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The Multiple Identities of the Nikkei Community

Brazilians in Japan

The Brazilians went to Japan since the middle of the 1980s, at the end of 20th century, looking for a dream, moved by hope, for a better life. In this same period, many other Brazilians also went to other destinations around the world: United States, Paraguay, and Europe. Many Latin-Americans from border countries close to Brazil and other foreigners, such as Koreans, Chinese, and Angolans came to Brazil in the last decades, making the scenario of population dislocation around the world more complex in the face of the compression of the time and the space that David Harvey characterized as a condition of post-modernity.

In this macro-conjunction, the descendants of the Japanese who settled in Brazil realized that they could go to Japan, at least temporarily, and save more money in less time. In this period of the second half of the 1980s decade, Japan was experiencing an economic prosperity, which, if in one hand it attracted the foreign migrant workers, on the other hand, the Japanese labor market was demanding a foreign workforce. So, as Brazilians used to say: “it came together the hungry and the desire to eat”.

This movement of Brazilians to Japan is known as “Dekassegui”, a term that has acquiring different meanings socially and culturally attributed over the time. In the beginning what was a pejorative, became changed in meaning, and then naturalized and incorporated in the Japanese and Brazilians vocabulary, at least.

What about the future of this movement? I actually don’t know. It is like the birth of a river that will create its own path. But we can know about anything just after it already happened. You do your path when you do it going through, as Cervantes’ Don Quixote already mentioned, to run into, finally, in the ocean, that maybe, just to take a ride in this metaphor, it is the irretrievable process of internationalization that has putting different people in contact in front of our eyes. The ‘Nikkei’ is an example of this. Discover. Dis-cover: take the cover out. So, meet the ‘other’ inside your ‘self’.

As a consequence for the society as a whole is the conference of the difference of the persons – be it individual, collective, of one determined group or another one, whatever. It means, the difference in its lato sensu. Sometimes, when I meet my eyes with slogans as “tolerance to the difference”, I always ask myself: why ‘tolerate’ [*1] and not ‘appreciate’ [*2]?

In the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of English Language [2000],

[*1] to ‘tolerate’ is defined as: (1) To allow somebody to do something that you do not agree with or like. (2) To accept somebody/something that is annoying, unpleasant, etc. without complaining. (3) To be able to be affected by a drug, difficult conditions, etc. without being harmed.

In this sense, it seems that ‘tolerate’ has been interpreted as a negative connotation, so, rarely receptive, according to the cultural and social values of each one.


[*2] to ‘appreciate’, in the same dictionary, it means: Verb. (1) [VN] (not used in the progressive tenses) to recognize the good qualities of sb [somebody] / sth [something]. (2) (not used in the progressive tenses) to be grateful for something that somebody has done; to welcome something. (3) (not used in the progressive tenses) to understand or realize that something is true. (4) [V] to increase in value over a period of time.

So, to ‘appreciate’ can be an opening for the new, the unexpected, which can be anything. Which kind of thing? Oh, it depends on each of us.

* Elisa Massae Sasaki was a panelist in a presentation titled “Dynamic life of migrants between Brazil and Japan—Perspective on Japan” at a Discover Nikkei Symposium—“100 Years of Japanese Immigration: The Multiple Identities of the Nikkei Community” in Sao Paulo on September 20, 2008. This article was translated from Portuguese by the author.

© 2008 Elisa Massae Sasaki

Brazil migration

About this series

A series of articles from panelists at a Discover Nikkei Symposium—“100 Years of Japanese Immigration: The Multiple Identities of the Nikkei Community” in São Paulo on September 20, 2008.