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Acknowledgements vii

Maps ix

Introduction 1

1 Leaving: Japan’s Entry into a World of 11

Migration, 1885–1905

2 Arriving: the Early Japanese in Brazil, 1908–19 27

Life on the fazenda 33
Settlement: Japanese landowning 42
Urban life 46

3 Settling: Migration as National Policy in the 1920s 57

Emigration as national policy 57
A new Brazil: changes in industry and identity 61
The expansion of Japanese settlement 70
City life 79
Organising the community 83
Images of home 92

4 Expanding: the Japanese Community, 1930–36 97

Responses to the Great Depression 97
Race fears and constitutional restrictions 107
A settled community 114

5 In Transit: a World of New Orders, 1937–40 133

The language of nationalism 137
Order and progress: the expatriate community,
technology and medicine 144
‘Ex-patriotism’: migrants and the Sino-Japanese war 149
Religion: nationalism and internationalism 154
Closing images: Japanese and Brazilians circa 1940 159

vi Contents

6 Conclusion 165

Notes 173

Bibliography 199

Index 205

This study was assisted by generous grants from University College,

University of New South Wales, and the Japan Foundation. The former
of these made possible a visit to Sao Paulo where Mr Nakayama Yasumi
and his staff at the Museu Historico da Imigracao Japonesa no Brasil
(Historical Museum of Japanese Migration to Brazil) were most helpful
and kind. The latter allowed me a period as visiting fellow at Sophia
University, Tokyo, an arrangement facilitated through the good offices
of Professor Takahashi Hisashi.
In Japan, I have received gracious assistance from librarians at Rit-
sumeikan University, Kyoto; Meiji Shimbun Zasshi Bunko, Tokyo
University; the Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA),
Tokyo, at which special thanks go to Ms Matsuura Rieko; Wakayama
Prefectural Library, Migration Records Section, especially Mr Mikami
Noboru; and Mr Kinjo Naoki at the Latin America Society, Tokyo. I
am also indebted to friends and associates who have made so many
trips to Japan as pleasant as possible: these include Professor Tanaka
Hiromi at Kamakura; Dr Saga Jun’ichi at Tsuchiura; Mr Ito Katsushi
of Gifu; Ms Shi Kinkun in Tokyo; Ms Takei Noriko at Matsuyama;
and, in Kyoto, Professor Nagai Kazu, his wife Mari and daughter
Ryoko, plus Ms Goto Mikako.
Colleagues who have provided encouragement for this and other
projects include Dr John Caiger in Canberra; Dr Sandra Wilson at
Perth; Dr Charles Schencking in Melbourne; Dr Janet Hunter and Pro-
fessor Ian Nish both at London University; Maria del Alisal at the
Institute of Japanology, Madrid; Professor Jeremy Black, University of
Exeter; Professor Karen Wigen at Duke University; Professor Ted Cook
in New York; Professor Sheldon Garon at Princeton University; and
Dr Dani Botsman at Harvard. A special mention to Ms Wen Wen
Huang, the hill station Sambista. Ms Helen Boxall, as always, offered
invaluable research assistance. The maps were crafted by Ian McCredie,
cartographer at University College, UNSW.
Garry and Michiko Evans have continued to revive my energies on
each visit to Tokyo so I am happy to repeat my thanks to them as

viii Acknowledgements

well as to their children, Anna and Maya, for their entirely reasonable
and refreshing disinterest in anything but receiving presents, hearing
stories, and playing games.
At Palgrave (formerly Macmillan Press), I am indebted to Tim
Farmiloe and Annabelle Buckley for supporting this project when it
was no more than the proverbial sketch on the back of a matchbox.
For steering the manuscript through the treacherous shallows to open
sea, I am grateful to Sally Daniell.
This one is dedicated to my exceptional parents and to my successful
migrant wife, Dr Mo Yimei.
Maps ix
x Maps

One of the longest running and least conclusive debates in modern

Japan centres on the question of to what degree the Japanese people
can or should engage with the outside world. In the background to
this debate is the historical fact that, between the 1630s and 1850s,
Japan’s diplomatic policy was one of near-complete isolation; the
only foreigners allowed into the country were Dutch merchants on
a trading post at the very southern tip of the islands, some private
Chinese traders, and an occasional Korean emissary. Japanese were
forbidden on pain of death from travelling overseas. Under overt
intimidation from the Western imperial powers, however, this policy
was abandoned from the 1860s in favour of importing foreign models
of politics, industry, education, law, and military organisation amongst
other things: Japanese students and study groups began to roam the
globe in search of what was then called ‘civilisation and enlighten-
ment’. Over the next century, this revolution in contact with the
outside led to extreme fluctuations within Japan between cultural
nationalism and internationalism. In general, the staccato rhythm of
these fluctuations was dictated by Japan’s own military or economic
strength. In the 1980s, for example, the apparent ‘economic miracle’
of the previous twenty years resulted in a flood of books and articles
ascribing Japan’s success to its village-style social structure and values
in which homogeneity of language, custom and thought produced
what in an earlier age would have been praised as voluntary organic
solidarity but which, in the mind of Japan’s critics, looked far more
like mechanical regimentation. In response to accusations of a kind
of tribalism and refusal to deal equitably with foreigners, the Japanese

2 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

government at that time promoted a campaign of ‘internationalisa-

tion’ (kokusai-ka). The aim here was to improve levels of understanding
between Japanese and other people. In practice, however, the campaign
resulted merely in greater numbers of foreign students going to live
in Japan (including the present author) and more Japanese sojourning
overseas. The latter’s purpose was routinely seen as tourism rather
than travel, in which the distinction again was one of engagement; the
tourist goes to observe sites and consume goods or services, the travel-
ler goes to meet people. In this way, greater and more direct personal
contact between Japanese and others was still counterbalanced by
a sense of cultural distance.
As the debate on engagement and isolation continued late into the
1980s, Japan found itself for the first time playing host to a large
number of foreign migrant workers (there had been a wave of Korean
immigrants before 1945 but at a time when Korea was part of the
wider Japanese empire). They came to do the menial jobs dismissed
by contemporary Japanese as the 3K, that is, kitsui, kitanai, kiken
(difficult, dirty and dangerous); to this, one might also add employ-
ment for young women in the seedier entertainments of Japanese
cities. Prominent among these new labour migrants were some whose
very existence challenged the arguments of cultural uniqueness then
being espoused by Japanese chauvinists. The descendants of people
who had chosen a very real internationalisation nearly a century
earlier, they were, depending on one’s emphasis, either Brazilian-
Japanese or Japanese-Brazilians.
The first organised group of Japanese migrants to Brazil had sailed
in 1908 as contract labour for the coffee plantations of the south-
eastern state of Sao Paulo. Between 1908 and 1940, they were followed
by approximately 190 000 men, women and children and came to
form the largest expatriate community of Japanese outside of East
Asia. After 1941, the flow was halted by the start of the Pacific war
and, with it, the ending of official relations between Japan and Brazil.
It recommenced following the peace treaty of 1952 which formally
closed the war and led to restored treaty relations between Tokyo
and Rio de Janeiro. The reversal of this migrant flow in the 1980s,
however, saw the geographical distribution of ‘Japanese’ and ‘Brazil-
ians’ become far more complex. Official figures from the mid-1990s
showed that in Japan there were just under 202 000 Brazilian citizens,
many of them ethnic Japanese. As a foreign community, they were
Introduction 3

exceeded in size only by the long-established Koreans (657 000) and

Chinese (234 000), and were nearly five times larger than the resident
US population of 44 000. At the same time, the second largest group
of Japanese nationals overseas was to be found in Brazil while, at more
than 1.3 million, that country’s own ethnic Japanese population was
the biggest of its kind in the world (even if a significant percentage
of that community was then actually in Japan). In sharp contrast to
the menial jobs offered to immigrants to Japan, the ethnic Japanese
in Brazil largely identified themselves as middle or upper class, and
occupied a prominent role in Brazil’s engineering, medical and legal
professions; they also constituted about ten per cent of all teaching
staff at the elite University of Sao Paulo. 1
With an even greater increase in the late twentieth century of
interchanges between Japanese and other peoples, one might have
expected considerable scholarly interest in Japan about its history of
emigration. In fact, even as the composition of Japanese society was
changing in the 1980s, some scholars believed that migration studies
were outside the realm of accepted academic enquiry and that the
terms ‘migrant’, ‘Brazil’, or ‘Nikkeijin’ (ethnic Japanese) only bored the
Japanese public for whom the only external source of concern was
diplomatic relations with the global powers.2 Despite such claims,
the late 1970s through to the 1980s did witness some development
in Japanese studies of ethnic identity and of Japanese expatriates.
The latter, however, was mainly at the level of local history with
a growing number of prefectures publishing chapter-length or, on
occasion, book-length histories of emigration from their region. At
the upper level of scholarly research, interest tended to be narrowly
focused on emigration to the US and specifically to the period from
the 1880s to 1910s.3 Although some English-language works tried to
bring Japan more fully into the wider debate on ethnicity, these
generally dealt with issues of identity and minorities within Japan,
or with the problems of former expatriates as they reassimilated into
Japanese society. As for the early Japanese community in Brazil, readers
in English long had to rely almost entirely on a work published in
1943 (but still in print in 2000).4
Among Japanese-language academic and popular histories of the
migrant community in Brazil, two points are generally accepted almost
as talismans of discourse, there to be chanted and not challenged.
First, there is the belief that the story of emigration to Brazil is one
4 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

dominated by hardship and misery. This begins with the shock of

leaving Japan, continues through the trials of harsh and exploitative
conditions on Brazilian coffee plantations, is exacerbated by disease
and an unfamiliar diet, and increasingly is made yet more painful by
the rise of anti-Japanese racism in the 1920s–30s. This interpretation
runs through the two popular histories of the subject published in
Japan in the 1990s: both dwell at great length on the difficulties of
migrants in Brazil, relentlessly conveying the impression of Japanese
as victims. In this, the implicit goal appears to be something not so
remote from the moral instruction of fairy tales (that is, stay out of
the woods and avoid strangers). It has been noted by one scholar that
the migrants themselves preferred to relate stories of hardship as these
made their success, or merely endurance, seem all the more heroic,
and that this heroism through endurance dovetailed perfectly with the
common self-image of people in Japan.5 In this sense, however, the
story of emigration to Brazil is distorted in order to merge it with
existing beliefs about the travails of early Japanese migrants in other
societies, most notably those in North America. The result is that
history is itself exploited in order to reinforce cultural nationalist
assumptions about the inevitability of antipathy between Japanese
and non-Japanese.
A second point on which there is general historiographical agree-
ment in Japan is that all, or virtually all, migrants up to 1940 went to
Brazil solely in order to accumulate wealth and then return home.
Only from the mid-1930s is it accepted that some of them were forced
by circumstances to think of long-term settlement. This was in response
to the increasingly nationalistic policies of the Brazilian government
which made it more difficult for short-term migrants to prosper and
retain their wealth. The assumption here appears to be that Japanese
educated in the school system and raised in the society of the late
nineteenth to early twentieth centuries could not, except in extremis,
consider estranging themselves permanently from the land and
institutions of Japan. As an argument, this is extremely fanciful and
seems also to derive from cultural nationalist assumptions common-
place in Japan in the 1970s–90s. It is certainly not an argument
grounded in the writings and actions of pre-1940 Japanese migrants
once they reached Brazil. A corollary of this assumption, however, is
that the Japanese-language histories of migrants in Brazil deal almost
exclusively with the Japanese people and show a remarkable lack of
Introduction 5

interest in anything to do with Brazil itself. The result is that the

expatriate community appears artificially divorced from its host soci-
ety, a self-contained enclave in which Brazilians are only acknow-
ledged when they appear either as racist critics or, less frequently, as
defenders of or apologists for Japanese migrants. This perspective
is obvious even in what initially appears to be an innovative and
provocative study from 1995 by Hosokawa Shuhei. Having identified
samba and enka music as markers respectively of Brazilian and
Japanese culture, Hosokawa actually pays no attention whatsoever to
the samba or any form of Brazilian music from the 1920s–30s, the
very period of its greatest development. In other words, Japanese
scholarship in this respect has consciously chosen to ignore major
events happening around expatriate Japanese in Brazil and to avoid
asking important questions about the extent to which migrants were
observers of or participants in Brazilian society.
As indicated in this book’s subtitle, the goal of the present study is
to find a middle ground between two powerful stereotypes and, in so
doing, to situate the lives of expatriate Japanese more firmly in relation
to Brazilian society. As migrants, they were confronted with both the
positive and negative aspects of the Japanese stereotype; they were
often praised for their industriousness and organisation but feared
because of the prevailing rhetoric of the Japanese as a warrior people
and the idea that all Japanese were uniquely nationalistic and faithful
to the will of the emperor in Tokyo. The hope here is rather to show
something of the ordinariness of the expatriates but also something
of the dynamism both of their community and of Brazil itself at this
time. In so doing, I am arguing that the Japanese in Brazil were
remarkably successful in finding a place for themselves in an unfa-
miliar society within a very short space of time. Equally important,
however, is that Brazil, even in the nationalistic 1930s, continued to
accommodate Japanese and other ethnic groups, and to view the
mixing of races as a particular virtue of modern Brazilian culture.
Consequently, my aim is to present a range of perspectives on the
expatriate Japanese community in Brazil and to demonstrate a far
greater level of interaction between Japanese and other peoples than
has previously been acknowledged. In Brazil, they were helped by
the fact there was far less evidence of the relentless paranoia which
marked North American, or for that matter Australasian, attitudes
towards Asian migrants. Also, they did not have to contend, as in the
6 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

US from the 1890s, with a society which was telling itself that the
frontier had been reached and that further migration was a danger to
national security. Instead, Brazil’s economy throughout this period
continued to demand fresh migrant labour even as the federal govern-
ment sought ways more tightly to control existing immigrant com-
munities. Thus, I hope also to present a more nuanced perspective
on Brazil than is generally offered in the Japanese-language histories.
A further argument presented here concerns the timing and level
of expatriate desires to settle long-term in Brazil. One of the leading
Japanese scholars of the expatriate community in Brazil is Maeyama
Takashi. He has long insisted that emigrants from Japan to Brazil
were ‘dekasegi imin’, that is, short-term economic migrants, and that
they only reluctantly became what he calls ‘long-term “dekasegi
imin”’ in response to the changed political and economic environ-
ment of the late 1930s; specifically, he sees Brazilian nationalistic
policies late in the decade preventing Japanese migrants from accru-
ing wealth as quickly as they hoped, and the onset of the Pacific war
constraining their freedom of mobility. This is a view which has
influenced others writing in Japanese. However, my reading of the
evidence suggests that the desire to remain in Brazil pre-dates the
1930s, and that this was a natural response to the varied opportunities
in Brazil contrasted with the poverty and limitations in Japan. In
this, I also differ with Maeyama and others in stressing less the shock
of migration and the sense of loss or alienation, and emphasising far
more the adaptability of many Japanese and their success in availing
themselves of the opportunities they encountered upon arrival. In
short, the Japanese in Brazil between 1908 and 1940 were in a real sense
sophisticated and cosmopolitan people, if only because they had to
be in order to survive; they were concerned about the situation in
Japan, and they hoped to maintain among themselves the best of
Japanese traditions, language and customs, but they were also inter-
ested in Brazil, its society, economy and culture, and they recognised
both the value of learning Portuguese and the widespread tolerance
of the Brazilian people. Consequently, the story I am telling is not one
of the migrants’ estrangement from Japan and racial discrimination
at the hands of Brazilians but, rather, of their internationalism and of
the cultural accommodation shown by both communities.
The materials for this study fall broadly into three categories. Most
important are the weekly, and later daily, newspapers published in
Introduction 7

the Japanese language by the expatriate community. These include

the Burajiru Jiho (Brazil Times, established 1917), its arch-rival, the
Nippaku Shimbun (Japan–Brazil News, dating in its earliest form from
1916), plus the Seishu Shimpo (Sao Paulo State News, established
1921) and Nambei Shimpo (South American News, appearing under
that name from 1928). The existence of several newspapers in the
Japanese language should immediately alert us to several points about
the migrant community. First, it was adequately literate and well-
educated to support a very competitive commercial press. Second, it
was sufficiently well-organised from an early point to gather and
disseminate news both about its own movements and those societies
to which it was related, that is, Brazil and Japan. We might further
suggest that, notwithstanding the annual on-migration of plantation
workers in search of other jobs, it was also a relatively stable com-
munity; rapid fluctuations in the location of migrants would have
made newspaper publishing very risky. The newspapers have been
used here mainly to understand the world as it was understood by
the Japanese migrants: facts were not always precise (in a case to
delight Mark Twain, one migrant newspaper reported the death of
Japan’s most famous elder statesman, Field-Marshal Yamagata Aritomo,
a full three years ahead of time), and editorial opinions may not always
have been representative. However, the nature of events and the
topics of importance to the migrant community are most clearly
illustrated in their pages and any study must begin with them as its
first point of reference.
The second major body of materials is the corpus of eyewitness
accounts of expatriate life published in Japan in the 1920s–30s. The
value of these works lies in the manner in which they present an
overview at a particular moment of a community in development.
They also reveal the level of interest and curiosity about Brazil shown
by visitors from Japan. This interest ranges from the exceptional, for
example, the nature of the carnival, to the perfectly commonplace in
such things as diet, social customs, and the opening hours of small
businesses. Two of the most useful and detailed of these accounts are
by Tsuji Kotaro (1930) and Kodo Hisaichi (1928).
One of the best places to find information on Japanese migrants is
in the various local histories published, in the main, from the 1960s.
These appeared either in Brazil or in Japan, and focused on migrant
communities from a particular prefecture such as Toyama, Fukui, or
8 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

Kagoshima. The particular value of these histories is the manner in

which they collect life stories of individuals rather than dwell on
national or international politics. A point to make here, however, is
that these many histories are exclusive: their interest is firmly in the
migrants of their locality rather than those from Japan as a whole.
This should alert us to the danger of speaking too confidently about
a Japanese community: both in Japan itself and certainly among the
pre-1940 migrants to Brazil, there was a real sensitivity to differences
in native-place, dialect, and customs.
Finally, there are the histories written in Japanese from the 1970s.
Some of these are intended for a broad audience, others are of a more
academic nature. Of the former, the most minutely detailed, if some-
what repetitious and poorly organised, is by Handa Tomoo from
1970. This explains the day-to-day existence of Japanese in Brazil but
reinforces the idea that, in social and economic terms, the expatriate
community was a world unto itself and one always more concerned
with events in Japan than in Brazil. The most prolific scholar of the
Japanese in Brazil is Maeyama Takashi. He has been writing on this
topic since he first went to Brazil as a graduate student in 1961. As
a cultural anthropologist, his particular interest is in the role of religion
in producing ethnic self-awareness. His writings also view the migrant
Japanese as a self-contained community and minimise the level of
cultural exchange between Japanese and Brazilians. In addition to
describing migrant Japanese as short-term and reluctant self-imposed
exiles from Japan, however, Maeyama also has insisted on numerous
occasions that it was only upon contact with an alien culture in
Brazil that the migrants first came to understand their identity as
Japanese.6 In other words, the primary form of address being used for
them was, for the first time, ‘Japanese’ instead of their occupational
status or regional origin. I refer back to Maeyama’s various argu-
ments in the text but, suffice to say here, this particular proposition
seems rather tenuous. After all, the majority of Japanese citizens
never migrated outside of the home islands. Using Maeyama’s logic,
the majority could not therefore be said to understand what it was to
be Japanese; in so far as they were the majority, however, they might
well argue that they should be the ones to define ‘Japanese’ identity.
I have not attempted a broadly comparative approach in this study
for several reasons. First, the story of the Japanese in Brazil is of intrinsic
value and demands our full attention. Second, as this book was being
Introduction 9

prepared, the publication of a separate work on the wider Japanese

presence in Latin America was announced (a project that seems
ultimately to have been abandoned). Furthermore, the history of the
Japanese in Brazil is quite different either in time or scope from any
other geographically proximate case: they began arriving just as their
freedom of entry to the US was being brought to a close, and they
outnumbered by many times their contemporaries who went to
Peru, Argentina, Mexico or elsewhere in Central and South America.
I have also chosen to end with 1940 rather than 1941 and the start of
war between Japan and the West; the reason for this is that all the
trends among the expatriate Japanese community and between itself
and the Brazilian people were already in place by this time. A word
also on terminology. I have used the terms ‘expatriate’ and ‘migrant’
interchangeably. This is in contrast to Maeyama who, given his concern
with ethnic identity, habitually refers to all Japanese in Brazil from
1908 as ‘Nikkei’ i.e. ethnic Japanese. My understanding of ethnicity
is that it generally denotes a sense of inherited identity, that is, it
refers to someone who is usually regarded as a minority within the
larger national community and whose identity is linked to the migra-
tion of an earlier generation. The overwhelming majority of those
identifying themselves in whole or in part as Japanese up to 1940,
however, had been born in Japan and had migrated to Brazil. Con-
sequently, they were literal expatriates in that they were outside the
land of their birth. As for the term ‘migrant’, this was perfectly appro-
priate for the many thousands arriving relatively late in the period
under discussion but may be said to have lost some descriptive force
for those who, by 1940, had already lived longer in Brazil than they
had in Japan. However, any mention in the text of migrants or expatri-
ates should be interpreted to mean the overall community of those
born in Japan or Brazil.
In the following pages, Japanese names are usually given in Japanese
order, that is, the family name appears first. Names and dates have
been checked wherever possible with the invaluable and highly
detailed Japanese-language chronology of the migrants in Brazil
compiled by the San Pauro Jimbun Kagaku Kenkyujo, Burajiru Nihon
Iminshi Nempyo (Akita 1997). Also, it may be helpful to remember
that the standard unit of currency in Brazil during this period was
the milreis, and that 1000 milreis equalled one contos. In 1919, one
Japanese yen was equal in value to one and a half milreis but, in
10 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

1927, it had risen to four milreis. Thus, on the eve of the Great
Depression, one contos was worth approximately 250 yen and this
favourable exchange rate was another factor in attracting Japanese
emigrants to Brazil. For a broader comparison of currency values, one
milreis in the 1890s is said to have been worth about fifty cents US
and to have fallen by the 1940s to just five or six cents.7
Leaving: Japan’s Entry into a
World of Migration, 1885–1905

The modern era of migration in unprecedented numbers and over

unprecedented distances is directly linked to the spread of industrial
capitalism. This was fuelled in part by the wealth generated by dis-
coveries from the mid-nineteenth century of precious metals and
gemstones in North America, South Africa and Australia. The resulting
explosion of international trade was further accelerated by the diffusion
of technological innovation such as railways and steamships. This,
plus the gradual abolition of slavery as a form of cheap labour, provided
incentive and opportunity for peoples especially from Europe but
also from East Asia to seek work and wealth on what earlier had
seemed impossibly remote continents.
Until the 1850s, Japan was a self-imposed bystander to these devel-
opments in the world-wide movement of men and materials. Such
was the centrifugal force of industrial capitalism, however, that it was
also in the mid-nineteenth century that North American and European
powers compelled Japan to sign diplomatic agreements and open its
ports to their vessels. Having been forced to accept what were called
the ‘unequal treaties’, and with them a subordinate position in the
new system of international relations, Japan seemed ill-placed to
improve its global status; it remains a truism of Japanese discourse
that the country is virtually bereft of natural resources. Its one asset
was and is its people.
What amazed contemporary observers was the speed with which
the Meiji government in Japan, having obtained power through a brief
civil war in 1868, committed itself to a radical policy of developing
export-centred industries and of educating its people in the methods

12 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

and manners of the industrialising West. Equally amazing to foreign

observers was the rapid creation in Japan of a highly organised mass
military and its acquisition of a colonial empire in East Asia, first in
Taiwan (1895) and later in Korea (1910). The internal contradiction
of Japanese colonialism, however, was that while this territorial
expansion borrowed some of the rhetoric from the West about
obtaining living space for one’s excess population, in practice, the
vast majority of Japanese emigrants headed in entirely the opposite
direction, east across the Pacific. This had two consequences. First,
the Japanese colonial empire was left to the military, with Japanese
business and migrants providing only a weak base of civil support;
this meant that Japanese colonialism in the early stages was highly
repressive, leading to colonies which were unsettled and, quite nat-
urally therefore, even less inviting to Japanese agrarian settlers. The
second consequence was that Japanese emigrants across the Pacific
placed themselves outside the direct authority and protection of
the Japanese government. In one sense, this was to expose them-
selves to possible mistreatment as an alien minority. At the same
time, however, it offered these emigrants the opportunity to con-
trol their own affairs and assume responsibility for their own safety.
Whether emigration was to prove a case of freedom or persecution
ultimately depended on the reaction to Japanese of their various
host societies; where there was fear of Japanese as an aggressive
warrior people, the migrant’s position was insecure; where this fear
either did not exist or was a minority view (even if it did occa-
sionally fill the press headlines), the migrant had a better chance to
The first large-scale appearance of Japanese outside their four main
islands dates from the 1880s. This was not counterbalanced at the time
by any equivalent rise in the number of foreigners within Japan; in
1896, the foreign population of Tokyo was estimated at just 628 and
direct contact within Japan between Japanese and non-Japanese was
rare. 1 Emigrants heading overseas, however, went initially to island
societies with an agrarian economy. In this, they were following the
lead of a small number of pioneers from 1868 who had sought jobs
in Hawaii and Guam. In this early case, abuse from employers in
Hawaii and friction in Guam had forced the Japanese government to
repatriate the migrants within a matter of months. This unsatisfactory
(and technically illegal) first experience of labour emigration militated
Leaving: 1885–1905 13

against further dispatches of Japanese workers overseas. However, by

the mid-1880s the majority rural population was suffering greatly from
the impact of a new and rigid land tax system plus deflationary
monetary policies which set the price of rice back to the level of a
decade earlier. Japan’s still infant urban industries were concentrated
mainly in the central regions and were as yet incapable of providing
alternative jobs for a mass of impoverished farmers. The government,
having only recently quashed a series of rebellions by ex-samurai, had
good reason to fear rural violence. Emigration, therefore, was viewed
essentially as a safety valve in a society undergoing rapid political,
economic and cultural change.
Japan at this time had only limited treaty relations with foreign
states. The concern of the authorities was that emigration might
result in further diplomatic problems; the level of racism and abuse
inflicted on Chinese migrant workers to North America and Austra-
lia was well understood in Japan. Consequently, the government
opted to retain strict control over the new migrant business between
1883 and 1894; this was not only to regulate the number and char-
acter of Japanese being sent overseas but also to minimise the risk of
exploitation of workers either by foreign employers or by Japanese
entrepreneurs at home. State control of new ventures, however, was
commonplace under the early Meiji government and the under-
standing, as with other ventures, was to bring in private enterprise
once the business was properly established.
The first official dispatch of Japanese overseas contract labourers
came in 1885. They were hired to work on the sugar plantations
of Hawaii and, indicative of the good reputation, or merely high
expectation of Japanese labour, the initial demand from Hawaii
was for a huge group of up to 28 000.2 Those who responded to
the recruiting pamphlets were promised, as they were later to be
promised in Brazil, a veritable paradise, with gentle hosts, a pleasant
climate, and opportunities quickly to accumulate great wealth. They
were also tempted by what they were told was the easy availability
of rice and other familiar foods; this was a very important point
for many Japanese migrants then and later (indeed, as it seems to
remain up to the present). One exaggerated promise not to be
repeated was that in Hawaii the Japanese language could be used
freely. 3 It would seem entirely reasonable, however, to believe that
even uninformed migrants were sceptical about this particular claim.
14 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

Recruiters in Japan targeted the villages of the southwest; the

Hawaiian authorities made it clear they did not want urbanites but
rather young rural men ready and able to work on the land. Also,
leading government advocates of emigration originated from Japan’s
southwest and, at least in the first three decades of emigration, this
connection was to remain an important influence on the geographical
makeup of Japanese expatriate communities. Consequently, those
which came to be known as ‘the migrating prefectures’, especially
Hiroshima, Yamaguchi, Kumamoto and Fukuoka, were all in the south
and west. One major distinction, however, between this early migra-
tion and the community in Brazil from 1908 was to be the prominence
in the latter of migrants from Okinawa, modern Japan’s newest and
most southerly territory. A point to make here is that the dominance
of certain regions, and the importance of what is called chain migra-
tion (in which migrants from one locality attracted further migrants
from the same area), meant that the organising principle of Japanese
overseas was frequently by regional origin rather than nationality.
That is, the migrants in North and later South America often arranged
themselves and formed associations according to the ties of native
place. This brings into question the scholarly assertion of Maeyama
Takashi that it was only through leaving Japan that the emigrants
first understood what it was to be Japanese. Rather, it is equally
plausible that an emigrant whose environment was dominated by
people from the same region of Japan, or who, as in rural Brazil from
the 1920s, resided on a settlement populated mainly by Japanese from
various regions, actually obtained through emigration a reinforced
understanding of his or her localised identity.
A further characteristic of this early emigration, and another con-
trast with the situation later in Brazil, was a marked gender imbalance.
In 1890, for example, the Japanese population of Hawaii was 12 360
but, of these, 10 079 were male, and this disparity was to be even more
pronounced in Canada during the 1900s. In Hawaii, the imbalance
was dictated from the outset by the local authorities. They insisted
that no more than one in four migrants be female; the result was the
development subsequently of the practice of ‘picture brides’, that is,
men who ultimately chose to remain overseas made arrangements
for brides to be sent out from Japan. The importance of marriage in
general in shifting migrants from short-term labourers to long-term
settlers is widely understood. The recruitment of ‘picture brides’,
Leaving: 1885–1905 15

however, caused offence and suspicion first in Hawaii and then later
on the North American continent. It was interpreted as demonstrat-
ing a refusal by Japanese to assimilate through marriage to local women
(even though existing racism in North America against all Asian
peoples would have made such marriages extremely difficult). Local
peoples also decided from a very early point that Japanese female
migrants were mainly prostitutes so that ‘picture brides’ were assumed
to be merely sex workers in disguise. This was a claim later used
to attack Japanese expatriate communities in North America and to
support calls for their tighter control or exclusion.
Emigrant farm labourers left Japan between the 1880s and 1930s
because the country offered them limited hope of improving their lives.
Taxes remained high, food prices were depressed, and military con-
scription fell mainly on the rural population. Farmers had no reason
to feel an unquestioning loyalty to any amorphous concept of Japan
or to the person of the emperor. As far as they were concerned, Japan,
or at least what they knew of it, was a poor nation and this was to
remain the case until the 1940s. The first men emigrated with the
dream of earning four hundred yen within three years and, as the
popular saying had it, returning to their birthplace ‘clad in brocade’;
this was the equivalent of the Italian migrant’s promise to return
‘arrayed like a signore’. 4 By the 1900s, when Japanese began arriving
in Brazil, this dream had risen to 10 000 yen, suggesting that emigra-
tion had either been extraordinarily successful or that stories told
about it had become so fanciful that ambitions reached dizzy new
heights. In fact, a recurring feature of all Japanese agricultural emig-
ration from the 1880s to the 1920s at least was to be dissatisfaction
with the pay, hours and conditions encountered upon arrival at each
new ‘paradise’. From the outset, Japanese emigrants to Hawaii found
themselves at odds with their employers and there were disputes,
walkouts, and claims of sick migrants being compelled to work. In
Hawaii, as later in Brazil, a system of arbitration was quickly estab-
lished. This, after all, was equally in the interests of the employers
who wanted productive workers, not labour violence. Despite some
ongoing problems and disappointments, the initial experience of
short-term migrant labour on Hawaiian plantations was regarded in
Japan as a success; in 1893–94, just as the system of emigration was
about to change, there were nearly 9000 Japanese departing annually
from Yokohama on the two-week voyage halfway across the Pacific. 5
16 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

The emigration system in Japan remained in government hands

until 1894. At that point, guidelines were issued allowing for private
commercial recruiting but with clearly defined mechanisms for the
protection of overseas workers. Under these guidelines, no emigrant
could be sent to or head for any country with which Japan did not
have a treaty relationship. Emigration companies were required to
obtain a licence from the Home Ministry, and to leave with the
provincial government a bond in excess of 10 000 yen; this was to
cover the costs of repatriating migrants in the event of serious diffi-
culties (from 1907, the licensed Japanese shipping companies trans-
porting emigrants had to post their own bond of up to 30 000 yen).6
Notwithstanding the immensity of this sum, the potential profits
from those who wished to leave Japan were so considerable that
some 60 emigration companies were in existence by 1900. With this
freer more competitive market, the scale and distribution of labour
emigration increased sharply. According to figures in the Japan Times
of 21 October 1897, there was in 1896 a total of 21 299 Japanese
workers overseas (rising from 12 016 the year before). Of these, just
over 9000 were in Hawaii, roughly 7600 in Russian territories, 2000 in
Korea, about 1100 in the US, nearly 800 in Australia, and just under
500 in Canada. The only other expatriate communities reaching triple
figures were to be found in China and Hong Kong. The sole listing
for South or Central America was Mexico with just two male labourers.
As this shows, there was soon to be a major change in the direction of
Japanese emigration and, for that matter, in Japan’s foreign relations.
The nature of this change was shaped by diplomatic problems aris-
ing from Japanese emigration to North America. Although the initial
destination for most overseas Japanese in the period of commercial
emigration remained Hawaii, some had already begun to shift further
east in search of even better pay and conditions; in the peak years
between 1900 and 1907, the continental United States is said to have
received some 80 000 Japanese, nearly half that number crossing over
from Hawaii. In America, they worked on the land and in such jobs
as the construction of railways but also became prominent in the cities
of the Pacific coast where their societies included a relatively large
body of literate young men. These young men swiftly developed civic
institutions and associations. According to historian Yuji Ichioka,
student-labourers were numerous among the 2000 Japanese in San
Francisco from the late 1880s, and it was they who were the driving
Leaving: 1885–1905 17

force behind the first migrant newspapers. They were also active in
setting up a Japanese YMCA in San Francisco in 1886.
Despite this early evidence of ‘civilisation and enlightenment’ on
their part, Japanese emigrants to North America were unable to escape
racist stereotyping. In particular, the unbalanced gender make-up of
the Japanese community was used to spread accusations of Japanese
decadence and the fact that perhaps a majority of the tiny number of
Japanese women were in fact prostitutes provided ammunition for
opponents of Japanese immigration.7 However, along with immorality,
the recurring and unfounded accusation levelled against Japanese
here and in other countries was that they were warriors in disguise.
This idea that all Japanese emigrants were potentially fifth-columnists,
merely awaiting the order from their emperor to rise up and seize
control of complacent nations, was apparent even before the 1900s;
a US senator sent to investigate conditions in Hawaii in 1897, just
prior to its annexation by the US, warned against Japanese on the
islands precisely in these terms.8 In this, he was reflecting a view
triggered by Japan’s success in its war of 1894–95 with China: for-
eigners who understood nothing about the conflict itself neverthe-
less concluded that victorious Japan, with less than one-tenth the
population of its neighbour, must belong to what was popularly termed
the martial races. The characteristic of such races, it was assumed,
was that they were bound by an intense, even mechanical, solidarity
and were motivated by the desire for further conquest. Such reduc-
tionist and destructive ideas about races and civilisations were, of
course, to persist in the US and elsewhere at least until the end of the
twentieth century. The fantasies of conspiracy and subversion from
the 1890s, however, were to determine henceforth the direction both
of Japanese migration and of relations between Japan and the US.
As early as 1900, the Japanese government attempted to reduce
diplomatic friction by forbidding its labourers sailing from Japan to
North America. Outside of Japan, however, the government’s authority
was tenuous. The Japanese consul in San Francisco travelled to Hawaii
to persuade migrants that, no matter what rumours they had heard,
wages on the continent were not in fact higher; the migrants trusted
in their own sources of information and knew this to be a lie. Conse-
quently, they acted according to their own interests and this inde-
pendence of mind was later to be evident also among the expatriates
in Brazil. 9
18 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

Just as the Sino-Japanese war prompted fears over the intentions

and loyalties of Japanese immigrants, not only in North America but
also in the South Pacific and Australasia, so a new level of hysteria
accompanied Japan’s victory in war over Russia in 1905. In 1906,
there were violent protests against Japanese migrants along the Pacific
northwest and, in 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt took executive
action to prevent any further backdoor immigration by Japanese from
Hawaii. The response from Tokyo appeared in the eyes of migrants
merely to be supine and this led them to consider how to assume
greater responsibility for their own security. A similar wariness towards
the Japanese authorities was also to arise among expatriates in Brazil
in the 1920s–30s. It was this sense of looming confrontation between
the US and Japan, however, resulting in large part from a loosely
controlled emigration, which led in 1908 to a new focus on South
America, and more especially on Brazil. Yet, prior to this time, there had
already been several plans to initiate large-scale Japanese migration
to the southern half of the Americas.
At the outset, it was Peru and, to a lesser extent, Mexico which
loomed largest in Japanese migration schemes. The first commercial
treaty between Japan and any South American state had been signed
with Peru in 1873; this was followed after a considerable interval by
a treaty with Mexico in 1888, then Brazil, Chile and Argentina in
1895, 1897, and 1898 respectively. This flurry of diplomatic activity
prompted Japanese businessmen to take a greater interest in com-
mercial prospects and, in 1897, the Morioka Trading Company sent
a representative, Tanaka Teikichi, to investigate South American labour
conditions. Tanaka’s conclusion, summarised in the Japan Times of
10 February 1898, was clear. In his view, Brazil was simply unsuited
to receiving Japanese workers. As the newspaper interpreted his
comments, ‘In the first place, almost all the Brazilian plantations are
crowded with Italian labourers, who are given to all sorts of disreput-
able habits, while the plantation owners are not unfrequently
unpunctual in the payment of wages, preferring to settle accounts
after the harvest has been gathered in.’ This suggested there was
neither a market for Japanese migrants nor would they be treated
well if they were despatched to Brazil.
Tanaka, however, presented a quite different picture of Peru.
There, it was said, the president was a thorough Japanophile; he even
wanted to bring over craftsmen to build for him a model Japanese
Leaving: 1885–1905 19

house. The republican assembly had voted unanimously in support

of contracting Japanese workers, and a law banning the marriage of
Peruvians with foreigners was said to have been repealed directly to
encourage Japanese men to migrate and assimilate. Continuing its
report, the Japan Times declared, ‘the partiality of the Peruvian people
for the Japanese seems to be almost without parallel’. In response, the
Morioka Company began arranging to recruit 1000 migrants in May
1898, with a contract in hand for a further 29 000. The type preferred
by Peruvian employers was a young man between twenty and twenty-
five with agricultural experience. The first 790 Japanese (nearly half
of them from Niigata prefecture and many of the rest from Yamaguchi
and Hiroshima) were duly sent in February 1899. Their contracts
stipulated four years work on Peruvian sugar plantations and in
sugar mills. However, language difficulties and fears already about
Japanese labourers as military subversives led to early setbacks. The
first strike of Japanese labour occured in April 1899 when the Peruvian
managers of a sugar plantation attempted to prevent migrants from
buying their supplies anywhere but at the plantation store with its
inflated prices. Two-thirds of the 150 Yamaguchi migrants were
subsequently fired in June 1899. There were also incidences of
violence against Japanese migrants and a high level of death from
disease. Many of those who remained wanted to head directly back
to Japan but no vessel was available. By default, therefore, they were
forced to endure harsh and unsatisfactory labour conditions and an
environment of racial antagonism. This was to continue into the
1900s; a crowd of 250 Peruvians was said to have stoned Japanese
lodgings in 1900, and anti-Asian sentiment remained high in Peru
thereafter. Ongoing labour problems resulted in contracts negotiated
by the Morioka Emigration Company being reduced to just six
months from 1906. Despite all of this, there were successive waves of
Japanese contract workers to Peru and greater stability did emerge as
a number of wives began to accompany them from the early 1900s.
The belief also lingered in Japan that Peruvians were unusually
welcoming to Japanese; in 1908, a provincial newspaper commented
once again on the level of goodwill from the Peruvian president on
down.10 By this point, however, there was a new ‘paradise’ further on
the horizon.
Brazil was not entirely terra incognita for Japanese at the end of the
nineteenth century. However, the contacts to date had been sporadic
20 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

and marked by the confused, the curious, and the tragic. The very first
Japanese to set foot on Brazilian soil date from about 1803. A crew of
Japanese sailors was blown far off their coast and were rescued by
a Russian ship; four of them were later repatriated via Kronstadt but
found the vessel carrying them also blown way off course, ending up
on the Brazilian island of Santa Catarina. They finally made their
way back to Nagasaki in 1805. The history of misadventure, however,
continued in 1869 when, following a change of regime and a reversal
of diplomatic policy, one of two Japanese sent as students of military
science to Britain became so homesick that he committed suicide
while docking at a Brazilian port. 11 Other Japanese appeared in Brazil
before the start of formal treaty relations. One of these was Takezawa
Banji, described as a nobleman from the island of Shikoku. He left
Japan as some kind of theatrical performer but, in Brazil, became the
teacher of judo to the imperial guard of Dom Pedro II; after Brazil’s
republican revolution of the 1880s, Takezawa and a Japanese com-
panion became part of the Circus Imperial Japanese, touring Brazil
and other countries in South America. A final example worth noting
is Harley Kunishige; about him there is only a snippet in one of the
Tokyo newspapers to report that he was leading a rebellion in 1890s
Brazil. 12 It would seem probable that he was originally a migrant to
North America but his sudden and mysterious ascension to Latin
American revolutionary, although outside of our immediate concern,
none the less indicates the range of possibilities for adventurous
Japanese even before the migrant community came into being.
In later Japanese historiography, it is argued that migration from
Japan to Brazil commenced primarily for negative reasons; Brazil was
encountering difficulties in recruiting labour from its preferred
sources in Europe, and Japanese were being closed out of their preferred
destinations in North America.13 This is somewhat misleading. Early in
the nineteenth century, the Brazilian court had already experimented
in bringing over several hundred Chinese to develop tea cultivation
but the resulting crop was poor and relations between workers and
employers were hampered by difficulties of language and custom.
This did not end Brazilian interest in labour from Asia and a further
attempt to recruit Chinese was made at mid-century. This provoked
a debate, however, about the social and racial impact of Asian
immigration, and some of the views and images from the time were
later to be applied to Japanese. Those Brazilians in favour of Chinese
Leaving: 1885–1905 21

labour stressed their positive role in economic development; oppon-

ents attacked Chinese culture and warned of the danger of ‘social
pollution’. As a medical student in Rio de Janeiro put it in the 1870s,
the result would be a Brazil awash with ‘tattered Chinese, broken by
their sickness, begging in our streets’. 14 It was this fear of disease and
contamination, often expressed by practitioners of medicine, which
was to recur in later years. However, when Brazil entered formal treaty
relations with China in 1879, it was Beijing, not Rio de Janeiro, which
resisted further attempts to recruit Chinese migrants on the grounds
that the security of its people could not fully be guaranteed. In con-
sequence, Brazilian employers began looking more seriously at Japan
as a pool of labour.
The background to Brazil’s desire for migrant labour was the extra-
ordinary boom in coffee production from the 1850s. From that point
at least until the end of the 1930s, there was to be a constant need
for yet more workers to open fresh land and harvest the coffee crop
centred on Sao Paulo state. In 1894, the powerful Prado Company of
Sao Paulo city began discussions with the Kissa Emigration Company
in Japan and, in 1895, the state authorities of Para in Brazil’s north
sought to conclude an agreement for 3000 Japanese workers with the
Toyo Emigration and Trading Company. Thus, serious approaches
from Brazil for Japanese migrants pre-date by several years Japan’s
troubles in North America and Brazil’s difficulties in obtaining
European labour. The stumbling block remained, however, the lack
of a formal treaty.
1897 is the turning point in Japanese-Brazilian relations. In August
of that year, a Japanese consulate was established at Petropolis, just
outside Rio, and Chinda Sutemi was appointed Japan’s first minister
to Brazil; the following month, Enrique Carlos Lisboa was dispatched
to Tokyo to represent the Brazilian republic. One of his first speeches
was to the Japan Foreign Trade Society in which he advocated emi-
gration from Japan as the basis for a new level of mutual trade and
prosperity. In describing Brazil, he explained:15

The great abundance of water, the mildness of the climate in such

an elevated territory, and the nature of the soil afford to this
extensive plateau a fertility unparalleled which, however, has
not been duly explored to the present moment on account of the
scarcity of population. It is to this field of virgin and sumptuous
22 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

richness that we now call the intelligent and industrious Japanese


Having as it were written the script for Japanese emigration manuals

over the next four decades (and more), Lisboa also waved before his
hosts the carrot of greater Japanese exports to a booming economy once
their migrants became established, and of Japanese re-establishing
Brazil’s cotton production which then could supply one of Japan’s
own primary industries. On this latter point, he was to be proved
remarkably prescient by events in the 1930s.
The rosy image of Japanese migrant prosperity in Brazil was never
to fade. The problems closer to the ground, however, were apparent
in 1897. Following the establishment of treaty relations, a Japanese
agent for both the Kissa and Toyo concerns was posted to Rio. An
agreement was also signed with the Prado Company for 1500 Japanese
as coffee plantation workers. However, the sudden fall in international
coffee prices led to the contract abruptly being cancelled from Sao Paulo
only four days before the migrants sailed.16 This stop–start rhythm in
Brazilian recruitment of Japanese workers was to persist into the
1920s as the coffee economy itself rose and fell, and as Brazilian atti-
tudes continued to fluctuate about the racial composition of its own
rapidly growing population.
In understanding the society into which Japanese migrants were to
arrive and create a new life for themselves, one must first emphasise
the very unsettled nature of that society following the shift from
a monarchy to a republic in 1889. The motto of the new republic was
‘order and progress’. Certainly the progress of republican Brazil’s
economy, driven by the coffee exports of Sao Paulo state and, briefly,
by the rubber boom of the Amazon region, was breathtaking. Equally
so was the pace of immigration: estimates suggest that the population
of Brazil from 1890 to 1920 nearly doubled from 14.3 to 27 million
and, in this, immigration played an important role. The destination
for most migrants was Brazil’s centre and south and, especially the
state of Sao Paulo; this took almost 65 per cent of the more than one
million new arrivals in 1891–1900. Many chose to live in the cities
so that, by the 1890s, the industrial workforce and the major urban
populations contained an unusually large number of non-Brazilians.
Rio de Janeiro in 1890 had approximately 550 000 inhabitants, of
whom 30 per cent were born outside Brazil, and Sao Paulo, with about
Leaving: 1885–1905 23

half of its population in the 1890s born overseas, was commonly

described as an Italian city.17
The concern among some Brazilian elites was not so much to
restrict this massive influx of foreigners but to use it to create a new
racial order. In 1890, the Brazilian people were mainly ‘non-white’ and
with a third described as mulatto, that is, mixed African and non-
African. The 1891 federal constitution restricted further African or
Asian migration (although Chinese and Japanese immigration subse-
quently was permitted subject to congressional approval). Instead,
there was a conscious attempt to promote European migration
through government assistance with travel costs. This was intended in
part to achieve a ‘branqueamento’ or ‘whitening’ of Brazilian society.
Consequently, the overwhelming majority of migrants to 1914 were
from Europe. Among these, the largest number between the 1870s
and 1890s, and the greatest hope of those advocating a racial ‘whiten-
ing’, was the Italians. What made them so attractive is explained by
Brazil’s most eminent cultural historian, Gilberto Freyre:18

Of all the new immigrants, they were the most wanted, the most
imitated, and received the highest praise. They were not rude like
the Germans, nor were they the country bumpkins who furnished
so much material for Portuguese, Galician, or Spanish jokes. They
were intelligent, adaptable, friendly, likeable, and they worked very
hard. They were not clannish, but rather mixed happily with Brazil-
ians at religious festivals and during Carnival. They quickly learned
to sing Brazilian songs along with their traditional operatic tunes.

