Brazilians in Japan

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Brazilians in Japan
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Nagoya, Hamamatsu,[3] Toyohashi,
Toyota,[4] Ōizumi,[5] Echizen, Takaoka
Portuguese, Japanese
Roman Catholicism, Japanese new religions[6]
Buddhism and Shinto
Related ethnic groups
Brazilians, Japanese people, Japanese Brazilians, Peruvians in Japan

There is a significant community of Brazilians in Japan, consisting largely but not exclusively of Brazilians of Japanese ethnicity. They also constitute the largest number of Portuguese speakers in Asia, greater than those of formerly Portuguese East Timor, Macao and Goa combined. Likewise, Brazil maintains its status as home to the largest Japanese community outside Japan.

Migration history[edit]

During the 1980s, the Japanese economic situation improved and achieved stability. Many Japanese Brazilians went to Japan as contract workers due to economic and political problems in Brazil, and they were termed "Dekasegi". Working visas were offered to Brazilian Dekasegi in 1990, encouraging more immigration from Brazil.

In 1990, the Japanese government authorized the legal entry of Japanese and their descendants until the third generation in Japan. At that time, Japan was receiving a large number of illegal immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh, China, and Thailand. The legislation of 1990 was intended to select immigrants who entered Japan, giving a clear preference for Japanese descendants from South America, especially Brazil. These people were lured to Japan to work in areas that the Japanese refused (the so-called "three K": Kitsui, Kitanai and Kiken – hard, dirty and dangerous). Many Japanese Brazilians began to immigrate. The influx of Japanese descendants from Brazil to Japan was and continues to be large. By 1998, there were 222,217 Brazilians in Japan, making up 81% of all Latin Americans there (with most of the remainder being Japanese Peruvians and Japanese Argentines).[7]

Because of their Japanese ancestry, the Japanese Government believed that Brazilians would be more easily integrated into Japanese society. In fact, this easy integration did not happen, since Japanese Brazilians and their children born in Japan are treated as foreigners by native Japanese. Even people who were born in Japan and immigrated at an early age to Brazil and then returned to Japan are treated as foreigners.[8][9] Despite the fact that most Brazilians in Japan look Japanese and have a recent Japanese background, they do not "act Japanese" and have a Brazilian identity, and in many if not most cases speak Portuguese as their first or only language. This apparent contradiction between being and seeming causes conflicts of adaptation for the migrants and their acceptance by the natives.[10] (There have been comparable problems in Germany with Russians of ethnic German descent, showing that this phenomenon is not necessarily unique to Japan.)

In April 2009, due to the financial crisis, the Japanese government introduced a new programme that would incentivise Brazilian and other Latin American immigrants to return home with a stipend of $3000 for airfare and $2000 for each dependent. Those who participate must agree not to pursue employment in Japan in the future.[11]

Integration and community[edit]

A reveler at the annual Asakusa Samba Carnival

Brazilians of Japanese descent in particular find themselves the targets of discrimination; some local Japanese scorn them as the descendants of "social dropouts" who emigrated from Japan because they were "giving up" on Japanese society, whereas others perceive them more as objects of pity than scorn, people who were forced into emigrating by unfortunate circumstances beyond their control such as birth order or lack of opportunities in rural areas.[12] The largest numbers are concentrated in Toyota, Ōizumi, where it is estimated that up to 15% of the population speaks Portuguese as their native language, and Hamamatsu, which contains the largest population of Brazilians in Japan.[13] Brazilians are not particularly concentrated in larger cities such as Tokyo or Osaka. Brazilians tend to be more concentrated where there are large factories, as most who first moved to Japan tended to work in automobile plants and the like.

Brazilian population by prefecture 2009[14]
Aichi Prefecture 67,162
Shizuoka Prefecture 42,625
Mie Prefecture 18,667
Gifu Prefecture 17,078
Gunma Prefecture 15,324
Kanagawa Prefecture 13,091
Saitama Prefecture 12,301
Shiga Prefecture 11,384
Nagano Prefecture 10,938
Ibaraki Prefecture 10,200

As of 2004, the cities with under 1,000,000 total inhabitants with the largest Brazilian Nikkei populations were Hamamatsu (12,766), Toyohashi (10,293), Toyota (6,266), Okazaki (4,500), Suzuka (4,084), Kani (3,874), Komaki (3,629), Isesaki (3,372), Ōta (3,245), and Ōgaki (3,129). The cities with 1,000,000 or more inhabitants had low percentages of Brazilians.[15]

As of June 2015, there were 173,038 Brazilian nationals in Japan, of whom 112,157 were permanent residents.[16] Each year, 4,000 Brazilian immigrants return to Brazil from Japan.[17]

Brazilian identity in Japan[edit]

Super Mercado Takara, a Brazilian supermarket in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka

