Living in Japan


Date: May 18, 2012

By: Ananda Araujo Cerdan.

By the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, coffee was the main export product in Brazil. At first, African slaves were forced to work on coffee plantations. After the slavery was abolished in Brazil, in 1850, Brazilian farmers had to look for labor somewhere else. So, the government and farmers offered to pay for European immigrant’s passage. The plan encouraged millions of Europeans, most of them Italian, to go to Brazil. However, when they were in Brazil, they received very low salaries and worked in poor conditions, similar to the conditions that the slaves where put through. Because of that, in 1902, Italy prohibited subsided immigration to Brazil. Looking for new labor and knowing that Japan was facing a problem with a high demographic number and, also, the search for better living conditions. In 1908, the Japanese shop Kasato Maru docked in the Port of Santos, São Paulo, bringing the first Japanese families to Brazil.

Carla while she was visiting the city of Hiroshima. Behind her is possible to see the only building that survived to the atomic bombs.

It is estimated that currently there are over one million of Japanese descent in Brazil. Born in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Carla Akemi Tomizawa is a Japanese Brazilian (name given to Brazilians with Japanese descent). When she was six years old, she went to Japan, along with her family and lived there for eight years. She returned to Brazil almost two years ago and agreed to talk with me about her experience in The Land of The Rising Sun.

Living in another country for a year or two, to study, is a big decision and affects a big part of everyone’s life. Having a life in another country with your family is a different decision, but just as big. What made your parents decide this?

My parents where broke here in Brazil. Full of debts, you know? And my father decided to go to Japan, since we have Japanese ascendency and several uncles, aunts, etc, were going there too. To work, mostly in factories, put some money together to build a house in Brazil and go back. It’s like that with most of the Brazilians that live there. After two years that my dad was there, I went with my mother. I just went not to stay away from my parents; I was too young to be without them.

You are back in Brazil for a while now, what you think that are the biggest differences between Brazil and Japan? Not only the country, but also the people. The way they behave.

When I first got in Japan, I was really young, so the things I noticed where kind of childish. The food is really different, the buildings (most of them are built to withstand earthquakes), the streets are really clean… There they have the habit to take off their shoes when they enter in someone’s house, you get used to it really fast. I got and haven’t lost until today, I think its god, more hygienic. And I think the Japanese are really organized, you know? Very straight, disciplined.

There are any habits or something that the Japanese did that ever bothered you in some way? Something that you preffer in Brazil than in Japan?

Sometimes it’s boring that they’re so quiet and straight, you know. I like the Brazilian way. This “given” way. Here, I come home every day by bus, at the same time. Every day. I’m friends with the driver and almost everyone that’s also in the bus at the same time. That would never happen in Japan.

I don’t know if you can answer this, since you were too young when you were there. But, economically, what are the biggest differences?

Yes, I really don’t know much to say. But I’ll try… There, in Japan, even if you’re poor and don’t get lots of money, you can buy almost everything, you know? Here it’s more difficult. There is a big abyss between social classes and you notice that really clearly here in Brazil. But there, this difference, I think it isn’t so big, because it’s not as easy to notice as it is in here.

And you didn’t have any kid of contact with the politic there, right?

No, I didn’t.

What are the things that you miss the most?

I miss my friends. All of them are getting back to Brazil someday, some the already got back, but they always live somewhere else. And it gets complicated to see them again.

And you only had Brazilian friends there?

Most of them were Brazilian, yes. I had some Japanese acquaintances, but they weren’t so close. It’s because I went to a Brazilian school, all the students where Brazilian too, the teachers, so I was closer to them. But I also had some friends from Philippines, China, Canada, etc.

Thanks for the interview, Carla! It was really good.

You’re always welcome.

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estudiantes: Eduardo Marquez Ibon Joung Virginia Mazon Sara Setien Ananda Cerdan

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