Thus, the virtues of the ideal migrant, excepting racial origins, were
intelligence, industriousness, affability, and adaptability in such
matters as popular music and public celebration. It remained to be
seen how many of these virtues could be ascribed to the Japanese
The importance to Japan of emigration, and the appeal in some
societies of Japanese as immigrants, was reinforced by war. This was
particularly the case with the war against Russia in 1904–05. Japan
was militarily victorious in a conflict over hegemony in Northeast
Asia but the Japanese army and navy enjoyed the luxury of fighting
in their own backyard while the Russians had to contend, ultimately
without success, with supply lines stretching over 6000 miles from
24 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

St Petersburg. Again, the predominant image of foreign observers

was the ability of the Japanese people to defeat what, on paper, was an
enemy vastly superior in numbers and resources. As before, it was the
quality of the Japanese spirit which they identified as the decisive
factor. In short, the Japanese were respected, and feared, as a nation
of samurai.
The reality of the samurai in traditional Japan is that they had been
a closed elite of warrior-bureaucrats who produced nothing and,
instead, fed off the taxes of the farm community. The concern of
Japanese authorities in 1905 was that the several hundred thousand
demobilised troops would only add to the burdens of a fragile economy
still in the early stages of industrialisation. This fragility was com-
pounded by the fact that Japan was now heavily indebted to the
West for loans to defray its war expenses, and was confronting
the prospect of rising unemployment and organised labour unrest.
During the war, the government had made the decision to support
Japanese colonists (shokumin) rather than merely emigrants (imin);
the distinction here was that colonists were to establish long-term
roots overseas and contribute to Japan’s national power, while migrants
were regarded as short-term economic expatriates likely to return
within three to four years. 19 The war had nominally been fought over
Korea and, in 1905, Japan took de facto control over the peninsula.
The expectation was that Japanese farmers could establish a new life
for themselves in land neglected by Koreans. There were pamphlets
encouraging the move to Korea: these stressed the lack of diplomatic
friction such as dominated relations with North America, or, putting
aside rival claims, what was now seen as the unpleasant climate of
South America. They said rather less about the actual skill of Korean
farmers, which in fact made it near impossible for Japanese to compete,
or about the chance of being attacked by Korean guerrillas during
the insurgency of 1907–10. Consequently, Japanese arriving in Korea
after 1905 tended to be carpetbaggers rather than farm colonists.
One point to make here, however, is the level of desire in Japan to
migrate immediately after the war. In 1906, there was continuing
emigration from central Japan to the northern Japanese island of
Hokkaido, while the number of Japanese heading for Hawaii reached
an all-time high of 25 752. 20
Japan’s victory over Russia recaptured the attention of Brazilian
employers. For example, the press in Manaus, capital of the northern
Leaving: 1885–1905 25

state of Amazonas, carried articles about the battles, profiled the

Japanese commanders, and encouraged Japanese immigration. In Sao
Paulo at this time, the demand for new sources of labour was espe-
cially urgent. This followed the Italian government ban from 1902,
responding to the complaints of unpaid migrant workers, which
prohibited further contract labour being sent to Brazil. This left a major
vacuum of labour on the state’s coffee plantations. In filling this with
Japanese workers and in opening a new stage in Japanese-Brazilian
relations, the individual given most credit is Sugimura Fukashi, Japan’s
third minister to Brazil. He took up his new post in April 1905, just
after the massive land battle between Japanese and Russian forces at
Mukden in Manchuria. Sugimura had initially opposed immigration
to Brazil but the goodwill he was shown upon arrival convinced him
to reverse his position. In reports to his government which then were
summarised in the Japanese press, he described the Brazilian people
thronging the streets around him, singing the Japanese national
anthem, and making speech after speech in his honour, all because
of their new-found respect and friendship towards Japan. These
feelings, he explained, were due to Japan’s victory over a European
power and the belief among Brazilians that they, as much as the
Japanese, were treated by Europeans with racist contempt. 21 In other
words, it was a shared sense of being victims of racism which helped
bring together the Brazilian and Japanese peoples.
With some poignancy, Sugimura was to find himself a longer-term
guest of Brazil than expected; in May 1906 he died suddenly and was
buried in Rio de Janeiro. However, in his short tenure, he was influ-
ential in promoting the first commercial sailing from Japan to the
west coast of South America in December 1905. On board was Mizuno
Ryo, head of the Kokoku Colonisation Company, with a mission to
study emigration possibilities in Peru, Chile, Argentina, and Brazil.
In his later account, Nambei Toko Annai, he supported the idea that
ex-soldiers could become the pioneers of Japanese migration to South
America.22 This might well have proven counterproductive for Japan’s
image in the region given the baseless fears already being expressed
in North America about a Japanese armed invasion. However, it was
Mizuno who was to lead the first sailing of Japanese contract
migrants to Brazil in 1908. Also influenced by Sugimura’s reports was
a group of Japanese businessmen, led by Fujisaki Saburosuke, son of a
Sendai cloth merchant. From September 1906, they established the
26 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

Fujisaki Trading Store in Sao Paulo city. This signalled the start of
Japanese trade in Brazil and the goods it retailed were Japanese wares
such as fans, pottery, silk handkerchiefs, and teas, all of which proved
popular with Brazilians. However, the store’s long-term customer base
was to be the Japanese migrants yet to arrive. In future years, Fujisaki
Trading was to play an important role, giving the poorer migrants
financial assistance, as well as mediating on their behalf with the
Brazilian authorities, and earning for itself the sobriquet, ‘the people’s
consulate’. 23
In contrast to the historiographical argument which stresses the
negative reasons for the start of migration to Brazil, the mood at the
time was definitely positive. This is apparent in an advertisement from
the Japanese regional press early in 1908. In this, a Kyoto concern
titling itself the Nambei Toko Shokenkai (Society for Promoting Travel
to South America) announced that the first migrant ship to Brazil
would depart in April and that no one knew when the next would
follow. For those who made the journey, however, Brazil was ideal,
its climate pleasant, rice common as a diet, and both the government
and people welcoming ‘our militarily victorious Japanese’. Upon arrival,
a working man might earn up to eight yen daily, a woman perhaps
five yen, that is, ten times the wage in Japan. In addition travel, food
and lodgings were either subsidised or free. Readers were advised
merely to send 50 sen to an address in Kyoto and they too could
obtain all the information they needed to make the trip.24 Whether
or not the advertisement was genuine, or just a means to relieve the
gullible of 50 sen, the opportunity of a new life in a rich and
welcoming land was enormously tempting. This was to remain the
case both in the years immediately after the Russo-Japanese war and
for several decades thereafter.
Arriving: the Early Japanese
in Brazil, 1908–19

The first period of Japanese emigration to Brazil runs from 1908 to

1919. In these years, arriving Japanese endured the process of cultural
acclimatisation common to other migrant groups in the country and
familiar to Japanese emigrants in other societies. This process involved
moving from a near complete ignorance of the basic mechanisms of
daily life, including simple phrases of language, common foods, and
social customs, to a level of understanding which allowed them at
least to function within certain sectors of Brazilian society, especially
agricultural production and petty retailing. The next level of famil-
iarity leading on to greater prosperity was to be reached in the 1920s.
What became evident from the early years is that Japanese migrants
had a very clear sense of their own minds and were perfectly capable
either of enduring hardship, adapting to adversity, or protesting against
mistreatment. In this, they were far more than the victims of circum-
stance they often appear in Japanese-language histories.
This independence of mind was obvious as the first migrant vessel,
the Kasato-maru, prepared late in April 1908 to leave Kobe in central
Japan and commence its two-month voyage across the Indian and
Atlantic Oceans for the Brazilian port of Santos. At Kobe, a government
politician gave the migrants a patriotic address, calling on them to
remember, ‘As you go overseas, each one of you carries Japan with you.
Each one of you must avoid any stain to Japan’s reputation. You should
go with the resolution not to return, even in the face of death, unless
you are successful’.1 There is a scholarly view that the dominant theme
in the ideology of Japanese emigration just after the Russo-Japanese
war was that of ‘expanding the race’ (minzoku bocho-ron). 2 This was

28 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

a theme to recur in government and intellectual interpretations of

emigration into the 1930s, and it obviously underlies this early
address. The migrants, however, were swayed neither by patriotism
nor rhetoric. Instead, each had his own monetary calculation of
success, ranging from about 3000 up to 10 000 yen. Moreover, the
reason for migrating was the fact that Japan provided so few options:
in the region around Hiroshima, known as the ‘king of migrating
prefectures’, and where the availability of land to population was
roughly half the national average, there was a saying according to a
1920s work, ‘If you don’t go in the military, go to America’.3 Thus,
while scholars such as Maeyama Takashi emphasise the shock of
leaving Japan, the migrants themselves journeyed with genuine
optimism about the future in Brazil and the chances of using the
‘tree of gold’, as they termed the coffee bush, to attain a new level of
personal, not national, wealth. Despite early setbacks, this sense of
optimism was to persist at least into the 1930s. 4
Returning to Maeyama’s argument that the act of emigration
brought about a first self-awareness of national identity, one might
suggest that the initial experience before arrival in Brazil indicated a
very different sense of ‘Japaneseness’ than that which stresses group
harmony and commonality of purpose. Rather, the sailing of the
Kasato was an episode in disunity and conflict. Indeed, the original
name of the vessel, a Russian hospital ship until its capture during
the recent war, had been Kazan, a word also appearing in Japanese
where it means ‘volcano’ and this would be an apt description of the
first voyage. Relations between the Kokoku Colonisation Company and
contract migrants were strained from the outset. The first bone of con-
tention was the meals served on board; migrants were dismayed not
only at receiving tinned food but doing so in tiny quantities. In addi-
tion, the restrictions on movement caused simmering anger; migrants
were prohibited from stepping ashore at Hong Kong and had to wait
until Capetown before they could briefly escape the ship’s confines.
On board, the lack of goodwill between Japanese crew and passen-
gers was such that women were not allowed on deck at night for fear
of being attacked. Relations were further soured as Mizuno, head of
the Kokoku Company, was unable to pay the crew the customary
tips. In addition, he persuaded the migrants to entrust him with sev-
eral thousand yen of their cash but subsequently delayed repayment,
in many cases for over a year. Matters came to a head shortly before
Arriving: 1908–19 29

arrival at Santos, when a drunken stoker attempted to stab Mizuno,

wounding by accident a fellow crew member who attempted to
intervene and who subsequently died in a Brazilian hospital.5 From
this, one would have to conclude that reaching Brazil was a cause
for celebration not lamentation. Disputes and even violence among
Japanese in Brazil, however, were to recur in future years.
The geographical and gender makeup of these first emigrants was
to influence the development of a Japanese expatriate community in
later years. The migrant body consisted of twelve independent persons
entirely paying their own way, and 781 migrants contracted by the
Kokoku Company as part of its deal over time to supply 3000 workers
for the Sao Paulo state government. Those Japanese with contracts
had paid 65 yen of their own money, with the remainder of the 165
yen passage defrayed by the authorities in Sao Paulo (although 40
yen of this was a bond to be repaid by the migrant). Of those under
contract, there are slightly differing estimates but the most recent
history states that 593 were male and 188 female; notably, 532 persons
were recorded as literate. All agree, however, that there were 165 fam-
ilies. Eight infants under 12 constituted the youngest members. The
crucial distinction between Japanese migrants to Brazil and those to
Hawaii and North America was that the Sao Paulo government insisted
on family recruitment, with at least three members fit for work (i.e.
those over the age of 12). This meant that Brazilian subsidies were paid
only to units comprising at least one male and one female. The inten-
tion here was to guarantee some level of family stability among the
new arrivals. The Sao Paulo authorities also insisted that migrants
come from an agricultural background, and that they have no history
of radical politics. Both of these preconditions were rather harder to
monitor than family groupings. In order to meet this latter condition,
however, there were many cases of migrants, especially from Okinawa,
forming ersatz families of convenience (including the pretence of
marriage and adoption of a local boy or girl) which soon dissolved
after arrival.6 Despite this, the presence of a relatively high percentage
of women did contribute to social cohesion amongst the first gener-
ation of Japanese in Brazil.
This cohesion was further strengthened, but also limited, by the
provincial origins of the migrant body. The smallest regional affili-
ations were the single male migrants from both Yamagata and Nagano
prefectures, followed by a family of three from Tokyo. Far and away
30 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

the largest regional concentration was the 276 men and 49 women
from Okinawa. This was well ahead of the next largest group of 123
men and 49 women from Kagoshima. 7 As Okinawa was to become
(along with Fukuoka, Kumamoto, and Hiroshima) one of the four
main regional sources of overseas migrants to 1940, it is worth con-
sidering its position within Japan. First, Okinawa had been annexed
to Japan in 1879; the full incorporation of the prefecture into the
Japanese system was to be completed only in 1921. The initial wave of
overseas migrants, however, commenced in 1899, that is just one
year after the introduction of Japanese military conscription to the
prefecture. As male migrants were required to bond themselves to
return for military service, it may be an exaggeration to emphasise
the precise link between this change in law and the appeal of migra-
tion. However, it seems equally feasible that migrants who found
themselves in Brazil with new possibilities for work and profit envis-
aged some form of eluding military service. A further and related
point is that Okinawans were not ethnic Japanese and they endured
discriminatory treatment at the hands of ‘other’ Japanese up to 1940
and beyond. For example, many actually migrated from the 1920s to
the Kansai region of mainland Japan and to the South Pacific where,
according to one Okinawan official in 1940, their inability even then
to speak standard Japanese led to them receiving harsh treatment.
Discrimination by migrants from mainland Japan towards those from
Okinawa was also to be apparent in both the Brazilian and Peruvian
expatriate communities. 8
The predominance of migrants from Japan’s south and west in
Brazil may be linked to the continuing influence in the central gov-
ernment at Tokyo of men from those regions. Political connections
appear less a motivating factor in migration from east Japan, where
Fukushima followed by Niigata supplied the bulk of migrants, and
where natural catastrophe and harvest failure tended to be the direct
stimulus for emigration. What seems to have occurred across Japan,
however, is that migrants originated from a cluster of localities
within prefectures. In this, the role of chain migration based on ties
between relatives and friends from one’s own locality, plus the flow
of information from one migrating body to the next, was clearly
a shaping influence.9
While Japanese emigrants moved beyond the direct control of their
government, and thus potentially had more authority over their own
Arriving: 1908–19 31

actions and ideas, they were never able to elude the dominant images
of ‘the Japanese’ which originated in the policies of their home gov-
ernment. In their persons, however, they had the chance to modify,
or appropriate for their own benefit, some of these images. The clutch
of ideas about Japan and the Japanese current in Brazil circa 1908
may be seen in the press coverage of those arriving on the Kasato. On
25 June 1908, a major Sao Paulo newspaper, the Correio Paulista,
offered its assessment. Overall, the impression was very positive. In
particular, the article stressed the discipline and order of the Japan-
ese, including their care over hygiene: it noted in detail that any
crumb of food on the floor of the holding centre for migrants could
only have been left by one of the local Brazilian staff, so careful
were the Japanese not to spoil their surroundings. Given the rise in
twentieth-century ideas, and anxieties, about medical and cultural
hygiene, this was a crucial point in terms of the reception accorded any
immigrant group. Speaking at the beginning of the century, Brazil’s
federal president, Rodrigues Alves, had directly linked immigration
with the ‘cleansing’ of the capital, Rio de Janeiro. The capital was
being infused with light and space through a massive reconstruction
plan based on Haussman’s model for Paris; when this was completed
in 1904, it was described by one journalist as ‘the victory of hygiene,
good taste, and art’. 10 Immigrants were often the ones to provide the
energy and human capital to illuminate the new broad avenues,
grand buildings, and urban parks of Brazilian cities as the country
sprinted towards ‘progress’. However, the fear in industrialising soci-
eties was that urbanisation itself led to physical and moral pollution.
Consequently, immigrants who failed to display a concern for order,
hygiene and progress were viewed as a source of racial contagion.
This was a view perfectly explicit in some of the imagery of peoples
from Asia common among North Americans and Europeans up to
the 1940s, and exhibited also by some Brazilians.
One image from this first press appraisal of the Japanese was of the
presence of at least one ex-soldier among the migrants; he was identi-
fied by his campaign medals. This also could serve to impress Brazilian
readers, reminding them of the disciplined and effective Japanese
armed forces in the war against Russia. An equally significant symbol,
however, was the double-sided flags sported by the migrants, showing
on one side the national flag of Brazil and, on the other, that of Japan.
The desire to show respect for Brazil won praise for the migrants’
32 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

good intentions. In a similar vein, they were credited with being

keen also to learn Portuguese. The physical difference of the Japanese
caught the journalist’s attention; he described them as very short in
the trunk, smaller even than the average small Brazilian, but he
insisted in this, ‘The Japanese are very different from Brazilians but
not at all inferior’. Some of these images had an extended shelf life:
virtually the sole comment on the Japanese in Brazil by the prolific
and respected American travel writer Frank Carpenter, following his
visit in the 1920s, was that the first arrivals were extremely careful of
hygiene, some wore medals, and many arrived waving Japanese and
Brazilian flags. With a maturity and objectivity increasingly absent
in the English-language alarmist literature about Japan, however, the
Correio Paulista in 1908 concluded by noting that its good impres-
sions had yet to be confirmed by the migrants’ conduct once they
actually set to work.11
The migrants’ understanding of Brazil to this point was derived
solely from the literature published by the Japanese emigration com-
pany. In a format to be repeated by others in later years, this set out
the basic facts of Brazil: its longitude, latitude, the fertility and lie of
the land, the temperature in summer and winter (as pleasant as the
Mediterranean, readers were now told), the vast space available com-
pared with Japan, and the friendliness and racial tolerance of the
Brazilian people. As the company pamphlet explained: 12

In Sao Paulo state, those with white skins, yellow, or the descendants
of black slaves not only have the absolute right of equality, in
social and human terms also all are viewed in the same way and
there is no violent feeling of contempt or hatred. In particular as
a consequence of the Russo-Japanese war, there is a tendency to
treat we Japanese with respect . . .

This was slightly exaggerated. In Brazil, there was a widespread sense

of racial tolerance and, long before the abolition of slavery in 1888,
there had been increasing criticism of racial exploitation; the
emperor of Brazil had taken the lead by freeing his own slaves in 1840.
In practice, however, open discrimination on race grounds continued
to be suffered into the 1930s by ethnic Africans in Brazil, and northern
hemisphere ideas of ‘scientific racism’, which also denigrated peoples
from Asia, had been adopted by some of the Brazilian elite late in the
Arriving: 1908–19 33

nineteenth century.13 Having said that, the most impressive thing

about Brazil for arriving Japanese was the vast space and, in this,
recruiting adverts and pamphlets were guilty of no deception. The
belief in Brazil that the frontier was yet alive, and that immigration
continued to be a national asset, allowed for a more generous and
tolerant attitude towards new peoples. This was in stark contrast with
the United States which, in the 1890s, had already come to believe that
its frontier had been reached and that further immigration was a
threat to existing socio-economic opportunities and community order.

Life on the fazenda

The Japanese contract workers were employed on the coffee plan-

tations, or fazendas, spread across Sao Paulo state. Coffee was para-
mount in Sao Paulo’s economy and society; this was obvious in the
rail system which in real terms was a network for coffee production
and distribution. It was along these railways that the migrants were
dispatched to their various plantations between late June and early
July 1908.
One of the features of the early Japanese in Brazil is their regionalism.
This was explicit in the groups allotted to different plantations.
Twenty-four Okinawan families (152 persons) were sent to Canaa
fazenda; 23 Okinawan families (173 persons) went to Floresta; and
27 Kagoshima families (101 persons) travelled to Sao Martinho. This
meant that over half the entire migrant body had been distributed
according to native place origin. The remainder was composed of
smaller groupings. Thus, for example, 24 families (88 persons) from
Kagoshima, Kochi, and Niigata went to the Guatapara plantation,
while 52 families (210 persons) from Fukushima, Kumamoto, Hiro-
shima, Miyagi, and Tokyo were sent to the enormous Dumont
fazenda. This clustering according to region had occurred earlier in
Hawaii and in North America. The assumption behind it was that
people from the same region would work better together and have
fewer problems with differences in dialect; this again reminds us of the
variety, even in language, within Japan’s nominally homogeneous
On the fazendas, there was reason to expect the Japanese could settle
quickly. After the abolition of slavery, it was quite rare for Brazilians
to work as plantation labour, especially in the booming new territories
34 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

of west Sao Paulo. Consequently, the plantation workforce was a

polyglot community of differing nationalities, with a rapid turnover
in arrivals and departees both in Sao Paulo in general and at each
fazenda. All groups of migrants were quick to move on, either to
other plantations, to a life as independent farmers, or to new jobs in
the towns and cities. 15 This meant that there was a constant need for
fresh labour but also that the social order of each fazenda was fluid.
The coffee harvest typically began in late April, was at its peak in
the coldest month of August, and ended early in September. Arriving
on the coffee plantations, contract labourers, or colonos, found them-
selves accommodated free of charge, usually two families together,
and in rare cases three, to a brick dwelling lined along with many
others of the same type. Boards of various sizes were adapted to serve
either as a sleeping mat or back-rest, and empty boxes doubled as
storage for pots and pans. These spartan housing conditions remained
current at least to the end of the 1920s. 16 The greatest culture shock
for the Japanese, however, was over food and drink. These were the
most fundamental and persistent of dissatisfactions, and a display
from the 1990s at the Sao Paulo Historical Museum of Japanese Migra-
tion to Brazil, dealing with the early years of migrant life, spoke of
little else. Brazilian foods were alien to the migrants’ vocabulary and
digestion. The things they wanted, especially miso soup, soy sauce,
and pickles to flavour their rice, were beyond their abilities of expres-
sion. Tea was also unavailable and it took several months for new
arrivals to puzzle out the complexities of grinding and brewing coffee.
The result was that migrants felt alienated in the one ritual, collective
dining, which normally reinforced the individual’s sense of family,
community and stability. Japanese invested enormous time and energy
in growing their own crops in the spaces around their dwellings or in
unused stretches of earth between young coffee trees. However, of
necessity, they learned also to adapt. They found that rice cooked in
lard in the Brazilian style actually gave them greater energy while
working in the fields. This did not ease the transition for later arrivals.
One memoir from the 1920s tells of migrants throwing away the oily
rice and sausage they were given upon arrival at Sao Paulo. Food,
plus the manner in which it was cooked and eaten, was to remain
one of the most important ways in which Japanese in Brazil (as it was
and is for those within Japan) chose to define their identity, and a
list of cultural differences between Japanese and ‘Westerners’ in the
Arriving: 1908–19 35

migrant press in 1932 was still dominated by food, drink, and the
manner of their consumption. 17
According to the writings of Kato Junnosuke, translator to the 210
Japanese at the Dumont plantation, the first arrivals were a motley
crew with no more than about 15 per cent actually experienced at
farming. This raises doubts about the typical comment in Japanese-
language studies that migrants over the years were overwhelmingly
from the superfluous farm population. The history of Fukui prefectural
migrants in Brazil insists that most were failed middle-level farmers
or entrepreneurs, not impoverished peasants, and Kato’s list from
1908 included (singular or plural being unclear), ex-policemen, village
heads, petty officials, those who had failed in small business, mining,
fishing, and teaching; also students, rural actors, prostitutes, and
gamblers. 18 This suggests that the migration companies sought quick
profits by taking whomever they could find rather than filter those
unsuited to the work ahead. The Kokoku Company may have been
particularly guilty of this offhand practice in 1908 but criticism of
emigration companies in general both had been, and was to remain,
commonplace in Japan.
The actual job of harvesting the coffee required endurance but
no great farming expertise. Handa Tomoo describes the Japanese
at Dumont, near the town of Ribeirao Preto and roughly 300 miles
inland from Sao Paulo city. This was the world’s largest coffee
fazenda with 13 000 acres of coffee fields and a labour force in 1900
of about 5000: 19

The first day, everyone rose at 3 a.m. and got ready. Then, men
carrying ladders, women carrying infants, and children carrying
lunch boxes, all set off for the coffee groves, kicking through the
dew and battling their way ahead.

Upon reaching their allotted section, the migrants had to pluck the
coffee beans from the tree, sometimes as high as three metres, and then,
using a cloth on the ground, to separate the seed from leaves and
dust. Men stripped the higher branches, women the lower. According
to the promises of the migration companies, a family of three should
have been able to pick enough in one day to earn a total of five yen
40 sen. In practice, the first Japanese found themselves able to pick
only about one-third the quantity of Italian migrants, resulting in
36 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

a meagre wage of 60 sen, or just 20 sen per person. Having worked

from dusk to dawn, and being housed in what seemed little more
than stables, the shattering of migrants’ dreams of sudden riches led
to widespread recrimination and accusation in particular among the
‘constructed families’.20
The pay difficulties of the first migrants were in large part the result
of circumstances. The price of Brazilian coffee was in decline follow-
ing massive over-production; in 1906, it was already less than half its
level of 1894, and the Brazilian authorities had forbidden the planting
of new trees so as to reduce output. Consequently, the harvest of 1908
was one of the smallest in a decade. Crucially for these Japanese, the
problems experienced by the Kokoku Company in raising an unusu-
ally large bond for the government in Tokyo (doubled from 50 000
to 100 000 yen) had led to the Kasato’s departure being delayed. The
result was that the migrants arrived about three months into the
harvest when there was less coffee to be picked and many beans had
begun to darken and lose weight. Despite this, they clearly had
reason to complain that they had been misled about wages and con-
ditions. This complaint of false promises had been evident in earlier
migrations from Japan; in 1904, about 90 per cent of the 500 Japanese
sent to a mine in Mexico had been so infuriated about the discrepancy
between advertising rhetoric and harsh reality that they refused to
work and virtually the entire group had been shipped back to Japan.21
The Japanese migrants to Brazil were also prepared to stand up for
themselves. They organised protests at Dumont and on other fazendas.
At the Sao Martinho plantation in September 1908, there was a major
dispute involving nearly a hundred Japanese, that is, 25 of the 27
Kagoshima families working there. Their demands included monthly
payment instead of the agreed quarterly terms, and that Japanese be
allowed to pick in areas where beans were plentiful. The plantation
manager, however, was afraid of the Japanese reputation for militarism
and, believing there might be violence, he called in the police and
had the ringleaders ejected. In the end, 12 Japanese families were
forced to leave Sao Martinho. Others remained and worked success-
fully over a period of years but an image of Japanese militancy and
unreliability was now fixed in the minds of some Brazilians. This was
strengthened by the fact that, of all the six plantations taking Japanese
labour in 1908, only Guatapara which, along with Sobrado, enjoyed
considerably higher rates of pay and a relatively small Japanese
Arriving: 1908–19 37

population, remained generally peaceful. For our purposes, however,

it is worth noting that many Japanese both voiced their protest and
took alternative measures. In many cases, this meant relocating to a
different fazenda and starting again. Japanese consular records show
that after just six months, 430 Japanese, or more than half the ori-
ginal total, had left the plantation to which they had originally been
contracted. At Dumont, all of the original 201 Japanese workers had
left by January 1909; among these was a group of nine families who
went further into the interior of Sao Paulo to the Sao Joaquin farm
and thus became the pioneers of what in the 1920s–30s was to be the
base of the region with the greatest number of Japanese.22
Protest on the fazendas neither started nor ended with the Japanese.
In fact, there were to be major strikes by organised labourers in the
Ribeirao Preto area in April–May 1913 (the start of the harvest and
thus the time when workers could best exert pressure in contrast to
the late-arriving Japanese in 1908). According to historian Thomas
Holloway, many of these strikers were Italians and it was newly-
arrived Japanese migrants, among others, who were trucked in by
the plantation owners as strike-breakers; this is an incident usually
omitted in the Japanese-language histories.23 In response to existing
labour dissatisfaction, the Sao Paulo government had already in
1912 established the Patronato Agricola as a mediation body. Thus,
Japanese migrants arriving after this point could expect better condi-
tions and a fairer hearing for their grievances. Moreover, as Holloway
notes, Brazilian plantation-owners were intelligent businessmen who
wished to avoid the cost of recruiting a new workforce each year. Con-
sequently, they attempted to retain migrant workers either by raising
wages or making extra land available for the planting of individual
food crops. Indeed, in contrast to the monochrome impression of
exploitation and hardship which dominates Japanese historiography
of this subject, the traveller Tsuji Kotaro was told by Japanese work-
ers during his visit to the Ribeirao Preto area in the late 1920s that
they were very happy, that the job was easier than expected, and
that they had real optimism about their ability to generate savings.
From this, Tsuji concluded that Brazil was ‘truly a paradise for those
who work’, and this view was echoed by others into the 1930s. 24
The second group of Japanese contract labour for Brazil was organised
by the Takemura Colonisation Company and sailed on the Ryojun-maru,
departing Kobe on 4 May 1910. The total was 909 men, women and
38 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

children, divided into 247 families. Under the terms of their contract,
strikes were forbidden and any protest was to be channelled through
the company. As earlier, the Ryojun-maru reached Santos only at the
end of June and, shortly thereafter, the workers were dispatched to
17 plantations across Sao Paulo state. With the benefit of experience,
however, labour relations and expectations were generally better and,
according to a survey in 1911, well over two-thirds of all migrants
were still at their original workplace. This was regarded as a major
improvement over 1908. There was at least one instance of trouble
over food. This arose when a plantation store-holder, as was common,
attempted to protect his profits; typically food and goods sold on site
were expensive and migrants awaiting seasonal wages were forced to
buy on credit from store-holders at high rates of interest. One means
to protect this near monopoly was by limiting the migrants’ ability
to grow their own crops. At one plantation, strong-arm tactics, includ-
ing the release of livestock to trample their seedlings, were used
against the Japanese. They were also accused of planning to desert
their contracts and were threatened with having the police called in.
This financial and emotional pressure led virtually the entire Japanese
labour force to request a posting to another fazenda.25 In this instance,
the dispute was resolved in an orderly manner. However, the very
fact of being a wage labourer beholden to the vicissitudes of the
harvest and the whims of plantation managers and store-holders
meant that Japanese migrants lacked control over their own fortunes
and, inevitably, looked for alternatives.
As in Hawaii, a considerable number of Japanese migrants in Brazil
moved quickly in search of better jobs. The result was that, from 1908,
individuals or small groups began fanning out across Sao Paulo and
beyond. Among those quickest to leave the fazendas were young
unmarried Okinawan men. In this, the suggestion is that they intended
from the outset to be itinerant workers, ever moving in search of the
best wage. As the group most commonly employing ‘constructed famil-
ies’, they were also the ones least bound by genuine family ties. The
Okinawans, as with the Japanese in general, were adaptable. A group
of six Okinawan men, outwitting the armed plantation guards, fled
the Canaa fazenda in the fall of 1908 and made their way to Santos.
There, with some financial assistance from the Kokoku Company, they
reinvented themselves as building labourers on the port’s modern-
isation and reconstruction. They also established the base for what
Arriving: 1908–19 39

was soon to be a major Japanese community, albeit one dominated

by Okinawan migrants.26 Some ex-contract workers laboured as railway
navvies in the interior of Sao Paulo. Others started their own ventures
but with mixed success. About ten Japanese families began an import-
ant and profitable business in vegetable farming on the outskirts of
Sao Paulo city in 1913–14; by contrast, in 1915, seven Japanese entered
the neighbouring state of Parana and attempted to grow rice but half
of them were killed by malaria and the rest headed back to Sao Paulo
city; a handful of others moved to the Parana state capital, Curitiba,
and thus began a Japanese presence in Brazil’s deeper south.27
The Japanese government had reached a so-called ‘gentlemen’s
agreement’ with the United States late in 1908. This was an attempt
to halt the flow of Japanese labour to North America and thereby
reduce the trans-Pacific tensions which endangered Japan’s security
and economic interests. One consequence of this agreement was that
South America became even more important as a recipient of Japanese
emigrants. For this reason, the authorities in Tokyo naturally wished
to avoid complications between Brazilian employers and Japanese
workers, or the impression gaining ground in Brazil that Japanese
migrants were shiftless and unreliable. As a result, the Japanese foreign
ministry demanded a much stricter approach to the business of emi-
gration. Specifically, this meant that emigration companies were to
recruit only those with experience in farming, avoid making exagger-
ated claims in their advertising, oversee more closely the constructed
families to prevent them collapsing upon arrival, and avoid recruit-
ment from Okinawa or Kagoshima prefectures. On the other side of
the ledger, there were to be improved contacts between emigration
companies and fazenda owners, with the provision of better facilities
such as toilets, beds, and tables, as well as medical access for the sick.
Tokyo also called on the companies to have their clients at Santos
port by May so as to be ready for the start of harvesting.28
There was a general tendency among Japanese migrants to Brazil in
1908–40 to be self-critical. More precisely, the tendency was for
Japanese to blame other Japanese. The first to assume greater responsi-
bility for their own conduct were migrants from Kagoshima. In their
region, emigration was vital to local prosperity and the success of
emigrants a source of pride. Thus, the government prohibition on
local recruitment had repercussions in terms of status and the home
economy. The aim of those already in Brazil was to ensure Kagoshima
40 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

labourers finished their contracts and to punish those who absconded.

The vehicle to this end was the Kagoshima Prefectural Residents
Association, founded in 1912 at the Sao Paulo city memorial hall to
Emperor Dom Pedro I. This was the first native-place association
among Japanese in Brazil. The founding ceremony was marked by a
display of sumo and a very great deal of drinking but, thereafter, its
duties became rather more sober; along with imposing contractual
discipline on Kagoshima workers, the association helped those from
its region who were ill or suffered a death in the family. This move
towards self-regulation and self-help obviously impressed the author-
ities in Japan and, in 1917, emigration companies were again allowed
to recruit in Kagoshima. However, the association suffered a chequered
fate: the economic downturn of 1918 caused by the Great War in
Europe and a devastating frost in the Sao Paulo coffee crop led many
migrants to scatter in search of other jobs. This undermined any
form of regulatory system. In addition, there was generational conflict
between the older association officials, many of whom had arrived
on the Kasato, and younger migrants. As a result, this first associ-
ation collapsed soon after the war and it was only in 1938, following
the start of hostilities between Japan and China, that Kagoshima
residents in Sao Paulo city began even to think of reviving it. 29
The other region whose reputation and economic fortunes suffered
from migrants abandoning their contracts was, of course, Okinawa.
Between 1913 and 1917, the Japanese foreign ministry prevented
Okinawan emigration to Brazil. Again, those in Brazil responded
with self-regulation. Initially, the very fact that Okinawans had
already spread so far afield led to the appearance of three separate
branches of Okinawan prefectural association. Late in 1917, how-
ever, these were merged under the leadership of a man called Onaga
Sukenari and a central headquarters established in Sao Paulo city.
Onaga used the newly-emerging migrant press both to encourage
and threaten his fellow Okinawans. Anyone breaking a work con-
tract was warned he would be abandoned by the association and his
address, if this became known, would be conveyed to the Japanese
consulate-general and to the emigration company. 30 Onaga also
used emotional blackmail. Reminding his fellows of the distressed
conditions at home, he described the tens of thousands of young
Okinawans still hoping to use emigration as a means of escape; if
those already in Brazil continued to offend both employers and local
Arriving: 1908–19 41

standards of decorum, he argued, then Okinawan emigration could

be forbidden entirely, with dire consequences for those still on
the islands. The reference to standards of behaviour was directed at
Okinawan women who quickly came to dominate the street trade
in vegetables at Santos. In part, the very idea of street-trading was
becoming associated in urban Brazil with a despised past; one of the
targets of Rio’s modernisation and ‘sanitisation’ had been the elim-
ination of street stalls. In addition, the work-wear of Okinawans,
even more than that of other Japanese, was seen in Brazil as expos-
ing far too much of the body; this was a period and a place in Brazil-
ian society quite separate from 1950s Rio with its beach culture
leading ultimately to the minimalist bikini known colloquially as
‘dental floss’. As Onaga admitted, however, those migrants causing
problems were unlikely to read the Japanese-language newspapers.
In 1919, a second, albeit informal, ban was placed on Okinawan
emigration to Brazil. The reasoning of the Japanese government was
that Okinawans were too quick to abandon their contracted place of
work, too ready to argue over their lodgings, too dirty in their
persons, and too deceitful in ‘constructing’ families. This informal
ban was to remain in place until 1925. Despite its problems, however,
the Okinawan Association persisted and grew both in size and effect-
iveness through the 1920s.31
There is a view, expressed by historians in English and Japanese,
that migrant associations in Brazil were tools of control for the Japan-
ese authorities. In other words, the consulates and later the mono-
poly emigration concern in Brazil dominated the expatriate community
through its civic groups. This is open to debate. The initial Kagoshima
Association, after all, survived only a few years. The Okinawan Asso-
ciation was successful but Onaga also made very public statements
suggesting that Okinawan migrants felt they were being treated unfairly
by other Japanese; a migrant newspaper in the mid-1920s went even
further, implying that Okinawans were not regarded as compatriots by
other Japanese who, instead, treated them virtually as ‘untouchables’.32
In this case, the success of a native-place association may have
depended on actually being independent of, and even estranged from,
the rest of the expatriate Japanese community including its officials.
The Japanese presence within the overall immigrant community
in Brazil remained tiny until late in the 1910s. Of the 192 683
migrants from all countries entering Brazil in 1913, there were
42 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

Table 2.1 Japanese migrants to Brazil 1908–19

1908 830
1909 31
1910 948
1911 28
1912 2909
1913 7122
1914 3675
1915 65
1916 165
1917 3899
1918 5599
1919 3022

Source: Shiroma Zenkichi, Zai-Haku Okinawa Kenjin:

50-nen no Ayumi, Sao Paulo 1959, p. 160. Shiroma was
one of the leaders of the Okinawan community in
Brazil from the 1920s. His figures on occasion differ
very slightly from those of other sources. In this, he is
no doubt making allowance for those Japanese who
immigrated independently from other regions of
North or South America. All sources, however, illustrate
clearly the same ebb and flow of Japanese immigration
to Brazil.

7122 Japanese. Although this was significantly more than the com-
bined total of all Japanese arrivals for the previous five years, it still
barely registered in real terms and did not come close to being
repeated for another five years. In 1916, the 165 Japanese arrivals
were lost among the 34 000 new foreign migrants. Relatively
speaking, the turnaround came in 1917–19: in 1917, Japanese
numbered roughly ten per cent of the total 31 000 entrants, and in
1918, they were more than one-quarter of the total 20 501 arrivals
(and 50 per cent of all the 11 447 migrants entering Sao Paulo
state); see Table 2.1. 33 These figures, however, were severely distorted
by the sudden and temporary drop in immigration from wartime

Settlement: Japanese landowning

Japanese emigrants to Brazil in the first years could either honour

their contracts as plantation labour or risk fleeing the plantation to
find jobs in the towns and cities in such things as domestic service,
Arriving: 1908–19 43

construction work, or stevedoring at Santos. In the mid-1910s, there

appeared a third option. This was the creation of Japanese-owned
settlements or what were known as ‘colonies’ (shokuminchi). In this,
migrants were the beneficiaries of Brazil’s liberal law on foreign own-
ership of land. This liberalism, so markedly absent in North America in
the 1910s, was based on the fact that Brazil still had great undeveloped
territories. In earlier years, the Brazilian imperial government had
created semi-autonomous settlements for migrants in the country’s
south and this had been highly successful in attracting German and
Italian colonists. Sao Paulo state from the 1890s had also been provid-
ing land to migrants as a means of keeping them close to fazendas;
the idea here was that smallholders would supplement their incomes
by harvesting coffee and, thereby, guarantee fazenda owners a ready
reserve of experienced labour. 34 Thus, Japanese who purchased land
in Brazil were following an established and approved route.
Two of the major Japanese settlements in the 1910s were at Iguape
(this actually came to be the collective name for the three settlements
of Katsura, Registro and Sete Barras) and at Presidente Penna. The
initial purchase at Iguape was made by a Tokyo-based syndicate
which, in 1913, became the Brazilian Development Company (Burajiru
Takushoku KK). This had the backing of major political and financial
figures including former prime minister and army general Katsura
Taro, in memory of whose death late in 1913 the settlement was for-
mally named. In addition, there was former cabinet minister Oura
Kanetake (who offered to mortgage his own house to guarantee the
land purchase), and Shibusawa Eiichi, Japan’s most famous and influ-
ential financier at the time. As prime minister in 1908, Katsura had
been a major force in redirecting Japanese emigration in order to ease
relations with North America; others such as Oura were motivated by
the fear of political radicalism in Japan following the war with Russia
and the consequent need to maintain emigration as a safety valve for
domestic unrest. On the ground, the Brazilian Development Com-
pany’s representative was Aoyagi Ikutaro, a man highly experienced in
South American conditions. In 1912, it was Aoyagi who arranged to
buy 50 000 hectares of land from the government of Sao Paulo. The site
chosen was roughly 200 kilometres southwest of the state capital. 35
The immediate problem with this settlement venture was that no
Japanese migrant on the fazendas responded to the company’s adver-
tisements. This suggests either an ongoing suspicion on the part of
44 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

migrants about corporate Japan, or that migrants were becoming

increasingly comfortable with life on the fazendas. This response, or
rather lack of response, certainly forces us to reconsider the impres-
sion given by later writers such as Takahashi Yukiharu about the
‘slave-like’ conditions on Brazilian plantations. Having failed to recruit
among the agrarian Japanese, however, Aoyagi and the company
turned to those in the cities and here, where a hand-to-mouth existence
remained common, it found some 30 families willing to become
pioneer settlers. They entered the Iguape colony in November 1913
and were soon joined by others. By late 1917, the company was able
to celebrate Iguape’s established fame as a producer of rice. At that
point, it had 341 Japanese settlers. Enticements to these and others
included the existence of the Katsura Primary School (from 1916),
the promise of on-site medical and veterinary professionals, as
well as agricultural and surveying technicians, plus assistance from
the company for those lacking the capital to become independent
cultivators. 36
The idea for a settlement to be developed by migrants themselves first
came in 1915. It originated from Japan’s consul-general, Matsumura
Sadao. His logic was that a migrant-owned settlement would help
further to reduce problems on the fazendas and also provide yet more
opportunities for immigrant Japanese. The man to whom Matsumura’s
comments were addressed was Hirano Shuhei, a translator with the
initial migrants on the Kasato. Hirano was an early example of Jap-
anese success; although only thirty in 1915, he had already worked
for several years as deputy manager of the fazenda at Guatapara with
its 500 migrant families (300 of them Japanese) and two million coffee
trees. Hirano’s approach was first to obtain the support of Japanese
families and then look for suitable land. With the backing of about
two-thirds of the Japanese at Guatapara, Hirano toured the Noroeste
region. This was the great new frontier of Sao Paulo coffee production,
akin to the American west of the mid-nineteenth century; maps in the
1900s showed the territory west of the major regional town of Bauru
either as terra incognita or simply as ‘the land of Indians’. Its remoteness
at least meant that the price of land was closer to what the Japanese
could afford. Initially using his own capital, Hirano negotiated purchase
of a site about four kilometres from north to south adjacent to a rail
station called Presidente Penna and close to a tributary of the great
Tiete river.
Arriving: 1908–19 45

An advance party of about 20 Japanese settlers was introduced to

the site from August 1915. They were chosen quite deliberately as
a mixture of young people from various Japanese prefectures. This
was in contrast to some later settlements which were dominated by
migrants from a single area of Japan. The principal job of the advance
party was to clear the site and plant rice for those who came later.
The emphasis on rice cultivation dictated a preference for low-lying
land close to a river supply; this was to have fatal consequences.
Within a short time of others joining the colony, they were hit by
a wave of illness and death. At first, the settlers did not understand
the origin of this illness and it was only over time that they realised
the river on which they depended was a source of malaria. Supplies
of quinine bought locally were exorbitantly priced and, although
they appealed to the Japanese consulate for help, the colonists contin-
ued to be ravaged by disease until mid-1916; approximately 80
people died and about half the surviving families departed. The rice
harvest had to be done by paid Brazilians while the remaining 30 or so
families moved to higher ground. Further catastrophe ensued, how-
ever, when the settlement’s first coffee crop in 1917 was eaten by
locusts and, the following year, it was blighted by frost. In 1919,
Hirano himself became a victim of the deadly Spanish influenza.
In the Japanese-language histories of the 1990s, these successive
tragedies at Presidente Penna are detailed at great length to show the
torments of being a Japanese settler in Brazil. They add to the impres-
sion of Japanese battling against insuperable odds, and being
exploited by non-Japanese (over the state of the land and the cost of
medicines). Yet, there is little or no admission of the Japanese being
at fault in their choice of site; it is difficult to believe that Hirano and
the others after nearly a decade in Brazil were unaware of the dangers
of malaria. Moreover, Japanese historians show relatively less interest
in the aftermath of tragedy. The Hirano Colony, as it came to be
known, did not collapse in the late 1910s and, in 1930, it claimed to
have over one million coffee trees as well as crops of rice, beans, and
cotton. It was also the centre of a nearby community boasting its
own primary school and a variety of Japanese-run businesses in
what was now called Cafelandia. 37 Consequently, it would be just
as historically accurate, if less dramatically compelling, to empha-
sise the success rather than the pathos of this first migrant-owned
46 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

Urban life

The casual assumption is that Japanese and Latin American societies

were, and are, culturally poles apart; this is reflected in the popular
imagery of samurai and carnival. In Japanese-language writings, this
sense of difference remains commonplace. However, one of the
things frequently ignored in such writings is any acknowledgement
of the overlap in Japanese and Brazilian values. For example, the
slogan stamped on the national flag by the army which created
the Brazilian republic in 1889 was ‘order and progress’; this was a
slogan which had many counterparts in late nineteenth- and early
twentieth-century Japan. In addition, the structure of families in
both societies was a rigid patriarchy in which the eldest male typic-
ally assumed responsibility for the affairs of all other family mem-
bers. The Brazilian extended family or parentela, involving not only
direct kin but also ritually adopted friends and retainers, plus ser-
vants and slaves, all held together by a complex system of duties and
loyalties, similarly echoed Japanese custom. Equally similar were Bra-
zilian attitudes towards the home itself; within the house, as cultural
anthropologist Roberto Da Matta explains, space is rigidly demar-
cated and an absolute division between house and street is enforced
with the house representing calm and order, the street disorder. To
regulate both areas, a strict body of social rules polices all individual
activity so that, in Da Matta’s words, Brazil was and is ‘the kingdom
of conformity’ in which ‘the intention of the Brazilian social order is
to make the individual dissolve and disappear’.38 These values were
obviously most apparent in Brazilian cities where, already from 1908,
there was a small but growing number of Japanese.
The urban areas to which Japanese moved illustrated another
point of cultural community between Japan and Brazil in the 1900s.
This was the pace and direction of change in city life. In particular,
there was the shared sense of haste in order to catch up with the
already industrialised or industrialising West, and a rising ambivalence
towards the extent of cultural borrowing from what were regarded as
the more advanced civilisations such as Britain and France. This
rapid modernisation and its ambivalent borrowings were most visible
in Sao Paulo city. In the twentieth century, this became Brazil’s
commercial and industrial centre. However, its economic and demo-
graphic growth were of very recent origin as the first Japanese appeared.
Arriving: 1908–19 47

The site had been founded by Jesuit priests on 25 January 1554 (the
anniversary of the conversion of St Paul, hence the name chosen),
roughly 20 years after the first Portuguese settlement in Brazil. In
essence, it remained a village over the next three centuries: the cultural
gloom of Sao Paulo is finely evoked by historian Richard Morse in
describing the development of street lighting, a major aspect of poli-
cing and social order: ‘The twenty-four swaying fish-oil lamps in use
in 1829 emitted, at distant intervals, a mortuary glimmer that cast
mobile tongues of shadow on the walls’. Morse further explains that
the city streets even in the 1870s contained ‘more nanny goats than
people’. Sao Paulo’s prosperity, however, was triggered by the 1850s
coffee boom. First introduced to Brazil in the 1720s, coffee took off
in the second half of the nineteenth century and, between 1900 and
1918, the interior plateau of Sao Paulo state supplied, on average,
half the entire world’s supply of coffee. The wealth which duly poured
into Sao Paulo was used to construct railways from the 1860s (only
a few years before the start of railway-building in Japan), to finance
grand municipal works in the city, and to subsidise the passage to
Brazil of great waves of foreign coffee labourers. Between 1890 and
1934, the city population leaped from 65 000 to 1.07 million, and
that of the state from about 1.4 million to more than 6.4 million. 39
In the process, urban Sao Paulo moved from its earlier character
of a two-tier society of white merchants and black slaves to a multi-
coloured and multi-cultural metropolis. The dominant mood was of
a city positively embracing change, aiming at rapid economic growth,
and celebrating the Paulista spirit of risk-taking and aggressive entre-
preneurship. Consequently, Sao Paulo was ready to welcome those
with skills, labour and determination to contribute to the region’s
The Japanese in Sao Paulo city in 1910 numbered something
between 100 and 250 persons. Some went to the city only briefly and
then left for jobs in the provinces; those who remained inevitably
needed time to establish themselves. Most were small artisans, such
as carpenters, or worked as domestic servants. They often lived in
cheap, below-ground lodgings previously used either as store-rooms
or, in earlier years, as accommodation for slaves. Handa Tomoo quotes
a migrant letter from April 1909 describing how, ‘In a corner of a
poor ward, in a pauper’s house from which you would hold your nose
and flee, live six men making so-called Japanese toys’. These included
48 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

such things as model ships and the like made out of foraged rubbish.
The subterranean residence of Japanese migrants in Sao Paulo city
continued through the 1910s. In October 1917, the newly-emerging
Japanese-language press took up the issue. In an article titled, ‘The
worrisome underground lifestyle’, a doctor of medicine explained
that light and air were essential to mental and physical health, espe-
cially that of migrant women and children. He also implied a warning
against this kind of dark, unhygienic existence which might arouse
contempt and fear from middle-class Brazilians. In this, he made
explicit mention of the fact that so many urban Japanese migrants
and only a minority of black Brazilians were to be found in such
impoverished housing. To ameliorate the situation, migrants from
Kagoshima and Fukushima set up lodging houses for people from
their respective provinces, while others gave general assistance to
new arrivals in finding work and places to stay. 40
By 1917, the Japanese commercial presence in metropolitan Sao
Paulo had become considerably more visible. A random issue from
1917 of the new Japanese-language newspaper Burajiru Jiho listed
among its advertisers: the Tsukimi-tei, a Japanese inn (ryokan) and
restaurant; a photographer ready to travel at no extra cost within the
city limits; various stores (including the original Fujisaki Store on the
Rua de Sao Bento), carrying everything from food and drink to
Japanese screens and Western umbrellas; and the Saito Watch Repair
shop promising ‘a service kind, polite, punctual and cheap’. Other
advertisers included Japanese general goods stores from as far away
as Bauru, deep in the Noroeste region of the state, and even from Rio
de Janeiro. These were soon joined by a newer form of business,
Nakamura Matsukuma’s rental car company at the Placa de Republica,
Sao Paulo city, offering a special 20 per cent discount on its rates to
fellow Japanese; automobiles and taxi-driving were to be a major
source of employment for urban Japanese in the 1920s. The Japanese
inns were popular with young migrants coming from the fazendas in
search of jobs; they provided a point of reference, a place to talk, and
a place to eat. This latter pleasure was enhanced from about 1914
when a Japanese migrant at Santos began to manufacture soy sauce.
However, there were many instances of adapting to local custom; in
some Japanese-run inns, breakfast was coffee and bread rather than
the rice, pickles and soup familiar in Japan. Some inns were also to
make a feature of their advertising in the migrant press the availability
Arriving: 1908–19 49

of both Japanese and Brazilian cuisine, or the fact that Japanese and
Brazilian menus were rotated daily. 41 This deliberate sales pitch sug-
gests that expatriate Japanese in the towns and cities quickly overcame
the dietary problems of those just arriving on the fazendas.
Along with small business, there appeared in the mid-1910s the first
institutions for the Japanese expatriate community. These included
schools and leisure groups. An early and enduring example was the
Taisho Primary School, opened in the Conde area of Sao Paulo city in
October 1915. Its founder was Miyazaki Shinzo, a man whose life in
Brazil started in 1907 as cook to the Japanese consul, and who later
worked as a translator and trader. The Taisho School began with only
three pupils but, by late 1917, when it was visited by a local Japanese
reporter, the total had risen to about 20 (the imprecise figure suggests
that attendance was irregular). By this point, there was also a school
at 87 Conde St. offering three hours instruction per week in Portuguese.
This was run by Kato Junnosuke whom we may safely assume was
the same man who worked as translator on the Dumont fazenda in
1908. The student body no doubt was made up of adult migrants
looking to improve their communication skills. However, no details
of student numbers were given so, again, one must conclude that
attendance was sporadic. The Taisho School also offered instruction
in Portuguese, employing a Brazilian female teacher of language from
December 1919. One school ignored in the general histories is the
Santos Japanese Primary School. This was also established in 1915
and had over 20 pupils by 1917. Its major source of funding was the
prefectural associations in Santos and, in these, the Okinawans were
the most active. Among the school’s councillors was Kanda Eitaro, the
man who had brought joy to Japanese migrants by setting up the
local manufacture of soy sauce.42
The creation of leisure facilities from the 1910s showed that the
Japanese migrants were rising in wealth, ambition and the desire
to remain in Brazil. Early in 1919, young males in Sao Paulo city
established the Japan Club. This was intended as a place for the
better off to meet and socialise. On this point, a comment from the
Burajiru Jiho in January 1919 is worth noting, not least because the man-
ager of the newspaper was also president of the club. In a view to be
repeated in its pages and by others in later years, the paper began by
describing the Japanese people in general as strong on private virtue
but lacking in civic virtue. This deficiency, allied to a weak ability to
50 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

socialise, resulted in constant misunderstandings between Japanese

and non-Japanese. Consequently, the modern, internationally-minded
Japanese, it argued, had to cultivate these social skills in order to be
successful. In its view, the underlying purpose of the Japan Club was
precisely to train Japanese gentlemen capable of mixing confidently
with Brazilians and other nationalities. 43 In this sense, the Burajiru
Jiho was overturning the common assumption of a club based on
nationality, for example, British clubs across East and South Asia as
well as in Africa, as a cultural refuge from an alien environment.
Instead, it clearly viewed the Japan Club as a school for aspiring
One of the characteristics of Japanese expatriates in Brazil was their
youth, a characteristic reinforced by successive waves of young immi-
grants into the 1930s. One consequence of this was a passion for
sport and a prominent role for sports clubs in the overall organisation
of migrant life. The more gentle activities with a longer tradition in
Japan such as the board or table-top games of ‘go’ and ‘shogi’ were to
become popular after 1941 as the start of the Pacific war restricted
Japanese public movement (although in the 1920s at least one Japanese
hotel in Sao Paulo, the Joban, offered ‘go’ and ‘shogi’ as well as other
similar leisure facilities as a way to attract customers). Instead, the great
game in Japan itself at the time and certainly among Japanese in
Brazil was baseball. Thus, in 1916, the first sports group to emerge was
the Sao Paulo Baseball Club. One of the motives behind the organisa-
tion of any modern sports club, in Brazil, Japan or elsewhere, was to
control youth morality. In the case of the migrant Japanese, the enemy
was gambling; baseball, therefore, was used as a means to promote
youth discipline. It also offered the expatriate community a reason
to gather and socialise in a leisure setting. In 1918, the Mikado Sports
Club was also established in Sao Paulo. Its founder was a former
student of Keio University in Tokyo, one of the major centres of
Japanese baseball, and this in time led quite naturally to a Mikado
baseball team.44 Baseball never gained roots among Brazilians, already
captivated by soccer, so the first challenge issued by the Sao Paulo
Baseball Club was to a team organised by a local American company
(the US team won 13–4). The creation within the Japanese community
of a competitive league, with new layers of migrant allegiance to
town or region in Brazil, was to emerge in the 1920s. From that time,
however, baseball became identified in Brazil as a specifically Japanese
Arriving: 1908–19 51

sport; this was an ironic form of reverse cultural imperialism in which

the quintessential North American game, introduced to Japan only
in the 1870s, was appropriated by expatriate Japanese.
Further to the point of activity and cultural identity, we might
briefly note the gathering of the Sao Paulo city Japanese in November
1917 to celebrate Tenchosetsu, the birthday of the Japanese emperor.
More than 350 Japanese were brought together by the consulate-
general with the details of the festivities arranged by a committee
headed by the manager of Fujisaki Trading. The venue was a city
park. The formal celebration began with the Japanese national anthem
(sung twice), a few words by the dignitaries, then the Brazilian national
anthem. Thereafter, the fun commenced with a variety of competi-
tions such as a three-legged race, a bean bag race for participating
ladies, a boat race, a competition to capture flags involving pupils of
the Taisho Primary school, and a baseball match. It is one of the
scholarly arguments of Maeyama Takashi that emperor-worship was
the principal ideology binding the migrant Japanese and, by exten-
sion, affirming their emotional link to Japan rather than to Brazil.
However, as this early example shows, those in Sao Paulo paid respect
both to Japan and to Brazil. One may also suggest that they used the
emperor’s birthday as an opportunity for their own enjoyment.
Thus, we should be wary of any interpretation which focuses too
heavily on ideology and the form, rather than the content, of imperial
The sense of actual community among Japanese in Brazil was greatly
strengthened by the appearance of the first migrant newspapers.
Literacy in Japan itself had expanded with the introduction of
universal education from the 1870s and newspapers published by
and for overseas Japanese were a common feature of migrant groups.
In Brazil, the first plan for a local newspaper originated in 1914 with
a plantation translator named Kaneko Hosaburo and a Japanese
friend recently arrived from North America. Matters were delayed
by the vicissitudes of the Great War but, from August 1916, they
managed to publish the four-page weekly, Nippaku Shimbun. This was
circulated in Sao Paulo city and its environs. However, it had just
been pipped at the post for the distinction of being the first Japanese-
language publication in Brazil. Early in 1916, the illustrated weekly
journal, Shukan Nambei (Weekly South America), had made its debut.
Its founder was Hoshina Kenichiro, an acquaintance of Kaneko, and
52 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

a man with wide overseas experience, including a stint as a newspaper

publisher in Honolulu, farming in Texas, and a period in Argentina,
before moving first to Rio and then, in 1915, to Sao Paulo. Hoshina’s
real ambition, however, lay in the creation of Japanese settlements and,
after his journal folded, he was to move into this field of endeavour.46
A greater level of commercial organisation, technical sophistication,
and journalistic skill in the migrant press arose in 1917. The first step
was taken in July that year with the appearance of the Burajiru Jiho.
This was a vehicle of the recently-created alliance of Japanese emigra-
tion companies and was clearly intended to serve its interests. With
financial backing from this alliance, the newspaper began grandly; it
was the first to be properly typeset and was printed in lots of 1500.
The manager recruited from among the North American Japanese
was Kuroishi Seisaku. He and the other managers or editors of the
migrant newspapers were to fulfil over the next two decades the role
of what has been called new or secondary intellectuals. A better term
would be public intellectuals. What this refers to is the opinion
leader who speaks directly to the public, either through the popular
press or, in later times, through the electronic media. In Brazil at this
time, the absence of Japanese universities, large-scale Japanese book
publishing, or an extensive body of government officials, granted
exceptional freedom to newspaper men and common migrants both
to discuss issues for themselves and to reach their own conclusions.
In this sense, the idea of being a kind of frontier community, even in
a metropolitan setting, greatly enhanced the democractic nature of
This discursive freedom, however, depended in part on the existence
of competition. The Shukan Nambei was unable to match the Burajiru
Jiho and collapsed in 1918. Kaneko, the editor of Nippaku Shimbun,
became ill and returned to Japan in 1919. From that point until
1939, however, the great rival of Kuroishi and the Burajiru Jiho was to
be the new owner of Nippaku, Miura Saku (or Sack Miura as he styled
himself in Portuguese). Miura had made his way to Brazil in unusual
circumstances: in 1908, a Brazilian navy training ship had rescued
him from a shipwreck off Japan and, with that as catalyst, he asked
permission to continue on to Brazil. In Japan, he had taught English
and spoke some German but, upon arrival in Rio, he apparently
instructed cadets in judo at the Navy School before joining the Shukan
Nambei as a reporter. In his long ensuing career at Nippaku Shimbun,
Arriving: 1908–19 53

he was to evoke the middle years of Meiji Japan and the so-called
popular rights movement; his views were blunt and abrasive, and he
treated Japanese officials in Brazil with no respect, instead taking
pleasure in publicising their failures and follies. Miura and Kuroishi
were regarded as diametrical opposites; Miura the radical and critic
(even being accused by his enemies of communist sympathies),
Kuroishi the moralist and defender of authority. The two opposed
each other in print as a matter of course and this was to lead to violent
rivalry in the late 1920s. 47 What is worth noting, however, is this
diversity of opinion within the migrant community, the central role
of the popular press as a vehicle for discussion, and the strength of
personality of the major newspapermen.
Two points on which the Burajiru Jiho and Nippaku Shimbun did
agree from the outset was the value of long-term settlement in Brazil
and the desirability for migrants of Portuguese language skills.
Required in both of these was patience. As the Burajiru Jiho advised
the 1700 Japanese migrants arriving in January 1918, there were five
steps to achieving one’s goal. These were: fulfil one’s contract; learn
through experience about Brazilian agriculture; study Brazilian cus-
toms; study Brazilian conditions; learn Portuguese. The minimum
period for success was now estimated at seven years and any who lacked
patience were warned they would ‘fall like a monkey from a tree’. 48
The path to success in Brazil was signposted in Portuguese. In
contrast, confusion over the simplest of words led to some wrong
turnings for Japanese migrants. According to Handa Tomoo, some
non-Japanese co-workers on the fazendas may have assumed a Jap-
anese was happy to sell his pigs or marry off his daughter simply
because he replied ‘sim, sim’ (yes, yes) when in fact he did not even
begin to understand the question; there was to be ongoing confusion
over Japanese women’s ambiguous use of ‘sim’ well into the 1930s. In
an early effort to improve understanding, the first Portuguese–Japanese
dictionary was compiled in 1918 by Otake Wasaburo, then an inter-
preter at Brazil’s consulate in Tokyo (Otake was one of the first Japan-
ese in Brazil, having been a student in the 1890s at Brazil’s Naval
School). From October 1917, the Burajiru Jiho introduced a half-page
Portuguese language column, asserting, ‘The great global stage is a
competition of ability; those weak in ability can only fail. The main
path to cultivate ability is to learn the language of your host coun-
try’.49 This recognised that expatriate Japanese could only prosper
54 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

through effective contact with Brazilian traders, suppliers and con-

sumers, and that to remain purely within a kind of ghettoised Japan-
ese-language community was to deprive oneself of enormous
The Burajiru Jiho devoted a full half-page to instruction in basic
Portuguese and the Nippaku Shimbun followed with its own column
for teaching oneself conversation. Many of the practice sentences were
directed at agrarian migrants and dealt with aspects of the weather,
volumes of coffee beans, and the quality of cattle (for example,
‘Rosada has a beautiful calf’). Others such as ‘Maria is holding a book
and a doll’ were of a more academic and less immediately practical
value. One thing to emerge from these practice texts, however, is a
sense of self-deprecating humour. As one model dialogue had it: ‘Do
you like to learn Portuguese?/I love it and I do not think Portuguese
is so difficult. What did you study when you were in Japan?/Every-
thing I learned, I have completely forgotten!’50 An element of self-
mockery was to persist throughout the period to 1940.
Looking back from 1933, the Burajiru Jiho described 1917 as the
turning point for the Japanese in Brazil. In that year, it noted, the
first group of 1342 sent by the newly-formed Brazil Migrant
Co-operative arrived on board the Wakasa-maru and enjoyed an
excellent reputation among Brazilians. This reputation, it argued, sig-
nalled the start of the ‘golden age’ of Japanese immigration which, it
believed, was continuing even as the twenty-fifth anniversary of the
Kasato was being celebrated. In Japan, the attraction of Brazil remained
strong around the time of the Great War; on the eve of hostilities,
Japanese press reports continued to stress the goodwill and economic
opportunities in Brazil. Money was believed to be so plentiful it fell
from the skies. Not surprisingly, the press described a ‘fever’ for passport
applications to South America.51
In contrast to this optimistic assessment of the years just before
and towards the end of the war, there is a view that friction between
Brazilian employers and Japanese migrants was increasing from this
time. To 1914, about 12 000 Japanese had entered the country. Early
that year, however, the Sao Paulo authorities announced the end of
further subsidies; the reason for this was partly discontent with the
number of Japanese who had broken their contracts (a discontent
shared, as we have seen, by Japanese community leaders in Brazil),
and partly a premature belief in the imminent return of large-scale
Arriving: 1908–19 55

European immigration. The outbreak of war overturned this expecta-

tion. It also brought Brazil into the war from 1917 following German
attacks on Brazilian shipping; one result of this was a far greater and
enduring suspicion in Brazil about the German community residing
in its southern states. The war also damaged Brazilian food exports,
leading many fazenda workers to shift to urban factories as industrial
production doubled during the war. This acceleration of industrial-
isation was to have benefits for Japanese migrants in the 1920s.
A more immediate benefit was that it forced the Sao Paulo authorities,
already confronted with a reduction of about 85 per cent in its overall
immigrant total in 1913–15, to find an alternative agrarian work-
force. In 1916, a Brazilian company was given the right to bring in
10 000 migrants annually, regardless of their country of origin. Con-
sequently, after two years of virtual inactivity in 1915–16, the start of
a second wave of Japanese labour migration from 1917 was indeed a
turning point. These Japanese were not alone, however. Between 1911
and 1920, about 18 000 immigrants arrived from Syria and Lebanon
and they were to be joined by many more of their compatriots in the
1920s, further broadening the racial makeup of Brazil’s major cities. 52
The difficulties of the emigration business and the enforced lull in
labour migration to Brazil led to structural changes in Japan. In 1916,
three emigration companies (the Nambei, Toyo and Morioka) united
to form the Brazil Migrant Co-operative (Burajiru Imin Kumiai). In
December 1917, at the urging of the central government in Tokyo, they
were merged into a new entity, the Overseas Development Company
(Kaigai Kogyo KK), popularly known as Kaiko. From 1921, this was to
handle all contract labour from Japan to Brazil. Thus, the emigration
business moved from government monopoly through free-market
competition back to monopoly. Clearly, the government’s aim in
this was to promote what might be called orderly progress and to
maintain for its emigrants continued access to Brazil.53 Similar desires
for order, progress, and access were shared by those Japanese already
in Brazil.
To the end of the 1910s, migrant Japanese in Brazil could not and
did not complain of mistreatment by their host society. If there
was some criticism of Japanese labourers as unreliable, this was only
fair given the number of workers who had broken their contracts.
Some Japanese had endured abuse, misfortune, or tragedy but this
was the result of individual circumstances, not the consequence
56 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

simply of their nationality or ethnic identity. Overall, Japanese

migrants were welcomed in Brazil while they were clearly no longer
welcomed in North America or Australasia. In Sao Paulo especially,
they had opportunities to buy land, to establish businesses, and to
find a place for themselves within Brazilian society. During and
immediately after World War I, whatever freedom of activity they
had in other overseas societies was to become much more limited as
anti-Japanese racism increased. In passing, an interpretation of this
racism from the expatriates in Brazil is worth noting. In September
1917, the Burajiru Jiho praised Japanese migrants for becoming ‘global
people’ (sekai-teki no hito). In contrast, it accused Westerners of
being proud of their logic but, in their racism, being overruled by emo-
tion. A major part of this racism, it argued, was the work of Western
women, especially those who demanded equal social and political
rights. They were described as violently emotional in character and
the culprits in fostering prejudice about Japanese. 54 In this way, the
cosmopolitanism of the Japanese expatriate was contrasted with the
narrowmindedness and hysteria of the Western racist. Whether or not
this criticism of Westerners was just, the ideal of modern Japanese as
internationalists was to be repeated consistently over the next two
Settling: Migration as National
Policy in the 1920s

In the 1920s, overseas emigration became of even greater importance

to Japan as a nation. This was the result of a worsening domestic
economy, allied to rising urban and agrarian unrest. At the same
time, the prominence of Brazil as a destination was enhanced by
moves in North America to exclude all Asian immigrants. In response,
the Japanese government re-established direct control over the emi-
gration business and, expanding on its moves from the end of the
1910s, attempted to create a more effective system for dispatching
Japanese overseas. As a consequence, larger numbers of migrants
than ever before made their way to Brazil, especially in the second half
of the decade. Although it was to be the 1930s when a significant
reaction was to emerge in Brazil against the Japanese presence, the
sudden leap in numbers in the 1920s did cause a backlash among some
Brazilians. In general, however, the Japanese expatriate community,
as it expanded numerically and geographically, continued to enjoy
both socio-economic opportunities and racial respect.

