Discover Nikkei

Episode 42: Bachan comes to Japan!

My name is Ryoma Leonardo and I'm 11 years old. "Ryuma" was chosen by my Brazilian papaai1, who became a fan of Sakamoto Ryoma after watching the historical drama. Papai thought that just a Japanese name would be fine, but my third generation Japanese mama2 is a big fan of Leonardo DiCaprio and really wanted to give me the name "Leonardo", so we ended up with this name. Interestingly, everyone calls me "Ryuma" instead of "Leonardo". I love this name so I'm very happy.

My parents came to Japan in 2007, and I was born in Toyohashi, Aichi Prefecture in 2011.

I went to Brazil for the first time when I was three years old, but I don't remember it well because Mamae's father, my grandfather, got sick. Mamae rushed back with me, but he died soon after.

Bachan has four children. His eldest and second sons came to Japan to work as migrant workers after graduating from high school, got married here and have children. His eldest daughter, Mamae, got married in Brazil and lives in Japan, and his second daughter is studying English in Canada.

Mamae tried to invite Bachan, who was now alone in Brazil, to Japan, but at the time he was still working at the city hall and would be retiring in six years, so he promised Mamae that he would come to Japan then.

"Bachan, when are you coming to Japan?" My grandchildren always ask me on the phone or video call. Unlike my cousins, I go to a Japanese school and most of my friends are Japanese. I'm not good at Portuguese and I don't know much about Brazil, so I'm a little worried about whether Bachan will like me.

My cousins ​​also taught me the words "Bachan" and "Jicchan." Normally you would say "Grandma" and "Grandpa," but my cousins ​​said, "Bachan and Jicchan are legau (very good)."

Bachan had been looking forward to coming to Japan, but three years after Jicchan passed away, his older sister, who lived in the countryside, became ill. Bachan ended up taking care of his 81-year-old mother, who was living with him, and his older sister.

Since then, Bachan has been sending videos to his grandchildren in Japan, entertaining them all. To my surprise, both mother and daughter were good at singing! They were old songs that we didn't know, but Bachan and his sister were particularly good at enka. My great-grandmother's favorite song was "Roses Bloomed," which was also a surprise! Papai also liked this song, and now he sings it while playing the guitar, and I sing along with him.

Sadly, Bachan's sister's condition worsened and she suddenly passed away. My great-grandmother was sad and stayed in bed, but she gradually recovered and now helps with the housework and cooks meals every day. Bachan recorded this and sent it to me. I didn't know there was miso soup in Brazil.

Just two years ago, the coronavirus spread around the world and Brazil was also hit hard. During that time, my great-grandmother became infected and passed away just before being hospitalized.

Bachan's daughter, who was studying abroad in Canada, also returned to Brazil due to fears of the impact of the coronavirus and temporarily moved to the countryside with Bachan, who had already retired.

And now, finally, Bachan is coming to Japan. He is scheduled to arrive in Japan on December 23rd. Aunt Yurika, who was in Canada, will be with him.

Bachan is now living his second life in Japan, surrounded by his four children, seven grandchildren and many relatives and acquaintances!

Everyone is excited and looking forward to it, saying, "Yay! This year's Natal (Christmas) is going to be beleza (the best)!"

It's the soccer World Cup right now, so Bachan called me and asked, "Which team are you rooting for, Ryoma? Brazil or Japan?"

Well, I'm rooting for both of you! Hooray! Viva!

1. Dad
2. Mom

© 2022 Laura Honda-Hasegawa

Brazil dekasegi fiction foreign workers Japan Nikkei in Japan
About this series

In 1988, I read a news article about dekasegi and had an idea: "This might be a good subject for a novel." But I never imagined that I would end up becoming the author of this novel...

In 1990, I finished my first novel, and in the final scene, the protagonist Kimiko goes to Japan to work as a dekasegi worker. 11 years later, when I was asked to write a short story, I again chose the theme of dekasegi. Then, in 2008, I had my own dekasegi experience, and it left me with a lot of questions. "What is dekasegi?" "Where do dekasegi workers belong?"

I realized that the world of dekasegi is very complicated.

Through this series, I hope to think about these questions together.

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About the Author

Born in São Paulo, Brazil in 1947. Worked in the field of education until 2009. Since then, she has dedicated herself exclusively to literature, writing essays, short stories and novels, all from a Nikkei point of view.

She grew up listening to Japanese children's stories told by her mother. As a teenager, she read the monthly issue of Shojo Kurabu, a youth magazine for girls imported from Japan. She watched almost all of Ozu's films, developing a great admiration for Japanese culture all her life.

Updated May 2023

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