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Brazilians with a Japanese identity

I’m more or less considered bilingual, right? When I speak Japanese, everyone thinks I’m Japanese. What Japanese really marvel at is when a phone call comes in or when a Brazilian person enters the conversation, the language immediately switches to Portuguese. I can really skillfully switch.

If I had to say what my identity was at that time, at the age of 20 I was a naturalized Brazilian. And so, for 50 years I lived as a Brazilian. And that’s because I lost my Japanese citizenship at that time. So, because of that, my identity papers were my Brazilian citizenship passport. I have Japanese permanent residency but in Japan I’m a foreigner.

But that's just what's on paper. If I'm asked “what's your nationality?” I would answer Brazilian. But on the other hand, the Japanese identity, or rather, there's the aspect beyond just being Japanese that one possesses.


Japanese

Date: September 19, 2019

Location: California, US

Interviewer: Yoko Nishimura

Contributed by: Watase Media Arts Center, Japanese American National Museum

Interviewee Bio

Masato Ninomiya was born in Nagano Prefecture in 1948 and moved to Brazil at the age of 5 with his family. He currently maintains a legal office in São Paulo, and in addition to working as a Law Professor at the University of Sao Paulo, also serves as Special Assistant to the President at Meiji University and as Visiting Professor of Law at Musashino University. Since its founding in 1992, he has served as President of CIATE (Center for Information and Support to Workers Abroad), Advisor to the Japan Society for Promotion of Science (JSPS) for Central and South America, and also a Committee Member of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Additionally, he is considered a Nikkei community leader in Brazil, supporting various activities such as improving the working conditions of Brazilian Dekasegi, and the education of Japanese-Brazilian children. . (May 2021)

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