Emigration as national policy

The major domestic factors behind Japan’s greater focus on emigra-

tion in the 1920s were the twin problems of population growth and
economic instability. The agricultural sector had been hard hit by
the rice riots of 1918 in which urban consumers revolted against
inflated prices of their most basic food. This led to imports of rice
from Japan’s colonies in subsequent years and severe losses in income
for Japanese farmers. Also, following a rash of speculative business

58 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

ventures during the world war, there was a shakeout in the Japanese
industrial and commercial economy after 1918 as US and European
enterprises returned to East Asia. This shakeout led to widespread
unemployment and a pervasive sense of uncertainty in Japan which,
in turn, boosted support for radical political ideologies. Since the 1900s,
there had been persistent fears among the Japanese elite about the
rise of socialism, and the creation of a Japan Communist Party in
1922 seemed in their eyes directly to threaten the existing socio-
political system; this threat was heightened by the belief that Japanese
communism was being orchestrated by the recently formed Soviet
Union. The appearance of a communist neighbour and new levels of
social disharmony within Japan made emigration more obviously
than at any previous time a matter of national security. In this, the idea
was not so much that emigration was the projection overseas of Japan-
ese influence (the minzoku bocho ideology observed by some scholars
after 1905); Japan in economic terms in the 1920s was too weak to make
such an argument convincing. Rather, the aim was to paper over
cracks within Japan. This point is worth remembering when one con-
siders the attitudes of expatriate Japanese towards the homeland both
at this time and in the 1930s as conditions deteriorated even further.
The link between emigration to Brazil and domestic security was
obvious in a Japanese article from 1922. The author was an army cap-
tain, Harumi Kyohei, and it appeared in the army ministry’s official
study journal, Kaikosha Kiji. The simple fact that the military felt the
need to discuss this link indicates how serious Japan’s situation had
already become by the early 1920s. Harumi began by explaining that
Japan’s population of about 56 million was then increasing by an
extra 600 000 people each year but that the total of all Japanese then
overseas was just 580 000 (this made the October 1920 figure of
34 258 Japanese in Brazil roughly six per cent of all expatriates). In
short, emigration from Japan to that point was nowhere near sufficient
to alleviate the social pressure of population growth. In what was
undoubtedly a widely held view, Captain Harumi asserted that
Japanese society was already divided between the better off who were
consumed by materialism and self-indulgence, and the poor who
were turning to labour and tenant militancy in the face of economic
stagnation and urban inflation. The obvious implication in 1922,
therefore, was that Japan needed to send many more people overseas
if it were to ease its problems at home.1
Settling: 1920s 59

The Japanese government clearly shared this belief. Its response

was to resume control over emigration and to provide subsidies both
to companies involved in recruiting and carrying migrants as well as
to individual migrants themselves. In effect, this was a continuation
of government action in the late 1910s towards rationalisation of the
emigration system. It is in the 1920s, however, that emigration became
official state policy and that one sees the term ‘kokusaku imin’
(national policy migrants). The first step in this policy came in 1921.
In that year, the Home Ministry in Tokyo created a Social Office
(Shakai-kyoku). Its mission was to encourage emigration to South
America and especially to Brazil. By the time of the 1924–25 budget,
Home Ministry funds for the promotion of emigration had risen to
850 000 yen (130 000 above the previous fiscal year). The number of
public lectures on emigration, often sponsored by local Japanese
authorities, increased nearly ten-fold between 1923 and 1930: it is
worth noting that, in addition to showing the prosperity of migrants,
a point emphasised in these presentations was the similarity between
the Japanese and Brazilian peoples. The foreign ministry in 1924–25
also had 130 000 yen (albeit down from 181 000 the previous year) to
compile statistics relating to emigration and to publish information
of benefit to migrants. In this, it was assisted by the creation at Kobe
of a Japan–Brazil Association (Nippaku Kyokai) from May 1926. The
most direct form of official assistance, however, came in 1925. From
that point, the Japanese government began providing a subsidy of 35
yen per head to the Overseas Development Company (Kaiko) which
now was granted a monopoly on emigration; it also approved the
Osaka Shipping Company as the sole carrier of migrants on the
South American route and paid the company all costs in transporting
Japanese to Brazil. In contrast to the vessels used by earlier migrants,
all of which had distinctly Japanese-language names such as Kasato
and Ryojun, those used by Osaka Shipping on this route all bore the
names of international ports such as Santos, Rio de Janeiro, La Plata,
and Montevideo.2 In this way, one might see a deliberate attempt
to promote an image of internationalism on the part of Japanese
involved in emigration. In view of the rising human contact between
the two countries, Japan’s diplomatic representative in Brazil was ele-
vated from May 1923 to the rank of ambassador. Thus, a new level
of engagement between Japan and Brazil was apparent by the early
years of the decade.
60 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

The greater interest in Brazil in 1921–22 was set against the back-
ground of increased difficulties for Japanese emigrants in the land of
the free. The turning point in Japanese–US relations, and by exten-
sion across North America and Australasia, was World War I. By
the conclusion of hostilities, there was a new level of fear about the
intentions of the Japanese state and the identity of Japanese migrants.
Put simply, the view had grown in strength since the Russo-Japanese
war that Japan was an aggressive and militarily powerful nation with
its people thoroughly educated in the values of the samurai and
utterly subservient to the emperor in Tokyo. Thus, the escalating
rhetoric in America of a Japanese invasion reached new heights (or
lows) after 1918 with articles and books warning, for example, that
behind its mask Japan was in reality ‘The Germany of Asia’. These
fears translated rapidly into moves to contain the Japanese presence.
This was especially true in Hawaii and California. In Hawaii, there
were legal challenges from 1920 against Japanese-run schools and
attempts to impose English as the language of instruction (these
attempts pre-date anything comparable in Brazil by nearly two decades).
In California, the battleground was land. From 1920, the state of
California tightened its law on land ownership and banned the
leasing of agricultural land to any alien ineligible for naturalisation;
this was widely seen as targeting immigrant Japanese. In California,
the opponents of Japanese immigration after 1918 included represen-
tatives of labour, who accused the Japanese of undermining wages and
of refusing to conduct business with anyone but other Japanese,
moralists who attacked the Japanese as propagators of gambling and
prostitution, and politicians who insisted that Japan itself was
imperialistic and an enemy of the US. 3 This new virulence in public
anti-Japanese feeling contributed directly to the 1924 US exclusion
act. The background and terms of this act have been extensively
discussed in other works such as those of Ichioka Yuji. All we need to
note is that, under its provisions, no further immigration from Asia to
the US was allowed. This was at least the second major rebuff to Japan
on race grounds since World War I (in 1919, the Japanese request for a
clause on racial equality in the charter of the new League of Nations
had been rejected by the Western powers). The immediate result of
the 1924 act was that Brazil became even more central to Japan’s
national policy of emigration. A further consequence was that Japan-
ese both valued the far greater legal and cultural equality they found
Settling: 1920s 61

in Brazil but also grew anxious at the prospect of a change in Brazil-

ian attitudes along the lines of the North American example.

A new Brazil: changes in industry and identity

One point about Brazil in the 1920s is that major changes were
occurring within the country, and especially in the state of Sao Paulo.
Broadly speaking, these changes were two-fold. First, there was a shift
in the economy from a near complete reliance on agriculture and
raw materials towards greater industrialisation. This was evident in
the boom sectors including metallurgy, chemicals and tobacco prod-
ucts. The late 1910s and 1920s also witnessed the start of manufac-
turing in Brazil by major international corporations such as the
Dutch electronics company Philips and US enterprises including
Ford, General Motors and General Electric. This industrialisation
opened new commercial and employment opportunities in the cities.
At the level of small business, there was rapid growth, for example,
in electrical and motor repair shops, as well as taxi driving. Many of
these opportunities were to be seized by migrants, among them
Japanese, and the most powerful industrialist in 1930s Brazil was to
be an Italian migrant, Francisco Matarazzo, who began in the 1880s
selling goods from a pushcart in the interior of Sao Paulo. As for the
coffee economy which had been the principal employer of Japanese
and other migrants up to that point, it was kept artificially buoyant
throughout the 1920s with official subsidies. A growing world-wide
demand for coffee in the 1920s also contributed to the belief in good
long-term profits in this sector. This meant there was a continuing
demand among Brazilian growers for yet more imported workers,
a demand further maintained by the ongoing drift of new and exist-
ing migrants from agriculture into urban industry and commerce. 4
The high prices still paid for coffee also offered Japanese growers
a place in the market as they expanded their activities in Brazilian
agriculture. In other words, changes in the overall Brazilian economy
broadened the range of possibilities for Japanese migrants both in
the provinces and in the urban areas.
The second major change in 1920s Brazil with consequences for the
Japanese community was the rise of nationalism. Until the 1914–18
war, it is generally true to say that Brazil’s elite had affected European
norms of thought and behaviour; French culture in particular was
62 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

highly regarded and the preferred language of high society was French;
Brazilian literature, music and custom was dismissed as primitive. In
the 1920s, this tendency was denounced by Paulo Prado, a leading
historian, as the national ‘vice of imitation’ and the reason why, in
his view, Brazilian history could be summarised as a narrative of
greed and misery. One should note here the willingness of Brazilian
nationalists to blame themselves rather than to search for foreign
scapegoats. After 1918, however, a reassessment of Brazilian identity
had commenced in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. The most promin-
ent event in this was the so-called Modern Art Week held in Sao
Paulo city in mid-February 1922. Its goal was what one participant
called the ‘Brazilianisation of Brazil’. This was to be achieved through
a new pride in indigenous and folk culture in art, literature, and
perhaps especially music in which Brazil was seen as particularly
rich. As part of this process of self-discovery, there emerged a new
ethnographic study which came together in the first Brazilian Congress
of Regionalism in 1926, and the opening in Sao Paulo of a Museum
of Folklore. At the very centre of this new nationalism was a celebra-
tion of Brazil’s racial diversity; within this, there was both a greater
awareness of, and respect for, the cultural contribution to Brazil of the
ethnic African population. 5 The significance of this inclusive nation-
alism for Japanese migrants was that it also offered them a position
within the broad-based mainstream of Brazilian identity. This was
something completely denied them in North America and Australasia
where a racially exclusive nationalism made them at best second-class
residents and always alien.
It would be misleading to suggest that the 1920s was a decade
solely of positive change for the Japanese in Brazil. Amid the shift to
industrialisation and the formulation of new ideas on national iden-
tity, there was criticism of rising immigrant numbers. However, while
Japanese historians naturally tend to focus on Brazilian anti-Japanese
sentiment, these concerns actually were much more general. Indeed,
there had earlier been complaints in the late nineteenth century
about various groups of European migrants, be it Italians or Portu-
guese, with much of Sao Paulo’s small business already in the hands
of non-Brazilians. In the 1920s, criticism of immigrants tended still
to focus on the much larger communities from Europe. This was
generally on the grounds that they were monopolising business and
labour openings or that they were importing extremist ideologies.
Settling: 1920s 63

Italian migrants, for example, were seen as highly active among

radical movements in Sao Paulo labour and politics. On occasion,
the absence of migration could also stir a reaction: nationalists felt
slighted by the decision of Mussolini to ban emigration from Italy to
Brazil and a Japanese visitor arriving in 1928 noted that the office of
an Italian newspaper in Sao Paulo city was burned just as he landed
and that some Italian-run schools were being closed for contravening
Brazilian laws on the teaching of language, history and geography.
Also arousing concern in the 1920s were the Germans in southern
Brazil who resisted assimilation from their own distinct and separate
farm communities. Anxiety about these settlements was to grow
markedly in the 1930s as expatriate Germans embraced ideas of
Nazism and racial hygiene directly in conflict with the prevailing
view of the Brazilian people.6
While there was long-standing resentment among some Brazilians
about Italians, Germans, or other immigrant groups, the first serious
opposition to the Japanese presence appeared in the 1920s. According
to one scholar, the anti-Japanese movement in Brazil arose in direct
response to the increasing visibility of Japanese in the country.7 This
is slightly misleading. The first bill in the Brazilian parliament designed
to curtail Japanese immigration was sponsored in 1923; this was at
a time when the annual total of new arrivals from Japan averaged
less than 1000 and the overall Japanese presence in relative terms
was minute. What the bill actually targeted was more the spectre of
Japanese influence and, in this, the rhetoric of anti-Japanese racism was
to remain consistent from this time to the end of the 1930s. Its twin
themes, as in other countries, were disease and invasion. The fear of
military invasion actually was a kind of inverse compliment to Japan;
some Brazilians felt their own nationalism was pitifully weak and
their own society irreparably divided. In the Japanese, by contrast,
they saw a people for whom nationalism appeared to be intrinsic,
a matter of birth as much as education, and thus quite strong
enough literally to seize Brazil once they established a foothold. This
mix of respect and fear was evident in the leading opponent of
Japanese immigration from the 1920s to the early 1930s, Dr Miguel
Couto. While praising the unity, strength and success of Japan, he
could still write in the mid-1920s that the Japanese were ‘cunning,
ambitious, warlike and mystical’, and that they were plotting to
destroy Brazil. A federal representative from the state of Parana,
64 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

immediately south of Sao Paulo, went even further when he suggested

about the same time that Japan had plans to send 20 million
migrants and take over the country.8 At the cost of 200 yen per
migrant, this would have presented the government in Tokyo with
a bill of some four billion yen to transplant approximately one-third of
its entire population to the other side of the world. To say the accus-
ation was fantastic is to be overly charitable.
Dr Couto was the president of Brazil’s National Academy of Medicine
and had established his reputation in the 1890s in the fight against
yellow fever in urban Brazil. This was at a time when cities like Rio
and especially the port of Santos were regarded as virtual death traps
from disease. Around the same time, the wealthy families of Sao Paulo
city had built for themselves a new and isolated neighbourhood
which they intended as a kind of cordon sanitaire to keep away the
urban poor, many of whom were new immigrants; with disarming
frankness, they named this Higienopolis, that is, Hygiene City.9 The
global paranoia of elites concerning the link between urban crowding
and hygiene, however, arguably reached its peak in the 1920s–30s.
The connection of disease to Japanese immigration was openly asserted
by the sponsor of the 1923 bill, Lower House representative Fidelis
Reis. Although there had been up to 60 deaths from illness on a
Japanese migrant ship to Brazil in 1918, the motivation of those like
Reis, an agronomer and professor at the University of Minas Gerais,
seemed to lie deeper. He had previously campaigned against black
migration to Brazil. In defending his bill, he insisted that the unre-
stricted flow of Japanese immigrants meant that, ‘the yellow cyst will
remain on the national organism, unassimilable by blood, by language,
by customs, by religion’. 10
While some Brazilians promoted the imagery of Japanese infection
and invasion in the 1920s and more especially in the 1930s, it should
be emphasised that anti-Japanese statements were never allowed to
pass unchallenged by other Brazilians. This was certainly the case in
1923. Moreover, while Japanese historians tend to see the Reis bill as
evidence of an underlying hatred of Japanese, in fact it was prompted
by news of a US government plan to resettle something like 200 000
African-Americans in the Amazon region. In response, Reis proposed
that Brazil institute a complete ban on so-called black migration. As
for ‘yellow’, that is, Asian migration, he stopped short of calling for
outright exclusion and instead advocated a quota system, reducing
Settling: 1920s 65

the level of new arrivals to five per cent of the total for each ethnic
community already in Brazil. The bill, however, was denounced by
federal representatives from Sao Paulo state, those best placed to
judge the value of Japanese labour, and it was defeated in a committee
headed by Francisco Chavez de Oliveira Botelho. In November 1924,
Botelho personally toured Japanese settlements and spoke to migrant
workers on coffee plantations. In particular, he put a straightforward
question to the emerging second-generation Japanese-Brazilians; ‘Are
you Japanese or Brazilian?’ The answer he received convinced him to
reject the Reis bill which, in turn, leads us to believe that a sufficient
number of respondents, either because they were sincere or simply
politically astute, persuaded Botelho they considered themselves at
least partly Brazilian. One of Botelho’s arguments against Reis was
that the difficulties encountered by Japanese in North America had
been the result of unyielding American attitudes which made it diffi-
cult for them to assimilate. He refuted the idea that they were an
economic or cultural threat and, in this, he seemed to have the support
of the Brazilian public; in January 1925, a government survey of
opinion on Asian immigration indicated greater backing for Botelho
over Reis. Late in 1926, the new federal administration of Washington
Luis Pereira de Sousa appointed Botelho finance minister and the
Reis bill was shelved.11
The defeat of the Reis bill was a triumph for the culture of toler-
ance and diversity which were emerging as the platforms of modern
Brazilian nationalism, and it reinforced the position of those who
believed that Japanese immigrants had a positive role to play in
Brazil’s economic development. However, it did not assuage the minor-
ity who were blinded to Japanese weakness or poverty, and saw only
its power, aggression and a determination to expand its territory.
While the largest expatriate community of Japanese resided in Brazil,
there were equally strident warnings from elsewhere in South Amer-
ica about Japanese plots and stratagems. In February 1925, the New
York journal, Current History, carried a piece by a Peruvian journalist,
Genaro Arbaiza. This was entitled, ‘Acute Japanese Problem in South
America’ and was subsequently translated into Japanese. On closer
inspection, however, the author actually warned merely that a problem
might arise one day. The basis for his contention was the known desire
of Japanese to emigrate to the continent and his own supposition
that, with their strong sense of race identity, they would naturally
66 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

come to dominate local societies. As he explained, ‘Should the Japanese

come by the hundreds of thousands to a country like Peru there could
hardly be assimilation by the native elements, but the reverse process
may take place’. An intriguing aspect of this fear was the idea that
the Japanese were among the original inhabitants of ancient America;
this was popularised in the 1926 book by Peruvian writer Francisco
A. Loayza, A Manco Capac, el fundador del imperio del los inkas fu japons
(‘Manco Capac, Founder of the Empire of the Incas, was a Japanese’).
In that sense, Hispanic Peruvians had grounds to fear a union of
Japanese and Indian peoples against their authority. While this spe-
cific fear may have been less compelling in Brazil, the general tenor
of Arbaiza’s argument was shared by local opponents of Japanese
immigration. An internal report by the British foreign office might
describe the Arbaiza article as ‘excited and sensational’, as well as being
quite wrong in its facts and statistics. 12 However, the appearance in
print of such views, and the scare of the Reis bill, reinforced the need
for Japanese migrants to protect themselves as far as possible by
showing their readiness to co-exist with Brazilians.
Both before and after the Reis bill, the consistent position of
Japanese observers and of the Japanese-language press in Brazil was
to stress the benefit for migrants of engaging with Brazilian society.
In his 1922 article, Captain Harumi listed the overall attractions for
Japanese migrants in much the same order and using the same termin-
ology as writers in the 1900s: Brazil was an immense country, roughly
22 times the size of Japan, rich in resources, fair of climate, and at
just 30 million, with a population density about one-fortieth that
of Japan. Equally important, Brazilians enjoyed real equality, black
and white comingling as equals on ships and trains, in the theatres,
cinemas, and, perhaps of special significance to the family migrants
from Japan, in the schools. In Harumi’s view, this meant that, ‘black,
white, yellow, all races breathe the same freedom, all are one band
with no master . . . merely free and equal citizens’. He also emphasised
the fact that non-Brazilians had the right to own land and that Japan-
ese settlements were already in existence in Sao Paulo state.13 Various
writers throughout the decade took an optimistic view concerning
the future of Brazilian racism. In a major work from 1925, Professor
Takaoka Kumao of Hokkaido Imperial University, argued that Brazil
would never emulate North America. His reasoning here was that the
Brazilian people were already of such mixed blood that for the nom-
Settling: 1920s 67

inally ‘white’ community to promote race hatred would, in effect, be

the same as promoting hatred of themselves; this, he felt, was as
illogical ‘as suspending oneself towards heaven’. A similar point was
to be made by Brazilian cultural nationalists in the 1930s. Takaoka
also felt that US influence in Brazil was purely economic rather than
cultural and, therefore, would not affect existing attitudes on race. 14
As for relations between Japanese and Brazilians, an editorial in one
of the Japanese-language newspapers in Sao Paulo late in the decade
suggested there was a special bond between them based on their
tolerance and internationalism as opposed to the racism and selfish-
ness of the ‘Anglo-Saxons’.15 The idea that Brazil in the 1920s was
a uniquely tolerant community was also accepted by other observers.
A British diplomatic report from Rio de Janeiro in January 1925 asserted
that, ‘There is at present no race or colour problem in Brazil’, but, it
cautioned, ‘it is felt by many that Japanese immigration on a large
and organised scale would introduce such a problem, for Japanese
settlers do not assimilate nor intermarry with Brazilians’.16 Throughout
the 1920s, however, Japanese writers continued to encourage assimi-
lation, in particular through the adoption of Brazilian nationality.
Both Captain Harumi in his article and Professor Takaoka in his
extended study explained the ease with which migrants could apply
for Brazilian citizenship. As they understood it, anyone resident
in the country for two years and with a clean criminal record was
eligible. Harumi also noted that Brazilian law actively encouraged
naturalisation and that one could offer oneself for election to the
Lower House of parliament only four years after gaining citizenship.
He foresaw a time when Japanese-Brazilians would occupy local and
federal government offices and thus be in a position to shape Brazil-
ian law (in fact, the first ethnic Japanese cabinet minister in Brazil
was to be in the 1970s).17 The value of Brazilian citizenship was also
emphasised in the migrant newspapers. Early in the 1920s, the Bura-
jiru Jiho offered advice on the procedures involved and, from early
1923, set up a desk within its own organisation to handle all aspects
of the application process (for a fee of 200 milreis). To this, it
claimed to have received a flood of enquiries. There were some
Japanese, however, who argued that naturalisation would not magic-
ally transform them into Brazilians and that, to relinquish their Jap-
anese citizenship, might actually deprive them of any protection
they currently enjoyed from the government in Tokyo. In the end,
68 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

it appears that few Japanese actually obtained Brazilian nationality

in the 1920s but, in this, as historian Thomas Holloway explains,
they were no different to any other immigrant group in Brazil. That
migrants kept their Japanese nationality might be used by historians
as evidence for the strength of nationalism among the expatriate
community. It could equally be argued, however, that it showed how
safe they felt from any direct threat of racism in Brazil at this time
and how little coercion there was against them to assimilate to this
As the British diplomatic report had noted, marriage was another
area in which critics believed they could attack the racial exclusive-
ness of Japanese migrants. According to figures from one Japanese
study, about one-fifth of all Brazilian marriages in the 1920s involved
a non-Brazilian partner. This would appear to be a relatively high
ratio and may be explained by the high levels of immigration over
the preceding decades. One reason for any difference in the level of
ethnic inter-marriage in Brazil, however, may be the question of
timing. The Brazilian authorities had insisted on recruiting young
migrants brought over in family units. Consequently, the marital
status of the initial wave of immigrants from each country was largely
settled upon arrival; even where some marriages were artificial,
as in the case of the Japanese, they still resulted in an equal number
of adult males and females among the overseas community. This
helped to overcome the difficulties seen earlier in North America
over ‘picture brides’. Where any problem arose was in the maturing
second generation. The relatively late arrival of the Japanese com-
pared with the Italians, Germans, and Portuguese, meant that
unattached males were reaching the age of marriage late in the
1920s. In 1928, Kodo Hisaichi suggested in his Burajiru no Jisseikatsu
(The Real Life in Brazil) that the family migrant system, and the
number of young men subsequently invited to Brazil by relatives,
meant there were now approximately 6000 single Japanese males of
marriageable age to only about 1500 equivalent females. Kodo and
others warned of the dangers of young men remaining unattached: it
was said that an all-male community of Japanese in Bolivia squan-
dered its time and money in gambling and, with no wives or children,
was clearly fated to disappear. In Brazil, by contrast, the aim was
long-term settlement, not simply wage labour, and thus marriage
was seen as vital to overall stability and prosperity. This gave Japanese
Settling: 1920s 69

women in Brazil a value, sometimes quite literally, well above that of

women in Japan; there was a saying among the expatriates that
‘a daughter is worth three contos’, and parents with several daugh-
ters could expect to live comfortably off the dowries. However, Brazil
in the late 1920s was described, in an ominous phrase, as ‘a marriage
market in a great depression’. In the area of Promissao in the Noroeste
region in 1927, for example, there were nine Japanese villages with
120 young males, most of whom had been raised in Brazil and about
half of whom were ready to marry. The response of village leaders
was to organise the males in tour groups. These were then tempor-
arily shipped back to Japan specifically to find appropriate wives.19
The number of Japanese marrying Brazilians was to increase in the
1930s and these were to figure heavily in migrant arguments support-
ing the level of Japanese assimilation in Brazil. However, the initial
preference for Japanese wives in the 1920s requires further comment.
It has been suggested that, in North America, the strength of ‘white’
legal and moral prohibitions to defend racial purity legitimised simi-
larly racist and exclusionist ideas among resident Japanese. 20 Given
the racial tolerance of Brazil, this is clearly not an argument applic-
able to its Japanese community. As to marriage choices, we should
note first that the tendency among expatriate Japanese, and espe-
cially among Okinawans, was to seek marriage partners from their
own region rather than simply opt for anyone bearing Japanese
nationality. This also was commonplace among other migrant
groups such as the Italians. In that sense, the question of marriage
went deeper than race and was decided, where possible, by shared
culture in such things as dialect, a localised sense of place, familiar
foods and so on. The idea that culture rather than race was the issue
for Japanese males was also explained by Kodo. He cautioned his
Japanese readers that Brazilian society treated women in a completely
different manner from that in Japan: whereas in Japan, they were
expected to be subservient and reticent, in Brazil they were given
prominence and paid courtly respect, for example, in being served
first at restaurants and in receiving a seat on a crowded train. This,
Kodo argued, led to all kinds of cultural confusion for expatriate
Japanese men, and his advice to prospective migrants was to marry
prior to leaving Japan. 21
Maeyama Takashi in one of his writings quotes a comment from
an expatriate Japanese in Brazil that, ‘To marry with another race is
70 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

ethnosuicide for we Japanese’. However, in the 1920s, neither Kodo

nor other Japanese writers sought to condemn marriage to non-
Japanese: Burajiru no Jisseikatsu included a photograph of young
Brazilian women with the caption, ‘What a group of lovely senhoras!
The beauties of Sao Paulo state hope for marriage with young Japan-
ese’. Virtually all Japanese writers on Brazil were men and they made
no secret of the fact that they were charmed by Brazilian women.
The beauty contests to elect a new Miss Brazil were reported at
length in the migrant press and, as technology advanced, so photo-
graphs of the winners were included; in 1939, when antagonism
towards Japanese in Brazil was allegedly at its height, a Japanese
journalist from the Asahi Shimbun was invited by the authorities in
Rio to be a judge in the finals of that year’s contest. The charm was
not simply physical but also cultural. A journalist for one of the
expatriate newspapers found himself in the 1930s seated in a Sao
Paulo cinema beside a young woman who looked Japanese but who,
when he spoke to her, proved to have been born in Brazil and to
know no language but Portuguese. The journalist’s conclusion, how-
ever, was that her ‘Brazilian’ friendliness and ease of manner was
a refreshing contrast with the timidity and nervousness of women
born and raised in Japan. In a memoir of 30 years’ residence in the
Amazon region, one Japanese author in the 1950s wrote on ‘Brazil,
the Land of Beautiful People’; in this, he described the Indo-Portu-
guese mestizo women of the region as the spitting image in face and
figure of women from the north of Japan (the prefectures of Aomori,
Yamagata, Akita). 22 In this sense, Japanese males seem never to have
been racially repulsed by women in Brazil but rather to have taken
a natural delight in their appearance and manner.

The expansion of Japanese settlement

In 1920s Brazil, the Japanese had freedoms denied them in other

parts of the world. They could enter the country, live and work with-
out the fear of overt racism, even apply for citizenship. For immigrants
from a still largely agrarian society, however, the most important
freedom was the right to own land. This was the principal magnet
drawing over 66 000 Japanese to Brazil between 1925 and 1930. The
Japanese migrant press was filled with adverts for rich, virgin, frost-
free land in Sao Paulo’s frontier regions. Moreover, land was relatively
Settling: 1920s 71

Table 3.1 Annual total of Japanese migrants entering Brazil

1920 1 013
1921 840
1922 1 225
1923 895
1924 2 673
1925 6 330
1926 8 407
1927 9 804
1928 11 169
1929 16 648
1930 14 076

Sources: Shiroma Zenkichi (ed.), Zai-Haku Okinawa Kenjin 50-nen no

Ayumi, Sao Paulo 1959, p. 160. BJ, 3 December 1938, generally
concurs but gives figures of 3672 for 1924, and 9084 for 1927.

cheap, with the exchange rate also favouring the yen over the Brazil-
ian milreis. Consequently, the dominant feature of the late 1920s was
the growth of Japanese landownership and especially of agrarian
settlements or ‘colonies’, many of these in the Noroeste or northwest
of Sao Paulo.
In 1926–7, however, the state government in Sao Paulo ended its
subsidies to all overseas immigrant labour. Whereas some might
see this in part as another step in the cooling of attitudes towards
Japanese, in fact, the expatriate press took a much more positive
approach. Looking back from the perspective of seven years, the
Burajiru Jiho identified this as a key moment in the history of Japan’s
national policy of emigration. In its view, Japanese officials had earl-
ier been overly passive, relying on Sao Paulo to maintain the influx
of migrant workers. From this time, however, Tokyo was forced to
assume a more active role. Prior to 1926, Japanese emigration to
Brazil had peaked in 1913 at 7122 and, in the early 1920s, there had
even been fears that the number permanently leaving Brazil would
outnumber those arriving. 23 With the US exclusion act and this
new commitment from Tokyo, however, the expatriate community
grew rapidly with the figure for arrivals regularly exceeding 10 000
(see Table 3.1).
As the migrant community grew in number, so the official Japanese
presence also expanded for its protection. In 1921, a consulate was
72 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

opened at Bauru city for the benefit of regional Japanese; this was in
addition to the existing consulates at Rio (elevated to embassy status
from May 1923) and Sao Paulo city (opened July 1915), plus the
Ribeirao Preto office of the Sao Paulo consulate opened in 1918.
In mid-1927, an office of the Sao Paulo consulate-general was estab-
lished at Santos. An honorary consul was appointed at Manaus, cap-
ital of the state of Amazonas in 1925 and, as Japanese moved further
into north Brazil, a consulate was to be opened in 1934 for those in
the states of Para and Amazonas.24
One of the most significant changes in Japanese government pol-
icy was the March 1927 law on the Overseas Migrant Co-operative
(Kaigai Iju Kumiai). This provided within Japan an umbrella organ-
isation, the Union of Migrant Co-operatives, to oversee bodies
recruiting migrants at the prefectural level; by 1937, there were to be
such co-operatives in 44 prefectures. The overriding intention was to
facilitate a larger and geographically more broad-based movement of
people overseas and to arrange for land to be made available to them
upon arrival. To this end, the Union established in Sao Paulo the
Burajiru Takushoku Kumiai (Brazilian Development Co-operative),
popularly known as Burataku. Henceforth, it was Burataku which
took the lead in purchasing land in the states of Sao Paulo and Parana
and opening the way for greater Japanese settlement.25
One of the major Burataku settlements was at Bastos, deep in the
interior of the Sorocabana region of northwestern Sao Paulo. There,
the company purchased about 32 000 hectares of land. The pace of
development was breathless. In 1928, the Japanese traveller, Tsuji
Kotaro, visited the site. He observed the groups of black Brazilian
workers clearing the forest and laying miles of road; with no hint of
racism, he wrote of their industriousness and described their tasks as
‘really manly work’. With no more than a few huts and the settle-
ment office, Bastos impressed him as ‘truly life deep in the mountains’.
Only ten months later, however, the settlement was ready, it had its
office, retail stall, temporary lodgings, and a working community of
200 families. Its primary purpose was coffee production and, in this,
it was clearly successful. By the time it celebrated its tenth aniversary
in 1938, it boasted a total population of over 9000, of whom 4180
were Japanese residents (zaiju hojin), 887 were described as ‘foreign
settlers’, and the rest were identified only by their occupations: of
these, about 1600 were contract farm labourers but there were others
Settling: 1920s 73

to make life in the mountains more tolerable, including seven doc-

tors and dentists, 16 barbers, 11 bakers and confectioners, and
one maker of ice creams. There were, in addition, nine schools
with over 600 pupils and the Bastos song celebrated both the
autonomy of the ‘village’ and the goodwill existing between
Japanese and Brazilians. 26
Burataku was not alone in developing land for Japanese settlers.
One of the other major congregations of Japanese in the Noroeste
was at the Alianca settlement near the Sao Paulo state border with
Mato Grosso and close to the Burataku site of Tiete. Here, a series of
land purchases was made by regional groups from Japan in 1924–7.
Taking the lead was the Shinano Overseas Association of Nagano
prefecture in central Japan; this bought over 5000 hectares of land in
1924. It was followed by overseas associations from the prefectures of
Tottori, Toyama, and Kumamoto (with a strong Japanese presence
already at Alianca, Burataku also subsequently purchased some 2500
hectares). The result was a grouping of three settlements with some
level of co-operation between the various purchasing bodies. There is
a demographic map of the third Alianca settlement in 1939 showing
the regional origin of plot-holders: this also shows that, while there
might be a dominant regional identity to a given settlement (in this
case, Toyama prefecture), there still remained considerable variation
as to the overall geographical background of its settlers. At the second
Alianca Settlement in 1931, this diversity was to result in an open
split between the two principal groups, fom Nagano and Tottori,
with Tottori residents briefly establishing their own independent
association. As with the Burataku development at Bastos, expansion
at Alianca was rapid. Farming commenced at the first settlement in
1924 with just three families of eight people. By the following year,
this had grown to 16 families but, in 1926, leaped to 96 and, in 1929,
to 190. The same rate of increase was evident at the second and third
Alianca settlements between 1927 and 1929 so that, at the end of the
decade, the total population of all three had grown from eight to
2302 of whom just over 400 were described proudly as Nikkei Hakujin,
that is, ethnic Japanese Brazilians. 27
While the greatest land development by Japanese was in the
remote interior of Sao Paulo state, there were still opportunities
closer to the established towns and cities. The settlement at Itaquera,
later to become known as Colonia Nipponica, began admitting
74 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

Japanese from 1923 and, in its Japanese-language advertising in the

1920s–30s, made much of its location at the centre of a triangle
formed by the cities of Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Santos, with
their combined populations in the early 1930s of nearly four and
a half million potential consumers of fruit and vegetables. 28 New
openings away from the Noroeste were not always successful, how-
ever. In 1928, a small group of Japanese were tempted to try their
hands at farming in the coastal state of Espirito Santo, north of Rio.
By early 1929, they had fled back to Sao Paulo claiming the land they
had just left was poor, the climate insufferably hot, and all agreeing,
as the press phrased it, ‘that the worst corner of Sao Paulo is still
better than Espirito Santo’. 29
One part of Brazil in which the terrain and climate would seem
most challenging to immigrant farmers was the Amazon. However,
this was a region in the 1920s ready for a new infusion of producers
and activity. At the turn of the century, its economy had soared on
the back of rubber exports. This had led to the kind of giddy wealth
usually restricted to children’s fairy tales; the Amazonas state capital
of Manaus had an Italian-style opera house to rival in magnificence
anything in the great metropolis of Rio but, on a more vulgar plane,
the local nouveau riche were said to light their cigars with banknotes
and to run champagne through their patio fountains. The boom had
attracted an influx of adventurers from elsewhere in Brazil and over-
seas, especially from France, Spain, and the US, but this particular
bubble had burst by 1918 with the rise of Southeast Asian rubber
(originally planted with seeds stolen from Brazil). This left Manaus
and Belem, the city at the mouth of the Amazon, as shadows of their
recent selves.30 In the late 1920s, however, a Japanese settlement was
established at Tome-Acu, about half a day down river from Belem.
The driving force behind this venture was an individual, Fukuhara
Hachiro. He was director of the Kanegafuchi Cotton Spinning Com-
pany in Japan, part of the wider Mitsui conglomerate. After first visit-
ing Brazil in 1927 to explore local production of cotton, he set up
a land development company and, with a grant of one million hec-
tares from the state government of Para, began the immigration of
Japanese from 1929; as with earlier immigration, the basic unit was
a three-person family in order to promote stable residence. Fukuhara’s
goal was long-term settlement and he provided modern buildings,
storehouses, and a radio station. The roughly 1500 Japanese colonists
Settling: 1920s 75

there in the mid-1930s were engaged, like Japanese settlers elsewhere,

in cultivating rice, corn, sweet potatoes, and vegetables which were
then shipped to Belem for wider distribution. At a cultural level,
Fukuhara worked to overcome the charge that Japanese deliberately
isolated themselves from Brazilians. He insisted that Brazilians and
Japanese work together and, to promote integration, he made avail-
able free medical services to all residents of the area, regardless of
The Japanese investment of men and money in the Amazon was
initially welcomed by Brazilians. This led the migrant press to specu-
late on a bright new future for Japanese settlers in the region. As the
Nambei Shimpo newspaper reported around this time, ‘To hear of the
Amazon region, you would think of hell; to see it is to view paradise’.
In 1930, a second major survey of the area was conducted by a party
overseen by Uetsuka Tsukasa, a native of Kumamoto prefecture in
Japan’s south and formerly a ministerial secretary as well as member
of Japan’s lower house of parliament. He was committed to the
expansion of resources both for and by Japan and, late in 1930, he
agreed a contract with the Amazonas state government for a major
tract of land; here he also established the Instituto Amazonia (Ama-
zonia Sangyo Kenkyujo) to study and develop the Amazon’s eco-
nomic potential. Immediately thereafter, he began sending graduates
from the Higher Development School (Koto Takushoku Gakko) in
Tokyo as settlers to the site. However, the contract was later rejected
by the federal parliament of Brazil following constititional changes
in 1934. This rejection was based on the grounds that the amount of
land ceded to Uetsuka was too great and the conditions of the contract
too generous. Consequently, his plans for further expansion of a
Japanese presence in northern Brazil were curtailed.32
The spread of Japanese settlements during the 1920s in Brazil
elicited a mix of reactions. On the one hand, there had earlier been
criticism of Japanese labourers who sent much of their wages back to
Japan; they were seen as short-term migrants offering no lasting
benefit to Brazil. Now, settlers and landowners were praised for
investing so heavily in Brazil’s rural economy and either opening
up new markets for produce or re-invigorating the old. There was
also praise for the model introduced by Japanese farmers of co-opera-
tives. The first of these was created, with help from the Japanese con-
sul-general, late in 1927 (among its founders was a man called
76 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

Shimomoto Kenkichi and it seems likely he was father to a leading

figure among Japanese-Brazilian university students in the 1930s).
It was called the Cotia Co-operative and was based at Pinheiros in the
western corner of Sao Paulo city. By 1940, it claimed the status of
Brazil’s largest co-operative, with 1500 members and funds of well over
7000 contos. It also dominated the nation-wide market in pota-
toes. Another major co-operative was at the initially ill-fated Hirano
settlement; this was founded in 1930 with funds from both a Japanese
and a Brazilian company and its success was seen as helping to revive
the prosperity of the neighbouring town of Cafelandia.33
There was also, however, a negative reaction to the expansion of
Japanese settlements and their success in taking a large or monopoly
market share in some areas of food supply. This was noted by an art-
icle in the 1 August 1930 issue of Seishu Shimpo, the major provincial
Japanese-language newspaper at Bauru, the gateway to the Noroeste
region. According to the article, Brazilian disquiet about Japanese
settlement was strongest in Sao Paulo state rather than in neighbour-
ing Parana, where there were relatively few settlers, or in the Amazon,
despite the latter’s importance in the evolving sense of a modern,
native Brazilian identity. The problem, it argued, was that any self-
imposed isolation of Japanese settlers, despite their proximity in Sao
Paulo to the economic heartland of the country, could seem like a
deliberate insult to Brazilians. Moreover, the Japanese-language schools
on rural settlements threatened to aggravate this impression of racial
disdain. The newspaper called on its readers to learn from the errors
of their predecessors in the United States and recognise that purely
‘Japanese settlements should be developed [only] in lands under the
Japanese flag’, that is, only within the existing Japanese empire or its
mandated territories. In Brazil, it argued, ‘if settlements like those of
Burataku at Bastos and Tiete can not be opened up to mixed Brazil-
ian and Japanese residence, then they should be abandoned now’.
The warning may well have been effective; as we have already seen,
Bastos early in 1938 was a mix of Japanese and non-Japanese. How-
ever, even earlier, there were cases of large-scale Japanese settlement
amidst other peoples. In 1932 at the town of Birigui in the Noroeste,
for example, there were said to be 3000 families, of whom Italians
were in the majority but Japanese, at 1200 families, came second in
number. Despite this, it is the conviction of scholars such as Maeyama
Takashi that Japanese and rural Brazilians did not mix; in his view,
Settling: 1920s 77

Japanese settlers regarded Brazilians as ‘socially invisible’. 34 This is

a point to which we will return.
A further criticism of Japanese settlements was that they were
directly undermining the coffee plantation economy. This was the
position taken at a meeting of the important Brazilian Rural Society
in 1928 by coffee planter Antonio de Queiroz Teles. He spoke against
Japanese contract workers, insisting that their different language and
customs made them unreliable and that, after breaking their con-
tracts, they retreated to Japanese settlements founded with the help
of major Japanese capitalists.35 The underlying assertion of his speech
seemed to be that Japanese capitalism and labour was working in
tandem against Brazilian interests. Indeed, it may be that some of his
more impressionable listeners came away with the idea that Japanese
settlements were part of a grand conspiracy, such as that outlined by
Genaro Arbaiza in his article on South America from 1925. This fear
of a Japanese conspiracy in rural Brazil was to reappear in the 1930s.
Criticism of the new settlements or the process behind them was
not restricted to a few Brazilians. There were always Japanese in
Brazil ready and willing to voice forthright opinions on any topic.
This was particularly true of the Nippaku Shimbun. In 1928, in typic-
ally acerbic style, it described the relationship between the Japanese
government and the expatriate community in Brazil as like that
between a stubborn old man and a bright, go-ahead youth, while the
government-run Overseas Migrant Co-operative was derided as a
‘refuse tip’ for aged officials. It also argued against what it saw as the
Japanese government’s mistaken approach to emigration, that is, as
a form of colonisation through the creation of a ‘new Japan’ over-
seas. Those in Brazil did not see themselves as comparable to migrants
in Japan’s formal or informal colonies, and the inference of this art-
icle was that Tokyo’s attitude only served to endanger their position
and prosperity. 36 However, the spread of settlements in the 1920s
also raised concerns about the internal make-up of the expatriate com-
munity. A report on one settlement in 1928 stated that 90 per cent of
residents had arrived direct from Japan and had experience neither
of Brazil nor of agricultural work; they were said to single out other
settlers from an agrarian background and refer to them pointedly as
‘farmers’. Further, there was a belief that there were now two diver-
gent streams of Japanese immigrants; those recruited for Japanese
settlements and those contracted for Brazilian coffee plantations.
78 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

The assertion of Japanese-language commentators on Brazil was

that life on a fazenda was crucial for understanding both the country
and its agriculture; as one author put it, this was like going to school
and, only after graduation, could one confidently go on to work
as an independent farmer. Consequently, the development of direct
immigration to settlement was seen as incautious, unlikely to
guarantee good profits for inexperienced migrants, and potentially
damaging to any wider sense of community among the expatriate
While later scholars have tended to speak in rather casual general-
isations about Japanese settlements, their success and cohesion, or
their role as a safety valve for Japanese to avoid Brazilian racism,
Japanese observers at the time were often as not dismayed by their
failings. Moreover, they tended to blame these failings on Japanese
themselves. One criticism was of the misplaced enthusiasm for form
over substance. Enormous effort was put into prestige structures such
as a settlement school or hospital but less to the needs of food pro-
duction and, even in prestige buildings, it was said that important
matters, such as a lavatory for hospital patients, were sometimes
overlooked. The Nippaku Shimbun, albeit without checking for itself,
confidently asserted this state of affairs was true even of the major
Burataku settlements at Bastos and Tiete: in the paper’s words, ‘when
you play go with an amateur, you know where he has moved his
pieces even without looking’.38 One of the major problems, of
course, was rural health. In 1927, Professor Toda Seizo from Kyoto
Medical University toured the Noroeste and, in contrast to the image
held by others of Japanese social and economic efficiency, his con-
clusion was pessimistic. He described the life of settlers as ‘extremely
un-cultured’ (hi-bunka-teki), with many appearing sickly because
they had failed to control malaria. He condemned their housing
as thoroughly inappropriate, having been built in the Japanese
rural style but importing only the negative aspects of Japanese hous-
ing (precisely what these were, he did not explain). His damning
comment was that, ‘the structure of our settlers’ houses and their
standard of living is exactly that of Japanese farmers of a thousand
years ago and lower even than that of the indigenous Ainu people of
Hokkaido’. He also warned that the second generation would simply
abandon the settlements if improvements were not made. One histor-
ian of Brazilian immigration, Jeffrey Lesser, sees this as a warning to
Settling: 1920s 79

Japanese on the dangers of long-term residence in Brazil; in short, the

longer one lived in Brazil, the more one regressed in culture. This is
overstated: the life-styles of urban Japanese migrants, the ones with
the most intimate contact with Brazil and Brazilians, had moved
beyond the earlier level of subterranean existence and did not con-
cern Toda. Instead, his warning was intended to maintain the
viability of a major policy of emigration supported by the Japanese
government. Moreover, his specific criticisms of rural health, hous-
ing and diet, were to be echoed by Brazilian medical commentators
speaking on the general situation of Brazilian agriculture well into
the 1930s.39
The attention given by scholars such as Maeyama Takashi to the
rural expatriate Japanese may be understandable given the relatively
greater numbers involved. However, it also skews the argument
about relations between Japanese immigrants and Brazilians. Japanese
settlers in the Noroeste, for example, had limited contact with Brazil-
ians because their work tied them to the land and they were often
physically remote from the nearest town. Also, with many of them
being the newest members of the expatriate community, they natur-
ally had the least command of Portuguese and the least understand-
ing of Brazilian norms. In other words, to focus on recently arrived
Japanese immigrants in rural Brazil is inevitably to conclude that
they were not urbane enough to engage effectively with non-Japanese.
Alternatively, one can turn this around and insist that the strength
of their Japanese nationalism made them unwilling to seek engage-
ment outside of their own closed communities. What is omitted
from this argument is precisely the urban and urbane Japanese of
the towns and cities. Too often they are the missing figures in the
historiographical landscape of Japanese in Brazil during the 1920s
and 1930s. Consequently, it is to them that we now turn.

City life

Sao Paulo state in the 1920s had all the appearance of a booming
commercial and industrial economy. This was most visible, of course,
in the state capital. A general feeling, repeated in the Japanese migrant
press, was that Sao Paulo city was the future Chicago or New York
of Latin America, a metropolis bursting with energy, wealth and
opportunity. Foreign visitors concurred. The prolific and respected
80 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

American travel writer, Frank G. Carpenter, offered this description

in the mid-1920s:40

[I]n going about the city I have been almost astounded by the
palatial character of the buildings and the air of prosperity that
prevails here. The sidewalks in the business section are crowded
with people, while the pavements are a maze of taxis, automobiles,
and trucks, and street cars that serve all parts of the city.