In Japan, many Japanese Brazilians suffer prejudice because they do not know how to speak Japanese correctly. Despite their Japanese appearance and heritage, many Japanese Brazilians in Japan are culturally very Brazilian, often only speaking Brazilian Portuguese, and are treated as foreigners.[4]

Academic studies[citation needed] report that many Japanese Brazilians felt (and were often treated) as Japanese in Brazil. But when they move to Japan, they realize that they strongly feel their Brazilian background. In Brazil, Japanese Brazilians rarely listened to samba or participated in a carnival parade. However, once in Japan, Japanese Brazilians often promote carnivals and samba festivities in the Japanese cities to demonstrate their pride of being Brazilian.[18][not in citation given]

The Brazilian influence in Japan is growing. Tokyo has the largest carnival parade outside of Brazil itself.[citation needed] Portuguese is the third most spoken foreign language in Japan, after Chinese and Korean, and is among the most studied languages by students in the country. In Ōizumi, Gunma, it is estimated that 15% of the population speak Portuguese as their native language. Japan has two newspapers in the Portuguese language, besides radio and television stations spoken in that language. The Brazilian fashion and Bossa Nova music are also popular among Japanese.[5]


With Catholicism widespread in Brazil, in the early days of Brazilian migration to Japan, Catholic churches often served as spaces for migrant gatherings and socialisation. However, the growth of secular Brazilian community organisations, media, and businesses in Japan has taken over part of this role from the churches.[19] Migrants, including Brazilians, make up perhaps as much as half of the total Catholic population in Japan. However, differences in culture and even in religious tradition have made it difficult to integrate Brazilian migrants into native Japanese Catholic congregations.[20] For example, in the Saitama Diocese, although Japanese-speaking and Portuguese-speaking congregation share the same church building, exchange between them is almost non-existent, and the two groups hold ceremonies, celebrations, and other events separately.[21] There is also a growing number of Pentecostal denominations in Japan led by migrants from Brazil.[22]

Japanese new religions see the stream of Brazilian migration as an opportunity to gain new converts.[23] The Church of World Messianity (SKK, for Sekai Kyūsei Kyō) is one Japanese new religion which has had a strong following in Brazil; by 1998 they had 300,000 members in Brazil, 97% of non-Japanese background.[23] With the increase in Brazilian migration to Japan, by 2006 a total of 21 Johrei centres had engaged Brazilian SKK missionaries in order to provide Portuguese-language orientation to Brazilian migrants. They have been somewhat more successful than Catholics in promoting integration between the Brazilian and Japanese parts of their congregations.[24]


Instituto Educacional Centro Nippo Brasileiro (Japanese Brazilian Center Educational Institute) in Oizumi, Gunma

Brazilians tend to take jobs considered undesirable by native Japanese, such as working in electronics factories,[25] and in the automotive sector.[26] Most Brazilians go to Japan attracted by the recruiting agencies (legal or illegal) in conjunction with the factories. Many Brazilians are subjected to hours of exhausting work, earning a small salary by Japanese standards.[citation needed] Nevertheless, in 2002, Brazilians living in Japan sent US$2.5 billion to Brazil.[27]


As of 2005 there were 40,000 Brazilian children of school age in Japan.[26] By 2008 the number of Brazilian school age children was almost 33,500.[4] As of 2005 8,000 study at Japanese schools,[26] and by 2008 that number was about 10,000.[4] The children of Dekasegi Brazilians encounter difficulties in Japanese schools.[28] As of 2005 15,000 study at one of the 63 private Brazilian schools. The Ministry of Education of Brazil approved 36 of them.[26]

As of 2005 17,000 school-aged Brazilian children were not attending school.[26] As of 2008 thousands of Brazilian children are out of school in Japan.[4] Adriana Stock of the BBC stated that the school fees were too high for many Brazilian parents.[26]

Nonetheless, since reverse migration, many of Japanese Brazilians who are not of mixed ancestry have also endeavoured to learn Japanese to native levels. However while such cases like these are high, the statistics fail to show high rate of such Japanese Brazilians succeeding to integrate into Japanese society because vast number of such people end up achieving Japanese naturalization. Once they obtain Japanese citizenship, regardless of whether or not the Japanese citizen is still considered to a citizen of Brazil in the eyes of the Brazilian government, Japanese statistics record such people as only Japanese. If they pursue university in Japan, they must take exams alongside other native Japanese citizens. Thus even while Japan has many Japanese Brazilians that are completely bilingual, with Japanese statistics failing to count Japanese Brazilians who have since naturalized, these such Japanese Brazilians are not given the credit statistically for the fact that Japanese society has placed a much higher bar for them to integrate into Japanese society than other non Japanese foreigners, and have since successfully integrated into Japanese society both culturally and linguistically.

