By Ghadeer Hardi, Tova Yarbrough, Yusra Wahbah


The first generation Japanese immigrants arrived in Brazil in 1908. They settled in the states of Sao Paulo, Mato Grosso, and Para. Today their number equals to 1.4 million and is known as the largest Japanese community outside their homeland (Meade, 142). The cultural exchange is a part of the immigrant process. The Japanese arriving influenced on the Brazilian society in many aspects. A key aspect included the Japanese influence of martial-arts, which introduced popular fighting styles such as Judo and Sumo. Another important aspect is the delicious impact of food on Brazilian culture. The Japanese brought one of the world’s most popular food choices to Brazil known as Sushi. The last influence that will be discussed is the impact of Japanese art and architecture on the Brazilian heritage. Before the settlement of the Japanese in the Liberdade District, State of São Paulo, the art and architecture was not as capturing as it is in today’s era.

Although the Japanese could have traveled to another country aside from Brazil, they had valid reasoning for their choice. According to japanexplained.com, a primary reason is that Brazil allowed for the Japanese to enter their country. Certain countries may not have been too fond of the integration of the Japanese peoples such as the United States. The United States had banned non-white immigration in an attempt to directly target the Japanese community. Even with significant barriers, the Japanese population managed to migrate just a little south of the United States. A treaty was created between the two countries, Brazil and Japan, to allow the mass migration of the Japanese people into Brazil. Due to a decrease in Italian immigration in Brazil, combined with an outstanding labor shortage on the coffee plantations, the Brazilian community welcomed the Japanese with open arms. Many Italian people that lived in Brazil prior to the rise of the Japanese population were agitated and upset over the working conditions and salaries that they received. This led to a decrease in population and a movement of areas for them. Despite the lower population of Italians, Brazil still managed to have an increase in population in the 1930’s as a result of Japanese industrialization. This economic opportunity allowed for many people to occupy jobs and fill positions which ultimately led to the overall increase in population.





With the arrival of the Japanese immigrants, the Brazilian food table became more colorful because of the addition of new ingredients, especially fruits and vegetables. The Japanese taught the Brazilian to cook fast and simple dishes that are healthy and look beautiful. Sushi is a prime example. It is interesting that Brazilian sushi is decorated with fruits and sweets such as mango, guava and jam. Sushi counters are very popular in major Brazilian cities. In general, all dishes are cooked from fresh products. The high quality of fresh produce and flowers found in Brazil today is certainly due to the dedication of the Japanese and their knowledge of farming. Their crops of all kinds have shaped the cooking of the whole country and have established standards of quality (Roberts, 19).


Japanese immigrants carried culture martial arts and sports. Judo is one of such examples. “Judo is a modern Japanese martial art. It was developed from jujutsu by the Japanese physical educator Kano Jigoro (1860-1938) during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.” Brazilian Judo developed to an international amateur sport (Green & Svinth, 34). A lot of people are fond of aikido, sumo and kendo. Even the female aikido and sumo are spreading in Brazil, as it happened with judo in the past. “The introduction of Japanese fighting techniques in Brazil led to reactions among and responses capoeiras, amateurs of combat sports and the military. Two officers of the Brazilian Army published in 1905 a manual of Japanese Physical Education, translated from an English book. A few years later, the Brazilian Navy even considered adopting ju-jitsu for the training of recruits. Direct confrontation with judo techniques were provided by Japanese champions who came to Brazil. They often issued challenges in the cities they visited for anyone to come and fight with them in a freestyle contest.”




The Japanese impact on Brazilian culture proved to be quite phenomenal. A reason for the drastic change in Brazilian culture is because of the exquisite influence of Japanese art and architecture. When the first Japanese immigrants settled in Bairro Liberdade, which is located in the city of Sao Paulo in Brazil, it was considered a “swampy creek” (riottimesonline.com). Brazil was suffering from lack of laborers due to the abolition of slavery and they were in desperate need. The Japanese helped dramatically change the overall look and feel of Liberdade with their new addition of buildings, lights and more. One specific Japanese Brazilian architect that helped impact Brazil was Ruy Ohtake who helped design beautiful and symbolic buildings in the city of São Paulo. Since the first landing of Japanese immigrants, there has been an increase in the amount of Japanese festivals such as the Hanamatsuri, which is a festival of flowers that takes place in April, and Tanabata Matsuri, which is referred to as “the festival of the stars,” held every July. A superb example of Japanese architecture that was brought to life in Brazil is the addition of a detailed imitation of the Kasura Imperial Palace in Kyoto, which was included in Sao Paulo’s 400th anniversary celebration. The 4-month long project came with excellent aesthetic design as well as a beautiful Japanese style garden.


In conclusion, without Japanese influence on Brazilian culture, the exquisite country may not have been the society it is known for today. The various influences helped drastically shape the country in 1908 and even today. The impact of Japanese martial-arts helped introduce a new type of fighting style to the society, the impact of Japanese food helped bring many individuals and families together so that they may explore new options such as the addition of Sushi and the impact of art and architecture helped highlight the beauty that the country of Brazil can truly offer.
Thank you.


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Duffy, G. (2008). Lasting legacy of Brazil’s Japanese. Retrieved February 16, 2016, from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7459448.stm.
Fitzpatrick, Anna. “Japanese Culture and Architecture in São Paulo | The Rio Times | Brazil News.” The Rio Times. 2011. Web. 01 Feb. 2016.
Green, Thomas A., and Joseph R. Svinth. Martial Arts of the World: An Encyclopedia of History and Innovation. Vol. I. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2010. Print.
JPRI Occasional Paper No.13. (n.d.). Retrieved February 16, 2016, from http://www.jpri.org/publications/occasionalpapers/op13.html
Meade, Teresa A. History of Modern Latin America: 1800 to the Present. 2-nd ed. Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley Blackwell, 2016. Print.
Roberts, Yara Castro., and Richard Roberts. The Brazilian Table. 1-st ed. Layton, UT: Gibbs Smith, 2009. Print.
Viselinovic, Milena. “Mixing Sushi and Samba – Meet the Japanese Brazilians – CNN.com.” CNN. Cable News Network. Web. 01 Feb. 2016.
Duffy, Gary. “Lasting Legacy of Brazil’s Japanese.” BBC News. BBC, 2008. Web. 26 Apr. 2016. (From Modules)