The English novelist, Rudyard Kipling, arrived a few years later and
recorded his amazement at the physical expanse of Sao Paulo, its
frenzy of commerce, and the vast hydroelectric plants generating its
power. He also remarked on the waves of traffic: ‘Cars and lorries
move everywhere, like electrons in the physics primers, across grids
of trams; every train decorated on each side with a frieze of agglu-
tinated passengers’. By 1929, Sao Paulo city had a population of
approximately one million and about 18 000 motor vehicles (some
4000 behind Tokyo at the same time).41 Now thriving within this
metropolis, however, was a successful and increasingly diverse Japan-
ese community.
According to figures for 1924, there were 3037 Japanese then resi-
dent in Sao Paulo city and its environs (an even larger urban popu-
lation of 5796 was to be found in Santos and its region). As with the
overall expatriate body, this was reasonably well balanced between
males (1688) and females (1349). A series of articles in the Nippaku
Shimbun in the same year provided an overview of their occupations.
These included successful craftsmen, such as carpenters, and an
increasing number of Japanese-run hotels, bars and restaurants.
Featured in the articles, however, was the rise of Japanese in new
areas of small business. Notable among these were the taxi or car hire
companies; in Sao Paulo city, there were enterprises such as Tsuji
Cars with from one to three vehicles of their own. There were also
independent drivers who contracted a vehicle from another concern.
Wages for a good driver were said to be well above the average for
company employees or those in trade and, in one perhaps exag-
gerated account, there were several hundred Japanese drivers in the
capital by the end of the decade.42
Of particular interest to the Nippaku Shimbun, however, were the
seven Japanese-run furniture stores of Sao Paulo city. The strength of
Settling: 1920s 81

Japanese enterprise in this area is somewhat ironic in that the tradi-

tional Japanese house was largely devoid of furniture; floor cushions
replaced chairs, beds were rolled mattresses without a fixed base, and
tables were virtually at ground level. Thus, Japanese migrants not
only entered new markets but produced and retailed products which
were regarded in Japan itself as ‘Western’ and, in Brazil, were made of
unfamiliar woods. Of the Sao Paulo stores, the largest was Casa
Tokyo. This had an imposing main shop, two branches, a factory
stocked with machinery, and several tens of workers; its advertising
net also expanded as far as the Noroeste with regular notices in the
Seishu Shimpo at Bauru. In its later adverts, it was to claim that,
among the expatriate Japanese furniture stores, it was ‘the oldest, the
biggest, the best, and the cheapest’. The owner of Casa Tokyo was a
man called Sugimoto Honosuke. He had some experience of business
prior to leaving Japan. However, the Nippaku Shimbun stressed the
importance of the wife in dealing with customers at each of the Jap-
anese furniture stores. Success in this field depended on Brazilian
custom and the second-largest Japanese store, Casa Nihon, enjoyed a
particularly good reputation among non-Japanese. In contrast to
Sugimoto, the owner of Casa Nihon had started from scratch, having
never been in business before emigrating. Other smaller furniture
stores were run by Japanese in partnership with non-Japanese and,
targeting Brazilian custom, sited themselves in the city centre rather
than in the major Japanese neighbourhood. One of the most pros-
perous businesses was a specialist wholesale furniture-maker. Origin-
ally a graduate of Okinawa’s prefectural agricultural school, he had
repeatedly failed at farming in Brazil. Undeterred, he was said in the
early 1920s to be making vast sums in business and one of his
contracts was for the supply of seating in the luxury carriages of the
Central and Paulista railways. These examples suggest that, rather
than relying heavily on custom from fellow Japanese, there were
small businesses which already in the 1920s had ventured effectively
into the wider Brazilian market. Indeed, by the mid-1930s the
number of Japanese-run furniture stores in Sao Paulo city is said to
have doubled.43
The possibilities for affluence were also evident well beyond the
metropolis. At Bauru city in the late 1920s, there was a thriving small
community of about 70 Japanese households, two Japanese-style
inns, a Japanese doctor, and, it would appear in the early 1920s at
82 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

least, a well-known Japanese prostitute named Tomi; there was also

the Seishu Shimpo newspaper to promote advertising and commerce
between Japanese and non-Japanese in the region. A further five
hours by train beyond Bauru, passing through endless coffee planta-
tions, was the town of Lins. The Japanese community here had origin-
ated with the Barbosa settlement; this had been established by a
migrant from Kumamoto prefecture named Fujinaga Rikizo. Fujinaga
had since become a man of wealth and status in the Noroeste region
and Barbosa had also changed as some settlers sold off their land to
non-Japanese: by the time it was visited by Tsuji Kotaro in 1928, it
was roughly half-owned by what he termed without malice ‘foreign-
ers’. Tsuji calculated the urban population of Lins at about 8000 of
whom 400 were Japanese. In the vicinity, however, he counted over
40 000 people and, of these, around 6000 were Japanese. Certainly as
far as he was concerned, there was no evidence of them being
racially separate or in hiding. As he explained, ‘if you walk the streets
of Lins, it seems as if half the people are Japanese’. He noted a large
number of Japanese stores in the middle of a lively, bustling town:
press advertisements from Lins at this time included the Ebisuya
General Store, the Tsuchiya restaurant serving Japanese and Western
cuisine, the Nagata Inn, and Antonio Tanaka’s car repair shop. There
was also an office for the Burajiru Jiho newspaper of Sao Paulo city, a
Japanese school, and a youth association. In addition to being highly
visible, indeed prominent, the local Japanese appeared to enjoy
wealth, success, and comfort both in themselves and in their relations
with others around them. Tsuji estimated there were about ten Jap-
anese immigrants in Lins who had already become Brazilian citizens
and, as with earlier writers, he held out the prospect of Japanese
becoming involved in national politics. Many Japanese owned one
of the horde of cars which, in the space of only a few years, had
replaced horse traffic and now filled the townscape to the extent that
traffic police had to be introduced in 1927. A side point raised by
Tsuji was that the space and speed of life in Brazil compared with
that in Japan (where the bicycle remained king and car ownership
was still the preserve of the elite) had given the Japanese immigrants
a completely novel sense of time and distance. In this, they had very
different attitudes and approaches to key aspects of modernity, and
the implication was that they would have difficulty reassimilating
into Japan. The prosperity and freedom they enjoyed in Brazil, how-
Settling: 1920s 83

ever, made the prospect of returning permanently to Japan seem

unlikely at this time.44

Organising the community

The very fact of emigration to a growing economy and an open soci-

ety allowed Japanese or others to reinvent themselves. Unfettered by
the immediate demands of an extended family or by the constraints
of village or neighbourhood precedent, they were economically and
psychologically mobile. Thus, someone without farming experience
might find work on the land, a farmer might become a furniture-
maker, and a man might, as with Antonio Tanaka at Lins, adopt an
entirely new identity. They could also choose more easily to do what
they wanted with the money they earned. As one Japanese migrant
explained in 1924, saving and being miserable might be the lot of
married couples but ‘the life of the bachelor is easy. The money you
get, you spend the same day. No need to worry about tomorrow.
When things are difficult, just take some work as a day labourer on
the land’.45 Japanese in Brazil were also freed from the direct control
of their home institutions such as the centralised education and
home ministries, the police, and the military (though, as noted
earlier, male migrants were required to bond themselves to perform
military service when required). Although Maeyama and others have
insisted in their writings that the Japanese consulate-general in Brazil
and the officials of Burataku acted as a surrogate government,
dominating the expatriate community and linking it back to the
emperor and authorities in Japan, this is highly unconvincing.46 There
were simply too few Japanese officials in Brazil and, without their
own police or legal system, they had no means effectively to impose
their authority on an expatriate body spread across regions in some
cases only then being joined by road and rail.
One area in which the expatriates were free to shape themselves
was in their collective consciousness. An historian of Japan in the
1920s and 1930s, Kevin Doak, has written eloquently on the failed
attempt of intellectuals in Japan to construct what he calls an ethnic
nationalism, that is, a sense of being Japanese which emerges out of the
wider community rather than as something manufactured and handed
down by the state. In his view, the state in Japan was so powerful
that it managed to hijack any competing definition of nationalism.47
84 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

In Brazil, however, the Japanese government was remote and there

was no Japanese intelligentsia to dictate public opinion from its base
in universities and research institutes. Consequently, the job of cre-
ating any sense of community identity and recording its collective
history fell primarily to the Japanese-language newspapers of Sao
Paulo city and Bauru. As the number of Japanese in Brazil increased,
so the newspapers also grew in number and influence. The Seishu
Shimpo was established in September 1921. The following year, the
Burajiru Jiho broke with its emigration company sponsor and became
solely the business of its manager, Kuroishi Seisaku; in the late 1920s,
it was printing 5000 copies for each weekly issue, double that of its
closest rival, the Nippaku Shimbun. In 1923, a monthly journal
appeared and, from 1928, took the name Nambei Shimpo (at which
point it appeared weekly); its selling point was its magazine style. By
December 1928, the Nippaku Shimbun had introduced a full page of
Portuguese-language news from Japan, Brazil, and elsewhere. This
is a point worth emphasising. One of the few works in English on
Japanese nationalism in Brazil insists that the pre-1941 Japanese-
language media in Brazil was almost exclusively devoted to news of
the migrant community itself and reports from Japan, and that the
first page of Portuguese-language news dates only from 1947.48 This
is simply mistaken.
These four newspapers were to be at the centre of expatriate
arguments and ideas in the 1930s, most of them moving up to daily
publication during that decade. In the 1920s, however, their exist-
ence illustrates two things: first, that publishing was becoming an
increasingly important business, not least in its role as carrier for
advertising; and, second, that there was a range of views welcomed
by the Japanese in Brazil. The independence of the press from any
form of officialdom was undoubtedly most obvious with the Nippaku
Shimbun where the owner, Miura Saku, continued to pour scorn on
Japanese authorities, including a succession of consul-generals. For
this, he was aggressively to be opposed by a group of Japanese who
were believed to be linked to the Burajiru Jiho. In April 1929, they
formed the Nihonjin Doshikai. This was an association whose sole
purpose over the following five months was selectively to translate
Miura’s writings into Portuguese and then deliver these to the Sao
Paulo police. The idea was to present Miura as an aggressive critic of
Brazil and potentially a disruptive influence on society; the hope was
Settling: 1920s 85

that the Brazilian government would then expel him from the coun-
try. In fact, Miura was only questioned by the Sao Paulo police at this
time and, reacting against this attack on the freedom of the press, he
renewed his criticism of his Japanese enemies with even greater pas-
sion thereafter. In March 1931, he was briefly to be exiled following
a request to the Brazilian law minister by Japan’s consul-general,
Nakajima Seiichiro, someone whom Miura had publicly pilloried in
his editorials. However, a petition in support of Miura was raised
among the expatriate Japanese (suggesting further that they were not
under the control of the consul-general) and, with President Vargas
himself repealing the expulsion order, Miura was allowed to re-enter
the country.49 In this sense, the press in an expatriate community
had the capacity to stand as an equal to the representatives of the
‘home’ state; it could act as a censorate of official behaviour without
necessarily fearing repression. In short, it had more potential to play
a role in fostering democracy. The evidence of Japanese newspapers
in Brazil is that they took this role seriously and sought a community
in which individuals and civic groups took responsibility for them-
selves rather than permitting the absent state or its local represen-
tatives a monopoly over discourse.
In the 1920s, Japanese expatriates began to develop a greater sense
of themselves as a community. An early example of this was the
discussion in 1923 towards compiling a history of the Japanese pres-
ence in Brazil. The use of history as a means of self-definition was to
recur in the period immediately before the Pacific war when a 2000
page two-volume history of the Japanese in Brazil was organised by
Japan’s foreign and development ministries (as they tried to impose
tighter control over expatriate Japanese). This was intended as part of
the celebrations of Japan’s 2600th anniversary and the first volume
was to appear in 1941 but the second volume was to be curtailed by
the onset of war. 50 The 1920s development of community, however,
was further evident in the spread of Japanese civic associations.
These have been identified by Maeyama as mechanisms of control by
the Japanese government. In his view, their activities were directed
by the consular authorities, and order within Japanese local commu-
nities was maintained by the threat of exclusion from the association;
this exclusion could take the form of a kind of communal ‘exile’ in
which the migrant’s name was listed or, to put it more bluntly,
blacklisted in the Japanese-language press. 51
86 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

Maeyama’s argument depends on two fragile assumptions. First, it

requires one to accept that Japanese were quite separate from Brazil-
ians; otherwise, the more one transcended the immediate Japanese
community, the weaker became the threat of ‘exile’. Yet, as we have
already seen, there were Japanese at the level of city, town, and
settlement living comfortably among non-Japanese. Second, it
assumes that Japanese associations were both subservient to the
consular authorities and effective in regulating their members. One
of the most obvious features of Japanese associations in Brazil dur-
ing the 1920s and 1930s, however, is their ongoing internal disputes
and rivalries. This led the Nippaku Shimbun to dismiss associations
on Japanese settlements in general as patently valueless, serving only
to give status to the lazy or ambitious, and to promote nineteenth-
century ideas of power-holding and patronage (Miura instead pro-
posed an urban consumer union as the most modern form of civic
association in which everyone would have a vested interest). Accord-
ing to the Nambei Shimpo newspaper in mid-1931, the parallel was
actually closer to the first stumbling years of the Meiji polity in
Japan, and it reported that settlements hard hit by the impact of the
great depression were still tearing themselves apart as factions com-
peted to have their members elected to positions in the local Japan
Rivalries and open conflict among or between Japanese civic asso-
ciations were not restricted to rural Brazil. A Japanese health and
welfare group, Dojinkai, was established at Sao Paulo city in the early
1920s, but the provincial Seishu Shimpo attacked this as a smoke-
screen to deflect legitimate migrant anger at the Japanese emigration
authorities; it also questioned whether provincial migrants would end
up paying for the Dojinkai’s planned metropolitan hospital when they
would be the ones least able to benefit from its services. In Sao Paulo
city, there was such a division between the wealthier Japanese of the
Japan Club and their poorer compatriots in the so-called Doshikai
that, in 1927, the consul-general felt compelled to intervene. As a
result, an ostensibly united Japan Society was created. When an
attempt was made by the consul-general in 1937, however, to create
a Brazilian Central Japan Society to unify and control what then
amounted to over 450 separate such groups across Brazil, the head of
the Sao Paulo Japan Society unilaterally issued a denunciation of the
project, and was in turn publicly abandoned by his members. The
Settling: 1920s 87

level of disunity or incompetence shown by Japanese associations

in the 1920s and 1930s was such that some observers now looked to
the Okinawans as a model. Following its earlier difficulties, the
Okinawan community in Brazil had established in mid-1926 its
own general association, the Kyuyokai. This was under the presidency
of Onaga Sukenari and with men such as Shiroma Zenkichi, later
historian of the Okinawans in Brazil, among its directors. Its stated
aims included the promotion of social contact between Japanese
and Brazilians as well as other foreign communities in Brazil, and
to encourage spoken ability among its members both in Japanese and
Portuguese. By the start of the 1930s, it was the largest of all Japanese
associations with over 30 branches and, as of mid-1934, a total
membership of 2325. In a marked turnaround in attitudes, it was
also highly respected by other Japanese for its efficiency.53 Having
said that, the poor relations earlier between Japanese and Okinawans
in Brazil made it arguably the association least likely to seek or take
direction from the consulate-general.
An understanding of the sometimes troubled link between the con-
sular authorities and the expatriate community becomes clearer if we
look at education. In the late 1930s, this was to be something of an
ideological battleground between the Japanese authorities, who wanted
to mobilise expatriate assistance for the war effort in China, and
some of the migrants who insisted on a more diverse and liberal
schooling for their children. It is a commonplace of writings on the
Japanese overseas in general that one of their first acts was to estab-
lish a school. There is no reason to argue with this. However, the first
attempt to set a policy for Japanese schools in Brazil came only in
March 1927. At the prompting of Consul-General Akamatsu, a meet-
ing of more than 60 persons involved with Japanese schools was
scheduled over two days at the Sao Paulo city consulate. These
people were drawn from across the state. The aim of the meeting was
to decide a united policy for all expatriate Japanese primary schools
and to consider the process of compiling textbooks more relevant to
children growing up in Brazil (schools to that point were reliant on
texts imported from Japan). In the event, severe disagreement
among delegates and oratorical grandstanding from some speakers
meant that the meeting had to be extended to a third day. The Nip-
paku Shimbun described the gathering overall as little more than a tea
party (if a very unsatisfactory and discontented one) and noted that
88 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

its original sponsor, the consul-general, failed to make an appearance

on the third day. The only tangible outcome of the discussions was
the creation of ten branches of the Brazilian Japanese Educational
Society.54 Thus, the system and content of education for Japanese
in Brazil remained unsettled and was to spark controversy among
migrants until the end of the 1930s.
One of the most forcefully expressed arguments on expatriate edu-
cation from the mid-1920s came in Professor Takaoka’s influential
book. Takaoka reminded Japanese migrants that, under a Brazilian
law of 1921, primary schools run in a language other than Portu-
guese were technically illegal and were allowed to exist only because
of Brazilian tolerance. He noted the case of German immigrants to
Brazil: in his view, they had arrived in the late nineteenth century
with a condescending attitude towards Brazilian culture and, as a
consequence, had built their own German-language schools. Takaoka
interpreted this as a kind of imperialistic arrogance and believed this
had led Brazilians both to fear and dislike the German community.
He called on Japanese migrants to avoid the same error. He described
a purely Japanese-language education in Brazil as appropriate solely
to those whose intention was short-term residence followed by a
return to Japan; to those intending to remain in Brazil in the long-
term, it was, he argued, simply illogical. In line with other writers at
the time, Takaoka encouraged migrants to become good citizens of
Brazil and to be satisfied with teaching their children only enough of
the Japanese script as was necessary to communicate with relatives
back in Japan. 55 A similar view of expatriate schooling was advocated
in mid-1925 by the Nippaku Shimbun. In its editorial of 31 July, it noted
that most migrants, whatever their plans upon arrival, ultimately
stayed on in Brazil. Consequently, to insist on a purely Japanese-
style education, as if Brazil did not exist, was counter-productive. As
the editor expressed it, ‘My honest opinion is that Japanese primary
schools in Brazil should give first priority to Brazilian education and
rank Japanese after this as just one foreign language’. In a point of
major consequence for the discussion of Japanese nationalism, the
editorial went on to argue that Japanese values could be taught
through the Portuguese language. In other words, language was not
symmetrical with culture and a native speaker of Portuguese was not,
by definition, a non-Japanese. In a related view, Arima Tetsunosuke,
the owner of a new Japanese-language monthly, Nogyo no Burajiru
Settling: 1920s 89

(Agricultural Brazil), stated his intention to minimise and ultimately

eliminate from his publication the complex Chinese characters
imported centuries earlier as the basis of the Japanese written form.
Instead, he proposed to rely on the simpler kana script but to set this
in the Western-style, that is, running from left to right and placed in
horizontal rather than vertical lines. His reasoning here was that the
script as it stood required too much time to learn and was an obstacle
to becoming what he described as a ‘global Japanese’. 56
From the Japanese-language newspapers in Brazil over the entire
period from the 1910s to the end of the 1930s, the indication is that
the ritual of sport, far more than that of emperor worship, was the
real socio-cultural glue bonding a largely young expatriate com-
munity. News of competitions among migrant Japanese and in Japan
itself filled the pages of the various newspapers. This was particularly
to be the case in the 1930s as the Olympics managed through radio
and film to reach an ever larger audience. One of the most insistent
ideas behind the modern Olympics, of course, was international
engagement. This link between sport and internationalism was already
being expressed by Japanese in Brazil in the 1920s. As the Nippaku
Shimbun stated in an editorial in 1927, sport in the modern world
went beyond leisure to form an integral part of a society and a
marker of its cultural development. The sporting progress of Japan
was evident in the success of its athletes already challenging for
world records in swimming and running; this success was to receive
global recogniton at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1932 and in Berlin
in 1936. By contrast, the editorial argued, Brazil seemed as yet to be
lagging behind in the sporting field. The one exception was soccer
which, in part as a means to keep young men out of trouble, had
been promoted from the turn of the century and had reached such
a fever pitch of popular enthusiasm by the 1920s that Tsuji Kotaro
in his book repeatedly encouraged Japanese migrants to establish a
soccer team. However, the view of the Nippaku was that Japanese
migrants could play an active role in promoting the culture of sport
and its values in Brazil, thereby gaining respect for their own mod-
ernity and sporting skills. The end result would be a harmonising
of the host and expatriate communities through physical activity.
One obstacle yet to be hurdled, however, was a lack of facilities and
organisation. The Mikado Club of Sao Paulo city in the mid-1920s
had neither a training ground nor much in the way of equipment
90 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

while the Japan Club was more a social than a sports group; it pos-
sessed a splendid tennis court as much for reasons of middle-class
prestige as strenuous activity and, when this was opened in mid-1926
in a country location 40 minutes by train from the city, the organis-
ers held an opening ceremony and arranged for crowds of Japanese
to be driven to attend. 57 The consequence of these limitations, how-
ever, was that Japanese sport in Brazil, and competition between
Japanese and Brazilians, tended to grow only late in the 1920s.
There were two areas of sport which dominated the Japanese com-
munity; baseball and athletics. The craze for baseball in Japan itself,
and the predominance of young male migrants, perhaps made it
inevitable that this became arguably the major form of expatriate
communal leisure, to the extent that some Brazilians referred to it as
‘the Japanese game’. The development of a baseball network among
Japanese in Brazil began in the years 1923–25 when the Mikado Club
formed a team and was joined in a rudimentary form of competition
by two other teams created among Japanese. Also in 1923, a team of
Japanese from Rio invited its Sao Paulo compatriots to a three-way
tournament with a local American club; this proved to be a rare
example of Japanese playing non-Japanese in so far as baseball was
never able to compete with soccer among Brazilians. A new level of
organisation was reached in 1925 with the creation of a Brazilian–
Japanese Baseball Association. This was made possible by financial
support from Japanese hoteliers and traders in Sao Paulo such as the
Hiroshimaya Inn, Nakaya Traders, and Sugimoto Honosuke of the
Casa Tokyo furniture store. The indications are that this remained
a small association despite its grand name; in November 1925, it
reneged on a payment owed to the Mikado Club for six new balls on
the grounds that funds had already been exhausted. From October
1926, however, a three-team league of Mikado, Registro and Alianca
fought for the title of Brazilian–Japanese champion, with Mikado
defeating Alianca in the final. The resulting popularity of this league
system was in part fuelled by rivalries between ‘town’ and ‘country’
and teams were soon established across the Japanese migrant
community, notably at Lins in the Noroeste and Bastos in the
Sorocabana regions. A local Noroeste competition was initiated from
1932–33 involving such teams as Alianca, Tiete and Lins. These years
were described at the time as the golden age of provincial baseball.
With this urban and regional growth, an All-Brazil Competition was
Settling: 1920s 91

started from 1936 in which, up to 1941 and the subsequent interrup-

tion of war, Tiete and Sao Paulo city were the great rivals (Tiete win-
ning in 1936 and 1939, Sao Paulo in 1937, 1940 and 1941).58
Baseball quickly became the most popular sport among expatriate
Japanese in Brazil but the lack of Brazilian teams made it a poor forum
for mutual understanding; at best, Brazilians in the provinces may
have gone along to watch a game between Japanese clubs. Other
sports enjoyed varying levels of interest both among Japanese and
Brazilians. Tennis, for example, was popular as a marker of middle-
class leisure and the first formal match was in 1930 between two
Japanese clubs from Rio and Sao Paulo city. Perhaps inspired by the
success of a Japanese player in reaching the Wimbledon semi-finals
both in 1932 and 1933, tennis was to enjoy a boom among the
regional expatriate community across the Noroeste region; in 1938,
Japanese settlers at Bastos were to issue a challenge to a regional Bra-
zilian team at the town of Marilia and it may be that only distance in
the vast interior prevented more matches of this sort. In swimming,
the achievements of Japanese competitors at the Los Angeles Olym-
pics inspired the Brazilian navy team in 1934 to invite a coach from
Japan; this was Saito Kiyo and, based at Rio de Janeiro, he was soon
to assist Brazilian swimmers in setting new national and South
American records. 59
The most frequent contact between Japanese and Brazilians, how-
ever, came through athletics. In an early example, six members of
the Mikado Club had participated in the 1921 Sao Paulo marathon,
the best coming a very creditable twelfth. As with baseball, the con-
solidation of an athletics organisation was to be achieved in the
1930s with All-Brazil tournaments for Japanese migrants being held
throughout the decade. The Burajiru Jiho in 1931 took up the idea
that sporting success brought respect for Japanese from Brazilians.
This respect extended both across generations and other ethnic
groups: for example, the third so-called ‘Children’s Olympics’ was
organised in 1934 by the long-established Germania Sports Club and
it made a point of inviting Japanese athletes between the ages of 12
and 16. The achievements of these children, 11 collecting medals
and one setting a record in the javelin event, was proudly recorded
in the Japanese-language press.60 Competition between Japanese and
Brazilian athletics clubs also increased in the 1930s. The first ath-
letics meeting of Brazilians and Japanese was held in Sao Paulo city
92 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

in November 1933, with Japanese triumphant in five of the 13 events.

In 1937, a challenge was issued to the Japanese migrant athletics
federation by the equivalent student body at the University of Sao
Paulo. Similar meetings were held between Brazilian clubs and those
of Japanese migrants in the Noroeste. Observing such a meeting at
Aracatuba in the deepest part of the Noroeste in 1936, the Nambei
Shimpo newspaper claimed, ‘How peaceful are the eyes of those who
compete and those who watch them competing. Here there is no
inequality of the races nor difference of class. Instead, there is the
reality of universalism’. Attacking those who wanted stronger Japan-
ese migrant associations as representative of an ‘island mentality’,
the editorial made it clear that real success for the Japanese expatriate
community was indivisible from that of the Brazilian people. 61

Images of home

In concluding this chapter on the 1920s, it may be useful to ask what

were some of the images of Japan and Brazil appearing among the
expatriate community before the shock to both countries of the Great
Depression and, with it, the rise in Brazil of more restrictive labour
and immigration policies. The first thing to say here is that the dom-
inant image of Japan was unchanging from the late 1920s well into
the 1930s. Above everything, it was of crippling unemployment and
hardship. On 28 October 1927, the Nippaku Shimbun catalogued the
troubles back in Japan: an annual population increase reaching one
million even as the figure for the jobless hit the same mark, thus
undermining wages at the very moment that textiles, Japan’s prin-
cipal export industry, were being severely damaged by competition
from cheaper Chinese and Indian wares. In the months before the
Wall Street collapse, the impression grew only bleaker. The Burajiru
Jiho on 11 July 1929 quoted a home ministry official in Japan con-
fessing openly that government attempts to help find work for the
unemployed and to promote construction projects were simply inad-
equate; the report asked the question, if things continued like this,
where would Japan be heading? There were explicit fears of social
disarray with some migrant papers suggesting a link between unem-
ployment and a rise in the murder rate. Petty crime was also spreading.
In the same issue of the Burajiru Jiho from July 1929, it was reported
that a Japanese insurance company had become the first to insure
Settling: 1920s 93

bicycles (at a cost of two yen each); the reason for this was that, of
the 400 000 bicycles in Tokyo, about 20 000 were the target of
thieves and the impact was perhaps comparable in seriousness to the
theft of cars in a later age. By 1935, the Nippaku Shimbun was to ask
whether this was not truly the age of crime in Japan.62 Thus, in the
peak years of emigration to Brazil, any desire on the part of migrants
to return to Japan was being eroded by the adverse social and eco-
nomic situation they were leaving behind. Of course, this also made
their new home in Brazil seem relatively more attractive.
It is generally believed that Japanese migrants arrived in Brazil
with the intention of making money and then leaving. As a Nippaku
Shimbun editorial explained late in 1924, the common hope was to
become rich in Brazil and live in idleness back in Japan. The editorial
condemned this as making oneself no more than a slave to money.
Rather, it insisted, Japanese must ‘see the world as a home and not as
something to be feared so that we can enjoy a better life no matter
where we are and raise the prestige of our people; if we do not do
this, we cannot be a country which dispatches emigrants’. The per-
sistence of this ‘dekasegi’ mentality, however, was noted by Tsuji
Kotaro during his visit late in the 1920s. Yet Tsuji and other writers
such as Takaoka Kumao joined with the migrant press in promoting
a more sophisticated world view; as Tsuji phrased it, ‘the Japan of the
far east, the Japan of Asia, must become the Japan of the world’. To
this end, he worked to persuade migrants on his ship from Japan to
think of Brazil as their second home (dai-ni no kokyo), not merely
a workplace. Using those on board with experience of Brazil and
then heading back to Santos, Tsuji roused the company to practise
the Brazilian national anthem (which they performed for their hosts
upon arrival) and, while at sea, they also celebrated Brazilian Inde-
pendence Day on 7 September. 63
Once in Brazil, Japanese immigrants were exposed to the vastness of
the land, the beauty and wealth of the major cities, and the tolerance
of the people. They were freed from the direct control of the Japanese
government and also the bonds of family and neighbours; Maeyama
Takashi has described the shock for Japanese of emigration without
recognising the possibilities for liberation. The fact that they were
not Brazilian citizens also removed from them any political respon-
sibility. This is not to say that Japanese migrants were indifferent to
Brazilian politics. In contrast to the claim of Handa Tomoo that the
94 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

expatriate press was dominated by news from Japan, in fact, there

were detailed reports of political trends with biographies of major
Brazilian politicians and analysis especially of any incoming federal
government. In late 1926, for example, the Nippaku Shimbun described
the incoming president, Dr Washington Luis, as someone both
known to Japanese migrants and, rather exceptional in Brazilian pol-
itics, knowledgeable about and sympathetic towards them from his
time as Sao Paulo state premier. This suggested that the Japanese
community could enjoy stability under his regime but, as the article
warned, ‘at the moment our migrants are free to enter the country in
droves (doshi doshi) but to assume this will continue for ever more is
a grave mistake: it is in times of quiet rather that caution is needed’. 64
The majority of Brazilians themselves lacked the right to vote or
even to influence the so-called ‘coffee and milk alliance’, that is, the
economic and political oligarchy of the coffee-growers of Sao Paulo
state and the cattlemen of Minas Gerais. In Brazil’s first constitution
of 1891, the franchise had been restricted to literate adult Brazilian
males and, by 1936, there were to be 485 000 voters in Sao Paulo but
that was just seven per cent of the state population at the time. On
three occasions between 1922 and 1926, there were to be violent
challenges to this oligarchy by army rebels. Amid the 1922 disorder,
it was said that some Japanese were among the mobs that looted
shops and destroyed vehicles. However, the view of the wider Japanese
community in this period may have been typified by the comment
of the Nambei Shimpo during the revolt of 1930, ‘as foreigners, we do
not wish to enter into the political disputes of this country and,
moreover, the reality is that we cannot do so’. 65 Having said that, the
adult male population in Japan, newly enfranchised as of 1925, also
had relatively little say in the decisions of Tokyo. Instead, cabinets
during the 1920s were routinely described as the mouthpiece of one
or other of the two great economic combines, Mitsui and Mitsubishi.
Moreover, the violent involvement of the Brazilian army in politics
was to have parallels in Japan during the 1930s.
Japanese observers of Brazilian society in the 1920s generally liked
what they saw. Tsuji, for example, echoed the praise of American
and British travellers for Sao Paulo city. He was impressed by its inde-
pendence memorial, its museum and parks, and felt in its streets the
presence both of history and prosperity (his only major criticism was
reserved for the discomfort of second-class seats, or more accurately
Settling: 1920s 95

benches, on state trains). The migrant press also commented favour-

ably and at length on major ceremonial events in Brazil: the Burajiru
Jiho in September 1929 gave a detailed account of the 107th national
independence day celebration, involving the state governor and a
military review of troops and patriotic militia, and considered this
an illustration of the enormous leaps being made each year by the
country. There was further respect for Brazilian achievements in
urban organisation and in dealing with a rapidly expanding popula-
tion in the major cities. There was interest in Brazilian customs such as
ways of doing business or the Sunday promenade. There was also an
ongoing concern among the expatriates to understand Brazilian man-
ners. Thus, the Nippaku Shimbun in 1937 was to run a series of articles
explaining norms of politeness in such matters as the handshake.66
One aspect of Brazilian society which attracted migrant attention
in the 1920s was education. It may be an unquestioned truism of dis-
course in Japan that, wherever migrants went, they immediately
established schools, and that Brazilians were more interested in reli-
gion or amusement. This distinction in attitudes towards schooling
was to emerge in a rather brutally cynical saying in Brazil in the
1950s–60s: at a time when ethnic Japanese students occupied about
ten per cent of university places in Sao Paulo city, some Brazilians
were alleged to say, ‘If you want to go to a good university, don’t
knock yourself out studying, just kill one Japanese’.67 The progres-
siveness of Brazilian urban education in the 1920s, however, has
been ignored in the Japanese-language histories. This was not entirely
the case with the migrant press. Instead, the Burajiru Jiho in 1929
gave front-page prominence to the work of a new school, the Escola
de Debeis, founded by the Sao Paulo state government in co-operation
with the local Rotary Club. The feature of this school was that it
stressed physical development, using half of the eight-hour school-day
for physical activities, conducting lessons outside whenever possible,
while also carefully monitoring the diet of pupils and increasing
their daily meals from two to three. This image of scientific, modern
approaches to urban education in 1920s Brazil was reinforced by the
travel writer Frank Carpenter when he noted that plans for new
schools in Sao Paulo city had to be approved by physicians who
tested their appropriateness for light and the shape and spacing of
desks and chairs.68 In this sense once again, the worlds of Brazil and
Japan were not so far apart as some may have believed.
Expanding: the Japanese
Community, 1930–36

Both for Japan and Brazil, the history of the 1930s can be split into
the period before and after 1937. In that year, Japan commenced an
undeclared but all-out war in China while Brazil, for its part, witnessed
a coup in office by President Vargas and the start of a more assert-
ively nationalistic regime which was to continue into the mid-1940s.
These two events inevitably led to increased pressure on the loyalties
and self-definition of the expatriate Japanese community in Brazil.
Consequently, the years between 1937 and 1940 deserve fuller atten-
tion in a separate chapter. Even before 1937, however, Japan and
Brazil were embarking on similar paths. In both societies, there was a
new level of violence and unrest in the political system, and the
economic impact of the Great Depression exacerbated public desires
for strong action to restore a feeling of stability and security. In the
case of Japan, this led to armed expansion on the Asian continent; in
Brazil, it resulted in a marked tightening of immigration policy. Each
of these changes had wide-ranging implications for the Japanese in
Brazil. Despite the unsettled political and economic environment of
the years 1930–36, however, the expatriate community was numerically
to reach new heights, in Brazil’s economy to achieve a new and
broader prominence, and culturally to become more organised and

Responses to the Great Depression

Within Brazil, the trends of rising political violence and centralisa-

tion of government in the 1930s may be seen as a product of the

98 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

Great Depression. This struck directly at the country’s primary export,

coffee; prices in 1929–31 are said to have fallen by nearly 300 per cent.
Even as overseas sales contracted and those to the US virtually dis-
appeared, Brazil faced competition from other producers, notably
Colombia and Africa, as they muscled their way into what remained
of the global coffee trade. Vast stockpiles of Brazilian coffee were
destroyed in an attempt to maintain prices and, in 1932, the Sao
Paulo state government, as in previous years of low returns, banned
the planting of new coffee trees. According to a leading historian of
modern Brazil, E. Bradford Burns, these events signalled the end of
the so-called coffee civilisation, that is, a society whose progress,
prosperity, and political arrangements were largely directed by the
coffee crop. 1 Although coffee plantations remained important, espe-
cially in the economy of Sao Paulo, the imperative from this time
was for agrarian producers to diversify. In this, they were to be
supported by the new federal government which seized power in
1930 and which was to promote new policies of economic and
cultural nationalism over the ensuing decade.
The decline in coffee’s status helped to bring about rapid change in
Brazil’s political system. The ‘coffee and milk’ oligarchy of Sao Paulo
and Minas Gerais was based on its domination of Brazil’s national
wealth. In the 1920s, there had been armed but unsuccessful challenges
to this oligarchy. In 1930, however, the states thus far excluded from
power came together in alliance and, late in 1930, managed through
force of arms to install as president, Getulio Vargas, the former governor
of Brazil’s southernmost state, Rio Grande do Sul. During the revolt,
Japanese migrants could only wait to observe the outcome; hostilities
blocked the communications network and left some of the interior
settlements such as Alianca effectively cut off from the outside world
so the hope no doubt was simply for an early resolution. There were
probably few Japanese who knew much of Vargas by direct experi-
ence but his victory was widely acclaimed in Brazil. This was true
even in Sao Paulo city despite the fact that Sao Paulo and Minas
Gerais appeared to be the major losers in the revolt. The reason for
his popularity was that he promised a fresh start and perhaps a new
response to the economic hardships caused by the depression. Vargas
was to be the most powerful president in modern Brazil and to hold
that office, in the first instance, until 1945. Little or nothing is said
of him as a person in Japanese-language histories from the 1970s–90s
Expanding: 1930–36 99

except that he became either a dictator or semi-dictator (how one

can be a semi-dictator is not explained) and that he oversaw policies
of repression which compelled Japanese migrants rapidly to assimi-
late into Brazilian society. We will return to this latter issue in the
following chapter. For the moment, however, it might be useful to
know something about the president of a country receiving a flood
of Japanese immigrants in the early years of his rule. The principal
historian of the Vargas regime, Robert Levine, offers a lively descrip-
tion of what, on the surface, was a curiously undynamic leader:2

A pedestrian figure unmarked by personal eloquence, Vargas

worked late over administrative matters and avoided public expos-
ure. His five-foot-four-inch rotund figure clothed in baggy white
linen suits and his fondness for small jokes and black cigars invited
newsmen to parody his personal appearance . . . Taking up golf in
the mid-1930s, he laughed at his helplessness – but he used the
fairways for private negotiations. He frequently sounded out his
aides on political issues during midnight poker sessions. He
attended only one opera in his life, a Wagnerian performance at
the Municipal Theatre which he left after the first curtain . . . As
president, he proved himself neither liberal nor inflexibly con-
servative. He supervised innovation, but he did not become
known as an innovator; rather, he exploited existing trends, and
rarely created new ones.

While the federal government under Vargas was indeed to tighten

restrictions on immigration, and thus to exert a major influence on
the Japanese community, the personality of the president was perhaps
not so difficult for Japanese to comprehend: in his lack of public
charisma, his lack of pretension, his preference for discussions in
secluded arenas ( Japanese politicians usually preferred the closed-off
rooms of a restaurant), and his practice of riding change rather than
generating it, he was of a political type very common in Japan. To
that extent, then, the Japanese in Brazil perhaps felt relatively opti-
mistic about the chance of working with the Vargas regime and avoid-
ing any extremism such as a blanket ban on all immigration or
attacks on migrant freedoms to own land and engage in business.
One of the further consequences of the Great Depression and of
the increasing violence of Brazilian politics, however, was the rise of
100 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

militant xenophobia. Its most obvious manifestation was the Inte-

gralist party, founded in Sao Paulo city in 1932 by the noted modern-
ist author, Plinio Salgado. In the background to this fascist-inspired
group was the increasing disenchantment of Brazil’s middle class in
general with immigration and Europeanisation. The Integralist motto
was ‘God, country, family’, and it listed as Brazil’s principal enemies
democrats, communists, masons and Jews.3 In 1920, the proportion
of the Brazilian population born overseas was less than five per cent
and the figure declined thereafter so, in the 1930s, the issue for the
xenophobes was less about immigrant numbers and more about the
intangible, and therefore infinitely more frightening, realm of culture
and values; as with all fascist societies and parties, the goal was
cultural strength through unity. While the Integralists neither targeted
immigrant Japanese specifically, nor enjoyed real political power,
their activities and the influence in Brazil of European extremist
ideologies may have made it easier for the minority of anti-Japanese
advocates to influence decision-making in the 1930s. As in the 1920s,
however, there was to be as much tolerance as intolerance. The
dominant idea on race in 1930s Brazil was to be defined by the
young intellectual from Pernambuco in Brazil’s northeast, Gilberto
Freyre, in his 1933 study The Masters and the Slaves. In this, Brazilians
as a whole were encouraged to recognise the African contribution to
their culture, to take pride in having a true multi-racial society far
ahead in terms of ethnic tolerance compared with the United States
or Europe, and to see themselves as inhabiting a ‘new world in the
tropics’. This was the view officially supported by the Vargas gov-
For Japan, the economic and social damage caused by the Great
Depression gave only added urgency to the national policy of emi-
gration. Brazil remained a favoured destination because of the exist-
ing Japanese presence, the ongoing tolerance of the people at large,
and the continued availability of land and work. Indeed, there was a
view in the migrant press that Brazil, relative to the US or industrial
Europe, had been protected from the worst of the depression because
its economy was as yet largely agrarian. Thus, notwithstanding the
fall in coffee prices, the country at the start of 1934 could still be
described by the Burajiru Jiho as a ‘paradise for workers’. By this time,
the Japanese government had already taken further action and, from
1932, increased its subsidies to emigrants, providing an extra 50 yen
Expanding: 1930–36 101

as preparation monies for all those over 12 years of age.5 With this
further incentive, and the comparison being made in print and on
film between Brazil as a land of opportunity and Japan as an over-
crowded society hit hard by recession, the numbers sailing in the
early 1930s from Kobe to Santos and other Brazilian ports reached
unprecedented levels (see Table 4.1).
One thing to note in passing is that the bare statistics for those
departing Japan do not tell the entire story of emigration to Brazil at
this time. A report in the migrant press explained that some 38 000
applicants had been medically examined by the authorities at Kobe
in 1932–33 and, of these, about ten per cent had been rejected, many
of them suffering from trachoma. While the question of health was
obviously vital in maintaining free access for Japanese migrants to
Brazil, there was an unintended consequence for Kobe itself of this
medical stringency. Of those passed unfit, an estimated 2500 remained
in the city at the end of 1933: many had either already sold all their
possessions in the expectation of emigrating or hoped to overcome
their ailment and apply again. It would seem reasonable to suggest,
however, that an accumulating population of impoverished and
sickly would-be migrants in Kobe left a bleak final impression of
Japan on those who did sail for Brazil and may have coloured any
desire they might have to return.6
Despite the more active role of the Japanese government in
promoting emigration, and the larger financial incentives it offered,

Table 4.1 Japanese migrants to Brazil 1930–41

1930 14 076
1931 5 632
1932 11 678
1933 24 494
1934 21 930
1935 9 611
1936 3 306
1937 4 457
1938 2 524
1939 1 414
1940 1 268
1941 1 458

Source: Shiroma Zenkichi, Zai-Haku Okinawa Kenjin

50-nen no Ayumi, Sao Paulo 1959, p. 160.
102 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

there remained a well-pool of migrant discontent towards the author-

ities. Officials were accused of failing to provide adequate informa-
tion on the situation in Brazil, and also of being lax in policing those
in Japan responsible for recruiting migrants. One criticism was of
local emigration agents who sought quick and easy profits, and tried
to exploit the fears of potential migrants by warning them that they
might miss out on the next sailing if they did not sign up immedi-
ately. The lack of humanity of such agents was described by one
complainant who wrote, ‘they think of dispatching migrants in just
the same way as one would dispatch live goods’. In the same vein,
there was a view that the sole reason for sending one overseer per
migrant vessel was solely to ensure that the ‘livestock’ survived the
journey and, upon arrival, was ready for work.7 This resentment
towards officials or entrepreneurs was a recurring feature of the
Japanese emigration business, whether it involved Brazil or other
destinations. One outcome of this uneasy relationship was that some
Japanese migrants came to think of themselves as ‘discarded people’
(kimin). This term has been interpreted to mean that they were
mainly the unwanted members of Japanese society, especially the
younger sons of farm families for whom there was nothing in the way
of land or capital to inherit. However, as much as anything else, the
term indicates the sense of migrants that they had to survive through
their own efforts, and that the Japanese government could not be
relied upon to assist them beyond the payment of travel and start-up
costs in Brazil.
Two things at least worked in favour of the Japanese once they
arrived in Brazil. First, according to one contemporary observer, they
were so remote from Japan that they felt compelled to be patient and
work through hardships until finally they achieved success. Second,
they became reasonably well-informed on the markets and condi-
tions of Brazil (in this, the migrant press was undoubtedly a major
resource) and they proved themselves adaptable. In the 1920s, Japanese
settlers had moved into the coffee economy, attracted by the good
returns still on offer and utilising the skills some of them had gained
as contract labour on coffee plantations. At this time, there were
concerns that Japanese growers in general concentrated on volume
over quality, and had been over-hasty in trying to extend their lands
without adequate capital. In correcting this, the rise of agricultural
co-operatives in the 1930s helped to stabilise the financial base of
Expanding: 1930–36 103

expatriate farmers. Moreover, Japanese were quick to see the value of

diversifying their crops. By the mid-1930s, many had begun shifting
to cotton production and gained a lead in what was being called ‘the
white gold rush’. In 1935, half of all the cotton produced in the state
of Sao Paulo came from Japanese cultivators, a figure to be repeated
in 1939.8
Cotton was to become one of Brazil’s major exports in the 1930s. It
also rose to prominence in trade between Brazil and Japan. Figures
for 1934 show Latin America as a whole occupied a relatively minor
place in Japan’s overall economy: it took just under five per cent of
Japanese exports but provided only one per cent of Japan’s imports.
The bilateral trade, however, was already rising rapidly compared with
levels before the Great Depression. Part of the reason for this was the
first shipment of Sao Paulo cotton to Japan in mid-1934. From about
this time, Japan purchased raw cotton, wool, petrol, minerals and
meat, plus sizable volumes of coffee, and largely sold varieties of
textiles in return. In 1936, however, there was to be a massive increase
in its purchase of Brazilian cotton. As a result, Japan actually super-
seded Germany and Britain in the first half of 1937 to become Brazil’s
primary market for cotton exports. In this regard, it would seem
entirely reasonable to assume that expatriate Japanese growers dem-
onstrated their value to observant Brazilians.9
The human exchange between Japan and Brazil in the 1930s was
influenced both by politics within Brazil and by geo-politics across
East Asia. In the latter case, it was violence by the Japanese army
stationed in the Manchurian province of northeast China which
proved decisive. Since the Russo-Japanese war, Japan had enjoyed
the lease of territory in southern Manchuria plus local rail and
commercial rights which it protected with its own forces. What it
singularly proved unable to do, however, was to attract large numbers
of Japanese to settle in the region. The resurrection in China in the
late 1920s of a relatively stable central government after years of civil
war seemed to threaten Japan’s position on the continent. Conse-
quently, members of the Japanese army in Manchuria chose to
fabricate a pretext for armed action which allowed them to seize con-
trol over the whole of Manchuria. A client state named Manchukuo
was established and the last emperor of the earlier Qing dynasty of
China was installed by the Japanese army as nominal ruler. This
military aggression was condemned by the League of Nations, an
104 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

early form of the UN, and, in response, Japan quit the organisation
in 1933 (Brazil had already withdrawn in 1926 on the grounds that
the League was dominated by European governments).
The Manchurian incident and its aftermath had two immediate
consequences for the Japanese in Brazil. First, it increased the existing
fears of a coming war: within the expatriate community, the prospect
of a war between Japan and one of the great Western powers was
constantly being revisited in the early to mid-1930s. The assumption
was that Japan would be confronted by one of the US, Russia or Britain
(the idea of war with China was relatively less alarming). Thus, there
were books imported to Brazil by Japanese traders with titles about
the glories of the Japanese armed forces but also the likelihood of
war with the US or of an invasion of Japan by the Soviet Union. In
general, the greatest fear in the migrant press was of the US; as the
Nambei Shimpo had already suggested on New Year’s day 1930, the
US was ‘a deeply avaricious country’ and might well go to war with
Japan over affairs in China. The attitude of Japanese newspapers in
Brazil in these years, however, was to avoid conflict with any of the
major powers. At the same time, there was a move to help strengthen
Japan’s defences; a campaign to send donations for Japanese aircraft
manufacture, for example, produced over 10 contos by its deadline
in July 1933.10
Second, in the wake of the Manchurian incident, the authorities in
Japan, and especially the Japanese army, began energetically pro-
moting agricultural settlement to the regions of Manchuria now
more firmly under their control. The goal here was to boost Japan’s
physical presence in the area and to use agrarian settlers as a kind of
supplementary defence force. As a result, Manchuria in the early
1930s became, at least in the eyes of officialdom, the ‘new paradise’
of Japanese migration. A less sanguine view was expressed by at least
one migrant to Brazil who noted that Japanese farmers or farm workers
could never hope to compete with the low wages accepted by
Chinese in Manchuria. This did not deter one of the leading publi-
cists of emigration in Japan, Nagata Cho, who argued in 1933 that
the twin national goals for Japan were the creation of a new state in
Manchuria and, in South America, a new model for world civilisation
under Japanese leadership. Perhaps unknowingly echoing the theme
of the Peruvian journalist’s 1925 article, Nagata insisted that the ‘mild
character’ and lack of a strong national identity among Brazilians
Expanding: 1930–36 105

would allow Japanese peacefully to assume control over the coun-

try’s cultural direction. 11 If heard by Brazilians, however, such state-
ments could only harm the interests of the expatriate Japanese and
were less likely to be repeated by the migrant press.
The Manchurian incident alone served to remind some foreigners
of the link between Japan and imperialism. According to a major
reference work on the Japanese in Brazil, this was evident in the
Portuguese-language press, at least in the case of the Jornal do Comer-
cio; previously a supporter of Japanese immigration, it apparently
shifted overnight to support the anti-Japanese lobby.12 In 1932, any
wider Brazilian fear of Japanese aggression may have been strengthened
by the first overt involvement by Japanese migrants in Brazilian local
unrest. This came in the armed uprising by Sao Paulo state forces
against the Vargas regime. One of the leading centres for the organ-
isation of the Sao Paulo army was the Law School and among its
students were a number of second-generation Japanese migrants who
aided the revolt. According to one report at the time, 80 Japanese
youths banded together and joined the Sao Paulo army. Japanese
residents also formed Red Cross units and collected donations for the
rebel cause. Although federal troops regained control of the state by
the end of the year, there seem to have been few if any reprisals. There
was, however, what appears to have been the first Japanese death in
Brazil as a result of political violence: in what may have been an
accident, a Dr Yamada Ryuji was shot amid a clash between police
and a mob in Sao Paulo city in October 1932. As for the rural expatri-
ate community, the general impact was that settlements were cut off
by the disruption to communications (although this apparently
brought excellent business to hoteliers, for example in Bauru, when
trains were halted) and some Japanese trucks were requisitioned by
state forces. However, for those who wished to find evidence of
a new militancy either in Japan or among Japanese migrants, the
period 1931–32 was potentially very useful.13
1933 was a year of reflection for the Japanese community in Brazil,
marking as it did the twenty-fifth anniversary of the first arrivals on
the Kasato. In an editorial of 18 June 1933, the Burajiru Jiho offered
its thoughts on the intervening years and concluded that the Japanese
community overall had been a considerable success. It ascribed this
success not to luck or circumstances but to hard work and a spirit of
endurance. In the major celebration of expatriates held that same
106 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

day, however, it was clear that the Japanese also recognised the
advantage specifically of living in Brazil. A gathering was held in Sao
Paulo city of 300 Japanese and Brazilians, including representatives
of the state government, military and police, the deputy head of the
Brazil Republican Party, and all metropolitan newspapers. Matters
began with the singing of both Japanese and Brazilian national
anthems followed by speeches from the assembled dignitaries: Kuroishi
Seisaku of the Burajiru Jiho represented the expatriate community as
a whole, and Shimomoto Kenro (also known as Cassio Kenro Shimo-
moto), a student at the Law School, spoke in Portuguese on behalf of
the second generation. The gathering took place on the site of the
planned Japan Hospital and the laying of the building’s foundation
stone (accompanied by a Catholic blessing) was also performed that
day.14 In that sense, the celebration demonstrated not only the mutual
respect enjoyed in 1933 by influential Brazilians and Japanese
migrants, it also showed the readiness and ability of Japanese quite
literally to cement a place for themselves in Brazil.
Beyond this major gathering, Japanese celebrations of their quarter
century in Brazil generally revolved around music and sports. A night
devoted to Japanese performance was arranged at a Sao Paulo city
theatre by migrants in the Music Appreciation Society (Ongaku
Dokokai). At the Bastos settlement, coincidentally celebrating its
own fifth year, the festivities included an evening of varied music.
This commenced with an orchestral version of a Japanese piece
commemorating troops killed in the aftermath of the Manchurian
incident, Nikudan Sanyushi. This was followed by other works for the
traditional Japanese instruments of koto, samisen, and shakuhachi.
It also included, however, music for violin and an orchestral per-
formance of something with a local theme, ‘The Great Fields of Brazil’
(Burajiru Õno). At Lins, the migrant youth group put on an even
more diverse programme including musicals, comedies such as ‘Coffee
Humour’ (Kafee Yumoa), as well as what may be tragedies such as
‘The Policeman’s Tears’ (Keikan no Namida) and ‘The Gallant Cyrano’
(Kyoyu Shirano). Worth noting also is the first judo tournament in
Brazil held as part of the anniversary celebrations by the Judo and
Kendo League. Among the total of 28 competitors, there were two
Brazilians and, in reporting the first round of contests, the Japanese-
migrant press noted with real pleasure what it called the ‘marvellous
victory’ achieved by one of these.15
Expanding: 1930–36 107

Race fears and constitutional restrictions

Amid the political and economic uncertainty of Brazil in the depres-

sion years, the surface appearance of expatriate Japanese success,
acceptance, and prosperity could be misleading. In 1933–34, there
was renewed and increasingly strident debate among Brazilian parlia-
mentarians about the value of immigration and the benefit or danger
to Brazilian society of certain ethnic groups. The rapid rise in the
number of Japanese immigrants since the late 1920s was further
highlighted by the relative decline over the same years in arrivals
from Italy and Spain. This was particularly the case in the period
1931–34 when Japanese made up half the total of all migrants enter-
ing Brazil. Whatever dissatisfaction may have been felt by the Brazil-
ian middle class about immigration in general, there was still a need
to import labour for Brazil’s economic growth and any shift in the
balance of races contributed to fears that the demographic process
known as ‘whitening’ was in danger of being reversed. This was
despite the fact that the longer-term figure for European immigra-
tion as a whole continued to outstrip by far that for Japanese or
In the immigration debate, the leading voice in the anti-Japanese
lobby was Dr Miguel Couto. Despite his advanced years (he was to
die not long after), he and his supporters among men of similar pos-
ition and attitude campaigned energetically to bring about new legal
restrictions on the influx of Japanese migrants. Couto used his status
as a doctor of medicine to assert as scientifically proven his arguments
against the presence of Japanese and other non-European migrants.
In these, he showed that his beliefs had already been fixed a decade
earlier; he either ignored or refused to accept as genuine any of the

Table 4.2 Major sources of immigration to Brazil 1906–35

1906–15 1916–25 1926–35

Japanese 15 608 25 661 132 729

Italian 187 625 88 689 51 121
Portuguese 390 226 202 974 206 934
Spanish 214 137 87 740 37 740

Source: Burajiru Jiho, 18 November 1936.

