Discover Nikkei

8 things I learned writing about Nikkei

I began to observe the Brazilian Nikkei community from a different perspective (photo: Shokonsai 2022 in Álvares Machado, SP - personal archive/Tatiana Maebuchi)

My story in the Nikkei community began in 2008, exactly in the year in which the Centenary of Japanese Immigration to Brazil was celebrated – which I consider late, as I was about to finish journalism school. Over the next two years, I underwent a transformative cultural immersion that became the foundation for the discoveries that were to come.

I spent a period of time away from the community due to work until I became a collaborator at Discover Nikkei.

From 2015 onwards, then, I started to uncover stories that helped me understand certain behaviors and what it means to be of Japanese descent. Eight years have passed and I realized that I learned much more than I imagined.

What I learned about the Brazilian Nikkei community

1. Knowledge

I acquired what I consider to be enough knowledge about the Nikkei culture and community in Brazil. Of course, I already had a good idea, however, learning is a constant task throughout life. At least for those who want to evolve to other levels of consciousness (and for scholars).

2. