from the 16th to 18th centuries. By Clifford Pereira, in Proceedings of the 2nd Asia-Pacific regional Conference on Underwater Cultural Heritage. Ed. Hans Van Tilberg, Sila Tripati, Veronica Walker, Brian Fahy and Jun Kimura. Honolulu, Hawai'i, USA. May 2014.
  8. ^ Recopilaron casi 200 años de los sirio libaneses en Argentina Archived 2014-09-08 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ "Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affaires". Archived from the original on 23 September 2015. Retrieved 22 September 2015.
  10. ^ "Lebanon: Geography". Embassy of Lebanon in Brazil (in Portuguese). 1996. Archived from the original on 29 May 2008.
  11. ^ 平成23年末現在における外国人登録者統計について 法務省, Japan: Ministry of Justice, February 2012, archived from the original on 2012-04-19, retrieved 2012-02-22
  12. ^ "Estatísticas do Povoamento" [Population Statistics]. IBGE. Archived from the original on 9 August 2007.