108 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

moves by the Japanese community in the interim to find a place for

itself within Brazilian culture. Instead, he and his followers focused
on the rural majority of Japanese settlers, denouncing them as clan-
nish, devoted to the emperor in Tokyo, and reluctant to adopt Brazil-
ian ways. As president, Vargas appears to have let the debate run its
lengthy course and accepted the agreed tightening of immigration
policy. The result was a new constitution in July 1934 in which
immigration was to be fixed under a quota system. According to this,
the annual migrant intake per ethnic group was not to exceed two
per cent of the total over the previous 50 years of those who had
arrived and remained in Brazil. Using this calculation, the number of
Japanese permitted annually after 1934 was just 2711 new migrants.
This amounted approximately to an 80 per cent reduction on the
level for the years 1924–34. However, once the constitution was in
place and tempers had cooled, the figures were reassessed and, in
mid-1935, the formal quota for Japanese immigrants was revised to
2849, then further increased in 1936.16
The 1934 constitution and the arguments of those such as Couto
seem, in the view of some Japanese historians, to show that migrants
were the victims of Brazilian racism and repression. In contrast, con-
temporary Japanese observers of the 1933–34 debate generally took
a more balanced and understanding position. One author, Inoue
Miyaji, published a thoughtful article in Gaiko Jiho, a leading foreign
relations journal in Japan. This appeared in January 1935 following
his discussions the previous year with various Brazilian politicians,
businessmen and other members of the elite. He began by noting
judiciously that no country in the world had unrestricted immigra-
tion and, therefore, Brazil’s concern about the make-up of its society
was perfectly understandable. He also noted that many European
migrants to Brazil headed straight for the cities where they threat-
ened to exacerbate the ongoing problem of urban unemployment.
In his analysis of how the constitution had come to be passed, Inoue
pointed to the fact that roughly one-quarter of all federal par-
liamentarians were from the medical profession and they, lacking
contact with the lives of ordinary Brazilians, had simply been swayed
by the passion and energy of Couto. Inoue was also led to believe
that some politicians had in part been moved by sympathy for a
respected man whom they knew to be approaching the end of his life.
As a result, they had failed to consider the issue in any depth. One
Expanding: 1930–36 109

point which Inoue stressed at length, however, was the continuing

welcome and respect for Japanese immigrants being shown by many
Brazilian politicians and businessmen. For example, a land company
in the state of Parana was even then pinning its hopes for success on
Japanese arrivals. Among those who spoke to Inoue, some insisted
with reason that the constitutional change only restricted and did
not end Japanese migration; others in Sao Paulo were already pre-
dicting that the restrictions were unworkable and certain to be
changed. In this way, Inoue was given to understand that a distinc-
tion ultimately would be made in Brazil between the form and
substance of the law, a distinction perfectly familiar to his Japanese-
language readers. 17
The response of the Japanese community in Brazil to the 1934
constitution was mixed. There was a sense of grievance at the accus-
ations made by Couto and others. There were also some who felt
that reality no longer justified the rhetoric of Brazilian racial toler-
ance. Others, however, took the view that it was up to the expatriate
community itself to work even harder to win over its Brazilian critics.
In this, the migrant press pointed to examples of Japanese assimila-
tion or integration, notably the mixed population of settlements
such as Bastos, Tiete, and Registro. The press also argued at length
that Japanese settlers posed no danger to anyone, were attached to
the land and laws of whatever society they found themselves in, and
that, consequently, the restrictions were superfluous. 18 One result of
the 1934 constitution, however, was that some Japanese in Brazil began
to see parallels with the experience of their compatriots in North
America in the 1910s to early 1920s; they feared that here was
merely the start of a more serious anti-Japanese movement to which
Tokyo would have no response. Indeed, as derogatory remarks about
Japanese were expressed in the Brazilian parliament, and laws were
passed discriminating against their movement, some migrants turned
their anger towards the government in Tokyo. This built on dissatis-
faction from the earlier immigration debate of the 1920s. At that
time, the Nippaku Shimbun had written that Japanese samurai in the
mid-nineteenth century regularly took up arms against insults to the
nation: by contrast, it asserted, the ‘samurai’ of the twentieth century
appeared only to be dozing.19 In the early 1930s, there was even
more reason to fear that the authorities in Japan were not effectively
to be roused to defend their expatriates.
110 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

Later historians in Japan naturally stress the anti-Japanese aspect

of the revision of Brazil’s constitution. However, in order to under-
stand more fully the context of racism in 1930s Brazil, one needs to
acknowledge that there were other targets of the xenophobic minority.
For example, one of the principal group of victims of the new quota
system was European Jews. Consistent with anti-Semitic beliefs else-
where, they were painted by some intellectual Brazilians, as well as
by the fascist Integralist movement, as agents of a Marxist global
economic conspiracy. This made them potentially the most dangerous
of immigrants: the Vargas regime throughout the 1930s was at its
most aggressive in pursuing communism and protecting Brazil’s nas-
cent industrial capitalism. The paranoia about communism, equally
strong in Japan in the same decade, reached a peak in 1935 when the
so-called National Liberation Alliance, a group organised by commun-
ist party members, reacted to government repression by mounting
several bloody uprisings across Brazil. Vargas was to exploit this fear
of Jews and communists in 1937: claiming to have discovered a so-
called Cohen plan for communist terrorism, the government was to
suspend the scheduled presidential election and mount what in
effect was a political coup in office. 20 Along with European Jews,
immigrants from the Middle East were also subjected to racist vili-
fication and, in 1934, there were press attacks on the immigrant
Assyrian community. The terminology used in these attacks was simi-
lar to that employed against the Japanese. In particular, it was claimed
that they refused to assimilate and posed a racial threat to Brazilian
culture. Perhaps unsurprisingly, one of the leading critics of the
Assyrian community was Miguel Couto. Among some Brazilians, the
outcome of this vilification was also similar: as Jeffrey Lesser puts it,
by May 1934, ‘the Assyrians had been transformed from peaceful
Christian immigrant farmers into a warlike refugee group that would
bring social and economic danger to Brazil’. 21
In the years immediately after the new constitution, the broader
attitude of influential Brazilians towards immigrant Japanese
remained basically favourable. There were a few who spoke darkly of
a Japanese ‘imperalistic’ conspiracy: one Sao Paulo newspaper in
1935 insisted that Japanese settlers (in this case in the Noroeste area)
were, ‘exactly like feudal samurai, camped in our lands, the town of
Lins already in their hands’, that Japanese migrant children were
being trained as warriors, and that Japanese capitalists were buying
Expanding: 1930–36 111

up land and fixing deals such as the current New Orient bridge at
Tiete, all with the ‘terrifying spirit of establishing a new Japan’.22 In
opposition to this image of samurai, or perhaps of ninja warriors,
there were other Brazilian statesmen and intellectuals who stated the
obvious: that the Japanese as a community had never challenged the
Brazilian state nor was there any Japanese migrant advocating
subversion. Moreover, at the very time that Couto and others were
calling in parliament for restrictions on Asian entry to Brazil, the
state agriculture minister of Minas Gerais was publicly inviting Japan-
ese migrants to his capital, Belo Horizonte, a modern town of about
140 000 in desperate need of its own food supplies. The government
of Minas Gerais was so impressed by the Japanese agricultural contri-
bution to Sao Paulo city that it offered free land and other means of
assistance to entice Japanese settlers across the border.23 Praise was
also offered in federal parliament in 1936 by a Senator Martins, rep-
resentative from the large central western state of Mato Grosso do
Sul. He noted the labours of Japanese first in building the railway to
the state capital, Campo Grande, and then in shifting into local
agriculture; as a direct result, he argued, Campo Grande enjoyed
productive land and, escaping its earlier dependence on food imports
from Sao Paulo, had become instead an exporter of rice and vege-
tables to other states. Martins also credited Japanese migrants with
the modernisation of local business practice through the creation of
a producers’ co-operative.24 Thus, to suggest that the Japanese expatri-
ate community was in any way under cultural or political siege after
1934 would be inaccurate. The major impact of the Brazilian change
of policy, of course, was on those in Japan who hoped to emigrate.
As for those already in Brazil, they had reason for disquiet about the
future but they also continued to prosper and receive plaudits for
their activities. Whatever disquiet they felt, morever, was shared by
other immigrant communities.
While Japanese-language scholarship on the migrant community
makes much of the 1934 restrictions, it does not consider the question
of whether the inflammatory speeches and press articles which
surrounded the legislation had any direct impact in promoting racist
attacks on Japanese at ground level. We have already noted the
competing views on national identity among the Brazilian elite: those
attempting to maintain the position of the ‘white’ community and
those arguing for fluidity and heterogeneity. However, what of the
112 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

daily contact between Brazilian and Japanese settlers, labourers and

others? The overriding impression from the contemporary migrant
press is that actual violence against Japanese citizens in Brazil was
rare. In explaining this, one must first note that, notwithstanding the
sudden increase in Japanese arrivals, there were in real terms only
a small number in Brazil at any given time. Moreover, they were con-
centrated for the most part in rural areas where jobs and land
remained freely available. This minimised the risk of any form of
rural, or urban, ‘turf war’. Also, while the community as a whole may
have been increasing in prosperity, the majority of families remained
either farm labourers or settlers working to pay off their debt on
small leaseholds. This makes it unlikely that Japanese were popularly
resented as somehow exploiting Brazilians. Instead, the incidents of
violence reported in the migrant papers generally fell into three
categories: petty theft, personal disputes, and sexual assault.
The nature of violence between Brazilians and Japanese in the
1930s may become clearer by listing several events. First, there was
an incident at the Tiete settlement in April 1934. In this, a Japanese
man and woman were murdered by a Brazilian casual farm labourer.
No reason was given for the assault and further investigation was
made impossible when the assailant was killed in an attempt to cap-
ture him. In the Burajiru Jiho report, the labourer’s colour was not
identified and the implication was that this was not a racist attack.
The incident did attract wider attention, however, as exaggerated
reports were sent back to Japan by what one official at the settlement
described as irresponsible troublemakers among the expatriate Japan-
ese. At the same time, he did acknowledge that there had been
instances of violence at the settlements of Tiete, Bastos and Alianca.
Among these was the case of a teenage Brazilian who attempted to
rape a Japanese woman in her home at Bastos; according to the press,
he had witnessed her alone in her kitchen and had been ‘unable to
control his hormones’. The woman was rescued by the intervention
of other Japanese settlers and the youth was turned over to the local
A more common reason for violence was robbery. In 1936, a Japan-
ese settlement near the rail station of Marilia in the Alta Paulista
region was the victim of frequent burglaries. In response, the settlers
formed security patrols and purchased their own firearms. On one
occasion, a weapon was stolen by a Brazilian male employed as a
Expanding: 1930–36 113

butcher; when challenged to return it, a stand-off resulted between

the butcher with his Brazilian friends and a group of settlers. Most of
the Japanese withdrew rather than fight but one young man held his
ground and was shot to death. The incident appears to have ended
there and, in its essentials, to have been a matter of property rather
than race. In a similar fashion, a gang of robbers terrorised a Japanese
settlement near Birigui in the fall of 1936. On one occasion, an
elderly Japanese couple were beaten and killed, while a friend staying
with them was grievously injured. In response, the state police inves-
tigated and, although arresting thirteen suspects and killing two, two
officers also died in the pursuit. It is worth mentioning that the
Burajiru Jiho report expressed equal sympathy for the two dead
policemen as for the two dead settlers, and a campaign for donations
to the police widows was set up by the Japanese at Birigui. 26
These and similar incidents suggest that violence against Japanese
was more common on the settlements because of the relative isolation
either of individuals or of the settlements themselves. As far as the
migrant press was concerned, however, there was no sense that Japan-
ese were being targeted on grounds of race. Moreover, Japanese set-
tlers were either ready and able in most cases to defend themselves,
or to seek protection from the Brazilian authorities. Further to the
question of relations between Japanese and Brazilians, we might also
borrow from Richard Morse’s evocative history of Sao Paulo city; he
quotes the 1929 memoir of a Brazilian poet, Guilherme de Almeida,
in which Almeida recounts entering a Japanese restaurant in the city
only to be told by the waitress, ‘No meals for whites!’. 27 Whether she
was trying to save him from the kind of gastronomic misery endured
by Japanese upon first tasting Brazilian food, or was merely being
offensive, is unclear. It does reinforce the impression, however, that
Japanese migrants were neither passive nor victims.
Violence, including terrorism and assassination, was actually to
reach its height after 1945. This was to be within the expatriate com-
munity as rival factions fought for dominance in the wake of Japan’s
military defeat. Prior to this, however, there were sporadic cases of
aggression by migrant Japanese against other Japanese. For example,
several murders among the settlers at Birigui were reported in 1923.
Later, in 1929, a Japanese plantation manager at Lins was shot to
death by a Japanese former employee; the Burajiru Jiho commented
at the time that such murders among the Japanese community were
114 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

occurring ‘one after the other’. There was also violence as a result of
migrant criminal activity. In 1933, a group of Japanese were involved
in smuggling at the port of Santos; they fell out over the distribution
of profits and, after a drunken fight at a local Japanese restaurant,
one of them was ambushed by the others and knifed to death.28 In
addition to violence between Japanese, one should also note that
isolation, illness or despair could quite easily lead to violence against
the self. In May 1934, there were reports of two separate suicides in
the vicinity of Lins; one was a 39-year-old mother who killed herself
for no apparent reason, the other a 22-year-old male in ill health
who shot himself. 29 Spread over two decades, such incidents of mur-
der or suicide within the Japanese community need not be taken as
peculiarly significant. Rather, they are useful simply in reminding us
that the Japanese in Brazil were a group of ordinary people, subject
to the same tensions and difficulties as those from any other cultural

A settled community

Notwithstanding the upward revision of the Japanese quota in 1935

and 1936, the new restrictions signalled a rapid downturn in the
number of migrants being added to the expatriate community. In
mid-1935, there was a momentary ‘sensation’, as the press described
it, when about 70 Japanese migrants were prevented from landing at
Rio (they had just arrived on the Osaka Shipping vessel appropriately
named Rio de Janeiro). This was because that year’s quota had already
been filled.30 By the end of 1935, however, the overall Japanese pres-
ence in Brazil had risen to a total of just over 171 000; this was in
contrast to the 1932 figure of approximately 132 700. The Japanese
consulates around Brazil collected statistics on the distribution of
these expatriates. According to their surveys, initial results showed
there were 82 000 in the Noroeste region, a further 56 000 in and
around the district of Sao Paulo city, 21 000 in the area of Ribeirao
Preto of north Sao Paulo state, and 12 000 in the vicinity of Santos.
Rio de Janeiro also had a small Japanese population of just 768. One
feature of the migrant Japanese was that in all areas, whether rural or
urban, there was a remarkably balanced and even distribution of men
to women with women accounting for about 46 per cent of each
localised community. 31
Expanding: 1930–36 115

A separate feature of the migrant Japanese in the 1930s was the

expansion of their landowning. This was most apparent in the Noroeste
region where the Japanese presence increased rapidly from its figure of
53 000 in 1933. In rural Brazil, the Japanese were actually the benefi-
ciaries of reforms brought about by the Vargas regime. These helped
to reduce the authority of traditional powerbrokers such as the ‘coro-
neis’ or ‘colonels’ who dominated the movement of labour and
goods in the rural markets. As a consequence, Sao Paulo state enjoyed
a further boom in the opening of new land, especially by migrant
landowners: between 1920 and 1934, the amount of land owned by
Brazilians and by Portuguese both doubled but, for the Italian and
Spanish communities, it expanded three and five-fold respectively.
The most remarkable case was the Japanese for whom ownership of
land in Sao Paulo jumped from 37 912 hectares to 1 014 206 hectares,
a thirty-fold increase. Thus, by the mid-1930s Japanese were the
fourth-largest owners of land in the state. This remained well behind
the Brazilian figure of 17.5 million hectares and the Italian of 3.5
million but not so remote from the Spanish at 1.09 million. How-
ever, the comment of at least one Brazilian newspaper was that land
was still there to be developed and that the figures merely showed
how committed and valuable were migrants of different nationalities
to Brazilian agriculture. 32
If the greatest change among the Japanese community was occur-
ring in the rural Noroeste, there were also shifts in the geography
and society of urban residents. These changes were less well recorded
and rely more on impressionistic accounts. According to the recollec-
tions of Handa Tomoo, the Japanese of Sao Paulo city early in the
1930s were shifting in two senses. First, there was a physical expan-
sion with some moving out from the earlier cluster in the Conde
neighbourhood towards Pinheiros in the city’s northwest. There was
also a new level of wealth and prosperity at least in relative terms.
Although the urban Japanese tended to rent better housing than in
earlier years, Handa is most insistent that none was yet a homeowner.
However, this was far from unusual in Sao Paulo city where more
than 80 per cent of the city’s dwellings had been rented at the start
of the century and where the government only began promoting
home ownership as a mechanism for social stability in the 1930s. 33
Handa also explains that urban Japanese such as journalists and
educators were generally paid much lower wages than their Brazilian
116 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

counterparts. This inevitably limited their ability to progress up the

Brazilian ladder in terms of economic status. There was a widening
in the range of jobs taken by Japanese in Sao Paulo city and, by the
early 1930s, they were engaged in about 60 different occupations.
Many of these were related to the food, clothing and housing indus-
tries. For example, Handa counts ten Japanese inns (many of these
working together in the Sao Paulo City Ryokan Union), 13 food and
drink stores, 12 people involved in the making or selling of sweets,
and five whose business was real estate. Eighty-four Japanese, the
largest overall group, were employed in commerce in such things as
the import and retailing of general goods. Of the higher professions,
there was one certified accountant, eight pharmacists, seven dentists,
and three doctors (although only one of these was properly certified).
In 1936, Cassio Kenro Shimomoto also became the first man from
the second generation of Japanese in Brazil to graduate locally as a
lawyer. On the issue of Japanese success in Brazilian society, we should
also note that in 1937, just prior to the introduction of the New
State, there was the first case of a Japanese-born immigrant being
appointed to the position of deputy county head; this was Kitajima
Hirotake, a 37-year-old graduate of a Brazilian school of pharmacy
whose work at Registro had won him widespread acclaim among all
peoples of the region. 34
The growth in the urban and rural migrant population gave a new
breadth and energy to Japanese cultural activities in Brazil. These
indicated that neither economic nor social pressures were particu-
larly constraining the expatriate community in and around the time
of the revised policy on immigration. One area in which there was
marked expansion and change was in the Japanese-language press.
As noted earlier, it was in the 1930s that all of the major newspapers
appeared on a more frequent basis, leading both the Burajiru Jiho and
Nippaku Shimbun (no doubt also responding to the outbreak of war
between Japan and China) to move to daily publication from August
1937. The largest of the regional newspapers, Seishu Shimpo, transferred
its base in 1934 from Bauru to Sao Paulo city; having already risen
from weekly to twice-weekly status in 1930, it added a third issue per
week in 1935 and, from May 1938, joined its metropolitan rivals as
a daily. The press world also became more diverse. From April 1930,
the Alianca settlement had its own paper, Alianca Jiho. In January
1932, the weekly Nihon Shimbun also made its debut. Its distinguish-
Expanding: 1930–36 117

ing feature was that its widely respected owner, Onaga Sukenari, was
one of the leaders of the expatriate Okinawan community. Under his
direction, the paper was seen as appealing not only to Okinawans in
Brazil but equally to the second-generation Japanese from all back-
grounds. Furthermore, it was seen as the fairest of all the Japanese
newspapers in its judgements. For the children of the expatriate
community, there was a new monthly periodical, Kodomo no Sono,
published by the Burajiru Jiho in lots of 4000 from August 1934. For
boys and girls, there was also a monthly entertainment journal,
Popuraaru, printed by a company at Lins. In addition, there was
a magazine devoted to sports, and several periodicals focusing on
agricultural and commercial topics. 35 On top of these came the many
and varied journals imported from Japan. The list of one migrant
trader in Sao Paulo city for July–August 1932 included a few journals
for a male audience such as King, Asahi, Kodan Kurabu and Detective
Stories, but the majority were aimed at women and youths with popu-
lar titles such as Shufu no Tomo (The Housewife’s Friend), Fujin
Kurabu (Women’s Club), Fujin Sekai (Women’s World), Shonen Sekai
(Youth World), Shojo no Tomo (Girl’s Friend), and Shojo Kurabu (Girl’s
Club). 36 In this way, the expatriate community in the 1930s had
access to a wide range of information and stimulation both from
Brazil and Japan.
In the 1930s, migrant Japanese also began venturing into the
modern media of radio and cinema. The start of radio broadcasting
in Japan itself dated from the mid-1920s; at that time, the state had
assumed a monopoly over radio in view of its potential to inform, or
misinform, a mass audience. In Brazil, the first radio broadcast occurred
slightly earlier, in 1922. A station for high culture, that is, classical
music and educational lectures, appeared soon after but was followed
by two more populist rivals in 1926–27. Commercial broadcasting
was solidly based in Rio de Janeiro, also the heart in the late 1920s
of a booming and varied record industry. An even wider national
audience, however, was developed in the 1930s as the Vargas govern-
ment embraced radio for its political value.37 At this same time,
transmission commenced from Japan to Latin America; from June
1935, the Japanese station NHK announced the start of world-wide
broadcast of news and culture. Listeners in Brazil had to struggle to
obtain a clear reception until at least the end of the decade. However,
by 1940, the JLSZ programme was transmitting nightly between the
118 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

hours of 6.30 and 7.30 p.m. Sao Paulo time. The mix of programmes
is evident in the playlist for the week beginning 15 September 1940.
This included music from the Tokyo Broadcasting Orchestra as well
as the Miyata Harmonica Band, children’s songs, Japanese national
news, and news from the regions of Tokai and Kyushu. In addition,
there was a Japanese-language course conducted in Spanish, a lecture
in Japanese on migrant associations, one in Spanish on Japanese
haiku poetry, plus one in Portuguese on the excellence of Japanese
goods. 38 Whatever the sound quality, this was a direct link between
Japan and Brazil and enabled migrants to hear almost immediately
of events within Japan. Thus, even as Japanese troops held key
buildings in Tokyo during the military coup d’état of February 1936,
those in Sao Paulo could follow events as they unravelled. Whether
this radio contact either strengthened or undermined their emotional
allegiance to Japan, however, no doubt depended on the actual situ-
ation in Japan. Until the mid-1930s this remained bleak in economic
and social terms and, from 1937, of course, was overtaken by the war
in China.
The migrant Japanese also found a place for themselves on Brazil-
ian radio. From mid-1932, a doctor began a programme on Sao Paulo
city radio called ‘A Japanese Evening’ (Nihon no Yube). For 50 minutes
from 9.10 p.m., he and pupils from the Taisho Primary School
offered a mix of talk (in Portuguese and Japanese) with songs and
traditional music from Japan. The aim clearly was to promote both
understanding and goodwill towards the Japanese community. In
mid-1934, there was a further programme on an educational station
in the city; this was titled ‘Japanese Hour’ (Hora Japonesa) and one
may safely assume the content was broadly similar.39 This suggests
that there was interest among Brazilians in Japanese culture and that
Japanese migrants had access, however limited, to the most modern
of Brazil’s urban media.
In reaching a wider audience, informing, entertaining, and shaping
attitudes, the most powerful of the 1930s media was film. In Brazil,
as elsewhere around the world, this was the age in which North
American production companies came to dominate: in Sao Paulo
city early in the 1930s, there were about 50 movie theatres and, in
his memoir of the time, Handa Tomoo remembers best the cowboy
movies of William S. Hart and Tom Mix. This North American influ-
ence was not universally welcomed and, in an illustration of how
Expanding: 1930–36 119

arguments recur over the years, there was a report in the migrant
press in the mid-1930s that US gangster films were responsible for
some Brazilian youths taking to violent crime. For those with different
tastes, however, the Japanese-language press carried adverts for the
Recrelo Theatre, at which one could enjoy, or endure, such fare as
Trader in Human Flesh (minors and the unmarried not admitted), or,
with similar restrictions on admission at the Cine Tabaris, movies
apparently from France in which the principal attraction was copious
female nudity. 40
In terms of the cinema’s impact on migrant identity, the key was
either to exhibit film from Japan or develop a base for production in
Brazil. Initially, of course, the simplest recourse was to import movies
from Japan; the first example was in 1925 when the the Overseas
Association of Kumamoto prefecture arranged for film to be sent
over solely with the aim of cheering migrants from its region. A more
organised and ambitious system, however, was developed in 1929
with the unveiling of the Nippaku Cinema Company at Bauru city
by a staff member of the Seishu Shimpo newspaper. This was a natural
link between media at the time and Nippaku Cinema began by
importing footage from the Osaka Asahi Shimbun, one of the major
newspaper and newsreel companies in Japan; the footage was then
exhibited around the Noroeste region. In view of its geographical
base, Nippaku Cinema clearly felt its best (and certainly largest) audi-
ence was in the provinces where film was the principal form of enter-
tainment. In its handbills, Nippaku Cinema claimed to be involved
in distribution and production but, in practice, it focused on its trav-
elling programme, often of half a dozen items including newsreels,
comedy shorts, and features. Among its playlist for January 1930,
however, was its own first production and the first film to be made
by Japanese in Brazil. This was Noroeste-sen Isshu (A Week Along the
Noroeste Line).41 This may have been a turning point in the capacity
of the expatriate Japanese to visualise themselves but a contemporary
Japanese reviewer was less than sympathetic; criticising the content
as largely a travelogue of local businesses amounting to little more
than advertising, he declared, ‘To be honest, it is a film made by
amateurs to be shown to amateurs’. None the less, in 1931, Nippaku
Cinema arranged to exchange it with a documentary, Shimbun Jidai
(The Newspaper Era), from another of Japan’s leading newspaper
companies, the Osaka Mainichi. 42
120 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

The early supply of films from Japan was small and irregular. How-
ever, as the migrant community itself grew in size, so too did the
paying audience. In 1933, Nippaku Cinema made a huge profit from
its showings of productions from the Shochiku Company in Japan
and, by 1936, was said to be importing at least one new film every
month for exhibition in Sao Paulo city and elsewhere. Over the
course of the decade, six distribution companies were established by
migrant Japanese (a figure to multiply nearly eight-fold in the decade
after the Pacific war). These included the Japan Cinema Company,
the Kansai Cinema Company, and the Brazil Hoga (Native-Picture)
Company. There were also more limited ventures; in 1932, a settler
at the Burataku colony of Bastos began showing films on the week-
end and the arrival there of the silver screen ‘amid the mountains’
merited a note in the migrant press, even if one of the first features
appears from its title, Sekai Bijin Tohyo, to have been an early variant
of the Miss World contest. Talking pictures came relatively late to
Japan itself so most of what was shown at this time was silent. Con-
sequently, each company had its own narrator or ‘benshi’ travelling
with the film to provide a soundtrack. Nippaku Cinema, however,
quickly recognised the possibility of tapping into the non-Japanese
audience and, from at least 1930, began adding title cards in Por-
tuguese. This made more accessible the general interest items such
as Kyoto Festivals and Pilgrimage to Nikko, as well as the slapstick
comedies and tragic dramas. Following the Manchurian incident
of 1931, the Japanese foreign ministry felt it was losing the propa-
ganda war to China and also began distributing newsreel with sub-
titles in various languages; these included Portuguese and, from
1934, attempts were made to use Sao Paulo as a distribution point
from which to spread official Japanese footage to a Portuguese-speak-
ing audience.43
The most popular genre with what remained a relatively young
expatriate audience was the ‘chambara’ or period piece focusing on
samurai and swordsmanship. The attraction here may have been,
not so much that it reinforced traditional ideas of cultural identity,
but rather that it centred on action; this no doubt also helped to
entice non-Japanese viewers (the first all-talking ‘chambara’ was to
be imported only in 1939). The migrant community was kept
informed by its press of developments in the film world in Japan and
the US; in addition, there were regular reviews of new movies. The
Expanding: 1930–36 121

extraordinary popularity of cinema can be seen from 2nd Film Night

arranged by the Burajiru Jiho and held at the Taisho Primary School
in 1935: despite torrential rain, 500 were squeezed into the hall and
another 100 locked out (an extra showing was later arranged for
their benefit). On the programme that night was newsreel of the
1928 Japanese imperial review of troops and the fleet, a period film,
Kokyo no Sora (The Sky of Home), a family drama set in rural Japan,
and Saikun Kaizo (Reconstructed Wives), seemingly a comedy about
the rising status of women. 44
The audience for patriotic film was boosted following the Manchu-
rian incident. For example, a showing was arranged at Sao Paulo city
in 1933 of several films from the Japanese army, navy and foreign
ministries; these illustrated troop conditions in Manchuria and docu-
mented the rise of the Manchukuo state. As more films were made in
Japan with war-related themes, so these became more common among
the offerings for the expatriate Japanese. However, throughout the
1930s there remained as much desire for entertainment as patriotism
and the two major offerings of Nippaku Cinema early in 1934 were
Manshu Koshin-kyoku (Song of the March into Manchuria) and Kafe
no Onna (Woman of the Cafe). Through playful advertising, Japanese
exhibitors were also able to merge the two ideas: a further movie
listed in the 1934 migrant press was an American musical, Broadway
to Hollywood, appearing under its Japanese title as Hariuddo Koshin-
kyoku, that is, ‘Song of the March into Hollywood’.45
Later in the 1930s, there was increased interest on the part of
distributors in Japan itself to reach an overseas audience. This was
partly with a view to promoting sympathy for Japan in its conflict
with China and partly in response to the raised profile of Japanese
cinema following the international critical success of such war films
as the 1938 production Gonin no Sekkohei (The Five Scouts). Theatres
specifically to show Japanese movies were established in the US and
Peru. In 1939, a representative of the Toho Film Company in Japan,
accompanied by the manager of the Japanese cinema in Peru, was to
visit Brazil with a similar project in mind. By this point, however,
a new series of cultural restrictions introduced by the Vargas govern-
ment was sufficient to deter Toho from moving ahead; this left the
exhibition of Japanese film in the hands of migrant distributors. 46
As for Japan’s commercial producers, they did not respond greatly
to their expatriate audience in Latin America. In 1930, the Osaka
122 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

Mainichi newspaper made four films of the Noroeste community for

showing in Japan, and, in 1939, the Nikkatsu Company announced
it would send two cameramen to Brazil and Argentina to obtain
background shots; these were for a drama on migrant life to be
made back in Japan. Production by migrants in Brazil appears
to have gone no further than Noroeste-sen no Isshu. In this, finance
and organisation were the major problems. This was to remain the
case in 1952 when the first attempt was made at a dramatic film
production by the newly-established Talkie Brazil Film Company.
Although it imported a quintet of stars from Japan, the venture was
bound to fail: as local historian Ikeda Shigeji noted at the time, the
company had no capital, no script, no experience, and no place to
film. 47
If the expatriate Japanese were stymied in visualising their own
stories on film, they did have at their disposal a more accessible form
of cultural self-representation. This was in the advertising of con-
sumer products. One reason for raising this point is that it figures
heavily in the arguments of Handa Tomoo, and of Hosokawa Shuhei
in his 1990s study of music and Japanese emigration to Brazil. Handa
insists that the overwhelming majority of expatriate businesses
sought customers among the Japanese community and that this is
evident from their press adverts. Hosokawa also uses adverts from
the migrant press to conclude that there was a direct connection
between products retailed as ‘made in Japan’ and ideas of identity
among expatriates in Brazil. In other words, migrants reinforced
their sense of being Japanese by buying and using goods they knew
to be imported from Japan. In this, Hosokawa’s particular interest is
in records and record-players. The argument is rather tenuous, how-
ever, in so far as two of the dominant manufacturers of both items in
Japan were branches of the US companies Columbia and Victor.
Moreover, records imported from Japan or featuring Japanese per-
formers were not always straightforward vehicles for nationalism.
Many of the popular songs in Japan in the 1920s were laced with
melancholy and despair while those of the 1930s included, among
other styles, Western popular music, jazz influences, and those with
a sense of nostalgia for a particular region of Japan. One Victor
Records advert in the migrant press suggests the potential mix of cul-
tural influences on offer: this was for renditions from Puccini’s
Madame Butterfly by Miura Tamaki, a leading Japanese opera singer
Expanding: 1930–36 123

and member of an Italian company which had performed the piece

at Rio and Sao Paulo city in 1921. 48
In reviewing consumer images and advertising from the 1930s,
a place to start is the standing display at the Sao Paulo Historical
Museum of Japanese Migration to Brazil. In the 1990s, this included
an exhibition of migrant cigarette packets. Among these were: the
‘Gensui’ brand which, to commemorate the death of one of the heroes
of the Russo-Japanese war, carried a portrait of Admiral Togo; a separ-
ate ‘Togo’ brand with side panels showing the Japanese and Brazilian
flags; and ‘Sanyushi’ (Three Heroes), depicting Japanese soldiers who
became national heroes during the fighting in China following on
from the Manchurian incident. In addition, there was the ‘Yolanda’
brand with its image of a beautiful Latin American woman, and
‘Colomy’, enticing buyers with an equally charming drawing of
a Native American girl. This mixing of images reaffirms the point
that migrant Japanese were both exposed to, and comfortable with,
a range of images and symbols.
If one looks more generally at the migrant press in the 1930s, a level
of commercial interplay between the Japanese and non-Japanese
communities is obvious. For example, the increase in numbers and
prosperity of Japanese in Brazil brought them to the attention of
major corporations; both Ford and General Motors (through its
Chevrolet division) placed adverts in the migrant press. On a smaller
scale, the Casa Allema, a quality menswear shop owned by German
immigrants in Sao Paulo city, was a regular advertiser and easily
recognised by its stylish art deco graphics; at the time of the 1936
Berlin Olympics, the major sports goods store in metropolitan Sao
Paulo, Casa Casoy, bought space to attract customers by granting
them the convenience of shopping in the Japanese language. Moving
further down the ladder, an Italian migrant photographer in Sao
Paulo city also offered to deal with Japanese customers in their own
language; while Professor Alfredo Monteiro announced in the Bura-
jiru Jiho in January 1938 that his Academia Paulista de Dancas offered
daily instruction from 8 a.m. till 12 p.m. in what would now be called
ballroom dancing. 49 In the Seishu Shimpo, at least until its move to
Sao Paulo city, it was also common to find notices from non-Japanese
doctors, dentists and lawyers at Bauru and Lins. What is clear from
all this is that the migrant Japanese community was never a com-
mercial or cultural fortress.
124 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

Mention of Professor Monteiro and his Academia de Dancas brings

us to a final realm of culture either ignored or misrepresented in the
works of Hosokawa and other Japanese scholars. This is music and
dance. Hosokawa does note the role of elite migrant women in present-
ing traditional Japanese music to a Brazilian audience. For example,
the wife of the consul-general arranged the first Japan Evening of
music and dance one Sunday in November 1936; the performers
were Japanese city women and girls, the instruments included the
samisen, koto and shakuhachi, and a commentary in Portuguese was
provided by a non-Japanese female scholar of the subject. Similar
evenings of traditional Japanese music and dance continued to be
held to full houses in Sao Paulo city at least until the end of 1940. 50
To assume, however, that Japanese tradition was rigidly conservative
would be a mistake. In March 1931, with support from a member of
the aristocratic Tokugawa family, a former technician of the Japanese
communications ministry introduced an electric samisen at a perform-
ance in Tokyo; this was said to have many times the amplification of
the original although how the audience responded to this quasi-rock
version of a traditional instrument is unrecorded.51 None the less, this
is an example of how music in Japan itself was responding to the age
of new recording and performing technologies.
There are two major omissions in the work of Hosokawa. First, he
entirely ignores the vibrant and developing musical culture of Brazil
itself in the 1920s–30s. Second, he overlooks any sense of contact
between Brazilian music and expatriate Japanese. This allows him
instead to focus narrowly on music and instruments from Japan,
lyrics created by migrants in Japanese, and the performance of Japan-
ese music and song at almost exclusively Japanese gatherings such as
at migrant sports clubs and migrant restaurants. Perhaps inevitably
his conclusions mirror those of Maeyama Takashi in seeing Japanese
as inhabiting a cultural sphere quite separate from and alien to that
of Brazilians. As he puts it, ‘Within Brazilian society, Japanese song
virtually never stepped outside of the migrant community . . . In
short, Japanese song defined an ethnic border’.52
Hosokawa’s indifference to Brazilian music is striking because it is
precisely in the 1920s–30s that music rose to become one of the
defining characteristics of national identity. In this, the growth of
records and radio broadcasting were obviously crucial. So too, how-
ever, were the twin guiding and shaping hands of the cultural and
Expanding: 1930–36 125

political elite: the young intellectuals who collected songs from

around the country and saw in their variety and energy the essence
of modern Brazil; and the Vargas government which sponsored radio
and music in the 1930s directly to promote a sense of shared culture
and purpose. As a result, the national rhythm of Brazil came to be
the samba and the musical celebration of the Brazilian nation was
a sanitised form of the carnival.
Just prior to its appropriation by the federal government, the nov-
elist Rudyard Kipling observed the Rio carnival in February 1927:53

The forty-foot floats that cruised high above the raging sea [of
humanity] dealt raw-handedly with matters that the press might
have been too shy to discuss – such as a certain State railway,
which is said to be casual in its traffic . . . To all appearance, the
populace was utterly in charge of everything. But at no time, and
in no place, was there anything approaching disorder, nor any
smell of liquor. At two o’clock of the last night I saw a forty-foot
avenue masked from kerb to kerb with serpentines and confetti.
At five that same morning they were utterly gone.

Originally, the music and rituals of carnival had been identified with
Brazil’s northeast and its ethnic African community. The cultural
figure at the centre of popular carnival was the ‘malandro’, a good-
for-nothing if amiable rogue, often nattily dressed in emulation of
the Brazilian elite but whose concerns were sensual and anything but
bourgeois. By the 1920s, the music of carnival was a polyglot mix of
waltzes, polkas, the tango, and even the Charleston, but this began
to change with the emergence in 1928 of the first samba schools in
Rio de Janeiro. The music of samba in Rio developed in the hillside
shanty towns under the name ‘samba de morro’. From the Vargas
regime, however, samba received government encouragement, for
example, with higher salaries for composers from radio stations, so
long as its lyrics shifted to praise hard work and the glories of Brazil.
The samba schools also became centres of discipline and civic com-
mitment; they had to be registered with the authorities in Rio and,
from 1935, to portray only Brazilian themes in their carnival parade.
Indeed, whereas popular carnival, according to one writer, and in
line with the observation of Kipling, is as much about speaking your
mind as showing off your body (and female nudity only grew along
126 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

with television coverage from the 1980s), in the late 1930s the carni-
val of Rio was used by the federal government as a nationalist festival
and as the model for carnival nation-wide. 54
One question which arises from this is: to what extent, if at all, did
the expatriate Japanese either observe or participate in the Brazilian
carnival? Before answering this, we should note that the Japanese
migrant press had at an early point identified music with culture. In
editorials of 25 July 1919 and 4 May 1923, the Burajiru Jiho had
argued that music and dance reflected the core values of any society.
In this, it contrasted Japan and the West. Japanese music, it suggested,
had a special beauty and power to evoke deep emotions. However,
Western music was characterised by the harmonising of contrasting
instruments to produce symphony. The same might be said of dance
in which a man and a woman were united by rhythm whereas Japan-
ese dance was performed in isolation. The thrust of these early editor-
ials was that Japanese migrants should learn about their host society,
and improve their social skills, by playing Brazilian music and by
dancing with Brazilians.
The cultural attraction of samba and the carnival was recognised
by Japanese visitors in the 1930s. Tsuji Kotaro described carnival for
his readers in Japan as a mix of music, the parade of floats, people in
fancy dress, and young men and women continuing the long trad-
ition of delightedly squirting each other with perfumes with the re-
sult that, ‘as one walks around, one gets this baptism of perfume again
and again, and, in the sidestreets, the plazas, or beneath the trees of
the parks, a shower of perfume falls’. From the Brazilian cultural
historian, Hermano Vianna, we also learn about the famous Japanese
artist, Fujita Tsuguharu (who, after converting later in life to Catholi-
cism, became Leonard Fujita). Holding a private exhibition of his
works in Brazil early in 1932, he was so impressed with the music of
samba that he established his own samba band upon returning to
Japan. 55
As for Japanese migrants, there was some participation in carnival
celebrations at least from the mid-1920s and this grew over time as
both the expatriate community itself increased in number and so did
the importance of carnival to the Brazilian nation. Thus, in 1924, the
Nippaku Shimbun gave a detailed report of the three days of carnival
activity in Sao Paulo city, emphasising the crush of cars and people
but, with reference to the Japanese, listing more the profits of migrant
Expanding: 1930–36 127

drivers or of migrant traders selling carnival supplies. Later in the

decade, Tsuji observed many local Japanese in the carnival parade at
the interior town of Lins but also remarked that their costumes were
rather dour. This, he implied, showed a difference in attitude between
Brazilians who invested much of their annual savings in an event of
real cultural significance and migrant Japanese for whom participa-
tion was still a novelty. As a scholar of carnival, Roberto Da Matta,
has noted, its essence is ‘craziness’ and, for Japanese to participate
fully, they may first have had to learn the logic of this ‘unreason’.56
By the early 1930s, economic recession and political instability had
defused some of the exuberance of Brazilian carnival. The Japanese
migrant press continued to report annually on each year’s event but
the general conclusion was that festivities were receding from the
street and moving into clubs and theatres; by 1937, one Japanese
paper suggested that only the ‘Kuro-chan’ (African-Brazilians) still
took to the street at carnival. As it became a more orderly and organ-
ised celebration, Japanese residents all over Brazil held dance parties
or ‘baile’ (an obvious relation to the term ‘ballet’), for example, at the
Japan Club in Sao Paulo city, to which Japanese and non-Japanese
were invited. These parties often involved fancy dress and the first
adverts for carnival costume in the Japanese-language press seem to
date from 1937; the advertisers were Ao Preco Fixo, a Sao Paulo
concern offering discount rates on sailor suits for male and female
plus dinner jackets for men, and Casa Allema which claimed to have
available a ‘fantasia’ of fancy dress (this included Chinese costume
which may not have been so popular with expatriate Japanese at
the time). In both the 1920s and 1930s, however, Japanese did not
celebrate carnival in exclusion. Instead, there were notices of Japan-
ese being involved at street level, either parading in cars or trucks or
merging with the crowds. In 1935, the Burajiru Jiho greeted carnival
time as bringing music and happiness to all and, in that year, a float
carried the waitresses of a popular Japanese restaurant in Sao Paulo;
many Japanese women dressed in kimono were seen celebrating in
the street; but the masterpiece of migrant fancy dress was adjudged
to be ‘the masked samurai’.57 With this, Japanese migrants took the
most respected but also feared symbol of Japan and merged it with
the multi-cultural Brazilian mass at play.
By the end of the 1930s, some Japanese had worked out a satis-
fying logic of carnival for themselves. In February 1940, the Seishu
128 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

Shimpo claimed that the Japanese people historically had suffered

racist treatment at the hands of the Western powers; the specific
example it had in mind was the Western refusal at the end of World
War I to accept Japan’s proposal for a clause on racial equality in the
charter of the new League of Nations. By contrast, however, the
Brazilian carnival, it argued, was a day of real equality in which race
was set aside. For this reason, it insisted that carnival belonged as
much to the Japanese as to any other ethnic group in the country. In
this, the Seishu Shimpo seemed to be thinking along similar lines to
the Vargas government, that is, moving beyond the particularistic
origins or religious meaning of carnival and seeing it more as a
vehicle for incorporating diverse elements into a new, if multi-layered,
whole. 58
There was another area of Brazilian music and dance in which some
Japanese migrants were involved, if only as spectators. This was in
what might be called the demi-monde. In the mid-1930s, the Nippaku
Shimbun carried a series of guides to the various entertainments of
the metropolis: this included a collection of pieces forming the ‘Sao
Paulo Erotic Guide’ which explained in detail the areas of the city
where the estimated 6–800 houses of prostitution could be found,
plus the prices charged for alcohol and for staying overnight. In
pursuit of similarly detailed knowledge, a journalist for the Nippaku
visited Sao Paulo’s music halls and, on one occasion in 1934, described
the recently popular German style of nude revue. In terms a world
away from the misery and pathos of later histories of the expatriate
Japanese, he exclaimed to his readers, ‘Oh, what enchanting breasts!
Accompanying a solemn gentleman from Japan on his daily visits to
the theatre, your correspondent had a complete nervous collapse!’ It
is worth remembering that this ability to laugh at oneself came at
the very time that Dr Couto and others were railing against migrant
While there were Japanese migrants who took up the early challenge
of the Burajiru Jiho to use music and dance as a way of learning about
and living with Brazilians, there were other visitors connected to
Japan who showed an even greater level of cosmopolitanism. Among
these were four performers of music or dance, three female and one
male. Although their visits came late in the 1930s, they may usefully
be considered here in so far as they reinforce the point that Japanese
in Brazil did not simply use music as a cage by which to separate
Expanding: 1930–36 129

themselves from others. The one whose fame was greatest and has
proved most lasting is Fujiwara Yoshie, an internationally renowned
tenor of the 1930s. He visited Brazil on two occasions, first in 1937
and then in 1939. On his first trip, he toured Japanese communities
in the interior of Sao Paulo state and, being known as a lover of
baseball, he was repeatedly welcomed with a match in his honour.
The migrant press asserted that his fame and his performances served
to raise both the spirits of expatriate Japanese and the understanding
of Japan within Brazil. 60
Even more than Fujiwara, the three female performers are interesting
in the way they embody a range of ‘Japanese’ identities in the 1930s.
First, there was a dancer from Japan named Kawakami Suzuko. As
was evident from her publicity photographs, showing her in flamenco
dress and, somewhat androgynously, as an Argentinian gaucho, her
speciality was Spanish dance. She arrived in Brazil in 1937 and was
described in the migrant press as equal to the great Isadora Duncan
in her version of ‘Salome’, seen as an exceptionally difficult piece.
Her fame was also said to have reached Europe and the US, and she
was accordingly treated very well by the expatriate community. She
returned to Brazil in mid-1938 with a two-hour programme of dances
from Spain, the Middle East and elsewhere and, at her opening per-
formance in Sao Paulo city, there was an audience of about 800. At
that time, she also promised to fulfil the expectations of her Japanese
fans by touring the interior of Sao Paulo state. 61
A second performer was a young soprano, Hasegawa Toshiko. She
visited Sao Paulo in November 1936 as part of an Italian opera com-
pany engaged to play Madame Butterfly and La Bohème. Hasegawa
had been born of Japanese parents in California. After vocal training
in New York, she had made her debut earlier that year in Bologna.
Arriving in Sao Paulo, she was interviewed at length by the Burajiru
Jiho. She explained that she was happy to be in Brazil because, as she
put it, ‘there are many Japanese here and so at least I can speak
Japanese’. In fact, she had actually returned to Japan only briefly as
a child, could read nothing of the Japanese script, and mixed her
Japanese conversation with English words. Yet, in the press reports
of her visit, these problems of language seemed irrelevant. Rather,
what was praised was her character and her talent. In a comment sure
to touch a chord with some readers, she claimed her most fervent
wish in Brazil was to enjoy Japanese food, and her wider ambition
130 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

she declared was to do something for Japan, a country she believed

which had the greatness to be one of the ‘creators of the next global
culture’. In mid-1940, Hasegawa returned to Sao Paulo and repeated
her role as Madame Butterfly. Enjoying sell-out performances and
excellent reviews, she was described by the migrant press affection-
ately, if somewhat misleadingly, as ‘our dancing princess’ (warera no
maihime). In response to appeals from Japanese in the provinces, she
also agreed later in 1940 to tour the interior of the state.62
The third female performer was described as ‘the dancing princess
of the peninsula’ (hanto no maihime). The term was revealing for
this was Ch’oe Songhi, a young woman of striking beauty and phys-
ique, born not in Japan but in Korea which was then part of the
Japanese colonial empire. However, the text in the expatriate press
and in her advertising insisted that she was ‘a universal dancing talent
to which Japan had given birth’ (Nihon no unda sekai-teki budoka).
In other words, her Korean identity was acknowledged, as was the
link with Japan, but the result was seen as something overriding
these geographical boundaries. Ch’oe had studied dance in New York,
achieving sufficient renown to be invited to visit Argentina early in
1938; a trip to South America was also announced for mid-1939.
However, it was mid-1940 when she actually appeared on stage in
Brazil. After performing in Rio de Janeiro, she gave a programme at
the grandiose Municipal Theatre in Sao Paulo city, at which she
received an overwhelming reception from an audience of 1500;
among those sending her bouquets were the Japanese consul-general
and Kuroishi Seisaku, editor of the Burajiru Jiho.63 Thus, these three
women, each with a different relation to Japan itself, were celebrated
in the migrant press and welcomed by the expatriate Japanese. They,
and Fujiwara, were identified with a Japanese culture that was inter-
national in outlook and which in a quite literal way showed the
capacity of Japanese to harmonise with peoples of diverse origins.
Overall, therefore, the early- to mid-1930s was a period of rapid
growth for the Japanese in Brazil. Their numbers increased greatly, in
part as a consequence of the Great Depression. There was a manifold
leap in the quantity of land owned by Japanese, while their value to
the economy of Brazil, and especially to that of Sao Paulo, grew as
exports of coffee declined and those of cotton rose. Migrant Japanese
were targeted for criticism by some in the parliamentary and press
debates of 1933–34 and the number of arrivals permitted after 1934
Expanding: 1930–36 131

was drastically curtailed. However, these restrictions were not specific

to the Japanese; racist slurs were applied more generally, for example, to
Jews and Syrians. Despite the setback of 1934, however, anti-Japanese
racism in Brazil continued to be the preserve of the minority and the
stronger discourse was centred on heterogeneity and fluidity. Japanese
migrants had as many supporters as detractors and they managed to
live without undue fear of violence. Rather, as the Japanese community
grew in size, complexity and prosperity, its channels of information
and its areas of activity likewise expanded. It had new access to film
and radio from Japan, there were new and more frequent newspapers
and journals, and a greater range of commercial and cultural asso-
ciations. After a quarter-century in Brazil, the expatriate Japanese
appeared to have achieved a better understanding of Brazilian soci-
ety and their place within it. To that extent, therefore, we may view
the first half of the 1930s as an era in which the expatriate Japanese
became more settled. In 1937, however, they were to confront two
deeply disturbing changes.
In Transit: a World of New
Orders, 1937–40

The annual total of Japanese immigrants to Brazil in the latter half of

the 1930s was erratic; in 1936, there were approximately 3300, in
1937, 4400, and, in 1938, about 2500. After 1938, however, the figure
dropped below 1500. It was to stay there until diplomatic relations
between Japan and Brazil were cut at the start of 1942 following the
outbreak of the Pacific war. Despite these fluctuations, the largest
expatriate community of Japanese outside of East Asia at the end of
the 1930s was to be found in Brazil. In the last years of the decade,
there were to be increased restrictions on its freedom of expression
and, as a consequence, some migrants began to re-evaluate their future
prospects in the country. Overall, however, the community continued
to establish itself in Brazilian commerce, to enjoy both the support
and respect of leading Brazilian figures, and to have access to such
things as Japanese-language newspapers, books and film. Migrant
Japanese, therefore, had reason to believe that a place remained for
them in modernising Brazil and that they had the organisation,
adaptability and strength of endurance to navigate any short-term
The reason for the new low in arrivals from Japan late in the 1930s
was two-fold. First, Japan itself was engaged in an all-out war in China
from mid-1937. Despite the usual pronouncements from Japanese
generals on the imminence of absolute victory, and the claim that
Japan was creating a New Order in East Asia, hostilities were to con-
tinue until 1945 and, in 1938–39, to involve the Soviet Union also in
large-scale border clashes. The result was that, from 1937, Japanese men
began to die in large numbers on the Asian mainland while shortages

134 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

within Japan of food and goods became commonplace. In response,

the Japanese government introduced programmes to achieve national
mobilisation for the war effort, to conscript more young men for
military service, and to increase the number of Japanese settlers in
Manchuria. A second reason for slowing immigration was to be found
within Brazil. At the end of 1937, the government of Getulio Vargas
used the pretext of a national emergency to suspend the existing
political system and unilaterally introduce a new constitution. This
heralded what was termed the Estado Novo or New State. The basic
principle of the New State may be described as strength through unity.
This was to be achieved by the federal government accruing more
political power to itself, centralising authority over the economy and
promoting industrialisation in such things as mining, steel, electri-
city and chemicals, and by curtailing dissent through a ban on political
parties and new curbs on the domestic press. The twin fears behind
the New State were of communist subversion and foreign economic
domination. Consequently, the goal of the Vargas regime, especially
after 1937, was to strengthen a popular sense of Brazilian nationalism
and to impose greater cohesion on society; as part of this, the federal
government moved more firmly from 1938 to accelerate the assimi-
lation of immigrant communities. Thus, both in Japan and Brazil
from this time, the authorities began a concerted push to obtain the
allegiance of the Japanese people, leaving those resident in Brazil
caught precariously in the middle.
The expatriate Japanese were not overly disturbed by the general
aim of the New State. Rather, it was to be welcomed if it brought
about a greater level of political and social stability after the years
of periodic unrest and violence. Indeed, the last armed uprising
against Vargas came in May 1938 from the radical right-wing Green-
shirts of the Integralist party. The revolt lasted only a matter of hours
and was easily crushed. 1 However, there was a rumour that local
German interests had been active in supporting the Greenshirts.
This reinforced the idea that ethnic minorities were potentially
a danger to the nation. From at least the early 1920s, Japanese had
been telling themselves to be careful in their own actions so as not
to promote suspicion or resentment among Brazilians. Although
they realised the New State was not intended directly to exclude or
destroy them, under its precepts, this caution was to be even more
In Transit: 1937–40 135

In October 1938, a survey was completed showing the totals of all

Japanese living overseas. According to this, Manchukuo (Manchuria)
had leaped to become home to the largest number of expatriates at
233 699. In second place was Brazil with a Japanese population of
197 747. This was followed by Hawaii at 151 850 and the continental
US with 114 685. Figures thereafter fell below 85 000. In Latin America,
the second largest Japanese community at 22 150 was in Peru; there
were also 6267 Japanese in Argentina, 4671 in Mexico, and about
700 in each of Bolivia, Cuba and Chile. In global terms, the smallest
expatriate body was in Algeria where, the survey declared, there was
just a single Japanese resident.2
In comparing the two biggest expatriate communities of Manchukuo
and Brazil, a clear distinction was made in 1939 by a reporter for
Japan’s major news service, Domei Tsushinsha. In his view, Japanese
migrants to Manchukuo were political whereas those to Brazil
remained economic. 3 What he meant by this was that the flow of
Japanese to Manchukuo both served the Japanese government’s
propaganda purposes and assisted the Japanese military in its efforts
to control the region. In contrast, migrants heading to or residing in
Brazil were primarily concerned with their own safety and prosper-
ity. By the late 1930s, this prosperity was being sought far and wide
across Sao Paulo and neighbouring states. In Sao Paulo city, the
Japanese community had risen in 1938 to 4563 but, in relative terms,
this was submerged in a metropolitan mix which included over 13 000
ethnic Germans, a Spanish presence nearly three times as large again,
plus Portuguese and Italian communities of approximately 80 000.
At this time, a further survey was conducted into the commitment of
Japanese to long-term residence in Brazil. This concluded that only
10 000 out of 183 000 immigrants between 1908 and 1937 had
actually returned to Japan; of these, 5000 had left between 1908 and
1930 and another 5000 between 1931 and 1937. Statistics from the
Brazilian government indicated that, in this respect, Japanese were at
least twice as likely to remain in Brazil as immigrants from Portugal,
Germany and Italy. This was a marked difference to the early Japanese
experience in Hawaii, for example, where, in 1900–1904 alone, there
had been over 23 000 returnees.4 The conclusion, therefore, was
quite simple: whatever their original intentions, the vast majority of
Japanese migrants committed themselves to life in Brazil for an
extended period and, in this, they had been consistent from the
136 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

outset. This conflicts directly with Japanese scholars such as

Maeyama Takashi and Mita Chiyoko who insist that migrants were
always short-term sojourners until after 1945. As for the relatively
greater frequency of returnees for the period 1931–37, this may be
explained by some disillusionment with the 1934 quota system,
uncertainty about the Brazilian economy in the wake of falling
coffee prices, and the opening of what appeared to be new opportun-
ities for settlement in Manchukuo.
The radical slowing of Japanese arrivals to Brazil in the late 1930s
was common to all immigrant groups. The Seishu Shimpo in 1939
reported that, in the previous two years, the total of all nationalities
of migrants entering Brazil had fallen from 34 600 to 19 300. This
was only partly due to the quota system and partly the consequence
of political changes in Europe. Within the figure for 1938, there were
just five countries supplying in excess of 1000 persons. These were:
Portugal (7435), Japan (2524), Germany (2348), Italy (1882), and
Argentina (1199). 5 While Japanese migrants may have stood out as
second only to those from Portugal, the actual total was too small to
cause the kind of alarm shown by some Brazilians early in the 1930s.
To this extent, therefore, conditions for the existing Japanese com-
munity may actually have eased at this point. Moreover, in terms of
building Brazilian nationalism, the Vargas government had more
potent domestic weapons in the alleged union of Jewish migrants
and communism, and the presence of fascist sympathies among the
German and Italian communities; the number and strength of
German cultural nationalist or Volksdeutsche groups was a particular
concern to Vargas. Far closer than Japan, there was also the neigh-
bouring threat of Argentina with whom Brazil in the 1930s was
engaged in an arms race.
The decline in foreign immigration to Brazil meant that Sao
Paulo’s agricultural economy continued to suffer from its chronic
problem of labour shortages. The situation was exacerbated by the
onset of war in Europe from late 1939; this effectively halted all
arrivals from East and West Europe. One response in Brazil was to
consider allowing in a greater number of Japanese immigrants to
make up the shortfall. However, there were some who opposed this,
not on grounds of race, but from the view that Japanese contract
labour worked only a short time on plantations and quickly moved
into landholding; this undermined their real value to Brazilian
In Transit: 1937–40 137

producers.6 The ongoing need for immigrant labour, however, helped

to defuse any criticism of Japanese for stealing jobs from Brazilians.
In addition, the price for Brazilian cotton in 1938 was calculated to
have fallen by 16 per cent over the previous year: with the start of
war in Europe, Brazil lost its key export market of Germany. This
made Japan even more important as an overseas customer, not least
to expatriate Japanese who, by 1938, produced over half of Sao
Paulo’s ginned cotton. In the view of one Brazilian newspaper in
September 1939, ‘as long as the European conflict continues, Japan’s
purchases are the only lifeline for Brazilian cotton and essential here-
after both to the Brazilian-Japanese trade relationship and to the two
peoples’.7 In this way, the start of war in Europe reinforced the value
of Japan and the Japanese in the eyes of some of the more influential