Notable people[edit]


  • International Press (newspaper)
  • IPC (television station)
  • Tudo Bem (magazine)

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "在留外国人統計(旧登録外国人統計) 在留外国人統計 月次 2015年6月 | ファイルから探す | 統計データを探す | 政府統計の総合窓口". Retrieved 2017-05-16.
  2. ^ "Japanese, Brazilian in Japan". Retrieved 2018-08-03.
  3. ^ Brooke, James. "Hamamatsu Journal; Sons and Daughters of Japan, Back From Brazil." The New York Times. November 27, 2001.
  4. ^ a b c d e Onishi, Norimitsu. "An Enclave of Brazilians Is Testing Insular Japan." The New York Times. November 1, 2008. Alternate link (Archive) at the Times Daily.
  6. ^ Matsue 2006, p. 123
  7. ^ De Carvalho 2002, p. 80
  8. ^ Parece, mas nao é
  9. ^ Migração japonesa e o fenômeno dekassegui: do país do sol nascente para uma terra cheia de sol
  10. ^ Permanently transient: Brazilian dekasseguis in Japan
  11. ^ Tabuchi, Hiroko (2009-04-23), "Japan Pays Foreign Workers to Go Home", New York Times, retrieved 2009-08-18
  12. ^ Tsuda 2003, pp. 106–108
  13. ^ "Japan's trial run for migrant workers" (Archive). BBC. Wednesday November 21, 2007.
  14. ^ [1]
  15. ^ Sugino, Toshiko, Ed. D. (Temple University). "Nikkei Brazilians at a Brazilian school in Japan: Factors affecting language decisions and education" (PhD thesis). Temple University, 2007. Publication Number 3293262. See profile at Google Books. cited: p. 57.
  16. ^ "統計表一覧 政府統計の総合窓口 GL08020103". Retrieved 2017-05-16.
  17. ^ "Filhos de dekasseguis: educação de mão dupla" (Archive). Centenário da Imigração Japonesa: 100 anos de histórias. Museu Histórico da Imigração Japonesa no Brasil.
  18. ^ a09v2057.pdf
  19. ^ Matsue 2006, p. 134
  20. ^ Matsue 2006, p. 135
  21. ^ Matsue 2006, p. 136
  22. ^ Ikeuchi, Suma (2017). "From ethnic religion to generative selves: Pentecostalism among Nikkei Brazilian migrants in Japan". Contemporary Japan. 29 (2): 214–229. doi:10.1080/18692729.2017.1351046.
  23. ^ a b Matsue 2006, p. 139
  24. ^ Matsue 2006, p. 140
  25. ^ Arima, Katia. "O caminho de volta ainda é atraente" (Archive). Estadão. July 17, 2007. "São os dekasseguis, trabalhadores que se dedicam a tarefas não qualificadas, rejeitadas pelos japoneses, geralmente pesadas, sujas e/ou perigosas." and "Moradores da cidade de Marília, no interior de São Paulo, eles não se sentiam valorizados. No Japão, vão montar componentes em uma grande empresa de eletrônicos."
  26. ^ a b c d e f Stock, Adriana. "Lula ouve de brasileiros queixas sobre vida no Japão." BBC Brasil at the Folha de S.Paulo. May 28, 2005. Alternate link. "A cidade de Nagóia tem a maior concentração de brasileiros no país. São 34 mil dos 285 mil que vivem no Japão. A maioria é atraída pelos empregos oferecidos nas indústrias automotiva e de eletrônicos." and "Atualmente, existem cerca de 40 mil brasileiros em idade escolar vivendo no Japão – 8 mil estudam em escolas brasileiras, 15 mil estão registradas em escolas japonesas, e 17 mil estão fora da escola. Em alguns casos, os pais não conseguem bancar o estudo dos seus filhos já que todos os colégios são particulares e caros. Segundo um diplomata brasileiro, há um problema crescente de deliqüência entre esses jovens que ficam sem nenhuma ocupação."
  27. ^ Untitled Document
  28. ^ Tabuchi, Hiroko. "Despite Shortage, Japan Keeps a High Wall for Foreign Labor," The New York Times. January 2, 2011; Print: January 3, 2011, p. A1 New York Edition. Excerpt: "...the government did little to integrate its migrant populations. Children of foreigners are exempt from compulsory education, for example, while local schools that accept non-Japanese-speaking children receive almost no help in caring for their needs." Alternate link (Archive) at the China Daily, January 9, 2011, p. 10.


  • De Carvalho, Daniela (2002), Migrants and identity in Japan and Brazil: the Nikkeijin, Routledge, ISBN 978-0-7007-1705-7
  • Matsue, Regina Yoshie (2006), "Religious Activities among the Japanese-Brazilians: "Dual Diaspora" in Japan", in Kumar, P. Pratap, Religious Pluralism in the Diaspora, International Studies in Religion and Society #4, Brill, pp. 121–146, ISBN 978-90-04-15250-2 - Google Books Snippet view available
  • Tsuda, Takeyuki (2003), Strangers in the ethnic homeland: Japanese Brazilian return migration in transnational perspective, Columbia University Press, ISBN 978-0-231-12838-4

Further reading[edit]



Journal articles: