Asian Brazilians

Asian Brazilians
Brasileiro Oriental
Total population
1.09% of Brazilian population per 2010 Census[1][2])
Regions with significant populations
Mainly in São Paulo and Paraná
Predominantly Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese dialects and Korean
Majority Christian:[3] 61.2% Roman Catholicism, 13.3% Protestantism, 12.5% Non-religious, 0.8% other Christian beliefs[4]
Minority: Buddhism, Shintoism, Taoism[5]
A Japanese family in Brazil.

Asian Brazilians are Brazilian citizens of full or predominantly East Asian, South Asian and in some cases South East Asian ancestry, or an Asian-born person permanently residing in Brazil. Asian Brazilian community received most of immigrants from the East Asian region, although there have also been smaller numbers of South Asians, from the Indian sub-continent, as well as from Mozambique and Kenya.


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.[6] 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 African and European 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. However, significant immigration from Asia to Brazil started in the late 19th century, when immigration from Lebanon and Syria became important. In Brazil, most of definitions of an Asian Brazilian usually do not refer to the community of West Asian origins such as Arabs, Turks, and Armenians.

The vast majority of Asian Brazilians have origins in 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 1.4 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 160,000. 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

In 1907, the Government of the State of São Paulo authorized Japan's Imperial Immigration Company to transfer, annually, a certain amount of emigrants to Brazil. On June 18, 1908, arrived at Santos' harbor the Japanese vessel Kasato Maru 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.

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.

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.

Brazilians in Japan

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.

Director Yamasaki visited Japan in the late 1990s to film a sequel to her first work. Her goal was to explore 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.

These Japanese-Brazilians are now 210,032 strong, exceeding the number of Japanese who originally moved to Brazil.[7] 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.

The overall Japanese Brazilian population is declining, secondary to a decreased birth rate and an aging population; return immigration to Japan[8][9][10] as well as emigration to other countries, including the United States;[11] as well as intermarriage with other races and dilution of ethnic identity.

Japanese immigration to Brazil
Source: (IBGE)[12]
Ethnic group 1904-19131914-19231924-19331945-19491950-19541955-1959

See also


  1. Asian population climbed 173% in Brazil, according to 2010 Census (in Portuguese). O Globo. 2011. Retrieved 2011-05-30.
  2. The Japan Times Online
  3. Adital - Brasileiros no Japão
  4. (Portuguese) Study Panorama of religions. Fundação Getúlio Vargas, 2003.
  5. Brazil
  6. 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.
  7. 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, retrieved 2012-02-22
  8. Naoto Higuchi (27 February 2006). "BRAZILIAN MIGRATION TO JAPAN TRENDS, MODALITIES AND IMPACT" (PDF). United Nations. Retrieved 2013-02-22.
  9. Richard Gunde (January 27, 2004). "Japanese Brazilian Return Migration and the Making of Japan's Newest Immigrant Minority". © 2013. The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved. Retrieved 2013-02-22.
  10. Naoto Higuchi and Kiyoto Tanno (2003). "What's Driving Brazil-Japan Migration? The Making and Remaking of the Brazilian Niche in Japan" (PDF). International Journal of Japanese Sociology. Retrieved 2013-02-22.
  11. "Yearbook of Immigration Statistics: 2011 Supplemental Table 2". U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Retrieved 2013-02-21.
  12. "Estatísticas do Povoamento" [Population Statistics]. IBGE. Archived from the original on 9 August 2007.
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