The language of nationalism

The turning point in Brazilian regulations on immigrant communities

was 1938. In that year, a series of laws was introduced to minimise
the capacity of ethnic communities to erect social and cultural barriers
between themselves and Brazilians. This included legislation requir-
ing agrarian settlements to have a population which was at least 30
per cent Brazilian and banning any single non-Brazilian ethnic
group from exceeding a quarter of the total. The use of foreign
names for settlements was also forbidden. The special target of the
assimilation campaign, however, was education. In this, Vargas had
already made clear his intentions upon first coming to power in
1930. Soon after taking office, he had created Brazil’s first ever ministry
of education, a move welcomed at the time by the Japanese com-
munity. However, by 1937, Vargas was declaring that education was
now ‘a matter of life and death’. Thus, the general school curriculum
came to emphasise far more heavily the study of Brazilian history
and geography, and the primacy of learning Portuguese. The guiding
principle of education under the New State was nationalism through
physical and moral discipline. As Vargas explained, the New State
‘does not recognise the rights of the individual against the collective.
Individuals do not have rights; they have duties’. Along with other
authoritarian regimes of the decade, sport was used as a means to
promote individual health and community identity, and a colossal
138 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

sports stadium seating up to 100 000 was opened in April 1940 by

the government of Sao Paulo with Vargas in attendance. 8
One reason why education may have been so important to the
New State is that the existing system was demonstrably inadequate.
Figures for 1937 show that two-thirds of all Brazilian primary school
teachers lacked even basic training, that enrolment for the 7–11 age
group was below 50 per cent and for those 11–17 well under five per
cent. Historian Robert Levine’s description of education in civil and
military schools alike is that it ‘stressed memorisation and suppressed
creativity’.9 It may be that neither Vargas nor the Japanese com-
munity actually opposed this type of instruction, one common in
twentieth-century Japan itself; rather the president’s wish was to see
more of the youth in Brazil being exposed to a specifically Brazilian
system of schooling.
The impact of the New State education programme for the Japanese
community was felt most obviously by the youngest of the emerging
second generation. The Vargas educational rules prescribed, among
other things, that all administrators and teachers of rural primary
schools should have been born in Brazil, that classes and textbooks
be in Portuguese, that children under 14 years of age be taught no
foreign language, and, as of September 1939, that foreign-language
teaching for older children be restricted to no more than two hours
per day. An article in the Burajiru Jiho of 28 October 1938 declared,
‘Our Language Schooling Verging on Destruction’. As a result of
these changes, all primary schools being run in a foreign language
were nominally closed at the end of 1938; of these, there were about
300 run by Japanese in Sao Paulo state alone and, among other
migrant groups, about 900 run by Germans in Brazil’s south.10 The
most aggressive reaction to these steps occurred in the state of Parana
where, it was reported, Polish migrants burned their school rather
than see it made to conform with the new rules. As for the Japanese
community, according to later writers such as Handa Tomoo,
Maeyama Takashi and Mita Chiyoko, the changes to schooling were
a crushing blow. In Handa’s view, the New State was an assault on
the spiritual freedom of the migrant Japanese, leaving them bereft of
hope for the future and sunk in despair. In Maeyama’s reading
(heavily borrowed by Mita), the schools were the essence of Japanese
identity in Brazil; the buildings were, in his opinion, literal shrines of
Japanese emperor-worship and, in so far as migrants were always
In Transit: 1937–40 139

intent on returning to Japan, language was their guarantee of a safe

return to the motherland. In other words, by depriving children of
access to the Japanese language, the Vargas reforms in a sense were
condemning ethnic Japanese youth to permanent cultural exile. 11
Several points need to be made in order to escape this misrepre-
sentation. First, the existence in Brazil of primary schools run in a
language other than Portuguese had been technically illegal since
the early 1920s. This had been acknowledged in Japanese-language
writings such as that of Professor Takaoka Kumao; it was only Brazil-
ian tolerance which allowed them to persist so long. Second, the
schools run by Japanese in rural Brazil were of varying standards and,
in some cases, little more than places to keep children gainfully
occupied while their parents were at work. This may have been true
even of the larger and better organised settlements. According to the
official Burataku guide for new arrivals at Tiete in 1934, there were
five schools in and around the vast settlement but, of these, one was
accredited with the Brazilian government and had two Brazilian
teachers with all classes in Portuguese, while three of the remainder
had only one or two teachers for school populations ranging from 75
to 89 pupils. A third point is that the Japanese language was not
being hounded out of existence: the prestigious Rio de Janeiro Law
School, following the example of the Sao Paulo Law School two years
earlier, was reported to have added a Japanese-language course to its
curriculum in 1939 and was permitting medical students also to
attend classes. In addition, a Rio Japanese-Language Student Society
was founded at this time, as was, from January 1939, the Sao Paulo
Society for the Study of Japanese Culture.12 Thus, there continued to
be interest in and respect for the Japanese language among the very
elite of Brazilian society.
A further point about the restrictions of 1938 is that they did not
result in a blanket destruction of Japanese-run primary schools. This
much is admitted by Handa and Maeyama when they note that
some schools continued quietly to function in defiance of the new
laws. It is quite evident, however, that their ‘underground’ existence
was poorly concealed. Early in 1940, Brazilian officials visited the
schools of the Burataku settlement at Bastos to discover that there
were only two Portuguese-language books in one of the libraries, and
the sole Portuguese-language newspaper in the settlement was, as
Jeffrey Lesser explains, ‘used to keep dust off a chessboard’. This showed
140 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

there had been no great change since a visit paid to the same schools
in 1936 by then Sao Paulo state Secretary of Education Almeida. At
one school, he had found no books in Portuguese (although there
was an image of the great Brazilian liberal statesman, Rui Barbosa),
and no children able to speak the language; at the second school, he
was relieved to see that some Portuguese texts were used but found
the pupils utterly incapable of conversation. What did impress him,
however, was the enthusiasm of both schools in singing the Brazilian
national anthem. Perhaps this helped to persuade him that Japanese
migrants could still be accommodated in the New State: in 1939,
after retiring from his post, he was to write an 800 page book on the
migrant Japanese. This was interpreted by the Burajiru Jiho, heading
its report ‘we too have friends’, as an argument in support of the
progress made by the second and third generations in assimilation
and a major retort to any critics of the Japanese community. 13
An equally important point about the 1938–39 reforms and the
question of language is that Japanese educators and opinion-leaders
had long been pressing for more instruction in Portuguese. We have
already heard the arguments from Japanese books and newspapers
from the 1920s. In 1933, in response to tighter Brazilian rules, the
Japanese educational association of Sao Paulo state had, among other
things, issued an extensive series of publications on how to study
Portuguese and, in 1934, held a 50-day intensive course of instruc-
tion in Portuguese for 35 teachers from provincial Japanese-language
schools. At a meeting of Japanese educators from across Sao Paulo
state early in 1937, language was again central to the discussion. In
passing, this took another swipe at the Japanese consulates, which
were dismissed as utterly unreliable on the question of education; it
also acknowledged yet again that Brazilian law banning the teaching
of a foreign language to children under ten was not presently being
enforced. On the attitude of the Japanese community to language,
however, one educator asserted, ‘Those who have been in Brazil a long
time generally emphasise the value of Portuguese-language schooling’.
To this, another added, ‘In general, the rural schools should put more
effort into Portuguese language and the urban schools more effort
into Japanese language’. On this point, there was broad agreement. 14
The thrust of these Japanese educators’ comments was that there were
problems of balance in language learning both in the rural and urban
migrant communities. In some of the rural settlements, there was so
In Transit: 1937–40 141

little contact for children with Brazilians (although there may well
have been contact with other non-Brazilian migrants) that the oppor-
tunity or incentive to learn Portuguese was absent. Moreover, we
should recall that the great wave of Japanese immigration had occurred
between 1925 and 1935. Consequently, many of the Japanese adults
and children in rural Brazil in the mid-1930s were relatively recent
arrivals. In the towns and cities, however, the situation was reversed.
Urban migrants tended to be the longest and best-established and
there were indications even before 1938 that some were opting to
use only Portuguese. In 1936, a journalist for the Burajiru Jiho recorded
a conversation with a British visitor: the Briton asked why some
Japanese migrants had taken to speaking Portuguese even in the home
when the very idea was unthinkable for Britons. The view endorsed
by the journalist was rather that a true ‘global’ person should learn
the values of his ethnic community through the language used at
home and the values of his host community through the language
learned at school. This was seen as the logical response of a migrant
from any country. The wisdom of this position was repeatedly sup-
ported by the Japanese-language press and by the migrant journal for
children, Kodomo no Sono; in the late 1930s, it advertised its value in
promoting both the Japanese spirit (Yamato tamashii) and the values
of Brazil, and its usefulness as a home guide to the Japanese language.
What was envisaged here was a linguistic division of labour. The result,
it was hoped, would be ethnic Japanese youth who were more con-
fident, cosmopolitan, and comfortable in at least two worlds. 15
By the mid-1930s, there was already a small body of young adults
among the Japanese community with this mix of abilities. They also
voiced their opinion on the role of language and values in the
creation of youth identity. Their most prominent representative was
the Japanese-Brazilian Student League, established at Sao Paulo city
in October 1934 with 105 members. One historian of Brazil, Jeffrey
Lesser makes much of the fact that the group adopted a hyphenated
name – Nipo-Brazilian (in Japanese, Nippaku). This, however, is
where his lack of Japanese-language ability leads him astray; Nippaku
was already a common term, for example in the Nippaku Shimbun,
the Nippaku Cinema Company, and the Kobe-based Nippaku Associ-
ation. The original goal of the league was to foster educational, cultural
and sports activities for the children of migrants. More generally, it
aimed to promote a self-awareness of the second generation as ethnic
142 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

Japanese within the multi-ethnic Brazilian community. The students

took pride in their capacity to understand two cultures and this was
demonstrated in their publication both of a Japanese-language journal,
Gakuyu, and one in which the content was Portuguese even if the
title, Gakusei, remained Japanese.16
Among the founders of the Student League, and chairman in 1936,
was Cassio Kenro Shimomoto. As a student at the Sao Paulo Law
School, he had become well known in 1932 for his participation with
the state forces in revolt against President Vargas. As mentioned
earlier, he was also the first Japanese migrant to qualify as a lawyer in
Brazil. Shimomoto was unusually well placed to comment on issues
of identity having been born aboard a migrant ship in the Indian
Ocean. In October 1935, he wrote an article in Portuguese for
Gakusei in which he explained:17

We are the children of Japanese but we are Brazilian and our

responsibility is to the nation of Brazil. The accusation of Brazilians
that ethnic Japanese do not assimilate is wrong. We have assimi-
lated. Though our blood is that of Japanese, our hearts are Brazilian.
We can respect Japan as the country of our fathers but we cannot
love it. Our homeland is Brazil.

A related view was expressed by the editor-in-chief of Gakusei, Jose

Yamashiro. He was the son of Okinawan immigrants and, in so far as
the Japanese language was still alien to many Okinawans, his support
for the greater use by migrants of Portuguese is even more under-
standable. In 1936, he reinterpreted the concept of the quintessential
Japanese spirit, the Yamato tamashii. With some basis in historical
fact, he concluded that the essence of this spirit was absolute loyalty,
but that such loyalty was not exclusively towards the Japanese emperor.
Rather, for Yamashiro and those in Brazil, the ‘Japanese’ spirit could
and should mean absolute fealty to the Brazilian flag. Federal restric-
tions on publications by foreigners or in a foreign language saw both
student journals cease in the fall of 1938. However, with Yamashiro
once again as editor, a new journal, Transicao (Transition), made its
debut in mid-1939. In its first editorial, this argued: 18

We, Brazilian children of Japanese, are a transition . . . The harmon-

isation of two civilisations, apparently antagonistic. The fusion, in
In Transit: 1937–40 143

an ideal of mutual comprehension, of the qualities inherent in


Instead of choosing one exclusive identity over another, or relativ-

ising the two, now the claim was to have achieved an advanced level
of sophistication. Indeed, the impression here is that a double-
layered identity did not leave one suspended in a void but rather, in
the way that a double-barrelled name in Britain was and is seen as
a mark of status, so the second-generation Japanese in Brazil had
reason to think of themselves as a new and nobler version both of
Japanese and of Brazilians. The important point about this, however,
is that the position of these second-generation students was not
necessarily in conflict with or estranged from that of the first gener-
ation of migrants. To the extent that the claims of Transicao were
accurate, they appeared to be the realisation of that hope expressed
by earlier Japanese migrants and observers for a new ‘global’ Japanese.
The value of transcending a single national identity was even
supported by Japan’s military attaché in Brazil, Colonel Nakanishi
Ryosuke. Late in the 1930s, he wrote frequent articles in the press
and gave speeches on the question of nationalism and identity. In
one of these, he urged young migrants to contribute to the progress
of Brazil and be ‘pure Brazilians’ for, as he put it, ‘true Japanese can
only be created in an environment like that of Japan and it is an
error to believe they can be produced in the different environment
of Brazil’. In his view, Japan should be seen as ‘the main house’ and
Brazil a related house into which Japanese migrants had been
adopted. 19 Notwithstanding his comments on what was pure and
true, he did allow that a relationship persisted and that ‘adopted’
Japanese-Brazilians had not entirely forfeited their identity as
Irrespective of the comments or actions of migrant Japanese or of
the Brazilian-born second generation, there were always some Brazil-
ians who failed to shake off the dark fantasies of all Japanese as
samurai in sheep’s clothing. Late in 1938, a Sao Paulo-based news-
paper claimed that Japanese-run schools taught migrant children the
values of a culture which ‘praised the hero’s death through harakiri’
and which stood to threaten the very survival of Brazil with its own
quite different and more modern values of ‘order and progress’. 20
However, Brazilian public concerns on dangerous minorities were of
144 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

far longer standing and much more acute about the German settle-
ments of southern Brazil. In the 1930s, there were about 2000 Volks-
deutsche groups in Brazil, ten German-language daily newspapers,
and, in 1938, some 900 German primary schools. This was combined
with the aggressive protection of German culture by local migrants,
a refusal to marry Brazilian partners, and a view, expressed in their
newspapers even before 1914, that Brazilian race-mixing had pro-
duced ‘ethnic chaos’. In 1938, President Vargas moved deliberately
to suppress the Volksdeutsche movement on the grounds of national
security. 21
The actual regulations of the New State were not always as draco-
nian as they appeared on paper. Laws on migrant registration, for
example, were introduced in 1938 but lay dormant for a year. Only
from April 1939 were they finally enforced. They required all resident
foreigners to report their names to the police and to carry an alien
registration card, without which it was henceforth impossible to
obtain urban employment. Although heavy punishments awaited
those who ignored this regulation, those already in Brazil were given
another full year in which to comply.22 In addition, where laws against
non-Brazilian culture were applied, there was still room either to
manoeuver or appeal. The Nihon Kinema Company intended to
show a Japanese-language film at a settlement in Parana state early in
1939. This was forbidden by the police on the grounds that the
advertising posters were solely in Japanese as was the synopsis of the
film itself. Parana was regarded as one of the strictest of the states in
suppressing the Japanese language and one might see this ban as
merely another blow against expatriate Japanese culture. However,
the fact that the company felt it had a chance to exhibit the film
suggests equally that the laws could be made flexible or circum-
vented, depending either on the wit of those involved or on the
caprice of the authorities.23

Order and progress: the expatriate community,

technology and medicine

The opponents of expatriate Japanese argued that, even in a multi-

ethnic society like Brazil, they were racially and culturally exclusive.
Underlying this argument was a belief that Japanese ideas of blood
and loyalty were deeply rooted in tradition and immovable; the
In Transit: 1937–40 145

result was simultaneously a basis for Japanese communal strength,

whether at home or overseas, and a barrier to internationalism. The
same belief, of course, was to be repeated both by Japanese and
foreign observers throughout the twentieth century. One way in
which expatriate Japanese in late-1930s Brazil sought to overcome
this barrier, and demonstrate their freedom from an excessively heavy
burden of tradition, was by pointing to aspects either of Japan’s or
their own modernity. This could best be shown through science,
medicine and technology.
Innovation in science and technology was seen in the 1930s as the
marker of a progressive civilisation. Consequently, the migrant press
reported at length on advances being made by scientists and techni-
cians in Japan. One example was of the great emerging technology of
the period: television. It was between 1930 and 1933 that the first
steps towards television broadcasting and production of receivers
were taken in Japan. In Brazil, the new medium commenced in an
experimental form in Rio de Janeiro from June 1939. As the Burajiru Jiho
carefully noted, however, Tokyo had already conducted a successful
trial broadcast the month before.24 This was in preparation for cover-
age of the 1940 Olympics which were scheduled (though ultimately
cancelled) to be run in Tokyo. As a source of great pride for all Japan-
ese, this was to be the first time that they were to be held in Asia.
While television was technology of the near future, the 1930s were
still part of the pioneering era of flight. In this, Japanese migrants
could share in the feats of aviators from Japan. Their best opportunity
to do so occurred in September 1939 with the arrival in Brazil of
a Japanese aeroplane engaged on a 56 000 kilometre round-the-world
trip. The craft was the Nippon (Japan), built by Mitsubishi and spon-
sored on its journey by two of Japan’s major newspapers, the Osaka
Mainichi and Tokyo Nichi Nichi. In Brazil, the Nippon touched down
at Rio de Janeiro, Santos and Sao Paulo. In Rio, despite the reputa-
tion of the local media as aggressively anti-Japanese, the aviators
were feted by Brazilian journalists and greeted by crowds of well-
wishers. In a speech of welcome, the Japanese ambassador acclaimed
the Nippon as the embodiment of ‘science Japan’ (kagaku Nihon).
This was a sentiment echoed by the Brazilian federal minister of
communications who declared to the assembled press that the
aeroplane was indeed a symbol of the technological progress and
scientific achievement being made in Japan. A speech was also made
146 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

by a group of Brazilian scholars of Japanese culture: this brought the

Nippon and the expatriate community together when it insisted that
this visit offered the Brazilian people an opportunity to reappraise
Japan, its society, values and intentions.25
There was a reason why the arrival of an aircraft might exert a
special significance for Brazilian observers and work to the benefit of
expatriate Japanese. Brazil’s fascination with aviation had been
apparent in 1930 with the visit to Recife, in the country’s north, of
a German airship; a military honour guard of about 500 cavalry and
soldiers plus thousands of ordinary people had gathered at the landing
site. The particular ideological connection of flight and Brazil, how-
ever, resulted from the exploits of the great national hero, engineer
and pioneer aviator of the 1900s, Alberto Santos-Dumont. In 1906,
he had achieved world fame with his biplane flight in Paris and, as
Brazil’s pre-eminent cultural historian, Gilberto Freyre, explains,
‘The myth of Santos-Dumont became part of an even greater myth;
that of Brazilian progress through science’. Freyre’s description of the
man himself suggests a further reason why the visit of the Nippon may
have profited the Japanese in Brazil: ‘Santos-Dumont represented the
idealisation, par excellence, of the little man of yellowed counten-
ance’ who was ‘capable of performing great deeds of valor against
blond, pink-cheeked giants, the Brazilian David against the Nordic
Goliath’. A figure cited in the 1920s stated that the height of the
average Brazilian man was just five feet two inches, and an Argentinian
term for Brazilians was ‘macaquitos’ (little monkeys). In this sense, Jap-
anese migrants could point to the Nippon as symbolising parallels
between themselves and Brazilians both in terms of scientific endeav-
our, and in their physical or cultural relationship to the ruling
peoples of Europe and North America. 26
A more personal area in which Japanese migrants could display
order and progress was in medicine. After all, the critics of Japanese
immigration from the 1920s had consistently been exploiting the
imagery of disease and infection in their rhetoric. At the insistence of
the Japanese government, improvements in hygiene had been made
in the 1930s on the vessels carrying migrants to Brazil. In the interior
of Sao Paulo, however, conditions were often poor: among commu-
nities in the Noroeste region, the town of Lins was unusually well off
in having both a Japanese doctor and, from 1934, an ophthalmologist
recruited directly from Japan. At the settlement of Bastos from 1930,
In Transit: 1937–40 147

a young medical graduate of the prestigious Keio University was also

recruited from Japan (and was not to return there for another 32
years). This was Dr Hosoe Shizuo. He received patients from within
a 400-kilometre radius and, though able to perform surgery only at
night owing to the daytime presence of troublesome insects, he
treated roughly a thousand cases of appendicitis before moving to
Sao Paulo city in 1935. In light of the racist linking between immi-
gration and infection, however, any progress made by expatriate Jap-
anese in the realm of health care potentially had significant benefits.
For this reason, special pride was taken in the first Japanese students
to enter the Sao Paulo Medical School in 1933. 27
The association principally responsible for Japanese migrant
health in Brazil was the Dojinkai. With a subsidy of 30 000 yen from
the Japanese government, this had been established at a ceremony
held in the Japan Club, Sao Paulo city, in February 1924. One of the
prime movers behind its creation was Aoyagi Ikutaro, still deeply
involved with the entire migrant venture following his work in
1912–13 on behalf of the Tokyo-based Brazilian Development Com-
pany. In unusual partnership on the Dojinkai board of directors were
the habitually opposed newspapermen, Kuroishi Seisaku of the
Burajiru Jiho and Miura Saku of the Nippaku Shimbun. In 1928, the
Dojinkai was formally licensed as a corporate body with the Brazilian
government. One of its earliest acts in 1924, however, was to sponsor
Japanese males aged between 16 and 25 with Portuguese language
skills to study pharmacology. The aim here was to develop a base of
excellence within the migrant community rather than rely on attract-
ing graduates from Japan. The stipulation on Portuguese language,
however, indicates an early desire to promote links between young
Japanese and the Brazilian medical world. In 1929, the Dojinkai also
staged a competition for the best slogan to raise support among
Japanese migrants in the fight against trachoma. The winning entry,
receiving a prize of 100 milreis, was, ‘trachoma destroys the eyes,
destroys wealth, destroys leisure’. The theme here perhaps opens our
own eyes to the real values of the migrant community. 28
From the outset, the goal of the Dojinkai was the creation of a
hospital. In 1926, the first move was made when, again with monies
from the Japanese government, a site of 14 000 square metres was
purchased in Sao Paulo city. In the early 1930s, there were further
donations, including 50 000 yen from the Japanese emperor and
148 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

300 000 yen more from the government in Tokyo. Campaign drives
were also held among the migrants from mid-1935. Construction of
what became known as the Japan Hospital began in August 1936 with
many of the materials, including cement, steel girders, and linoleum
flooring, being imported free of duty from Japan. The expectation at
the time was that it would be complete within two years. In fact, it was
beaten to the honour of being the first medical facility of the migrant
Japanese to begin operation. This was taken by the Sanitorium Sao
Francisco Xavier which opened in February 1937. It was a specialist
centre for the treatment of tuberculosis. Set amid the hills of Campos
do Jordao, Sao Paulo state, it boasted modern x-ray and infra-red
technology from Japan. The Dojinkai had rented a house at the site
in mid-1935. However, an outbreak of the disease among expatriate
Japanese in 1936 was used by some Brazilians to call for a ban on
health grounds of all further immigration from Japan; this prompted
the group to act more forcefully. In this, however, it was already the
grateful recipient from November 1935 of about 20 hectares of land
at Campos do Jordao personally donated by the Brazilian foreign
minister, Soares. The local mayor also assisted the Japanese in estab-
lishing their own sanitorium which, borrowing the name of the sum-
mer mountain resort for residents of Tokyo, subsequently became
known among the expatriates as ‘the Karuizawa of Brazil’.29
Construction of the Japan Hospital in Sao Paulo city was actually
completed on the emperor’s birthday, 29 April, in 1939. With its
streamlined, rounded corners and its five storey structure, it was
a bold and imposing assertion of Japanese modernity and health. It
had 76 rooms for patients with a total of 200 beds. The opening of
its doors, however, led to organisational changes in the Dojinkai. In
view of the running costs now to fall on its shoulders, the society
began campaigning across Brazil for new members. It aimed ini-
tially to attract 5000 Japanese in the interior and one of the carrots
it offered was a discount on hospital costs so that membership dues
became a form of medical insurance (at least for those who could
make their way to the metropolis). A further change, however,
was a consequence of the New State restrictions on non-Brazilian
associations. These meant that the Dojinkai regulations were com-
pletely rewritten in mid-1939 so that it became in legal terms
purely a Brazilian group, welcoming membership from Brazilian
citizens. 30
In Transit: 1937–40 149

The completion of the Japan Hospital was a major achievement for

the efforts of the Japanese community in Brazil, with the assistance
of the government in Tokyo. The fact that it was finished on the
emperor’s birthday was no doubt open acknowledgement of the
financial support received from the throne. However, despite its imper-
ial connections and its importance as a prestige institution, it was
quickly embroiled in controversy. In this, it showed that the troubles
of the migrant community could be as much their own creation
as the result of any pressure from Brazilians. The problem arose in
less than a year after its opening. At the centre of an acrimonious
dispute were members of the female nursing staff who were at odds
with their male superiors. The two initial supervisors of nurses, Kato
Setsu and her deputy Yamamoto Sue, had been recruited from Japan.
Early in 1940, however, they refused to work any longer with a man
called Hosoe brought in from Rio de Janeiro to supersede them.
Sixteen of the trainee nurses subsequently walked off the job in
sympathy with the two women. The dispute became very public and
one of the trainee nurses wrote an open letter to the Japanese-
language press. In this, she described Hosoe saying that wages in Rio
were low but opportunities to get tips from patients were plentiful.
This mercenary attitude had been perfectly common, and frequently
criticised, in Japan itself in the 1900s. In Sao Paulo at the end of the
1930s, however, it offended the sense of dedication of Kato and
Yamamoto, and of the nurses originally in their charge. The turmoil
was further increased when a Dr Takahashi in the women’s health
section, a graduate of the Rio de Janeiro Medical School and a long-
standing member of the Dojinkai, was removed by the hospital’s
deputy director for allegedly ‘disturbing the internal order of the
institution’. The press interpreted this to mean that he was in fact in
sympathy with the nurses. In the end, the bitterness barely had time
to settle: shortly after the start of the Pacific war and the cessation in
January 1942 of diplomatic relations between Japan and Brazil, the
hospital was seized by the Brazilian government as an enemy asset
and a Brazilian administrator took complete control of its running. 31

’Ex-patriotism’: migrants and the Sino-Japanese war

Japan’s undeclared war in China began in mid-1937. By the end of

that year, Japanese forces occupied much of the eastern regions of the
150 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

China mainland but were not able then, or later, to eliminate the
Chinese nationalist or communist armies. Instead, the nationalists
used distance as their ally and retreated into the hinterland; this ful-
filled a prediction made by Japanese army intelligence nearly three
decades earlier. In addition, the guerrilla forces of the Chinese com-
munists found it easy to harass Japanese units as the latter were
forced by lack of supplies and local knowledge to keep to the exposed
main lines of communication. The result was a costly war of attrition
for Japan with few set-piece battles or clear-cut victories after the
early engagements.
The expatriate community in Brazil was quickly brought into the
war in two respects. At a general level, there was a call from Japan for
assistance in the international propaganda effort. The idea behind
this was explained in an appeal from the Japan–Brazil Association at
Kobe. This appeared in the migrant press at the start of 1938. In what
it described already as a total war, the association challenged the
Japanese in Brazil to combat overseas misinterpretations of the war.
In particular, it claimed that the international media was dominated
by American, British and French companies which not only opposed
Japan but, being largely capitalist enterprises, distorted the truth in
search of the commercial and sensational. In response, it argued, ‘all
our people who have the chance of contact with foreign states or
peoples must think of themselves as a kind of diplomat’. In their
own understanding of the war, migrants were generally and quite
naturally receptive to the view from Tokyo, and war news from
Japan dominated the front pages of their press. In addition, more
films were made in Japan with patriotic themes, such as the 1939 war
drama, Shanghai Rikusentai (Shanghai Landing Party), and so inevit-
ably these were more common among the movies exhibited in Brazil.
The authorities in Japan also exported newsreels of the war, plus
more general films to win over international sympathy; in 1940, for
example, these included Spanish-language documentaries giving an
overview of Japan, an introduction to Japanese sports, and a view of
wartime Japan behind the lines.32
A further and more direct form of migrant involvement in the war
was through donations. In these, migrant women’s and youth groups
especially were encouraged to be active: in 1937, the Patriotic
Women’s Association in Japan (Aikoku Fujinkai) wrote an open
letter to expatriate women in Brazil asking for their help in raising
In Transit: 1937–40 151

money for military families; at the same time, the Nambei Shimpo
newspaper arranged for migrant children to draw or paint postcards
to be sent to cheer up troops at the front. To maintain support for
the war, women’s and youth groups also arranged frequent social
and cultural gatherings, including the showing of patriotic films or
newsreel, or made small items for sale in place of donations. Migrant
traders also emphasised the connection between women and the war
effort, even if their intentions were not simply patriotic. In one case,
the migrant company, Kunii Trading of Sao Paulo city, announced
a sale in December 1939 in part to celebrate an anniversary of its
commercial operations and in part to rally behind the Japanese
forces. The drawcard of the sale was the prizes offered to shoppers.
Among the best were items named after a major Chinese city then
under Japanese control: the ‘Nanjing prize’ was a Columbia record
player with fifteen records; a larger number of runners-up prizes
included ‘comfort bags’ (imon-bukuro) to be sent to Japanese troops.
In a further bid to legitimise this linking of patriotism and materialism,
the announcement of the sale showed an elegant young Japanese
housewife at one end of a stream of consumer goods (a bicycle, clock,
parasol, mirror and that enticing new record-player) which trans-
formed imperceptibly into ‘comfort bags’ and extended, at the other
end of the stream, to a rejoicing soldier.33
Donations by individual expatriates, according to an extensive list
from late 1937, generally ranged between five and ten milreis (about
two to three yen at the time). By the end of September that year, the
Japanese community in Brazil had gathered 300 contos, the equivalent
of 92 000 yen, and this was transmitted to the army and navy minis-
tries in Tokyo.34 Thereafter, the migrant press reported numerous
small examples of aid for the war effort; these included settlers at the
appropriately named and recently developed colony of Heiwa (Peace)
abstaining from beer or sake at the New Year celebrations in 1938
and, instead, donating their drinking money to the defence of Japan.
Whether this level of self-sacrifice persisted, however, is open to
question. Figures released by Tokyo in October 1939 showed that
Japanese overseas collectively had sent nearly 3.7 million yen since
the start of the war, most of this to the foreign ministry. Donors in
Sao Paulo state were credited in one report with 222 600 yen, in
another with 225 000. Whichever was accurate, it was obviously well
above the 49 000 yen from the Japanese in Argentina, the 21 000 yen
152 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

from the expatriates in Mexico, or the 11 000 yen from those in

Britain. It was also well below, however, the 284 000 yen donated by
the Japanese in Honolulu and only just above the 215 000 yen sent
by those in Seattle. The largest sum of nearly 948 000 yen was sent by
the Japanese community of San Francisco.35
In 1938–39, there were a number of migrant associations either
created or resurrected to collect donations for the war. In general, the
stated aim of these associations was to provide monetary assistance to
the families of troops at the front. However, in practice, there were
differing levels of enthusiasm and varying agendas. It is common
wisdom that Japanese nationalism traditionally has been powerful in
the southwest in such regions as Kagoshima. The history of the
Kagoshima community in Brazil, published in 1941, offers an alter-
native view. It notes that there were impassioned proposals at the start
of war on reforming the long dormant prefectural association of Sao
Paulo city in order to gather war monies. It also confesses, however,
that these proposals quickly subsided into inaction. 36 Other migrants
originally from Kagoshima, now resident in and around Lins in the
interior of the state, did establish a new association in December
1939 and one of its first acts was indeed to collect donations for mili-
tary families in Japan. Yet, its wider aims were to promote universal
peace and ‘Japanese-Brazilian culture’ (Nippaku bunka), and to employ
Japanese values in the building of modern Brazil. In other words, it
was as much a reaction to the New State as to Japan’s war emergency.
Elsewhere, natives of Kagoshima at the Bastos settlement resurrected
their native-place association in 1938; this was after several years of
silence following a bitter dispute between leaders of the group and
the settlement director. However, the new association was princi-
pally involved in buying real estate, and using the profit from rents
to subsidise its own members in times of personal hardship.37
One further aspect of the migrant community and its response to
the war in China was the incidence of young men volunteering for
service with the Japanese military. According to a press report of June
1938, however, that is, one year after the start of hostilities, there
had been just three volunteers since the previous January. Of these,
the third to depart Brazil was a man of 22 who had arrived from
Yokohama just three years earlier and, since that time, had been
engaged in cotton farming. His attachment to Brazil, therefore, was
clearly weaker than the majority of expatriate Japanese while his
In Transit: 1937–40 153

decision to volunteer was sufficiently rare as to be newsworthy. 38

There were, however, cases of young men born in Brazil who also
offered themselves for military service. Among these was a man named
Kayama and a letter he wrote home to Brazil was printed in the
Seishu Shimpo in June 1939. In this, he recounted at length his training
on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu and, in one comment,
hinted at his motives for volunteering. As he explained, ‘Mine is
a heavy mission. It is to fulfil my roles both as a true Japanese and as
one of the second generation born in Brazil who deserves not to be
treated with contempt’.39 Since the 1920s, there had been a belief
that some new arrivals from Japan viewed those already in Brazil
with disdain. Consequently, Kayama’s decision at least was motivated
as much by the desire for respect as a Brazilian-Japanese as by patri-
otism for Japan.
After the start of Japan’s war with China, there was a marked
increase in the number of expatriates leaving Brazil. As an article
from the Seishu Shimpo put it in mid-1939, the two problems domin-
ating the minds of community leaders were the education of the
second generation and the departures of the first generation. The
article quoted a figure of 917 returnees for the whole of 1938 and
935 for the first six months of 1939. The relationship between this
increase and Japanese nationalism, however, can be overstated. For
example, in works by Mita Chiyoko and Jeffrey Lesser, the impression
given is that migrants were either reacting against the New State and
its constraints on Japanese identity or that they wished to serve
Japan in a time of crisis; in both writings, the emphasis is on a return
actually to Japan. Yet, reports in the migrant press in 1939 claimed
that Japanese leaving Brazil were mostly from the cotton belt of
northeastern Sao Paulo, followed in descending order by those from
the Sorocabana and then Noroeste regions of the state’s northwest.
In explaining the trend, a sharp contrast was drawn between migrant
families who had returned to Japan in earlier years for the education
of their children or to show off their prosperity to relatives and
friends. Now, it was argued, the ones who left were impoverished
and motivated by anxiety over the future both of politics and the
economy of Brazil; this unease was partly caused by the New State
restrictions on education (although those in the remote interior were
best placed to avoid government restrictions) but also, and perhaps
more importantly, by the downward spiral in prices for cotton. In
154 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

addition, the reports stressed the fact that Japan’s hold on Manchuria
and North China seemed now to offer better farming prospects. In
other words, many of those leaving Brazil were reacting to economic
forces and, instead of returning to Japan’s main islands, were migrat-
ing a second time to what they hoped was a more certain future
under Japanese protection in Northeast Asia.40

Religion: nationalism and internationalism

One of the features common to both Japanese and Brazilian societies

has been religious tolerance. The popular saying in Japan is, ‘born
Shinto, die Buddhist’. Similarly, an estimate for Brazil in the 1990s
suggested about 90 per cent of the population was Catholic but at
least half the people also followed Afro-Brazilian religions. In later
Japanese-language histories of the expatriate community, however,
there is a casual insistence that religious organisations, with the
exception of Catholic groups, were not active among Japanese
migrants until the 1950s; in support of this, Maeyama Takashi
quotes a saying among migrants, ‘we left politics and religion behind
in Japan’. Instead, his fervent conviction, if one may so describe it, is
that emperor worship was the dominant belief system of pre-1940
Japanese in Brazil. In his words: 41

Emperor worship was almost the only ritual, except for funeral rites,
observed by the Japanese in prewar Brazil. The local community
provided the arena, and emperor worship, the content for the
ethnic identity required for defining themselves and identifica-
tion for organizing their everyday actions in an alien situational

By this, he means in effect that emperor worship was synonomous

with being Japanese and that the rituals and beliefs of emperor worship
were at the very core of the expatriates’ daily existence. His view, as
noted earlier, is that emperor worship was centred on the Japanese-
run school and evident in activities held at the school such as the
celebration of Japanese festivals and accompanying sports meetings.
In taking place in what Maeyama terms ‘the playground of the “sacred”
Japanese school, as if in the presence of the Emperor himself’, this
means logically that such activities as running, jumping, playing
In Transit: 1937–40 155

baseball, or engaging in a bean bag race, also became sacred. He also

states that the Japanese government from 1918 imposed a ban on
travel to Brazil for religious purposes by any missionaries, other than
those of the Christian church. This, he argues, was in response to the
anti-Japanese sentiment of Brazilians. 42 This would seem to present
a dilemma. As Japan became bogged down in war, one would expect
to see more evidence of emperor worship. Yet, at this same moment,
the Japanese-language schools in Brazil were being closed. The dilemma
is reduced, however, if we re-examine Maeyama’s assertion.
First, the idea that funeral rites and emperor worship were the only
rituals observed by the migrant community is somewhat startling in
that it clearly ignores the other points of consequence in the life
cycle: birth and marriage. Also, his sombre view of sports would
seem, from the tone of contemporary reports in the migrant press, to
minimise the basic pleasure of youthful migrants in activity and
competition; the delight of those from the interior in defeating
a team from the city was surely less to do with ‘serving’ the emperor
and more to do with local rivalries. Moreover, it is highly question-
able whether the ideology of emperor worship was as powerful even
in Japan as Maeyama seems to think it was in Brazil. Within the
expatriate community, there was no network of Shinto shrines, and
schools had no clear, centralised curriculum; this was evident in the
ongoing debates on education into the 1930s. Some migrant teach-
ers were themselves critical of textbooks imported from Japan in so
far as the people and places described therein were so remote from
the experience of their pupils; in this, the emperor would seem to be
a prime example.43 This is not to say that the rituals of showing
respect for the Japanese emperor were mere empty vessels. Rather,
they functioned as one easily discernible element of Japanese ‘tradi-
tion’ (even if some elements of that tradition had only recently been
invented or reinvented) and, as with traditions among any largely
young community, they were either supported, endured, or ignored.
The dominance of emperor worship is also undermined if we accept
that religion among the Japanese in Brazil was more diverse than
Maeyama and others would have us believe. According to a migrant
Japanese historian writing in Sao Paulo in the 1950s, the early arrivals
were virtually all in their twenties and thought exclusively of money.
Only after finding themselves staying long-term in Brazil did they
turn to the question of religion. The answer for a significant number
156 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

was Buddhism. This had been a problem in North America: migrants

who maintained their Buddhist faith had been used by critics to
show that Japanese in general refused to assimilate with local ways.
Consequently, there was some initial reluctance on the part of
Japanese in Brazil to establish Buddhist institutions. However, a survey
of one settlement by the Japanese consulate in 1930 showed that, of
177 migrants questioned, 89 identified themselves as Buddhist, 72 as
New Testament Christian, 13 Old Testament Christian, and two as
Shinto (one either chose not to respond, had no faith, or was lost in
the counting). A slightly later estimate by the Burajiru Jiho in 1934
suggested that about 70 per cent of all Japanese in Brazil adhered to
the Buddhist faith.44
Whatever restrictions may have been imposed by the Japanese
government, Buddhist sects did in fact send representatives to Brazil.
On his travels in the late 1920s, Tsuji Kotaro observed that the Buddhist
Honganji sect, as well as Japanese New Religions and Shinto groups,
had just begun sending men over to promote their beliefs among
both Japanese and non-Japanese. This, he felt, could be counter-pro-
ductive in so far as the anti-Japanese lobby had been quiet for several
years and might now be provoked by the appearance of religious
emissaries from Japan. What had presumably come to his attention
was the first visit to Brazil by a priest from the Nishi Honganji in 1928;
this led to the creation of a Buddhist group at the Iguape settlement,
south of Sao Paulo city. Two years earlier, however, a member of the
Jodo Shinshu sect had arrived and begun working with settlers at
Cafelandia to promote Buddhism across the state; from 1932, they
published a monthly journal, Seido (Achieving Oneness), and, in the
same year, a Jodo Shinshu temple was established at the Hirano settle-
ment. A priest from the Tenrikyo school of Buddhism arrived at the
Tiete settlement in 1929 but moved to the more centrally-located
town of Bauru in 1931. His efforts were assisted in 1936 when an
adviser to Tenrikyo visited Brazil as part of an economic delegation.
Given that one of the primary roles of Buddhism was praying for the
dead, the faith was no doubt boosted by the onset of the Sino-Japanese
war: it is recorded that there were Buddhist services for Japan’s war
dead at least in the town of Marilia (just northwest of Bauru). Around
this time, there was further evidence that Brazilians were tolerant of
religious difference: in 1939, a priest of the Shingon sect obtained
approval from the federal government in Rio to build a temple. 45
In Transit: 1937–40 157

As for the New Religions of Japan, one of the most recently formed
in the 1930s was Seicho no Ie. Created at the start of the decade, it
claimed to represent a synthesis of all the major religions. It was also
intent on being active internationally and, by late 1940, there was a
branch in Brazil. This much is clear from a letter written by the branch
to rebut a migrant press report which seemed to infer that Seicho no
Ie was no more than a seller of snake oils. In its rebuttal, the Brazilian
branch claimed that Seicho no Ie had been approved as a recognised
religion by the Japanese government earlier that year, and that it had
already applied to the Brazilian government for permission to con-
duct religious activities locally. Up to December 1940, however, this
permission had been withheld, apparently on the grounds that the
branch’s Portuguese-language application was as yet inadequate.46
Among the few things that migrants were told about Brazil before
they left Japan was that it was largely a Catholic country. While the
federal constitution guaranteed freedom of religion (and banned reli-
gious instruction in the state school curriculum), some migrants were
encouraged at Kobe to think of converting to Christianity in order to
ease their lives in Brazil. Clearly there were some who took this
advice. The first baptisms of Japanese in Brazil occurred initially in the
rural areas in 1921 and then in Sao Paulo city in 1926. This spurred
others to follow suit. A report in the Nippaku Shimbun of December
1927 noted that the number of Catholic conversions had suddenly
become very numerous (dai-tasu) over the previous one to two years,
with mass christenings being performed. The report explained this
trend in part as a result of the spiritual unease felt by migrants as for-
eigners, but also welcomed it as a further step towards assimilation
into Brazilian life. In passing, the report did raise the possibility that
Catholic priests might simply be collecting converts in order to inflate
their own success. However, one of the Brazilian priests most active
in Sao Paulo city was Father Guido del Torro: at a single ceremony in
November 1927, at which a state police band and major dignitaries
were in attendance, he christened 142 Japanese. He further expanded
his flock to the outskirts of the metropolis at the start of the 1930s.
Father del Torro also worked closely with a Japanese priest of rela-
tively advanced years (he was 59 when he first set foot in Brazil in
1924); this was Nakamura Choroku, a graduate of a Christian seminary
in Nagasaki. These two set up the Sao Francisco School for Japanese
children in Sao Paulo city in 1928. It began with 14 pupils and, over
158 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

the next quarter of a century, is credited with educating several thou-

sand, only increasing in size and importance in the 1950s.47
The Burajiru Jiho in December 1940 estimated about 7000 Japanese
in Brazil had been baptised as Catholics. However, this was not seen
merely as a device to placate the anti-Japanese lobby. Rather, Japan-
ese Catholics were credited with a deep faith and, in this, Christian
missionaries from Japan were highly influential. Father Nakamura,
for example, was to remain in Brazil until his death in 1940. A Sao
Paulo Holiness Church was also established in Sao Paulo city in the
mid-1920s by a Japanese named Monobe; its activities included
a Sunday school as well as bible-reading classes. Of a similar charac-
ter in 1925 was the Japanese Episcopal Church of Father Ito Yasoji,
formerly a missionary in North America. This held Sunday mass and
conducted its own Sunday school. In a separate venture in 1929,
there was a campaign to raise money for a Christian Youth Center in
Sao Paulo city; among the donors was the Japanese consul-general,
the Burataku Company, the Sao Paulo City Japanese Hotels Associ-
ation, Kuroishi Seisaku of the Burajiru Jiho, and Sugimoto Honosuke
of the Casa Tokyo furniture company. Perhaps the most famous (or
infamous) Japanese Christian missionary at the time, however, was
Kobayashi Midori. According to one migrant newspaper: ‘along with
an “amen”, he has the assassin’s skills of an expert swordsman. Behind
his shopboard of education, he quite cleverly rakes in the money’.
Kobayashi established a Japanese Mission in Brazil in 1922 and, in
the same year, conducted the first Sunday School (actually held at
the Taisho Primary School) with a mix of Japanese children plus
Japanese and Brazilian adults. In the mid-1920s, he also set up a Chris-
tian school in the metropolis and a Church of Sao Paulo city which,
from 1934, was renamed the Church of South America.48
The presence of Christian churches among Japanese migrants was
not confined to Sao Paulo city. At the Alianca settlement, a Catholic
chapel was established early in 1935. A decade earlier, there had been
a drive by migrants on the Registro settlement to build their own
church. This was a major plan, costed overall at 50 contos. The
rationale behind it, as this was explained in the advertisement for
donations, was that Japanese in Brazil had the primary responsibility
to fit in with local custom, for example, by modifying their dress and
abandoning Japanese clogs (geta) for shoes, and by altering their
beliefs through a conversion to Christianity. In this spirit, the Registro
In Transit: 1937–40 159

church was intended to serve both Japanese and Brazilians, and the
committee overseeing the project was also a co-operative enterprise
with a Brazilian as chair.49
The activities of Buddhist sects and Christian churches among
expatriate Japanese obviously did not obstruct them from supporting
Japan in its war effort. However, they do imply that emperor worship
was not as central to migrant life as has been suggested. Moreover,
the manner in which Brazilian and Japanese Christians worked
together indicates a desire on the part of migrants to live within, and
not apart from, Brazilian society. The tolerance of the federal govern-
ment for Japanese Buddhist institutions late in the 1930s also sug-
gests that religion was not a crucial issue in relations between the
Brazilian authorities and the resident Japanese.

Closing images: Japanese and Brazilians circa 1940

The onset of the Sino-Japanese war contributed to a greater interest

among Brazilians about Japan and the Japanese late in the 1930s.
This interest had been growing over the decade, albeit commencing
from a point of virtual ignorance: an article in the Burajiru Jiho in
1934 claimed that Brazilians in the interior were likely to ask how
long it took by train from Sao Paulo to Japan, and in which part of
Europe was Japan to be found. It also reproduced an image from
a Brazilian school text in which a typical Japanese boy was pictured
in Chinese dress and given the Chinese name, Pei-ho. With the start
of war, some Brazilians expressed a desire to learn more about
Japan’s martial arts; this followed a high-profile goodwill visit by two
judo experts from Japan in 1939. One consequence was the creation
late in 1940 of a new judo school at Birigui city with a mix of Japanese
and Brazilian students: the headline in the migrant press was ‘Japan-
ese and Brazilian bonded by judo’, and this seemed to perpetuate the
earlier ideal of sports as a meeting-point of cultures.50 Another concept
to be revived by the war was that of understanding culture through
music. After 1937, there was more demand in Brazil and other coun-
tries for recorded music from Japan. For example, the Sao Paulo
Radio Station Orchestra was reported in 1938 to be planning a perform-
ance of Japanese music such as the national anthem (Kimi ga Yo),
military marches, and other works. The metropolitan station Radio
22P early in 1938 was also broadcasting a quarter-hourly selection of
160 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

Japanese songs each week in response to the growing public interest

since the start of the China war. The titles listed, however, mixed the
prevailing image of aestheticism and militarism identified with Japan,
including as they did songs from the war with those such as ‘The
Cherry Blossom Dance’ (‘Sakura Odori’) and ‘The Flower-Viewing
Dance’ (‘Hanami Odori’).51
The onset of war in Asia, and the rise of tensions in Europe, height-
ened South American fears about immigrants in general and the
threat of subversion. In May 1940, the Japanese-language press in
Brazil reported violent attacks in Peru; these were directed at Japanese
businesses, schools, farms and houses, and followed rumours, perhaps
spread by US intelligence officers, of arms having been discovered at
various sites to be used by Japanese fifth columnists. In the violence,
several hundred Japanese concerns were attacked and ten Japanese
killed. In so far as some of the major businesses of Japanese in Peru
were barber shops, bakers, chicken farmers and florists, the story
gained currency only from the imagery of all Japanese as samurai.
This violence, however, came at a time when the Peruvian govern-
ment was considering laws to ban all further immigration from
Japan and deprive Japanese of the right to own land. In Brazil, by
contrast, the lives and property of migrant Japanese remained safe.
There were some Brazilians who warned of conspiracy and a map
was produced by a parliamentary member of the anti-Japanese lobby
to show Japanese intent on taking over Sao Paulo state: this was pub-
licly refuted by State Secretary of Education Almeida who dismissed
the map as an obvious fabrication. At this time also, Brazilian offi-
cials such as the mayor of Jundiai were happy to attend local celebra-
tions of resident Japanese. There was some disquiet early in 1939
when leaflets were pasted about the city of Lins defaming the Japan-
ese presence. The Burajiru Jiho speculated it might have been the
work of Brazilian communist party members, either to distract pressure
from their own organisation or in support of the Chinese communists.
The Japanese at Lins, however, chose merely to press the Brazilian
authorities for a thorough investigation and then to let the matter
drop.52 Indeed, one of the principal acts of destruction to the Japan-
ese community came at its own hands: in July 1939, Miura Saku of the
Nippaku Shimbun was finally expelled from Brazil and forced to make
Japan his home for the first time in over 30 years. This came after an
article of his had been reported, no doubt by one of his Japanese
In Transit: 1937–40 161

enemies, to the authorities as demeaning the military. On this occa-

sion, there was no reprieve: the Nippaku Shimbun was banned for a
year, and Miura, soon after returning to Japan, was to spend the
entire war years in Sugamo Prison, Tokyo, after further, albeit privately,
criticising the military.53
While expatriates were involved in supporting Japan’s war effort,
they also demonstrated their commitment to Brazil. In 1938, Japanese
pupils at the Taisho Primary School in Sao Paulo city celebrated the
anniversary of the Brazilian republic with a programme of songs and
poetry, much of it in Portuguese. In 1939, Burataku made arrange-
ments for about 400 children of Japanese descent to march in an
independence day parade for second-generation Brazilians; this was
held on 7 September in Rio de Janeiro and practice for the parade
was overseen by the Brazilian teacher of physical education at the
Bastos primary school. Even under the New State, there was widespread
support among Brazilians for the ideas of Freyre and others on the
value of ‘indefinite homogeneity’. Indeed, the conclusion of Robert
Levine, historian of the Vargas regime, would seem apposite: ‘racism
did not haunt the Estado Novo save for faint reminders of xenopho-
bia and survivals of anti-Japanese and anti-Semitic attitudes among
a small minority’. 54
On the question of racism, one should note that the expatriate
Japanese press continued in the late 1930s to view Western societies
with general goodwill and equanimity. The Seishu Shimpo, for example,
in February 1940 could still use a caricature of Charlie Chaplin to
head its column on ‘News from Home’ (i.e. Japan) without apparent
contradiction. Indeed, less flattering caricatures of Western leaders
more commonly mocked the political demagogues, Hitler or Musso-
lini, rather than Roosevelt or Churchill; the cartoons of Mussolini in
particular finely captured his mix of brutality and bombast. Migrants
were obviously unsettled by the statement early in 1939 of the
Brazilian foreign minister while visiting Washington that, in the
event of a world war, Brazil would co-operate with the United States.
However, they do not seem to have engaged in open displays of anti-
Americanism and tended more often to blame diplomatic friction
between Tokyo and Washington on the propaganda failures of their
own officials. 55
It may be that the prospect of an expanded war, or simply the
economic vicissitudes of Brazil, contributed to a growing number of
162 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

migrants either repatriating to Japan or returning for a visit after an

extended period away. This led to a greater frequency of letters and
reports in the expatriate press describing the land and society of
Japan in the 1930s. One of the consistent features here, as it was with
Japanese migrants elsewhere in the Americas, was to comment on
the smallness and cramped condition of life in Japan. Thus, a farmer
from the Noroeste revisited Japan in 1935 after an absence of 25
years. As he put it, ‘Going from Brazil, I felt that agriculture in Japan
was just like playing with plants in a box: also the struggle to survive
is aggressive so virtues like responsibility and humanity have weak-
ened’. Another return visitor in 1939 gave his impressions after two
decades in Brazil. In particular, he was surprised at seeing Mount Fuji
again; it appeared so small, he wrote, that it seemed almost like a
toy and quite failed to move him. He passed it several times during
his visit and gradually began to appreciate its beauty but it was not
until he was sailing back to Brazil, and heard of the first snow on
Fuji’s peak, that he felt any real renewed sense of attachment to this
quintessential icon of Japan. 56
In writings on Japanese emigration, there is a tendency to emphasise
the traumatic experience and the heroic endurance. What this over-
looks is both the ordinariness and the humour of migrant life. The
ordinariness is evident in a list of book titles imported by a Japanese
trader in Sao Paulo in September 1940. Hardly surprising given the
wars in Europe and China, this included a translation of Hitler’s Mein
Kampf, the autobiography of T.E. Lawrence, and The Pocket Navy
Yearbook (Japan). However, there was also a reader in Japanese litera-
ture and works with such non-martial subjects as Growing Tomatoes,
How to Drive and Teach Yourself Harmonica.57 As for humour, there
was in Japan and among the expatriate Japanese a constant audience
for jokes and satire, notwithstanding the events of the late 1930s. For
example, the 1938 New Year’s Day edition of the Burajiru Jiho, usually
seen as the most moralistic and self-important of the migrant news-
papers, contained a story titled ‘The Fascist Wife’ (Nyobo Fassho):
accompanying this was a cartoon of a typical 1930s Japanese salary-
man literally being booted end-over-end by his amazonian wife (the
term here is adjectival rather than geographical), resplendent in
her swastika-motif kimono and holding aloft a broom as if it were
a halberd. Whether this reflected Brazil’s greater equality for women
(female labourers having enjoyed the right to vote since 1932) or was
In Transit: 1937–40 163

merely a satire on right-wing extremism, is open to question. Other

cartoons in the same edition revolved around drink; one had a stylish
young Japanese in blazer, fedora and cane, passing a notice for a
meeting on the military crisis and saying with an irrepressible smile,
‘I know it’s an emergency but, at the New Year, come on, let’s drink’.
Indeed, in contrast to the contemporary images of Japanese militar-
ism, or the later scholarship on emperor worship, it may be that the
1990s novel Brazil-Maru by American-Japanese writer Karen Tei
Yamashita is closer to the truth. In this, she describes young settlers
in Brazil referring irreverently to the Japanese emperor as ‘Ten-chan’
(a sobriquet adopted by youth in Japan for the same emperor in his
last years), and has a newspaper publisher at a game of migrant base-
ball arrange for the visiting team unknowingly to bow to a covered
erotic painting rather than to a portrait of the emperor. Further to
the point of ordinariness, we may permit ourselves to note a tiny
moment of history. Towards the end of 1940, the Burajiru Jiho chose
to report a visit from the state’s interior to Sao Paulo city by a Japan-
ese woman of about 50. She spoke no Portuguese and was dumb-
founded upon arrival at the great metropolitan railway station by the
size of the city and the crowds of people and cars. Seeing this,
a Brazilian policeman approached her, halted the traffic, and guided
her across the street. He then attempted to ask her for her destin-
ation. A Japanese resident came to the assistance of them both. This
officer’s simple act of courtesy, however, earned the newspaper head-
ing, ‘Sao Paulo city policemen – truly kind!’58 Human generosity was
perhaps always able to resist the tirades of racists.
The Seishu Shimpo of 1 January 1940 summarised the progress of the
expatriate community to date. In the late 1920s, it argued, migrants
had been embarrassed to be Japanese and they had shied away either
from explaining their identity or from contact with other Japanese
in the street. This sensitivity had been overturned by the Manchu-
rian incident and Tokyo’s defiance of the League of Nations. This
assertiveness had left migrants with a renewed pride in being Japanese;
they had also been moved by the stories of losses suffered by Japan-
ese troops in China at the time, especially the so-called ‘three heroes’
(san yushi) repeatedly commemorated in film, print, and on consumer
items such as cigarette boxes. However, with the coming of the Sino-
Japanese war, the paper suggested, most migrants were physically
and emotionally exhausted. They recognised that the Brazilianisation
164 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

programme of the New State viewed the German community as the

principal threat but they felt they were second in line and thus sub-
ject also to repression. As a consequence of war in Asia and legal
changes in Brazil, there was natural unease about the future. How-
ever, in closing, the comment of Tanaka Jo, a Japanese resident at
Bastos, may be appropriate. Writing on 1 January 1939, shortly after
the first wave of reforms under the New State and the closure of
Japanese-language schools, he reminded his fellow migrants that the
Japanese people had a history of endurance and that the present
turmoil was only like winter snow on a willow tree, bending but
never breaking it, and certain to ease with time. 59

The simplest way to conclude is by working through the major stages

in the process of emigration from Japan and settlement in Brazil. At
each stage, we can compare the existing interpretation of Japanese-
language scholarship with the approach taken here. What should
quickly become obvious is the extent to which these perspectives are
at variance. On the one hand, the dominant theme of later Japanese
writers is the misery and suffering of emigration, and the alienation
of Japanese migrants from other peoples. In this work, the emphasis
has been on the freedoms and opportunities presented by emigration,
the adaptability, pragmatism and humour of migrants, and the level
of interaction between Japanese and Brazilians.
The first stage comes before departure from Japan. A term commonly
used to describe Japanese migrants is ‘kimin’. Where this is used to
mean the discarded or disposable, and in particular the second or
third sons of agricultural families, it is misleading. Most obviously, it
addresses male emigrants and overlooks the existence of women. As
we have seen, however, the situation in Brazil was unusual in that
Japanese women constituted nearly half the expatriate population
from the outset. They helped to stabilise the migrant community
overall. They also worked alongside their husbands on the coffee
plantations; in time, others were active in urban commerce, for
example, in dealing with customers at the furniture stores of Sao
Paulo city. There were women’s civic and cultural groups. They
joined in the games at festival times. Women were also among the
major consumers of journals imported from Japan and, in the
migrant newspapers, they came to have pages directed solely to their

166 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

interests. Indeed, the life of Japanese women in Brazil is a topic in its

own right and one that awaits special attention.
In terms of geography, the emigrants to Brazil, as with those to
Hawaii and North America in the early years, were influenced by two
factors. One was the ratio in Japan of land to population. This meant
that many migrants were drawn from the poorer agrarian regions of
the south and west. A second and related factor is that this regional
concentration led to a network of contacts and information in the
same areas which, in turn, contributed to forms of chain migration.
However, in the Brazilian case, one distinctive feature is the large
number of Okinawans, at least in the years before formal and informal
Japanese government restrictions were applied against them. Emigra-
tion in general from Okinawa began late and overlapped both with a
decline in access to North America and the start of new openings in
Brazil. One consequence of this was that Okinawans constituted an
important element among the Japanese community in Brazil, particu-
larly in the port of Santos, and claimed the largest native-place asso-
ciation in the early 1930s. On geographical background, however, one
should also add that the desperate situation of Japanese agriculture
and industry from the 1920s meant that people from all parts of the
country were looking to emigrate as a means to find work and
income. Thus, for example, the Alianca settlement of the 1920s was
originally the creation of prefectures from central Japan. This resulted
in a more geographically diverse community in later years compared
to the first generation of migrants from the 1900s.
The next stage in the process was the migrant’s departure from
Japan. According to Maeyama Takashi, this was a traumatic experi-
ence in which Japanese sailing from Kobe felt as nervous as if they
were soldiers heading for war.1 Yet, everything the migrants had
been told about Brazil had been positive; the land, people, prospects
for wealth, all were seemingly in their favour. The land they were
leaving behind, by contrast, had been unable to support them and,
in particular from the 1920s, appeared to be locked in a downward
spiral of unemployment and unrest. As they left Kobe in the 1930s,
there was the evidence of the failed applicants to remind them how
fortunate they were, and much of what they were to hear in the
migrant newspapers only reinforced impressions of the harshness of
life in Japan. Thus, instead of shock, it may equally be true to think
of Japanese migrants embarking for Brazil with relief and optimism.
Conclusion 167

If this had not been the case, one would have to ask why there was a
constant flow of Japanese to Brazil until the restrictions of the Vargas
government began to bite late in the 1930s.
Upon arriving in Brazil, Japanese migrants did indeed suffer initially.
Ignorance of the language, food and customs either of Brazil or of
the polyglot workforce of coffee plantations made life difficult.
Migrants also found that they had been misled by entrepreneurs or
officials in Japan. Inevitably, there was some sense of alienation.
Again in Maeyama’s view, this alienation and the manner in which
all migrants were addressed as ‘Japanese’ made them think of them-
selves for the first time in terms of a Japanese identity. There are two
caveats here, however. First, the large number of Okinawans may
simply have felt further alienated at being called Japanese if they
were uncomfortable with the language of Japan and felt they were
treated with disdain by ‘other’ Japanese. Second, the allocation of
labour migrants to plantations according to regional background was
specifically designed to make life easier for them in being among
people with the same dialect, sense of place, and customs. In this, it
may also have reinforced a localised identity in conflict with that of
Japanese nationality. The establishment of native-place associations
(and disputes between such groups) suggests this tension persisted
throughout the period.
The consensus of Japanese writers in the 1970s–90s was that life
for Japanese migrants on the plantations of Sao Paulo was harsh.
They were accommodated in spartan dwellings and were exploited
over wages, conditions, and in such things as the cost of supplies
bought from the plantation store. This was partly true in the first
period of immigration; there were problems between Japanese and
their employers as there had been in other countries at other times.
However, the situation was quickly improved. This was in the inter-
ests both of Brazilian employers and Japanese migrants. Consequently,
one can find Japanese plantation workers in the 1920s well satisfied
with their lot. Certainly Japanese observers at that time argued for
the wider benefits of working on a plantation; this, they believed,
was essential training for success later as an independent farmer in
Brazil, and they criticised those who immigrated from Japan directly
to a Japanese-owned settlement.
The idea that Japanese immigrants were the victims of exploitation
leads us to our next point: racism. One of the overriding beliefs of
168 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

later Japanese-language writings is that migrants from Japan were

viewed with fear or distaste, and suffered restrictions both on their
access to Brazil and their freedoms within the country, as a result of
racism. As evidence for this, there are quotes from individual Brazil-
ians through the 1900s to 1930s, and discussion of the attempt to
limit Japanese immigrants in 1923 and the actual quota system from
1934. While there were racist comments made against Japanese by
such as Dr Miguel Couto, and there were restrictions on Japanese
immigration and cultural freedoms in the 1930s (as there were on
all other non-Brazilian minorities), this is not the whole story. Con-
temporary Japanese observers were much more likely to stress the
tolerance of Brazilian laws and society, even in the later period. They
pointed to the situation of Japanese migrants in North America,
especially after the exclusion act of 1924, and felt that Brazil
remained far more a home than a prison. They also insisted that
racial respect in general was of a far higher order in the multicultural
society of Brazil than in any other major destination for Japanese
emigrants outside of East Asia.
In Brazil, throughout the period 1908–40, expatriate Japanese were
able to live and work in safety. The violent rhetoric of some in the
anti-Japanese minority was not matched by physical violence from
the mob, as had been the case in North America as early as 1906 and
was the case in Peru in 1940. Where there was conflict, it originated
usually in personal clashes or for economic reasons. Indeed, aggressive
conflict, albeit usually stopping short of actual violence, was a recur-
ring feature within the Japanese community in Brazil; this was most
obvious in the long-running antagonism between the two major
newspapermen, Kuroishi and Miura, but also in areas such as Japan
societies, the Japan Hospital, and among differing groups fighting for
power on the provincial settlements.
As the migrant community grew in the 1920s, there is a view
among Japanese writers that it was directed by the local representa-
tives of the Japanese government and business. To be more specific,
these were what was known as the ‘go-sanke’, that is, the ‘three great
houses’: the Japanese consulates, the Burataku company, and the Kaiko
emigration monopoly.2 From this, one might assume that individual
migrants conformed to the stereotype of Japanese as docile and sub-
servient. However, we have seen that satire and criticism of those in
authority was one of the engaging features of Japanese migrants.
Conclusion 169

Moreover, the most powerful vehicle for informing and guiding the
expatriate Japanese community as it grew and changed constantly over
the period was the Japanese-language press. In an offhand comment,
Maeyama insists that no civic leaders beyond the local level emerged
from among the migrants except for those in the press.3 This under-
values the role of Japanese teachers, practitioners of medicine, leaders
of agrarian co-operatives or commercial unions, plus heads of
women’s and youth groups. However, on the press alone, one should
note that its ability to encourage and lead debate was enhanced by
the absence of a formal Japanese government, an established intel-
lectual community, or, for that matter, a monopoly cabal of Japanese
big business. The migrant press in Brazil reflected the diversity of its
community: the Burajiru Jiho and Nippaku Shimbun were as oil to
water, while the Seishu Shimpo originally defended the viewpoint of
provincial migrants, and the Nihon Shimbun under its owner Onaga
Sukenari had a special concern with the people from Okinawa.
The Japanese-language press was not simply the tool of the
‘go-sanke’. Miura in particular criticised and lampooned those in
authority. All of the newspapers, however, were advocates of indi-
vidual improvement and self-reliance; it could hardly be otherwise
for those who had chosen to live in a foreign land. In this sense, one
could argue that the idea of the frontier as a cradle for democracy can
be applied even to a metropolitan setting where the metropolis in
question lies beyond the political, legal and even intellectual power
of the ‘home’ state.
The most significant point of difference between this work and
those of later Japanese writers concerns the question of engagement.
Once a Japanese community had evolved, it remained, in the view of
Handa, Maeyama and others, culturally and socially distant from its
Brazilian surroundings. Thus, we are told, for example, that the
migrants’ bodies may have been in Brazil but their minds were in
Japan, that Japanese businesses relied primarily on Japanese custom,
or that Japanese migrant farmers viewed Brazilians as socially invis-
ible. In Japanese writings from the 1900s to the 1930s, however, one
is constantly being told of the friendliness and generosity of the
Brazilian people and of the benefit to migrants themselves of seeking
interaction. Migrants were encouraged to learn Portuguese long before
the restrictions on Japanese-language schools were finally enforced
in the late 1930s. They were also encouraged to learn Brazilian music
170 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

and dance. They were told, moreover, of the ease with which they
might apply for Brazilian citizenship. As expatriate Japanese prospered
and moved into larger-scale farming or urban retailing, it was clearly
in their interest to understand the language and customs of Brazil.
Migrant co-operatives could not grow solely by selling to other
Japanese and this was true also of small business such as hotels, taxi
companies, furniture stores, film distribution or any other concern.
Deliberately to isolate themselves in a kind of Japanese social, cultural
and economic ghetto would have been a form of self-imposed incar-
ceration justifiable only if they feared for their lives and property.
This was not the case in Brazil.
On the question of engagement, one needs to remember that there
were always influential Brazilians ready to speak on behalf of the
migrant Japanese. The Reis bill of 1923 was killed because it was
opposed by Brazilian politicians, apparently with the support of the
Brazilian public. At the time of the 1934 constitutional reform, there
were again leading statesmen openly praising the Japanese contribu-
tion to Brazilian development. Even at the end of the 1930s, a former
Sao Paulo state secretary of education could write at great length in
support of Japanese immigrants. Behind all this was the view, most
fully expressed by Gilberto Freyre early in the 1930s, that fluidity
and diversity were the special distinctions of Brazilian culture and
ideally the model for other societies. This embrace of difference, and
a rejection of racism, was symbolised for many by the Brazilian carni-
val and, in this, there were Japanese migrants who both appreciated
its symbolism and participated, either at dances, on floats, or as
‘masked samurai’, in its annual reveries.
This leads us back to the question of Japanese identity and to the
argument of Maeyama. He has suggested that migrants always
viewed themselves as sojourners in Brazil and that emperor-worship
was the ritual framework for maintaining an exclusively ‘Japanese’
identity. Doubts about the strength of this argument have already
been raised. Suffice to repeat here that Japanese migrants did par-
ticipate in Brazilian festivals, including the carnival and other feast
days. On Japanese holidays, moreover, there was generally some
inclusion of Brazil (for example, by singing the Brazilian anthem),
while the programme of activities centred as much on ordinary
human enjoyment as on worship of the divine. Underlying
Maeyama’s argument appears to be a view that anyone educated in
Conclusion 171

the school system of Japan before 1940, or in the local version of

that system through the Japanese-language school in Brazil, could
only have accepted the tenets of emperor worship. However, we
have seen that Japanese migrants were often more concerned with
their own ambitions, wealth and leisure. Perhaps the most powerful
body of rituals actually centred on sport. While Maeyama has linked
sport to the school and, thereby, to emperor worship, in fact the
dominant principle of athletics and the modern Olympics was and
is internationalism. Where possible, there was friendly sporting
competition between Japanese migrants and Brazilians, and sport was
seen by at least some Japanese observers as a vehicle for increased
engagement between peoples.
The prime minister of Japan at the start of the 1920s was Hara Kei.
On one occasion, he suggested that a strong sense of nationalism
was a precondition for a strong sense of internationalism. While
there were recurring arguments among the expatriate Japanese in
support of internationalism, they did not abandon Japan. They sought
information on social and political events in Japan; they consumed
books, journals, movies, music, foods and goods from Japan. They
sent money either to assist their own relatives or, later, the families
of troops at war in China. They believed in the value of teaching
their children an understanding of the Japanese language. The reality
of their situation, however, convinced the overwhelming majority of
them to remain in Brazil and, in so doing, to learn something of the
language and manners of another society. This understanding was
obviously keenest among the children born or raised in Brazil. As the
student leader, Kenro Shimomoto explained, they could feel respect
for Japan but affection for Brazil; one was familiar by direct experi-
ence, the other was geographically remote even if its language and
values were familiar through the example of parents and of newly
arrived immigrants from Japan. However, the second-generation
students, and leading Japanese commentators, were not bound by
what might be called the iron cage of nationalism in which one had
to choose either to be Japanese or Brazilian. Rather, the way to
become a ‘global’ person was through a soft nationalism whereby one
took pride in the achievement of any society, or individual of that
society, with which one had a cultural link. Thus, for leaders of
the expatriate community, as for pre-1940 advocates of emigration, to
be Japanese or Brazilian was not to be tied to a rigid and immovable
172 The Japanese Community in Brazil, 1908–40

identity locked in by tradition. Instead, there was a belief in the

value of moving and evolving, learning and adapting: to paraphrase
one of the most famous lines of classical Japanese poetry, naturally
the flow of the river is ever-moving and ever-changing. In the same
way, a Japanese soprano, for example, might be born in the United
States, perform with an Italian company, and have but a limited
command of the Japanese language, but that did not prevent her
from being welcomed by the expatriate community in Brazil. It was
this inclusiveness, on the part both of migrant Japanese and Brazilians
alike, which is a feature of this period. To insist only that Japanese
were the victims of Brazilian repression or racism, or that they
removed themselves from Brazilian society, is ultimately to feed
mythologies of Japanese uniqueness and of the insuperable borders
between mutual understanding. The lives of Japanese in Brazil
between 1908 and 1940, however, quite clearly show that regressive
ideas on the distance between cultures could be overcome, and that
those born in Japan or within a Japanese family could successfully
inhabit at least two worlds.

1 Foreign population figures, Asahi Shimbun, Japan Almanac 1998, Tokyo
1997, p. 63. In his 1979 article ‘The Ethnic Japanese in Brazil’, Journal of
Japanese Studies, vol. 5-1, winter 1979, p. 53, Robert J. Smith gave the
entire ethnic Japanese population of Brazil as 750 000. However, 1990s
figures showed a total of 1.3 million, with 326 000 ethnic Japanese in Sao
Paulo city alone, another 170 000 in its immediate environs, and a further
391 000 elsewhere in Sao Paulo state, Kaigai Iju, 571, September 1996,
pp. 24–5; see also p. 25 also for the status of ethnic Japanese in 1990s
2 Alan Takeo Moriyama, Imingaisha: Japanese Emigration Companies and
Hawaii, 1894–1908, Honolulu 1985, p. xv; Maeyama Takashi, Esunishiti to
Burajiru Nikkeijin, Tokyo 1996, p. 490, reproducing his essay of 1988,
‘Burajiru, Nihon, Nikkeijin’.
3 Prefectures publishing book and chapter-length studies of local emigrants
at this time are listed in Imin Kenkyukai (ed.), Nihon no Imin Kenkyu: Doko
to Mokuroku, Tokyo 1994, p. 18. See Mita Chiyoko, p. 35, in the same work
for the focus of Japanese scholarship on emigration to the US, 1880s–
4 Leading examples of English-language studies of ethnic and cultural
diversity within Japan include: David Howell, ‘Ethnicity and culture in
contemporary Japan’, Journal of Contemporary History, vol. 31, 1996,
pp. 171–90, one of the best introductions to the subject; and the essays in
Michael Weiner (ed.), Japan’s Minorities: The Illusion of Homogeneity,
London 1997. The enduring study of the Japanese in Brazil (although, as
its title indicates, this was only a secondary concern) is J.F. Normano and
Antonello Gerbi, The Japanese in South America: An Introductory Survey with
Special Reference to Peru, NY 1943. Given the time and circumstances in
which it was written, it is a remarkably accurate, informative and objective
5 Hosokawa Shuhei, Sanba no Kuni ni Enka wa Nagareru: Ongaku ni Miru
Nikkei Burajiru Iminshi, Tokyo 1995, p. 4.
6 For example, Maeyama 1996, p. 11 (original article from 1987: ‘Ibunka
sesshoku to bunka hendo’ ), and ‘Ethnicity, secret societies, and associations:
the Japanese in Brazil’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, vol. 21,
1979, p. 607.
7 Yen exchange rates, Kodo Hisaichi, Burajiru no Jisseikatsu, Tokyo 1928,
pp. 22–3; US rates, Richard Morse, From Community to Metropolis: A Biog-
raphy of Sao Paulo, Brazil, 2nd edn, NY 1974, p. vii.

174 Notes

1 Leaving: Japan’s Entry into a World of Migration,

1 Foreign population of Tokyo, Alan Takeo Moriyama, Imingaisha: Japanese
Emigration Companies and Hawaii, 1894–1908, Honolulu 1985, p. xviii.
2 Takahashi Yukiharu, Nikkei Burajiru Iminshi, Tokyo 1993, p. 10.
3 Hawaiian migration promises, Moriyama 1985, p. 20.
4 Thomas Sowell, Migrations and Cultures: A World View, NY 1996, p. 22.
5 On Hawaiian migrant ambitions and experiences, Moriyama 1985,
pp. xix, 16–18, 26–31; Ichioka, Yuji, The Issei: The World of the First
Generation Japanese Immigrants 1885–1924, NY 1988, p. 40.
6 1894 regulations, Konno Toshihiko and Fujisaki Yasuo, Iminshi 1: Nambei-
hen, Tokyo 1994, pp. 19–20; Moriyama 1985, pp. 33–7; Ichioka 1988, p. 47.
7 Ichioka 1988, pp. 7–9, 16–22, 29, 36–9.
8 John Morgan, senator for Alabama, open letter to the Independent, 16
October 1897, contained in Gaimusho (ed.), Nihon Gaiko Bunsho, vol. 30,
pp. 1050–2.
9 Migrants from Hawaii, Ichioka 1988, pp. 51–65, and on rejection of
Japanese consul’s claim, pp. 67–8.
10 Early migrants to Peru, Irie, Toraji, ‘History of Japanese migration to
Peru’ (parts 1 and 2), The Hispanic American Historical Review, vol. 31,
August 1951, pp. 443–8, November 1951, pp. 648–53; C. Harvey Gardiner,
The Japanese and Peru 1873–1973, Albuquerque 1975, pp. 23–7. The
Japanese regional newspaper, Gifu Nichi Nichi Shimbun, 1 March 1908,
contained a report that the Peruvian government was about to impose an
extra heavy tax on Chinese immigration but not on Japanese migrants.
11 1803 sailors, also 1869 suicide, Tsunoda Yoshizumi, Burajiru Hiroshima-
kenjin Hattenshi Narabi-ni Kenjin Meibo, Sao Paulo 1967, p. 27.
12 Japanese circus, San Pauro Jimbun Kagaku Kenkyujo (ed.), Burajiru Nihon
Iminshi Nempyo, Akita 1997, p. 14.
13 Mita Chiyoko, ‘Burajiru no imin seisaku to Nihon imin: Beikoku hai-Nichi
Undo no hankyo no ichi jirei to shite’, Miwa Kimitada (ed.), Nichi-Bei
Kiki no Kigen to Hai-Nichi Iminho, Tokyo 1997, p. 435.
14 Jeffrey Lesser, Negotiating National Identity: Immigrants, Minorities, and the
Struggle for Ethnicity in Brazil, Durham 1999, pp. 15–35, quotation on p. 19.
Some went even further. Lesser, p. 28, adds a quote from one member of
the Bahian state legislative assembly in the 1870s describing the Chinese
as ‘deformed both physically and morally; [who] use opium, kill their
children, are disloyal, egotistical and are given to begging; their only
virtue is patience’.
15 Lisboa speech, the Japan Times, 21 December 1897.
16 Tsunoda 1967, p. 28.
17 Population and migrant figures, Boris Fausto, ‘Brazil: the social and polit-
ical structures of the First Republic, 1889–1930’, Leslie Bethell (ed.), Cam-
bridge History of Latin America, vol. 5, c. 1870 to 1930, Cambridge 1986,
pp. 779, 786; E. Bradford Burns, A History of Brazil, 2nd edn, NY 1980,
Notes 175

pp. 242, 264–5; ‘whitening’ and European migrants, George Reid Andrews,
‘Brazilian racial democracy, 1900–90: an American counterpoint’, Journal
of Contemporary History, vol. 31, 3, 1996, pp. 485–6; also Mita 1997, p. 436.
18 Gilberto Freyre, Order and Progress: Brazil from Monarchy to Republic, NY
1970, pp. 256–7.
19 Peter Duus, The Abacus and the Sword: The Japanese Penetration of Korea,
1895–1910, Berkeley 1995, pp. 295–6.
20 Migrants to Hokkaido, Gifu Nichi Nichi Shimbun, 6 June 1907; to Hawaii,
Moriyama 1985, p. 52.
21 Sugimura and Brazil, Takahashi 1993, pp. 17–18; Konno/Fujisaki 1994,
p. 28; Tsunoda 1967, p. 28. Amazonas press and Russo-Japanese war,
Tsuji Kotaro, Burajiru no Doho o Tazunete, Tokyo 1930, p. 279.
22 On Mizuno’s views of Brazil and the assistance given by Minister Sugimura,
see also Mizuno Ryo, ‘Waga imin no dai hattenchi Nambei Burajiru ni okeru
Nihon rodosha no kangei’, Jitsugyo Kurabu, no. 2, April 1908, pp. 44–7.
On Mizuno and ex-soldiers as emigrants, Takahashi 1993, pp. 20–1; Handa
Tomoo, Imin no Seikatsu no Rekishi: Burajiru Nikkeijin no Ayunda Michi,
Sao Paulo, 1970, p. 82. On the decline of Italian labour conditions circa
1899–1900, Takahashi 1993, p. 15; Konno/Fujisaki 1994, p. 22.
23 On the Fujisaki Trading Store, see Konno/Fujisaki 1994, pp. 33–4; Tsunoda
1967, p. 28. On Mizuno, see Takahashi 1993, p. 20.
24 Nambei Toko Shoken Kaisha advert, Gifu Nichi Nichi Shimbun, 23 April

2 Arriving: the Early Japanese in Brazil, 1908–19

1 Takahashi Yukiharu, Nikkei Burajiru Iminshi, Tokyo 1993, p. 25, quoting
from Asahi Shimbun (Osaka), 29 April 1908.
2 Mita Chiyoko, citing works of Ono Kazuichiro, in Imin Kenkyukai (ed.),
Nihon no Imin Kenkyu: Doko to Mokuroku, Tokyo 1994, p. 37.
3 Takahashi 1993, p. 29.
4 Tsuji Kotaro, Burajiru no Doho o Tazunete, Tokyo 1930, p. 3.
5 Details of the 1908 voyage, Takahashi 1993, pp. 31–9; Aoyagi Ikutaro,
Burajiru ni okeru Nihonjin Hattenshi, Tokyo 1941, p. 271.
6 Takahashi 1993, p. 43 for details of migrant age and literacy levels.
Migrant statistics also in Aoyagi 1941, p. 269; Handa Tomoo, Imin no
Seikatsu no Rekishi: Burajiru Nikkeijin no Ayunda Michi, Sao Paulo 1970,
p. 53. On the Sao Paulo government system of subsidised migration from
the 1890s, Thomas H. Holloway, Immigrants on the Land: Coffee and Soci-
ety in Sao Paulo, 1886–1934, Chapel Hill 1980, pp. 45–9.
7 A complete list of the regional breakdown of the 1908 migrants is in
Takahashi 1993, pp. 24–5.
8 Toyama Ichiro, ‘“Kominka” to imin: kindai Okinawa no kuno’, Sasaki
Takashi and Yamada Akira (eds), Shin-shiten Nihon no Rekishi, vol. 6,
Tokyo 1993, p. 247. Peruvian case, John K. Emmerson, The Japanese Thread:
A Life in the U.S. Foreign Service, NY 1978, p. 131.
176 Notes

9 Differing causes in west and east Japanese migration, Imin Kenkyukai

1994, pp. 22–30; Yoshida Keiko, ‘Higashi Nihon ni okeru Meiji-ki dekasegi
imin no jittai: Meiji 31-nen-45-nen no Fukushima-ken dekasegi imin
ryoken deeta kara’, Iju Kenkyu, 29, March 1992, pp. 75–81. On the role of
precedent in influencing clusters of migration even in a largely non-
agrarian region, see Burajiru Fukui Kenjinkai Kaiho Henshubu, ed., Bura-
jiru to Fukui Kenjin, Sao Paulo 1961, p. 269.
10 Rodrigues Alves speech 1901, plus journalist’s quote, Jeffrey D. Needell,
‘Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires: public space and public consciousness
in fin-de-siècle Latin America’, Comparative Studies in Society and History,
vol. 37-3, July 1995, pp. 532–3. On the reconstruction and hygienic
improvement of Rio, see also Frank G. Carpenter, Along the Parana and
the Amazon, NY 1925, pp. 211–13; E. Bradford Burns, A History of Brazil,
2nd edn, NY 1980, pp. 314–5.
11 Correio Paulista, 25 June 1908, quoted in Konno Toshihiko/Fujisaki
Yasuo, Iminshi I: Nambei-hen, Tokyo 1994, pp. 43–4; also Takahashi 1993,
pp. 43–7; Aoyagi 1941, pp. 271–4. Carpenter 1925, p. 186.
12 Konno/Fujisaki 1994, pp. 35–42, excerpt at great length from the pamph-
let. Quote on racial equality, p. 37.
13 George Reid Andrews, ‘Brazilian racial democracy, 1900–90: an American
counterpoint’, Journal of Contemporary History, vol. 31, 3, 1996, p. 485.
14 Takahashi 1993, p. 48; Aoyagi 1941, p. 274. Hawaiian co-regional groups
and dialect, Alan Takeo Moriyama, Imingaisha: Japanese Emigration Com-
panies and Hawaii, 1894–1908, Honolulu 1985, p. 23; North American
example, Roger Daniels, Asian America: Chinese and Japanese in the United
States since 1850, Seattle 1988, p. 166.
15 The movement of arriving and departing migrants through Santos is
noted in Holloway 1980, p. 91; Burajiru Jiho (BJ), 28 September 1917,
shows that in 1916 there were 20 357 arrivals and 12 776 departees.
Fazenda reliance on overseas immigrants, Holloway 1980, p. 63.
16 1920s housing conditions, Tsuji 1930, pp. 55–6.
17 Migrant diet, Takahashi 1993, pp. 75–6; Handa 1970, pp. 91–107. 1920s
food problems, Seko Yoshinobu, Burajiru Kaisoki, Gifu 1979, pp. 4–6, 10–11.
List of cultural differences between Japanese and Westerners, Seishu Shimpo
(SS), 29 April 1932.
18 Handa 1970, p. 45. A list of the Japanese translators in 1908 and the
numbers of Japanese they served is in Aoyagi 1941, p. 277. On Fukui
migrants, Burajiru Fukui Kenjinkai Kaiho Henshubu 1961, p. 269.
19 Handa 1970, p. 43. Takahashi 1993, pp. 49–50 (which uses the same
terms without accreditation). Burns 1980, pp. 303–4, quotes a description
of the Dumont plantation in 1900; Carpenter 1925, pp. 161–7, recounts his
visit there in the early 1920s.
20 Handa 1970, pp. 44–5.
21 Wakayama-kenshi Hensan Iinkai (ed.), Wakayama-kenshi: Kin-gendai 1,
Wakayama 1989, pp. 1008–9.
22 Handa 1970, p. 62 on figures for migrants leaving their original planta-
tion, pp. 64–6 on the causes of migrant unrest in 1908, and pp. 53–6 for
Notes 177

the protest at Sao Martinho. Takahashi 1993, pp. 49–53, on Dumont

trouble, pp. 58–60, on Sao Martinho; Aoyagi 1941, p. 276 on varying
rates of pay per fazenda, pp. 279–83 on disputes and departures.
23 Holloway 1980, pp. 106–7.
24 Tsuji 1930, pp. 55–6, 64. Holloway 1980, pp. 73–88, 99–101. Oshima Kiichi,
Hojin no Hattenchi Burajiru Saikin Jijo, Tokyo 1928, pp. 63–8, insisted at
great length that farm life in Brazil, in direct contrast to the situation in
Japan, meant good food to eat and money to be earned. As he put it,
‘Whoever you are, no-one ever struggles to eat . . . [and] I can guarantee
that there is absolutely no difficulty in life in Brazil’. An article on Brazil
as ‘a paradise for workers’ also appeared in BJ, 1 January 1932. Contrast
this with Mita Chiyoko, ‘Nihon to Burajiru o musubu Nikkeijin’, Gaiko
Jiho, no. 1265, February 1990, p. 43, which describes plantation conditions
simply as ‘generally cruel’.
25 Fazenda dispute, Takahashi 1993, pp. 65–9. On generally more stable
conditions of fazenda life for Japanese after 1908, Handa 1970, pp. 117–28.
26 Okinawan migrants, Handa 1970, pp. 49–52.
27 San Pauro Jimbun Kagaku Kenkyujo, Burajiru Nihon Iminshi Nempyo, Akita
1997, pp. 32–6.
28 Handa 1970, pp. 66–7.
29 Ikeda Shigeji, Kagoshima-kenjin Burajiru Ishokumin-shi, Sao Paulo 1941,
pp. 36–8.
30 Okinawa Prefectural Associations merger and warning to contract breakers,
BJ, 28 September 1917.
31 Rio modernisation and street traders, Gilberto Freyre, Order and Progress:
Brazil From Monarchy to Republic, NY 1970, p. 275. Onaga on problems
with fellow Okinawan migrants, BJ, 17 January 1919, 16 May 1919. Bans on
Okinawan emigration, Shiroma Zenkichi, Zai-Haku Okinawa Kenjin 50-nen
no Ayumi, Sao Paulo 1959, pp. 259–60. Compare this with the offhand com-
ment of Toake Endoh, ‘Shedding the unwanted: Japan’s emigration policy’,
Japan Policy Research Institute, Working Paper no. 72, October 2000,
p. 6, which insists that the Japanese government felt no need to push Oki-
nawans to emigrate because, unlike the migrants from south and western
Japan, they were not a militant political threat to Japan’s domestic order.
32 In BJ, 14 March 1919, Onaga noted that other Japanese received loans
from the emigration company directly in Brazil and were able to make
direct repayments. Okinawans, however, received their loans through a
bank in Okinawa and so incurred the cost and trouble of sending loan
repayments back to Okinawa. Nippaku Shimbun (NS), 21 August 1925,
insisted that other Japanese ‘have no sense of improving the Okinawans
as one part of the Japanese community here. Rather, they look on them
as something dirty and, as far as possible, not to be touched’.
33 Figures from Mita Chiyoko, ‘Burajiru no imin seisaku to Nihon imin:
Beikoku hai-Nichi undo no hankyo no ichi jirei to shite’, p. 443, in
Miwa Kimitada (ed.), Nichi-Bei Kiki no Kigen to Hai-Nichi Iminho, Tokyo
34 Landholding system, Holloway 1980, pp. 123–6.
178 Notes

35 Development company and its backers, BJ, 1 January 1919; San Pauro
Jimbun Kagaku Kenkyujo 1997, p. 32. From 1919, the company was
merged with others in the grouping known as Kaiko. On Katsura and
emigration, Stewart Lone, Army, Empire and Politics in Meiji Japan, London
36 On the Iguape colony, and on ‘slave-like’ plantations, Takahashi 1993,
pp. 81–2; Iguape recruiting advertisement, BJ, 12 October 1917.
37 Hirano Colony, Takahashi 1993, pp. 82–95; Konno/Fujisaki 1994,
pp. 116–34; Handa 1970, pp. 262–6; Tsuji 1930, pp. 67–8. An overview of
Cafelandia and its commerce later in the period is in BJ, 1 January 1939.
Description of 1900s Noroeste region, Holloway 1980, pp. 21–2. On the
other major settlement of this period at Birigui, see Handa 1970,
pp. 273–83.
38 Brazilian social norms, Darrell E. Levi, The Prados of Sao Paulo, Brazil: An
Elite Family and Social Change, 1840–1930, Athens GA. 1987, pp. 5–7;
Roberto Da Matta, ‘Carnival in multiple planes’, p. 225, in John J. Mac-
Aloon (ed.), Rite, Drama, Festival, Spectacle: Rehearsals Toward a Theory of
Cultural Performance, Philadelphia 1984. See also Rudyard Kipling, Brazilian
Sketches, Bromley 1989, p. 58, for the comment made to him on a visit in
1927 that, in Brazil, ‘face’ was all-important and that ‘mutual accom-
modation from highest to humblest was the rule’.
39 Development of Sao Paulo city, Richard M. Morse, From Community to
Metropolis: A Biography of Sao Paulo, Brazil, 2nd edn, NY 1974, pp. 8–32,
quote on street lighting, p. 72, livestock in city streets, p. 126.
40 Japanese accommodation in Sao Paulo city, Handa 1970, pp. 171–6; article
on underground life, BJ, 31 October 1917.
41 Small business advertisers, BJ, 7 September 1917; Nakamura advertise-
ment, BJ, 21 December 1917. Handa 1970, pp. 187–9 for city lifestyles.
Japanese inns and dual cuisine, BJ, adverts, 18 December 1925.
42 Sao Paulo schools, BJ, 12 October and 21 December 1917; Handa 1970,
pp. 192–3; standing exhibition at the Historical Museum of Japanese
Migration in Brazil; San Pauro Jimbun Kagaku Kenkyujo 1997, p. 36. San-
tos school, BJ, 26 October 1917.
43 Japan Club, BJ, 24 January 1919; promotion of civic virtue, BJ, 1 January
44 Sports clubs, Shiroma 1959, p. 171; Handa 1970, p. 195; San Pauro Jimbun
Kagaku Kenkyujo 1997, p. 45.
45 1917 Tenchosetsu program, Sao Paulo city, BJ, 26 October and 9 November
1917. The emphasis on Japanese emperor-worship as central to the iden-
tity of expatriates in Brazil, albeit especially those outside of the cities, is
most clear in Maeyama Takashi, ‘Ancestor, emperor, and immigrant: reli-
gion and group identification of the Japanese in rural Brazil (1908–1950)’,
Journal of Interamerican Studies and World Affairs, vol. 14-2, 1972. Maeyama’s
influence in this respect is also obvious in Mita Chiyoko, ‘Nihon to Bura-
jiru o musubu Nikkeijin ijusha no 80-nen’, Gaiko Jiho, no. 1265, February
1990, p. 55.
46 Migrant newspapers, Konno/Fujisaki 1994, pp. 148–50.
Notes 179

47 On newspapers, Kuroishi and Miura, see Handa 1970, pp. 594–602; Taka-
hashi 1993, pp. 131–4; Konno/Fujisaki 1994, pp. 151–4; Shiroma 1959,
pp. 174–5.
48 Steps to success, BJ, 1 January 1918. The warning was not always heeded
as is indicated by the ongoing criticism of migrants’ impatience, BJ, 2
July 1939.
49 Language study, BJ, 14 September and 5 October 1917. Otake biography,
BJ, 10 January 1919.
50 Examples of Portuguese conversation, BJ, 19, 26, 31 October, 14, 21
December 1917. Ongoing confusion caused by the vagueness of Japanese
women’s speech is noted in BJ, 3 March 1937.
51 On 1917 and the golden age of immigration, BJ, 18 June 1933. On
Brazilian welcome and fever for passports to South America (also for the
South Pacific), Asahi Shimbun (Tokyo), 11 and 17 August, 28 December
52 Syrio-Lebanese arrivals, Holloway 1980, p. 43. Brazil and WW1, Burns
1980, pp. 352–6.
53 End of subsidies, Mita 1997, pp. 440–2. Emigration company restructuring,
Wakayama Kenshi Hensan Iinkai 1989, p. 1025; BJ, 14 September 1917.
54 BJ, 7 and 14 September 1917.

3 Settling: Migration as National Policy in the 1920s

1 Captain Harumi Kyohei, ‘Burajiru to sono ishokumin no kenkyu’, Kaikosha
Kiji, 579, November 1922, supplement, pp. 2–26, quotation, p. 7. SS, 22
June 1923, gives a figure for overseas Japanese in 1920 as approximately
650 000. 1920 Japanese population in Brazil, Takaoka Kumao, Burajiru
Imin Kenkyu, Tokyo 1925, p. 212.
2 Japanese government funds, British Foreign Office records, FO371/
10960, Sir Charles Eliot, Tokyo, to Foreign Secretary Austen Chamber-
lain, 27 March 1925. According to J.F. Normano and Antonello Gerbi,
The Japanese in South America: An Introductory Survey with Special Reference
to Peru, NY 1943, pp. 28–9, government-sponsored public lectures in
Japan in 1923–30 rose from 27 per annum to 267 per annum. See also
Jeffrey Lesser, Negotiating National Identity: Immigrants, Minorities, and the
Struggle for Ethnicity in Brazil, Durham 1999, p. 96. Osaka Shipping advert
and timetables, BJ, 12 March 1929, 4 April 1934.
3 California opposition, Hasegawa Yuichi, ‘Hai-Nichi iminho to Manshu –
Burajiru: Chiba Toyoharu to Nagata Cho no imin-ron o chushin ni’,
pp. 48–51, in Miwa Kimitada (ed.), Nichi-Bei Kiki no Kigen to Hai-Nichi
Imin-ho, Tokyo 1997. On Hawaiian education, Eleanor Tupper and
George McReynolds, Japan in American Public Opinion, NY 1937, pp. 133–4,
on post-1919 US articles predicting war with Japan, pp. 154–5, 170, and
on 1920 California land law, pp. 170–5.
4 Flavio Rabelo Versiani, ‘Before the Depression: Brazilian industry in the
1920s’, pp. 163–87, in Rosemary Thorp (ed.), Latin America in the 1930s:
180 Notes

The Role of the Periphery in World Crisis, London 1984. Immigrant entre-
preneurs, Darrell Levi, The Prados of Sao Paulo, Brazil: An Elite Family and
Social Change, 1840–1930, Athens GA 1987, pp. 154–6. Levi suggests
one advantage of the immigrant entrepreneur in his development of
industry was in not being tied to the land for wealth and status. Success
of Matarazzo, Richard Morse, From Community to Metropolis: A Biography
of Sao Paulo, Brazil, 2nd edn, NY 1974, pp. 228–9. On global coffee
consumption, 1920s–30s, E. Bradford Burns, A History of Brazil, 2nd edn
NY 1980, p. 301.
5 Levi 1987, p. 123, and pp. 133–6 for a discussion of Paulo Prado’s land-
mark 1928 history, Retrato do Brasil. On the Modern Art Week, Morse
1974, pp. 261–3, and on Sao Paulo modernism, Burns 1980, pp. 377–9;
also Jeffrey D. Needell, ‘Identity, race, gender and modernity in the origins
of Gilberto Freyre’s oeuvre’, American Historical Review, 100-1, February
1995, pp. 59–60. On the Brazilian elite’s fascination for French and British
culture, see Jeffrey Needell, A Tropical Belle Epoque: Elite Culture and Soci-
ety in Turn-of-the-Century Rio de Janeiro, Cambridge 1987, pp. 156–77.
6 Brazilian criticism of European migrants, George Reid Andrews, ‘Brazilian
racial democracy, 1900–90: an American counterpoint’, Journal of Con-
temporary History, vol. 31, 3, 1996, p. 486. Anger towards Italian migrants,
Tsuji Kotaro, Burajiru no Doho o Tazunete, Tokyo 1930, pp. 74–5.
7 Lesser 1999, p. 100.
8 Couto’s respect for Japan, Maeyama Takashi, Esunishiti to Burajiru
Nikkeijin, Tokyo 1996, p. 493; Couto quoted on Japanese cunning and
aggression, Lesser 1999, p. 100. Parana representative warning, Mita
Chiyoko, ‘Burajiru no imin seisaku to Nihon imin: Beikoku hai-Nichi
undo no hankyo no ichi jirei to shite’, pp. 450–1, in Miwa Kimitada (ed.),
Nichi-Bei Kiki no Kigen to Hai-Nichi Iminho, Tokyo 1997.
9 Teresa P.R. Caldeira, ‘Building up walls: the new pattern of spatial
segregation in Sao Paulo’, International Social Science Journal, no. 147,
March 1996, p. 56. Caldeira also notes the debate from the late 1920s on
following the lead of Rio in remodelling the city through widespread
urban clearance and the creation of a network of broad avenues. On
Higienopolis in the 1890s, see Morse 1974, p. 273. For Couto’s back-
ground, Gilberto Freyre, Order and Progress: Brazil from Monarchy to
Republic, NY 1970, p. 343.
10 Quotation, Lesser 1999, p. 100. Emigrant deaths, Takahashi Yukiharu,
Nikkei Burajiru Iminshi, Tokyo 1993, p. 98.
11 On the Reis bill, Konno Toshihiko and Fujisaki Yasuo, Iminshi 1: Nambei-
hen, Tokyo 1994, pp. 56–7; Takahashi 1993, pp. 138–9. On Botelho’s con-
tinuing opposition to restrictions on Japanese migration, BJ, 17 July
1925. During debate on the Reis bill, the Brazilian government applied a
temporary ban on visas to Japanese migrants, FO371/10960, enclosure in
Sir Charles Eliot, Tokyo, to Foreign Secretary Austen Chamberlain, 27
March 1925.
12 Genaro Arbaiza, ‘Acute Japanese Problem in South America’, Current
History, vol. 21-5, February 1925, p. 736. A view linking Brazilian Amer-
Notes 181

indians with peoples of Asia was also apparent, see Dr Antonio G. Gonzaga
speech, Rio de Janeiro, 10 May 1940, translated by Kaigai Kogyo K.K.
Hakukoku Shiten, Hakukoku Ishokumin Mondai, Sao Paulo 1940, p. 14;
also Lesser 1999, p. 104. British comment on Arbaiza article, FO371/
10960, enclosure in Sir Charles Eliot, Tokyo, to Foreign Secretary Austen
Chamberlain, 27 March 1925.
13 Harumi 1922, p. 7.
14 Takaoka 1925, pp. 89–90.
15 Brazilian and Japanese cosmopolitanism, BJ, 15 August 1929. The
reasoning of the editorial was somewhat unusual. It claimed that the
Muslim invaders of Portugal a millenium earlier had been Asian and
that, as a consequence of their intermarriage and cultural influence, the
attitudes of Portuguese in Brazil were naturally similar to those of
the Japanese. In this, the editorial seems to have used ‘Asian’ in the far
looser sense of ‘Oriental’. A further example of the claim that no racism
existed in Brazil, Kodo Hisaichi, Burajiru no Jisseikatsu, Tokyo 1928,
pp. 23–4.
16 FO371/10960, Sir John Tilley, Rio de Janeiro, to Foreign Secretary Austen
Chamberlain, 3 January 1925.
17 Harumi 1922, pp. 12–13.
18 On benefits of naturalisation, BJ, 16 and 23 February, 3 March, 20 April
1923; Kodo 1928, pp. 26–7. BJ office for citizenship applications, BJ, 5
May 1925; SS, 16 March 1923. Naturalisation and other immigrant
groups, Thomas H. Holloway, Immigrants on the Land: Coffee and Society in
Sao Paulo, 1886–1934, Chapel Hill 1980, p. 162.
19 Percentages of Brazilian marriage with non-Brazilians, Takaoka 1925,
p. 88. Kodo 1928, pp. 114–18. Bolivian all-male community, and value of
Japanese daughters in Brazil, Tsuji 1930, pp. 197–9; Noroeste marriage
problem, NS, 1 July 1927.
20 Eiichiro Azuma, ‘Racial struggle, immigrant nationalism, and ethnic
identity: Japanese and Filipinos in the California delta’, Pacific Historical
Review, vol. 67-4, November 1998, p. 174.
21 Kodo 1928, pp. 114–18. Preference for native prefecture marriage part-
ners, Handa Tomoo, Imin no Seikatsu no Rekishi: Burajiru Nikkeijin no
Ayunda Michi, Sao Paulo 1970, p. 315; Suzuki Teiiti, The Japanese Immi-
grant in Brazil, 2 vols., Tokyo 1964–9, vol. 2, p. 109. An official Brazilian
study from 1941 showed that first-generation Jewish migrants rarely
married Brazilians but that this was more common for the second
generation, Morse 1974, p. 254.
22 Maeyama Takashi, ‘Ethnicity, secret societies, and associations: the
Japanese in Brazil’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, vol. 21,
1979, p. 596. Kodo 1928, pp. 117–8. Japanese judge of Miss Brazil finals,
SS, 25 January 1939. Japanese-Brazilian woman’s friendliness, BJ, 7 October
1936. Beauty of mestizo women, Yamada Yoshio, Amazon Kurashi Sanjunen,
Tokyo 1958, pp. 176–7.
23 End of Sao Paulo subsidies, BJ, 18 June 1933. Fear concerning number of
migrants leaving Brazil, NS, 10 October 1924.
182 Notes

24 Shiroma Zenkichi (ed.), Zai-Haku Okinawa Kenjin 50-nen no Ayumi, Sao

Paulo 1959, pp. 156–9 lists all the consular offices and office-holders
through to the 1950s.
25 Law on migrant co-operatives and creation of Burataku, Mie-ken Kaigai
Kyokai (ed.), Mie-kenjin Nambei Hattenshi, Tsu 1977, pp. 16–19; Normano
and Gerbi 1943, pp. 29–30. A list of prefectural emigration co-operatives
as of 1932 appears in Takumusho Takumukyoku, Burajiru Iju Annai,
Tokyo 1932, pp. 19–20.
26 Origins of Bastos settlement, Tsuji 1930, pp. 98–9; see also Takumusho
Takumukyoku 1932, p. 16. Bastos as of February 1938, BJ, 28 June 1938.
The school song also claimed that, ‘the day is spent at school, the even-
ing in judo and kendo, the second-generation founded on letters and the
martial arts’ (bun to bu). The three other major land ventures of
Burataku were at Tiete, Alianca, and Torres Barras in Parana state.
27 Alianca settlements, Toyama-ken Nambei Kyokai (ed.), Toyama-ken
Nambei Ijushi, Toyama 1989, pp. 44–6, plus demographic map from 1939
as an enclosure; Ariansa Ijuchi-shi Hensan Iinkai (ed.), Sosetsu Nijugonen,
Nagano 1952, pp. 1–5; Kodo 1928, pp. 219–29; Takumusho Takumu-
kyoku 1932, p. 16. Alianca population growth and Nikkei Brazilians, SS, 10
May 1932. On the question of regional Japanese make-up of settler popu-
lations, the Burataku settlement at Tiete in 1929 had over 300 families
drawn from 41 prefectures in Japan and with no single region approach-
ing anything like a numerical dominance, Burajiru Takushoku Kumiai,
Chiete Ijuchi Nyushoku Annai, Sao Paulo 1934, pp. 11–12. Robert J. Smith,
‘The Ethnic Japanese in Brazil’, Journal of Japanese Studies, vol. 5-1, winter
1979, p. 57, asserts that much of the land bought by Japanese was so
poor in quality that no one else wanted it. This seems to be exaggerated.
28 Itaquera settlement advertising and maps, BJ, 10 July 1925, 22 June 1933.
The advertising also stressed the point that the settlement would not
admit Japanese families who were self-centred and refused to live along-
side others or those who were only interested in land price speculation.
Itacoromi as ‘New Japan’, advert, BJ, 22 October 1920.
29 Espirito Santo, NS, 28 February 1929.
30 Lesser 1999, p. 101. Early twentieth century Manaus and rubber econ-
omy, Freyre 1970, pp. 232–7; Burns 1980, pp. 330–9.
31 Amazon settlement, Konno and Fujisaki 1994, pp. 136–8; Mie-ken Kaigai
Kyokai 1977, pp. 20–1; Takumusho Takumukyoku 1932, pp. 25–30; Nor-
mano and Gerbi 1943, pp. 40–1; Lesser 1999, p. 99. Fukuhara’s initial
observations may be seen in his report to the Japanese government,
Fukuhara Hachiro, Hakukoku Amazon-gawa Ryuiki Shokuminchi Keikaku ni
kan suru Chosa Hokokusho, Tokyo 1927.
32 Amazon survey and Brazilian welcome, Nambei Shimpo, 25 September
and 1 December 1930, quotation from 3 February 1931. Uetsuka and
Instituto Amazonia, San Pauro Jimbun Kagaku Kenkyujo, Burajiru Nihon
Iminshi Nempyo, Akita 1997, p. 67; Konno and Fujisaki 1994, pp. 137–8.
On Japanese expectations for development in the Amazon, see BJ,
6 January 1934.
Notes 183

33 Respect for Japanese investment, Kodo 1928, p. 24. History of Cotia Co-
operative, SS, 25 January 1940. Hirano co-operative and local prosperity,
BJ, 1 January 1939; SS, 25 February 1940.
34 Birigui settlers, Takahashi 1993, p. 107. Brazilians as ‘socially invisible’,
Maeyama 1979, p. 594.
35 Queiroz Teles on Japanese settlements, NS, 18 October 1928. For an
earlier example of similar ideas, BJ, 16 November 1923.
36 Attack on Japanese government view of emigration, NS, 16 March 1928.
37 Value of plantation experience, NS, 13 July 1928; also Oshima Kiichi,
Hojin no Hattenchi Burajiru Saikin Jijo, Tokyo 1928, p. 62. 90 per cent of
settlers direct from Japan, NS, 27 June 1928, reporting on the Bunka
38 Amateurism at settlements, NS, 13 August 1931.
39 Toda on Noroeste standard of living, NS, 27 June 1928. Lesser 1999,
p. 110, which also errs in giving the professor’s affiliation as Tokyo
Imperial University Medical School. More extensive reports by Toda on
migrant health include BJ, 17 and 31 January, 14 and 21 February 1929.
Viewing Japanese houses in rural Brazil in 1928, Tsuji 1930, p. 107,
described most of them as poor and ugly, ‘without a trace of any cultural
sense’, and lacking even a single flower or blade of grass.
40 Quote, Frank G. Carpenter, Along the Parana and the Amazon, NY 1925,
p. 143. The future Chicago or New York, NS, 21 December 1928.
41 Rudyard Kipling, Brazilian Sketches, Bromley 1989, p. 40; Levi 1987,
p. 124. 1929 figures for Sao Paulo city and Tokyo vehicles, BJ, 25 July
1929. By August 1925, Sao Paulo state already had 23 569 passenger
vehicles and 7913 trucks, the most of any Brazilian state, NS, 23 October
42 Survey of Japanese occupations, NS, 18, 25 April 1924, 3 May 1924.
Urban population figures, Takaoka 1925, p. 211. Number of Japanese
drivers, Tsuji 1930, p. 370. A brief comment on Japanese taxi and car
hire companies also appears in Handa 1970, p. 192; see also Suzuki 1969,
p. 74.
43 Japanese furniture stores, NS, 18, 25 April 1924, 3 May 1924. A photo-
graph of the Casa Tokyo (or Casa Tokio) factory accompanies a half-page
advertisement in Nambei Shimpo, 3 February 1931. In this, the text
explains that the store had repeatedly won awards for its products. BJ, 1
January 1937, counts approximately 15 furniture stores in the city at that
time, successfully competing with non-Japanese retailers.
44 Japanese at Lins, Tsuji 1930, pp. 32–7, 64–5; Lins advertisements, BJ, 31
January and 21 February 1929; history of Lins traffic increase, BJ, 18 June
1933. An earlier snapshot of the Japanese at Bauru is in SS, 23 February
1923; this shows that there were about 70 Japanese resident in the city,
from 14 different prefectures (Fukuoka claiming the greatest number)
and engaged in at least 11 different occupations. Mention of Japanese
prostitution comes in a SS 4 May 1923 note that ‘Bauru’s famous Tomi is
to return to Japan and the town officials and head of the brothel as well
as the fruiterer Joao are sad at the parting’.
184 Notes

45 NS, 3 October 1924.

46 Maeyama 1979, p. 595.
47 Kevin M. Doak, ‘What is a nation and who belongs? National narratives
and the ethnic imagination in twentieth-century Japan’, American Histor-
ical Review, vol. 102-2, April 1997, pp. 283–309.
48 James Tigner, ‘Shindo Renmei: Japanese nationalism in Brazil’, The Hispanic
American Historical Review, vol. 41-4, 1961, pp. 530–1. NS, 21 December
1928, appears to be one of the earliest examples of the Portuguese-language
news page. Genesis of press, Konno and Fujisaki 1994, pp. 154–7. Print
runs for BJ and NS, Kodo 1928, pp. 120–1.
49 Aspects of the anti-Miura campaign are evident in NS, 10 May 1929, 17
October 1929, 2 April 1931; BJ, 5 September 1929, 1 January 1930, 23
July 1931; Takahashi 1993, pp. 157–69.
50 History compilation, BJ, 12 October 1923; two-volume publication, BJ,
15 March 1940.
51 Maeyama 1979, pp. 594–5. Tigner 1961, p. 527, writes, ‘the association
became a socio-cultural agency to preserve the culture of the homeland
and the concept of loyalty to the emperor’.
52 NS, 14 October 1927. Nambei Shimpo, 13 August 1931. The criticism that
many associations were just for show is repeated in Burajiru Fukui Ken-
jin-kai Kaiho Henshubu, (ed.), Burajiru to Fukui Kenjin, Sao Paulo 1961,
p. 230.
53 Criticism of Dojinkai, SS, 11 April 1924. Brazilian Central Japan Society
controversy, BJ, 22 September 1937; Burajiru Fukui Kenjin-kai Kaiho
Henshubu 1961, pp. 230–1. Kyuyokai origins, NS, 15 July 1927; Shiroma
1959, pp. 260–1; effectiveness, Nambei Shimpo, 27 August 1931; member-
ship, BJ, 9 May 1934. At that point in 1934, there were 222 Japanese asso-
ciations with a total membership of 22 322. The vast majority of these
groups were along the Noroeste and Sorocabana railway lines but the
concentration of members was greatest in Santos, the home of many
Okinawans. Thus, the Noroeste region, with 60, had the largest number
of associations but the membership of these groups totalled 9509 while
Santos, with just 14 associations, claimed the second largest membership
total at 4063, that is, 1600 more than Sao Paulo city and its environs. The
fact that there were as many as 14 separate associations in Santos alone,
however, further calls into question the idea that such groups were
manipulated by the Japanese authorities to control the expatriate com-
54 Education forum, NS, 18 March 1927; Konno and Fujisaki 1994, pp. 63–4.
55 Education, imperialism and assimilation, Takaoka 1925, pp. 280–2, 323–5.
On the 1921 language law, see also Tsuji 1930, pp. 73–4. The view that
just some Japanese-language teaching was desirable in order to maintain
communication between the first and second generations in Brazil was
advocated in a BJ editorial, 30 January 1925.
56 Elimination of Chinese characters, Arima Tetsunosuke in Tsuji 1930,
pp. 371–2.
Notes 185

57 Japanese sports and clubs, NS, 30 September 1927; Japan Club tennis
court opening ceremony, NS, 2 April 1926. It was claimed that the tennis
court was so fine that local Brazilians were also keen to join the Japan
Club. This was perhaps part of the organisers’ intention. A detailed
description of the club and some of its members, including consular
staff, is in NS, 1 January 1929. On soccer, Tsuji 1930, p. 214.
58 Ikeda Shigeji, San Pauro-shi oyobi Kinko Hojin Hattenshi, Sao Paulo 1954,
p. 104; also the summary history of migrant baseball in SS, 18 May 1940.
Rio de Janeiro challenge, notice in BJ, 16 March 1923. Finances of Brazilian–
Japanese Baseball Association, BJ, 2 October, 13 November 1925.
59 Japanese tennis in Brazil, Ikeda 1954, p. 112; Noroeste popularity, NS, 13
March 1938; Bastos challenge, BJ, 3 December 1938. Rio swimming coach,
NS, 6 March 1935; Shiroma 1959, p. 172.
60 On migrant athletics, Shiroma 1959, p. 171; Sao Paulo marathon, San
Pauro Jimbun Kagaku Kenkyujo 1997, p. 47; respect from Brazilian
sporting world, BJ, 16 April 1931; Child Olympics, BJ, 21 March, 29
April 1934.
61 Aracatuba meeting, Nambei Shimpo, 24 September 1936; University of
Sao Paulo challenge, BJ, 22 September 1937. First Brazilian and Japanese
athletics meeting, San Pauro Jimbun Kagaku Kenkyujo 1997, p. 75.
62 ‘Age of crime’, NS, 17 July 1935. Just a few other examples of reports
stressing the decline of employment and social stability include Nambei
Shimpo, 8 January 1930, 10 September, 19 November 1931; BJ, 2 July, 24
November 1931.
63 Tsuji 1930, pp. 1–13 and, on persistence of ‘dekasegi’ mentality, p. 202.
NS editorial, 10 October 1924. See also NS, 17 September 1924, which
insisted that the misery of Japan’s agricultural sector resulted from too
many landlords and people living off bank interest, and that migrants
wishing to return and join their ranks would only exacerbate the
64 NS, 12 November 1926, in Konno and Fujisaki 1994, pp. 60–1. See also
the summary biographies of new Sao Paulo state ministers in Nambei
Shimpo, for example, 20, 27 August 1931. Domination of news from
Japan, Handa 1970, p. 602. In this, Handa is referring mainly to the
1930s but, even at this time, his claim is unconvincing.
65 Japanese rioters 1922, BJ, 9 October 1930; Takahashi 1993, p. 156.
Quotation, Nambei Shimpo, 28 October 1930.
66 On Sao Paulo city, Tsuji 1930, pp. 28–9, and on Brazilian social and com-
mercial culture, pp. 69–71. Brazilian Independence Day, BJ, 12 September
1929. Example on forms of politeness, NS, 16 January 1937.
67 Maeyama 1996, p. 21. The belief that Japanese and Brazilian attitudes on
education were quite separate was also expressed by Tsuji 1930, p. 200,
when he writes, ‘The South American spirit is easy going . . . even if the
children cannot recognise a single letter, they are happy if they can
dance and know love’.
68 BJ, 12 September 1929. Carpenter 1925, p. 145.
186 Notes

4 Expanding: the Japanese Community, 1930–36

1 E. Bradford Burns, A History of Brazil, 2nd edn, NY 1980, p. 402. Figures
showing the rise of rival coffee producers are in BJ, 28 January 1938.
2 Robert M. Levine, The Vargas Regime: The Critical Years, 1934–1938, NY
1970, pp. 36–8. Burns 1980, p. 399, adds, ‘Moderation and affability
tempered his administration. Absent were the pomp, terror, and inflexi-
bility so often characteristic of Spanish American dictatorships’. The idea
that Vargas was a semi-dictator or dictator is offered by Mita Chiyoko,
‘Nashonarizumu to minzoku shudan: Burajiru no kokka togo to Nihonjin
ijusha’, Gaiko Jiho, 1251, September 1988, p. 57. The view that his policies
were intended rapidly to Brazilianise the Japanese community is expressed
in Handa Tomoo, Imin no Seikatsu no Rekishi: Burajiru Nikkeijin no Ayunda
Michi, Sao Paulo 1970, p. 587; also Maeyama Takashi, ‘Nikkeijin no Wakon
Hakusai-ron: bunka henyo ni tsuite no ichi-minzoku gainen’, Esunishiti to
Burajiru Nikkeijin, Tokyo 1996, p. 178.
3 George Reid Andrews, ‘Brazilian racial democracy, 1900–90: an American
counterpoint’, Journal of Contemporary History, vol. 31, 3, 1996, p. 486.
Integralist’s enemies, Burns 1980, p. 406.
4 On xenophobia and Integralists, Andrews 1996, pp. 487–8. Foreign-born
population, Burns, 1980, p. 362. On Freyre and Afro-Brazilian culture,
Hermano Vianna, The Mystery of Samba: Popular Music and National Identity
in Brazil, Chapel Hill 1999, especially chapter 6. The migrant Japanese
press was not indifferent to instances of racism towards ethnic Africans in
Brazil. For example, in December 1931, it was reported that black Brazil-
ians in Sao Paulo were being denied access to some of the ice skating rinks
then enjoying a boom in popularity. However, some of those experiencing
discrimination were able to appeal to the police and have the rink in ques-
tion closed. In this way, discrimination on racial grounds clearly existed
but so did institutional means of redress, BJ, 18 December 1931.
5 Government subsidies, San Pauro Jimbun Kagaku Kenkyujo, Burajiru
Nihon Iminshi Nempyo, Akita 1997, p. 70. Brazil as ‘paradise for workers’,
BJ, 1 January 1934; protected from the Great Depression, BJ, 18 June 1933.
By contrast, BJ, 3 October 1932, described the situation in rural Japan and
asserted, ‘you work and you work and still you cannot eat’.
6 Kobe failed applicants, BJ, 24 January 1934.
7 Konno Toshihiko/Fujisaki Yasuo, Iminshi 1: Nambei-hen, Tokyo 1994, pp.
69–71. For comments on the earlier exploitation of migrants to Hawaii,
Alan Takeo Moriyama, Imingaisha: Japanese Emigration Companies and
Hawaii 1894–1908, Honolulu 1985, pp. 80–1.
8 On Japanese cotton production San Pauro Jimbun Kagaku Kenkyujo 1997,
p. 78. Japanese coffee producers’ over-extension and volume over quality,
Nambei Shimpo, 8 January 1930. Beneficial impact of distance from Japan,
BJ, 3 November 1931.
9 1934 trade figures, Yoshinori Ohara, Japan and Latin America, Santa
Monica 1967, p. 28. Content and increasing importance of bilateral trade,
Notes 187

BJ, 14 April 1934. Volumes and values for Brazilian exports to Japan in
1935–37 are given in BJ, 1 January 1938. For cotton, the volumes
were listed in thousands of kilos (the value in thousands of contos is in
brackets – one contos was worth about US$82 in 1935): 1935 = 2515
(2318), 1936 = 42 452 (44 764), first half of 1937 = 1634 (1958). Equivalent
figures for coffee volumes were: 1935 = 1025 (542), 1936 = 2538 (1372),
first half of 1937 = 1254 (858). Japan as the primary outlet early in 1937
for Brazilian cotton, BJ, 8 January 1938.
10 Military donations and books on US–Japan war, BJ, 17 July 1933. Just
a few examples of the Japanese migrant press speculation on war
between Japan and one of the powers throughout the 1930s include:
Nambei Shimpo, 17 January, 10 and 20 February 1930; SS, 1 January 1932;
NS, 10 January 1934; BJ, 19 September 1932, 29 April 1934; Nambei
Shimpo, 20 June 1936.
11 On Nagata, Manchuria and Brazil, see Sandra Wilson, ‘The “New Paradise”:
Japanese emigration to Manchuria in the 1930s and 1940s’, International
History Review, vol. 17-2, May 1995, pp. 258–60. Migrant view of Man-
churian wages, BJ, 1 January 1934.
12 San Pauro Jimbun Kagaku Kenkyujo 1997, p. 71.
13 1932 revolt and Japanese migrants, SS, 2 September 1932; San Pauro
Jimbun Kagaku Kenkyujo 1997, p. 71. Death of Yamada, BJ, 13 October
14 1933 ceremonies, BJ, 22 June 1933.
15 Regional celebrations, BJ, 3 July 1933; Bastos, BJ, 29 June 1933. Judo
competition, BJ, 22 June 1933.
16 1933–34 Constituent Assembly debate and racism, Levine 1970, pp. 21–6;
examples of views for and against Japanese immigration, BJ, 28
March 1934, also NS, 14 and 21 February, 29 April 1934; Lesser 1999,
pp. 116–20. Constitutional article on immigration, Takahashi 1993,
p. 140; also San Pauro Jimbun Kagaku Kenkyujo 1997, p. 77 (which gives
the initial Japanese quota as 2489). 1935 revised Japanese migrant quota,
BJ, 1 June 1935.
17 Brazilian political and business attitudes to 1934 constitution, Inoue
Miyaji, ‘Burajiru iju seigen mondai ni tsuite’, Gaiko Jiho, 722, January
1935, pp. 316–21. That the quota was casually applied to Japanese
migrants immediately after 1934 was perfectly apparent to contemporary
observers, see J.F. Normano and Antonello Gerbi, The Japanese in South
America: An Introductory Survey with Special Reference to Peru, NY 1943,
p. 22.
18 A selection of Japanese migrant views, ranging from shock to a self-
confidence that Brazilian critics could be won over, appears in BJ, 26 May
1934. Press comment on migrant Japanese, racism, and assimilation, BJ,
8 and 22 January 1936, 5 February 1936. For a contemporary summary of
the history of anti-Japanese racism in Brazil, see BJ, 29 April 1934.
19 Criticism of Japanese authorities, NS, 7 March 1924; BJ, 21 March
1934; Lesser 1999, p. 121. Parallel with 1910s North America, BJ, 1 July
188 Notes

20 For a contemporary Japanese view of Couto’s arguments, BJ, 3, 14, 17, 21

March 1934. On Brazilian anti-communism and revolts, Burns, 1980, pp.
21 Anti-Assyrian campaign, Lesser 1999, pp. 68–75, quotation, p. 73.
22 BJ, 5 October 1935. Lesser 1999, p. 118, cites a Rio newspaper of Decem-
ber 1933 which had raised similar fears by linking Japanese imperialism
in Manchuria with the Japanese presence in the Amazon.
23 Minas Gerais invitation, BJ, 3 and 14 March 1934.
24 Martins speech, BJ, 8 July 1936.
25 Tiete murders, BJ, 29 April and 12 May 1934; Bastos attack, NS, 9 May
1934 and BJ, 16 May 1934.
26 Murder at Mesquita settlement, Alta Paulista region, BJ, 6 July 1936;
Birigui deaths and Japanese donations, BJ, 21 October and 18 November
1936. Other instances of violence against Japanese include SS, 25 April
1930, plus BJ, 15 September 1937, 9 October 1940.
27 Richard M. Morse, From Community to Metropolis: A Biography of Sao Paulo,
Brazil, 2nd edn, NY 1974, p. 253. An example of actual violence by a Jap-
anese migrant towards a Brazilian was reported early in 1939. Two
plantation workers, one Japanese, one Brazilian, argued over the rights to
use a parcel of land. The Japanese, a kendo and judo practitioner,
decided to resolve the dispute by taking his Japanese sword and trying to
kill his rival during the carnival, BJ, 1 March 1939.
28 Post-1945 murder and terrorism within the Japanese community, James
Lawrence Tigner, ‘Shindo Renmei: Japanese nationalism in Brazil’, The
Hispanic American Historical Review, vol. 41-4, 1961, pp. 521–4. Birigui
murders, SS, 24 August 1923. Lins shooting, BJ, 5 September 1929. Santos
dispute, BJ, 30 March 1933. BJ, 23 July 1931, shows that these were not
the only Japanese engaged in smuggling.
29 Migrant suicides, BJ, 2 May 1934.
30 Rio migrants prevented from landing, BJ, 1 June 1935.
31 NS, 5 February 1936, gives the precise total of migrant Japanese as
171 608. This excluded the region of Belem in the north of Brazil from
which there was a delay in obtaining results. Figures from the various
consulates included: Bauru area (Noroeste), 81 972 (43 370 male, 38 602
female); Sao Paulo area, 55 638 (30 340 male, 25 298 female); Ribeirao
Preto area, 21 100 (11 386 male, 9714 female); Santos area, 12 130 (6503
male, 5627 female); Rio de Janeiro, 768 (438 male, 330 female).
32 Migrant land ownership figures and Brazilian press, BJ, 7 September
1936; also BJ, 1 January 1934. For a different scale on land values which
shows Japanese as fifth behind Brazilians, Italians, Portuguese and Span-
ish, see BJ, 5 May 1934. In a 1933 table of landowners by headcount, the
Japanese moved even further up the ladder to third place behind Brazil-
ians and Italians, NS, 1 January 1935. On the Japanese population of
Noroeste, BJ, 18 June 1933. Additional figures for Brazilian and foreign
ownership of coffee fazendas and coffee trees in Sao Paulo in 1934 are
given in Herbert S. Klein, ‘European and Asian migration to Brazil’,
p. 221, in Robin Cohen (ed.), The Cambridge Survey of World Migration,
Notes 189

Cambridge 1995. These show a similar pattern to general landownership

albeit with Japan trailing the Italians by a great distance, and both the
Spaniards and Portuguese by relatively small margins.
33 On the general question of Sao Paulo city home ownership, Teresa P.R.
Caldeira, ‘Building up walls: the new pattern of spatial segregation in Sao
Paulo’, International Social Science Journal, no. 147, March 1996, pp. 56–7.
34 Urban Japanese conditions and occupations, Handa 1970, pp. 573–9. Sao
Paulo City Ryokan Union, listing in Nambei Shimpo, 20 June 1930.
Shimomoto graduation, San Pauro Jimbun Kagaku Kenkyujo 1997, p. 83.
Kitajima appointment, NS, 3 October 1937.
35 Japanese-language press, Konno/Fujisaki, 1994, pp. 149–62; San Pauro
Jimbun Kagaku Kenkyujo 1997, p. 76; Onaga and Nihon Shimbun, Handa
1970, p. 608. The growth of the Japanese migrant press, however, should
be placed in context. According to figures released for 1930, the four
Japanese-language newspapers then in existence constituted a mere drop
in the total of 2959 types of newspaper in Brazil, the vast majority of
them published in and south of Rio de Janeiro. Of this total, 2778 were
in the Portuguese language, another 69 in German, 24 in Italian, 12 in
English, seven in Arabic, and six each in Polish and Spanish, NS, 30 July
36 Journals subscription list for Nakaya Traders, BJ, 12 September 1932.
37 Brazilian radio and record industries, Hermano Vianna, The Mystery of
Samba: Popular Music and National Identity in Brazil, Chapel Hill 1999,
pp. 77–8. Five record labels appeared in Rio between 1928–29. These
included Columbia and RCA.
38 JLSZ radio playlist, BJ, 16 September 1940. See also playlists in BJ, 23
September 1938 and 7 September 1940 showing a broad consistency in
programming. NHK global broadcast, NS, 29 May 1935.
39 ‘A Japanese Evening’, BJ, 11 July 1932; ‘Japanese Hour’, San Pauro Jimbun
Kagaku Kenkyujo 1997, p. 78.
40 Example of adult cinema adverts, NS, 8 May 1935; popularity of US
movies, Handa 1970, pp. 203–6; criticism of US crime films, Nambei
Shimpo, 8 July 1937. For a contemporary guide to Sao Paulo city cine-
mas, prices and comforts, NS, 14 February 1934. The range and variety of
adult-oriented cinema in Sao Paulo as early as 1917 is noted in Morse
1974, p. 203.
41 Ikeda Shigeji, Sao Pauro-shi oyobi Kinko Hojin Hattenshi, Sao Paulo 1954,
p. 82. Nippaku Cinema playbill, BJ, 1 January 1930.
42 Review of Noroeste-sen Isshu, Nambei Shimpo, 10 February 1930; exchange
with Osaka Mainichi, BJ, 4 December 1931.
43 Nippaku Cinema and monthly imports, NS, 1 January 1936; Bastos
weekend cinema, SS, 19 April 1932; growth of exhibitors, Ikeda 1954,
pp. 82–3. An advertisement in BJ, 1 January 1938, shows that six distribu-
tors, including Nippaku Cinema, Nihon Cinema, and Shochiku, had by
then formed the Alliance of Japanese Film in Brazil. Nippaku Cinema
and Portuguese titles, BJ, 25 December 1930; Foreign Ministry and Portu-
guese-language newsreel, BJ, 5 December 1934.
190 Notes

44 Japan Film Night, BJ, 3 April 1935. Popularity among the migrants of
samurai movies, SS, 11 March 1932. The first imported ‘all-talking’ sam-
urai film was the Nikkatsu production, Hyaku-man Ryo no Tsubo, BJ, 14
July 1939.
45 Patriotic films, BJ, 6 December 1933, 1 January 1934; Broadway to Holly-
wood, advert, BJ, 21 February 1934.
46 Toho representative, Sakagami Toshio, interviewed in SS, 5 August 1939.
47 Nikkatsu announcement, SS, 14 July 1939. 1952 production, Ikeda 1954,
p. 85.
48 Handa 1970, p. 579. Hosokawa Shuhei, Sanba no Kuni ni Enka wa Nagareru:
Ongaku ni Miru Nikkei Burajiru Iminshi, Tokyo 1995, pp. 24–5. Miura
recording, advert in Nambei Shimpo, 28 October 1930. On Japan Victor
and Japan Columbia plus musical trends in Japan in the 1920s–30s, see
Harris I. Martin, ‘Popular music and social change in prewar Japan’, Japan
Interpreter, vol. 7, nos. 3–4, summer–autumn 1972, pp. 343–7. It is only
fair to mention that Hosokawa 1995, p. 16, sees all records from Japan,
irrespective of their style or their regional flavour, as being welcomed by
migrants as reminders of the homeland and, therefore, broadened in
their cultural meaning.
49 Examples of Casa Allema adverts, BJ, 24 March 1932, 10 April 1936, 22
November 1936; Ford ads, NS, 20 June 1929, 22 August 1929; Chevrolet
ad, BJ, 22 November 1936; Casa Casoy, BJ, 12 August 1936; Italian photo-
grapher, BJ, 15 December 1932; Academia Paulista de Dancas, BJ, 28
January 1938.
50 Japan Evening, BJ, 18 November 1936; Sao Paulo Japan Music Study
Society, 2nd. ‘Japan Music Night’ success, BJ, 18 October 1940. Hosokawa
focuses on the elite women’s group Suiyokai at Sao Paulo city and its
use of music and dance to explain Japanese culture to Brazilians,
Hosokawa 1995, pp. 44–7. Migrants in the interior also identified
culture with music. A Brazilian diplomat visited Lins prior to taking
up his post in Japan and his expatriate hosts offered him an introduc-
tion to Japanese culture through dance and sukiyaki, BJ, 12 February
51 Electric samisen, Nambei Shimpo, 17 April 1931.
52 Hosokawa 1995, p. 10.
53 Rudyard Kipling, Brazilian Sketches, Bromley 1989, pp. 58–9.
54 On the origins of carnival and the rise of a national carnival centred on
Rio, Vianna 1999, pp. 8–12, 78, 88, 90–2; William Rowe and Vivian
Schelling, Memory and Modernity: Popular Culture in Latin America, Lon-
don 1991, pp. 128–35. Rio authorities and 1935 ban on non-Brazilian
themes, Alma Guillermoprieto, Samba, NY 1990, p. 31. Carnival and
expression of opinions, James Woodall, A Simple Brazilian Song: Journeys
Through the Rio Sound, London 1997, p. 224. Centrality of music in
Brazilian society, Freyre 1970, p. 70. Claus Schreiner, Musica Brasileira:
A History of Popular Music and the People of Brazil, London/NY 1993,
p. 22, notes the collection of folk songs by Brazilian intellectuals as
early as the 1890s.
Notes 191

55 Vianna 1999, p. 91. Tsuji 1930, pp. 139–40. Morse 1974, p. 37, shows
that the tradition of squirting perfumes at carnival goes back at least to
the early nineteenth century.
56 NS, 7 March 1924; see also NS, 14 February 1929. Tsuji 1930, p. 141. Rob-
erto Da Matta, ‘Carnival in multiple planes’, in John J. MacAloon (ed.),
Rite, Drama, Festival, Spectacle: Rehearsals Toward a Theory of Cultural Per-
formance, Philadelphia 1984, p. 224, writes, ‘It is crazy because all space is
inverted, dislocated, and everything is called into question’.
57 1930s carnivals, NS, 12 February 1931, 14 February 1934, 4 and 11 Febru-
ary 1937; BJ, 13 February 1933 and 6 March 1935 (the latter edition not-
ing that dance parties were held ‘kakusho’, that is ‘all over’, by Japanese
migrants). Casa Allema advert, NS, 6 February 1937; Ao Preco Fixo
advert, BJ, 27 January 1937. In 1932, the carnival at Rio included a float
illustrating the Sino-Japanese hostilities over Manchuria, SS, 16 February
58 Carnival as racial equality, SS, 8 February 1940.
59 ’Sao Paulo Erotic Guide’, NS, 5, 12, 19, 25 June, 10 July 1935. Sao Paulo
nude revue, NS, 14 February 1934. Compare this with Handa 1970, pp.
210–11, which describes Japanese migrants going to the brothel quarters
of Sao Paulo ‘in search of fun (asobi) where fun was not to be found’, and
being repulsed by the babel of prostitute voices.
60 On Fujiwara’s first visit, NS, 19 August, 6 November, 9 December 1937.
61 Kawakami Suzuko, BJ, 7 January 1938, also 28, 29 June 1938; Sao Paulo
city audience, NS, 8 July 1938.
62 Hasegawa Toshiko visits, BJ, 4 November and 9 December 1936, plus
19 June, 17 September, 7 and 12 November 1940.
63 Korean dancing queen, BJ, 25, 31 May, 7 June 1940; Sao Paulo perform-
ance, BJ, 5 June 1940. Ch’oe had earlier been invited to Argentina
according to NS, 26 March 1938; scheduled 1939 visit, SS, 3 February
1939. Ch’oe showed both a nice sensitivity and a deft touch in public
relations while in Sao Paulo, sending all her bouquets to patients at the
Japan Hospital whom she had earlier visited. Her image is included in
Japan Photographers’ Association, A Century of Japanese Photography,
London 1981, p. 212, albeit without identifying her by name. Instead, it
is given the title, ‘Dance of Delight on Red Hill’.

5 In Transit: a World of New Orders, 1937–40

1 Robert Levine, The Vargas Regime: The Critical Years, 1934–1938, NY
1970, pp. 162–5.
2 Survey of Japanese resident overseas, SS, 12 February 1939. The precise
figures for Bolivia, Cuba and Chile were 764, 714, and 682 respectively.
3 Journalist Shiino Yutaka, cited in BJ, 10 November 1939.
4 Survey of returnees, BJ, 3 December 1938. This shows in addition that
there had been about 35 000 deaths among the migrants over these
years. Ethnic populations of Sao Paulo city, 1938, and rates of long-term
192 Notes

migrant residence in Brazil, Egoshi Nobutane, Ashita no Burajiru, Tokyo

1939, pp. 21–4. The percentage rates for those staying on by ethnic group
were: Lithuanian 94.7, Japanese 93.2, Portuguese 41.9, German 20.5, Ital-
ian 12.8. Returnees from Hawaii, Alan Takeo Moriyama, Imingaisha:
Japanese Emigration Companies and Hawaii 1894–1908, Honolulu 1985,
p. 132. A Japanese consular survey from the start of the 1930s had
revealed that, at that time, 37 per cent of those immigrants questioned
had already decided to remain permanently in Brazil while only four per
cent were resolved to return to Japan; all others were as yet undecided,
BJ, 1 January 1934.
5 Migrant figures, SS, 5 August 1939. BJ, 4 February 1940, shows that
foreign migrants to Sao Paulo state in 1939 numbered just 12 200, that is,
ten per cent of the total immigration figure of 112 000. In other words, the
majority of those arriving in Sao Paulo came from other regions of Brazil.
6 SS, 19 September 1939.
7 O Estado editorial, translated in SS, 19 September 1939. 1938 fall in cotton
price, SS, 26 February 1939. Percentage of Japanese migrant production
in ginned cotton, Egoshi 1939, pp. 48–9. By this point, Japanese migrants
also contributed about half the state’s potato produce as well as ten per
cent of its corn and rice plus about 80 per cent of its tea crop.
8 1930 Vargas speech on national reform and education, BJ, 13 November
1930. Values in New State education, Levine 1970, p. 167; Vargas quota-
tion in E. Bradford Burns, A History of Brazil, 2nd edn, NY 1980, p. 410;
1938 laws, Mita Chiyoko, ‘Nashonarizumu to minzoku shudan’, Gaiko Jiho,
1251, September 1988, p. 62; Sao Paulo Municipal Sports Stadium, SS, 27
April 1940.
9 Levine 1970, pp. 16–17. See also Antonio G. Gonzaga speech, 10 May
1940, for figures on low school enrolment and literacy in Sao Paulo state
in 1938. The speech appears in Kaigai Kogyo K.K. Hakukoku Shiten,
trans., Hakukoku Ishokumin Mondai, Sao Paulo 1940, p. 8.
10 Details of the 1938–39 restrictions on education, Handa Tomoo, Imin no
Seikatsu no Rekishi: Burajiru Nikkeijin no Ayunda Michi, Sao Paulo 1970,
p. 588; Mita 1988, p. 62; Jeffrey Lesser, Negotiating National Identity: Immi-
grants, Minorities, and the Struggle for Ethnicity in Brazil, Durham NC 1999,
p. 130.
11 Handa 1970, p. 589; Mita Chiyoko, ‘Nihon to Burajiru o musubu Nikkeijin
ijusha no hachiju-nen’, Gaiko Jiho, no. 1265, February 1990, pp. 45–6, 55;
Maeyama Takashi, ‘Ancestor, emperor, and immigrant: religion and group
identity of the Japanese in rural Brazil (1908–1950)’, Journal of Interameri-
can Studies and World Affairs, vol. 14-2, 1972, p. 170, and his Esunishiti
to Burajiru Nikkeijin, Tokyo 1996, p. 178; see also Takahashi Yukiharu,
Nikkei Burajiru Iminshi, Tokyo 1993, pp. 142–3. Destruction of Polish
migrant school, BJ, 23 September 1938.
12 Tiete schools, Burajiru Takushoku Kumiai, Chiete Ijuchi Nyushoku Annai,
Sao Paulo 1934, pp. 10–12. That similar conditions prevailed earlier and
elsewhere is suggested in Tsuji Kotaro, Burajiru no Doho o Tazunete, Tokyo
1930, p. 110. Rio and Sao Paulo Law Schools, SS, 5 April 1939; Rio Japan-
Notes 193

ese Language Student Society and Sao Paulo Society for the Study of
Japanese Culture, SS, 12 March 1939. A Japanese-born student at the Sao
Paulo Medical School had already noted in 1935 a desire among his
fellow Brazilian students to learn Japanese, Kawahara Kiyoshi comments
in BJ, 29 April 1935.
13 Illicit Japanese schools, Handa 1970, p. 588; Maeyama Takashi, ‘Ethni-
city, secret societies, and associations: the Japanese in Brazil’, Compara-
tive Studies in Society and History, vol. 21, 1979, p. 598. 1940 Bastos visit,
Lesser 1999, pp. 132–3. Almeida report on schools, BJ, 5 October 1936,
and his book on Japanese assimilation, BJ, 1 February 1939.
14 Activities of Japanese educational association of Sao Paulo state, San
Pauro Jimbun Kagaku Kenkyujo, Burajiru Nihon Iminshi Nempyo, Akita
1997, p. 76. 1937 gathering of educators, NS, 26 January 1937.
15 Conversation with British visitor, BJ, 4 November 1936; examples of the
argument on learning Japanese at home, BJ, 14 and 21 October 1936, SS,
22 November 1939. Kodomo no Sono adverts, BJ, 23 September 1936, 18
August 1938.
16 On the Student League, the main work is Maeyama 1996, especially
pp. 339–53 (comprising the main section of a reprint of his article ‘1930-
nendai San Pauro-shi ni okeru Nikkei gakusei kessha: kokka – hito – esun-
ishiti’, originally in Yanagida Toshio (ed.), Amerika no Nikkeijin, Tokyo
1995). On the origin of the group, see also Lesser 1999, p. 123 (which errs
in giving 1935 as the date of its founding), and Takahashi 1993, p. 149
(which throws in 1933 as a founding date).
17 Quoted from Maeyama 1996, p. 354. See also Takahashi 1993, p. 149.
18 Lesser 1999, pp. 130–1. On the Student League’s attempt to promote
understanding with the Brazilian authorities, see SS, 17 September 1939.
19 Nakanishi quotation, BJ, 1 January 1939. See also Takahashi 1993,
p. 144.
20 BJ, 9 December 1938.
21 Volksdeutsche movement, Levine 1970, pp. 26–7; criticism of ‘ethnic
chaos’, Hermano Vianna, The Mystery of Samba: Popular Music and National
Identity in Brazil, Chapel Hill 1999, p. 51. Frank G. Carpenter, Along The
Parana and the Amazon, NY 1925, p. 187, noted after his latest visit to
Brazil that the mid-nineteenth century German colony of Blumenau in
Santa Catharina ‘is now a city of thirty thousand or more, yet it is still
almost as thoroughly German as a town of the Fatherland. German is the
language heard everywhere, and is used in official documents by
the local authorities. In some towns the mayor, the counsellors, and the
police are all of teutonic origin, and in some of the schools there are
teachers who cannot speak Portuguese’.
22 Alien registration regulations, SS, 16 April 1939.
23 SS, 15 March 1939.
24 Notes on Japanese television development, Nambei Shimpo, 28 February
1930, BJ, 8 November 1933.
25 Nippon flight, SS, 26 August 1939, 3 October 1939; BJ, 29 August, 3 October
1939; Brazilian ministerial speech, SS, 20 October 1939. The importance
194 Notes

of aviation and modernity was further emphasised by the creation in

Japan from 1940 of 28 September as ‘aviation day’, a new holiday during
which events, talks, and memorials were held all over the country, BJ, 29
September 1940.
26 Santos-Dumont myth and appearance, Gilberto Freyre, Order and Progress:
Brazil From Monarchy to Republic, NY 1970, pp. 277–8, and p. 201 on
‘macaquitos’. Average height of Brazilian men, Carpenter 1925, p. 227.
Visit of German airship, Nambei Shimpo, 30 May 1930.
27 Japanese medicine at Lins and Bastos, Furusato Rekishi Kinenkan, Imin
no Tame Jonetsu no Shogai o Oeta Hosoe Shizuo Ishi, Gero 1996, pp. 6–7.
After moving to Sao Paulo city, Hosoe also entered the Medical School,
graduating in 1940. He became a Brazilian citizen in 1941 and his first
return visit to Japan was in 1962. First Japanese students at Sao Paulo
Medical School, BJ, 30 March 1933.
28 Origin of Dojinkai, NS, 14 March 1924. On the grants for pharmacology
students, see the recruitment advert in NS, 3 October 1924. Anti-
trachoma competition, BJ, 31 January and 9 May 1929.
29 Sanitorium Sao Francisco Xavier and Japan Hospital, NS, 5 February
1936; BJ, 4, 13 and 18 November 1936; Furusato Rekishi Kinenkan
1996, pp. 10–13; Burajiru Fukui Kenjin-kai Kaiho Henshubu (ed.),
Burajiru to Fukui Kenjin, Sao Paulo 1960, p. 231. Local Japan Hospital
donations, BJ, 14 August 1935. Soares land donation, BJ, 27 November
30 Opening of Japan Hospital and reform of Dojinkai, SS, 22 July 1939. Pho-
tographs of the Japan Hospital were prominently and repeatedly printed
in the migrant press, for example, BJ, 14 September 1940.
31 Japan Hospital dispute, BJ, 2 March 1940, SS, 23 March 1940, 6 April
1940. Seizure by Brazilian government, Burajiru Fukui Kenjin-kai Kaiho
Henshubu 1960, p. 231.
32 Japan–Brazil Association article, BJ, 10 and 11 January 1938. Spanish-
language documentaries, BJ, 11 January 1940. A prominent advert for
Shanghai Rikusentai appears in BJ, 20 January 1940. The Cinema Yearbook
of Japan 1939, p. 34, explains: ‘This film deals with the gallant and deter-
mined defense put up by Japanese marines against overwhelming odds at
Shanghai at the beginning of the present Sino-Japanese conflict in
1937 . . . showing the [expatriate] Japanese civilians grouped at the
Hongkew primary school, the work of the Japanese forces in sheltering
Chinese refugees behind the firing line in temple compounds and build-
ings, the bombing of the International Settlement by Chinese planes . . . ’
This would seem to beg the question of what Japanese marines were
doing in Shanghai in the first place.
33 Letter from Aikoku Fujinkai and campaign for children’s postcards, Nam-
bei Shimpo, 18 November 1937. Patriotic group activities, NS, 26 July
1938; San Pauro Jimbun Kagaku Kenkyujo 1997, p. 86; examples of
patriotic movie screenings, Nambei Shimpo, 14 October 1937, BJ, 21
August 1938, 26 November 1940. Kunii Trading sale, BJ, 12 December
Notes 195

34 List of individual and group donors, Nambei Shimpo, 2 December 1937.

Total donations to end of September 1937 and equivalent in yen, NS, 30
September 1937.
35 Heiwa Colony, BJ, 26 January 1938. Overseas Japanese donations by
country and city, SS, 26 October 1939, BJ, 27 October 1939. While differ-
ing on the amount credited to Sao Paulo, both newspapers agreed on the
figures for other places.
36 Sao Paulo city association, Ikeda Shigeji, Kagoshima-kenjin Burajiru Ishokumin-
shi, Sao Paulo 1941, p. 38; also BJ, 28 October 1938.
37 Lins and Bastos associations, Ikeda 1941, pp. 38–9.
38 Military volunteers, BJ, 10 June 1938.
39 Kayama Fuyo letter, SS, 8 June 1939.
40 On ‘returnees’ and nationalism, Mita 1990, p. 46; Lesser 1999, p. 130.
Lesser suggests that many more migrants wanted to return to Japan but
were prevented by a lack of funds and by pressure from Burataku to stay.
Figures for migrants quitting Brazil, SS, 18 July 1939; collapse of German
cotton sales, SS, 5 May 1939; motivations and goal of re-emigration to
North China, SS, 9 February 1939 (which does emphasise the impact of
language restrictions in persuading migrants to quit Brazil) and 13 May
41 Quotation on emperor worship, Maeyama 1979, p. 594; migrant saying,
Maeyama 1996, p. 15. On lack of migrant religious activity until the
1950s, see also Mita Chiyoko in Imin Kenkyukai (ed.), Nihon no Imin
Kenkyu: Doko to Mokuroku, Tokyo 1994, p. 108. On religious syncretism
in Brazil, William Rowe and Vivian Schelling, Memory and Modernity:
Popular Culture in Latin America, London 1991, pp. 124–6. The 1990s
estimate on religions is noted in Chris McGowan and Ricardo Pessanha,
The Brazilian Sound: Samba, Bossa Nova, and the Popular Music of Brazil,
Philadelphia 1998, p. 16.
42 Maeyama Takashi, ‘Ancestor, emperor, and immigrant: religion and
group identification of the Japanese in rural Brazil (1908–1950)’, Journal
of Interamerican Studies and World Affairs, vol. 14-2, 1972, pp. 162, 171–3.
The idea that the Japanese government prevented travel to Brazil by
Buddhist clergy, and actively encouraged that by Catholic priests,
is expressed in J.F. Normano and Antonello Gerbi, The Japanese in South
America: An Introductory Survey with Special Reference to Peru, NY 1943,
p. 31.
43 Criticism of imported textbooks, NS, 26 January 1937. One of the points
of confusion arising from imported texts was actually the role of trucks;
in Japan, these were seen as the carriers of produce, in the Brazilian inter-
ior, they were equally important in carrying groups of people!
44 Young migrant concern with money, Ikeda Shigeji, San Pauro-shi oyobi
Kinko Hojin Hattenshi, Sao Paulo 1954, p. 87. Consular survey, BJ, 30
November 1930; general estimate, BJ, 1 January 1934.
45 Summary histories of all religious group activities in the expatriate com-
munity appear in Ikeda 1954, pp. 87–93; Shiroma Zenkichi, Zai-Haku
Okinawa Kenjin 50-nen no Ayumi, Sao Paulo 1959, pp. 164–6. Priests from
196 Notes

the Nishi Honganji sect were not always welcomed: a report in the NS, 10
April 1925, showed that one priest had arrived in January of that year
and, after becoming involved in gambling and other dubious activities,
had been arrested on charges of stealing from other migrants.
46 Seicho no Ie letter, BJ, 4 December 1940.
47 Kobe migrant lecture on Brazilian Catholicism, NS, 4 September 1935.
Conversions to Christianity, NS, 9 December 1927. Father del Torro and
baptisms, San Pauro Jimbun Kagaku Kenkyujo 1997, pp. 51, 59; NS, 25
November 1927; Nambei Shimpo, 8 January 1930. Fathers del Torro,
Nakamura, and Sao Francisco School, Ikeda 1954, p. 87; Shiroma 1959,
p. 165. For a general comment on the link between religion and assimi-
lation among Japanese migrants to the US, see Roger Daniels, Asian
America: Chinese and Japanese in the United States Since 1850, Seattle 1988,
pp. 169–70.
48 Estimate of baptised Japanese, BJ, 5 December 1940. Sao Paulo Holiness
Church, NS, 14 October 1927. Japanese Episcopal Church, BJ, 13 March
1925. Christian Youth Center, BJ, 17 October 1929. On Kobayashi’s
activities, San Pauro Jimbun Kagaku Kenkyujo 1997, pp. 48, 53, 55. On
Kobayashi’s character, SS, 1 January 1930. A further uncomplimentary
view of Kobayashi is evident in Nambei Shimpo, 1 January 1930. This
takes reports from migrants just arrived from Japan on the same ship as
Kobayashi and accuses him of intolerable arrogance towards ordinary
49 Alianca chapel, Ariansa Ijuchi-shi Hensan Iinkai (ed.), Sosetsu Nijugonen-
shi, Nagano 1952, p. 9. Registro Church project, BJ, 14 August 1925.
50 Birigui judo school, BJ, 8 November 1940.
51 Sao Paulo orchestra, BJ, 10 March 1938, which also notes that Polish
radio stations had ordered about 200 records from Japan to accompany
lectures on Japanese culture; Radio 22P and Japanese music, BJ, 16 March
1938. 22P is my interpretation of the Japanese term ‘Tsutsupii’.
52 Peruvian violence, C. Harvey Gardiner, The Japanese and Peru 1873–1973,
Albuquerque 1975, p. 53; Lima rumours and US intelligence, John K.
Emmerson, The Japanese Thread: A Life in the U.S. Foreign Service, NY 1978,
p. 134. Almeida and Japanese ‘conspiracy’, BJ, 20 January 1938; Jundiai
mayor and local Japan Day celebrations, BJ, 29 January 1938. Lins inci-
dent, BJ, 14 and 16 April 1939.
53 Miura expulsion, Takahashi 1993, p. 172.
54 1938 republic celebrations, BJ, 15 November 1938; Rio parade, BJ, 29 July
1940. The interpretation of Freyre’s ideas as ‘indefinite homogeneity’ is
taken from Vianna 1999, pp. 63, 108–10. New State and racism, Levine
1970, p. 173.
55 For one example of a caricature of Mussolini, NS, 16 October 1935. Bra-
zilian foreign minister on wartime co-operation with US, BJ, 12 February
56 Impression of Japanese agriculture, BJ, 27 November 1935; view of
Mount Fuji, SS, 1 January 1940.
57 List of new books from Japan, BJ, 5 September 1940.
Notes 197

58 Karen Tei Yamashita, Brazil-Maru, Minneapolis 1992, pp. 42–3, 74. Sao
Paulo police, BJ, 8 November 1940.
59 Bastos resident on endurance, BJ, 1 January 1939.

6 Conclusion
1 Maeyama Takashi, Esunishiti to Burajiru Nikkeijin, Tokyo 1996, p. 10.
2 Maeyama 1996, pp. 127 and 269. See also his, ‘Ethnicity, secret societies,
and associations: the Japanese in Brazil’, Comparative Studies in Society and
History, vol. 21, 1979, p. 595.
3 Maeyama 1996, p. 128; Maeyama 1979, p. 596.

Newspapers, journals and unpublished materials

Asahi Shimbun
Burajiru Jiho
Gaiko Jiho
Japan Times
Jitsugyo Kurabu
Jitsugyo no Nihon
Nambei Shimpo
Nihon Imin Kyokai Hokoku
Nihon Shimbun
Nippaku Shimbun
Seishu Shimpo
British Foreign Office, Japan Correspondence, FO371/10960

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advertising, Japanese migrant, 48, Brazil, Japanese views of, 25–6, 32–3,
84, 122–3, 144 54, 93–5, 99–101, 104–5, 109, 131,
Africans, ethnic members of Brazil, 166, 169–71
62, 64, 66, 100, 125, 127, 186 Brazil Development Company
agriculture, Japanese migrants in, (Burajiru Takushoku K.K.), 43
39, 41, 44–5, 72, 75–8, 83, 102–3, Brazil Migrant Co-operative (Burajiru
111, 115, 167, 192; co-operatives, Imin Kumiai), 52, 54–5
75–6, 102, 111 buddhism, 156–7
Alianca settlement, 73, 90, 98, 112, Burajiru Jiho, 48, 49, 52–4, 67, 71,
116, 158 82, 84, 91, 100, 105, 116–17, 121,
alienation, 6, 34, 85–6, 167, 126, 140, 162, 169
169, 191 Burataku (Burajiru Takushoku
Amazon region, 22, 24–5, 72, Kumiai, Brazilian Development
74–6, 188 Co-operative), 72, 76, 83, 139,
Aoyagi Ikutaro, 43–4, 147 158, 161, 168, 195
Arbaiza, Genaro, 65–6
Argentina, 18, 25, 135, 136, 151 California, and Japanese migrants,
Arima, Tetsunosuke, 88 16–17, 60
assimilation, 23, 27, 34, 48–9, 53–4, Canada, 14, 16
64–5, 66–70, 73, 75–9, 81, 82, 86, carnival, 23, 125–8, 170, 191
88–9, 93, 95, 102, 106, 108–9, 118, Carpenter, Frank, 32, 80, 95
126–8, 131, 133, 140–4, 147, 152, Casa Allema (clothiers, Sao Paulo),
156–9, 161–2, 169–72 123, 127
Assyrian, migrants to Brazil, 110 Casa Nihon (furniture store,
athletics, 90–2 Sao Paulo), 81
Australia, 5, 13, 16 Casa Tokyo (furniture store,
automobiles, 48, 61, 80, 82, 123, Sao Paulo), 81, 90, 158, 183
126–7, 183, 195 chain migration, 30, 166
aviation, 145–6, 194 Chaplin, Charles, image of, 161
Children’s Olympics (Brazil), 91
baseball, 50–1, 90–1, 129 Chile, 18, 25, 134, 191
Bastos settlement, 72–3, 76, 90–1, Chinda, Sutemi, 21
106, 109, 112, 120, 139–40, 146, Chinese migrants, to Latin America,
152, 161, 164 13, 20–1, 23
Bauru, Japanese at, 81–2, 119, 123, Ch’oe, Songhi, 130, 191
156, 183 cinema, 118–22, 144, 150–1, 189,
Birigui, Japanese at, 76, 113, 159 190, 194; adult film, 119
Bolivia, 68, 135, 191 civic groups, Japanese migrant, 16,
Botelho, Francisco Chavez de 40–1, 49–50, 85–6, 147–9, 150–1,
Oliveira, 65 169, 184

206 Index

civil society, 52–3, 83–5, 93–4, 169 Japanese to Brazil, 2–6, 18–22, 23,
coffee economy, Brazilian, 21–2, 25–6, 27–35, 37–8, 55, 57, 63–5,
34–6, 47, 61, 77, 98, 102, 187 67–8, 71–2, 74–7, 79, 94, 100–2,
coffee plantations, 33–8, 44, 107–8, 114, 133, 135–6, 141, 192;
77, 167 Japanese to Hawaii, 12–18, 24, 29,
colonialism, Japanese, 12, 77, 135, Japanese to Manchuria,
103–5 103–4, 134–5, 154; Japanese to
commercial ventures, Japanese Mexico, 18, 135; Japanese to
migrant, 80–2, 90, 116, 119–21, Peru, 18–19, 66, 135
151, 170, 183 emigration, studies of, 3, 26, 27,
consular officers, Japanese in 45, 110–11, 128, 154, 162, 165,
Brazil, 71–2, 83–5, 86–7, 130, 167–70
140, 158, 168 emperor, Japanese, 51, 138, 147–9,
cotton production, migrant, 22, 74, 154–5, 163, 170–1
103, 137, 153, 187 Exclusion Act (US 1924), 60, 168
Couto, Dr Miguel, 63–4, 107–11, 168
Cuba, 134, 191 festivals, 51, 154, 170
cultural similarities, food, 13, 28, 34–5, 38, 48–9, 113,
Brazilian–Japanese, 46, 59, 67, 116, 129, 134
70, 95, 99, 138, 146, 178, 181 Freyre, Gilberto, 23, 100, 146, 170
currency, exchange rates, 9–10, 71 Fujinaga, Rikizo, 82
Fujisaki Trading Store (Sao Paulo),
del Torro, Father Guido, 157 26, 48
disease, 19, 21, 39, 45, 63–4, 78, 101, Fujita, Leonard Tsuguharu, 126
146–8 Fujiwara, Yoshie, 129–30
disputes, migrant worker, 15, 19, Fukuhara, Hachiro, 74–5
36–8; internal migrant, 84, 86–8, furniture business, Japanese migrant,
113–14, 149, 152, 160–1, 168 80–1, 183
donations, migrant patriotic
(1937–45), 150–2 Gakusei (Student), 142
Dojinkai, 86, 147–9 Gakuyu (Student’s Friend), 142
Doshikai, 86 German, migrants in Brazil, 23, 43,
55, 63, 88, 91, 134–8, 144, 164,
economy, Japanese domestic, 13, 15, 189, 192, 193
24, 57–8, 100–1, 133, 185, 186;
Brazilian, 18, 21–2, 47, 54–5, 61, Handa, Tomoo, 8, 93, 115, 118, 122,
79–80, 97–8, 134, 136–7, 153 138–9, 169
education, 44, 49, 60, 76, 87–8, 95, Hasegawa, Toshiko, 129–30
118, 137–41, 153, 154–5, 157–8, Hawaii, and Japanese migrants,
161, 171 12–17, 60, 135, 152
emigration, Brazilian law on, 64–5, health, and hygiene, 31, 48, 64, 86,
107–10; Japanese business of, 95, 101, 106, 116, 123, 146–9
13, 16, 18–19, 21, 26, 54–5, 102; Hirano settlement, 44–5, 76, 156
Japanese government policy, 12–13, Hirano, Shuhei, 44–5
16, 17–18, 24, 39–41, 57–9, 71–2, Hiroshima, migrants, 14, 19, 28, 33
77, 100–2, 104, 109, 134, 146, 155; Hosoe, Shizuo, 147, 194
Japanese to Bolivia, 68, 135, 191; Hosokawa, Shuhei, 122–4
Index 207

housing, Japanese migrant, 34, 47–8, Kitajima, Hirotake, 116

115, 183 Kobayashi, Midori, 158, 196
humour, migrant, 54, 106, 128, Kodomo no Sono, 117, 141
161–3, 168 Kokoku Colonization Company,
25, 28, 35–6, 38
identity, Japanese views, 8–9, 14, Korea, 12, 16, 24, 130
28, 34–5, 65, 73, 83, 85, 91, 102, Kumamoto, migrants, 14, 33, 73,
105–6, 119–22, 120–3, 127–30, 82, 119
138–9, 141–3, 153, 154–5, 158, Kunishige, Harley, 20
162–3, 167, 169–72, 190 Kuroishi, Seisaku, 52, 84, 106, 130,
Iguape settlement, 43–4, 156 147, 158
Incas, and Japanese, 66 Kyuyokai, 87
Inoue, Miyaji, 108–9
Integralist party, 100, 110, 134 landowning, migrant, 43–5, 60, 66,
internationalism, 1–2, 11–12, 31–2, 70–5, 115, 182, 188
50, 56, 59, 88–9, 91–2, 93, 106, language, Japanese, 30, 33, 60,
128–30, 141–3, 161, 171–2 87–9, 118, 129, 138–44, 171–2,
Italian, migrants in Brazil, 18, 23, 25, 193; Portuguese, 19, 32, 49, 53–4,
37, 61–3, 115, 135–6, 189, 192 84, 87–9, 118, 120, 137–43, 147,
Ito, Father Yasoji, 158 161, 169, 171, 193
leisure, and Japanese migrants,
Japan, migrant views of, 58, 82, 49–51, 89–92, 117–22, 127,
92–3, 101, 118, 121, 130, 162, 129–30, 147, 170–1
166, 171, 185, 186 Lins, Japanese at, 82, 90, 106, 113–14,
Japan–Brazil Association (Nippaku 123, 127, 146, 152, 160, 190
Kyokai), 59, 150
Japan Club (Sao Paulo), 49–50, 86, Maeyama, Takashi, 6, 8, 14, 28, 51,
90, 185 69, 76, 79, 83, 85–6, 93, 137–9,
Japan Hospital (Sao Paulo), 106, 154–5, 166–7, 169, 170–1
147–9, 194 Manchuria, 103–4, 121, 134–5,
Japan Society (Sao Paulo), 86 154, 188
Japanese-Brazilian Student League, marriage and marriage laws, 19,
141–2 68–70, 144, 181
judo, 20, 52, 106, 159, 182 Matarazzo, Francisco, 61
Mexico, Japanese migrants to,
Kagoshima migrants, 30, 33, 36, 16, 18, 36, 135, 152
39–40, 48, 152 Mikado Sports Club (Sao Paulo),
Kaiko (Kaigai Kogyo KK or Overseas 50, 89–91
Development Company), 55, 59, military, Japanese and emigration,
168 58, 63, 103–4, 135, 143, 152–3
Kanegafuchi Cotton Spinning Minas Gerais, Japanese in, 111
Company, 74 Miura, Saku, 52, 84–5, 147, 160–1, 169
Kato, Setsu, 149 Miura, Tamaki, 122
Katsura, Taro, 43 Miyazaki, Shinzo, 49
Kawakami, Suzuko, 129 Mizuno, Ryo, 25, 28
Kipling, Rudyard, 80, 125 Modern Art Week (Sao Paulo 1922),
Kissa Emigration Company, 21–2 62
208 Index

Morioka Trading Company, 18–19, 55 Otake, Wasaburo, 53

music, 5, 23, 62, 93, 106, 118, Oura, Kanetake, 43
122–30, 151, 159–60, 169, 190, 196 Overseas Migrant Co-operative
Mussolini, Benito, caricature of, 161 (Kaigai Iju Kumiai), 72, 77

Nagata, Cho, 104 performers, Japanese in Brazil,

Nakajima, Seiichiro, 85 20, 122–3, 129–30
Nakamura, Father Choroku, 157 Peru, and Japanese migrants, 18–19,
Nakanishi, Colonel Ryosuke, 143 25, 66, 135, 160
nationalism, Brazilian, 4–6, 61–5, 95, ‘picture brides’, 14–15, 68
100, 110–11, 124–6, 134, 137–8, political involvement, migrant
142–3, 146; Japanese, 1, 4, 27, Japanese, 94, 105, 154
28, 51, 83–4, 88, 104, 121–3, 138, population change, Brazil, 22–3, 41,
142–3, 144–6, 150–4, 163, 171–2 47, 55, 100
native-place groups, 14, 30, 33, 40, Portugal, migrants to Brazil, 136
49, 69, 73, 87, 152, 167, 184 Prado Company, 21–2
naturalisation, 67–8, 82, 194 Prado, Paulo, 62
Nazism, 63 prostitution, 128, 183, 191
New Religions, Japanese, 157
New State (Estado Novo, Brazil racial tolerance, 32–3, 55–6, 57,
1937), 134, 137, 148, 153, 161, 164 62, 65–7, 73, 76–7, 88, 93, 100,
newspapers, Japanese migrant, 7, 17, 109–11, 131, 139, 163, 168, 170
40, 48, 51–4, 82, 84, 88, 89, 102, racism, 32, 100, 186; anti-Chinese,
105, 116–17, 119, 145, 150, 160–1, 21; anti-Japanese, 4, 19, 25, 56, 60,
165, 169, 189; and journals, 88, 63, 108, 110–11, 112–13, 128, 131,
117, 142, 156; and newsreel, 160–1, 167–8; anti-Okinawan, 30,
119–21, 150–1 41; anti-Semitic, 100, 110, 131,
Nihonjin Doshikai, 84 136, 161
Nippaku Cinema Company (Bauru), radio broadcasts, 117–18, 159–60
119–20, 189 Registro, Japanese at, 43, 90, 109,
Nippaku Shimbun, 51–4, 77, 78, 80–1, 116, 158
84, 86, 88–9, 92–3, 95, 109, 116, Reis, Fidelis, 64
128, 160–1, 169 religion, 154–9, 196
Nippon, flight to Brazil, 145–6 Rio Japanese Language Student
Nogyo no Burajiru, 88 Society, 139
Noroeste region, Japanese in, 71, Roosevelt, Theodore, 18
90–2, 110, 114–15, 119, 146, 153, Russo-Japanese war (1904–5), 18,
184, 188 23–5, 32
Noroeste-sen Isshu, 119
Saito, Kiyo, 91
occupational change, migrant, 116 Salgado, Plinio, 100
Okinawa, migrants from, 14, 30, samba, 125–6
33, 38–41, 49, 81, 87, 117, 142, samisen, electrification, 124
166–7, 184 San Francisco, Japanese in, 16–17, 152
Onaga, Sukenari, 40–1, 87, 117, 169 Sanitorium Sao Francisco Xavier, 148
opera, 122, 129–30 Santos-Dumont, Alberto, 146
Osaka Shipping Company, 59, 114 ‘Sao Paulo Erotic Guide’, 128
Index 209

Sao Paulo Society for the Study of television, 145

Japanese Culture, 139 Tiete settlement, 73, 76, 90–1, 109,
second generation, migrant 112, 139, 156, 182
Japanese, 105, 106, 138–43, 153, Toda, Seizo, 78
171, 182 Toho Film Company ( Japan), 121
Seishu Shimpo, 76, 84, 116, 119, 123, Tome-Acu settlement, 74–5
127–8, 161, 163, 169 Tottori migrants, 73
settlements (colonies), Japanese Toyama migrants, 73
migrant, 43–5, 70–9, 86, 112–13, Transicao (Transition), 142
151, 182 Tsuji, Kotaro, 37, 72, 93–4, 126, 185
Shibusawa, Eiichi, 43
Shimomoto, Cassio Kenro, 106, 116, Uetsuka, Tsukasa, 75
142, 171 United States, and Japan, 104,
Shimomoto, Kenkichi, 76 immigration, 3, 5–6, 13, 15–18, 33,
Shiroma, Zenkichi, 42, 87 39, 57, 60, 65, 66, 69, 168
Sino-Japanese war (1894–95), 17–18 urban conditions (Brazil), 38, 42–3,
Sino-Japanese war (1937–45), 116, 46–9, 115–16
133–4, 149–54, 159–63, 194
social conditions, Japan, 13, 15, 24, Vargas, Getulio, 98–9, 108, 110, 134,
30, 39–40, 57, 92–3, 133–4 137–8, 186
Spain, migrants from, 115, 136 violence, 92, 98, 105, 110, 114,
sport, 50–1, 89–92, 106, 123, 137–8, 119, 188; racial, 19, 63, 111–13,
145, 150, 154–5, 159, 171, 185 160, 168
stereotypes, 17, 19, 24, 31–2, 36, 60,
63, 65–6, 77, 104, 108, 110–11, wages, migrant labour, 35–7, 115
127, 143, 146, 159–60, 168, 185 ‘whitening’, racial programme of,
students, migrant Japanese, 105, 23, 107
141–3, 147, 194 women, Japanese migrant, 14–15, 17,
Sugimoto, Honosuke, 81, 90, 158 19, 28, 29, 35, 41, 53, 68–70, 80, 81,
Sugimura, Fukashi, 25 114, 124, 127, 149, 150–1, 162,
163, 165–6, 188; Brazilian, 70, 162
Takaoka, Kumao, 66–7, 88, 93
Takezawa, Banji, 20 Yamaguchi migrants, 14, 19
Tanaka, Teikichi, 18 Yamamoto, Sue, 149
Taiwan, 12 Yamashiro, Jose, 142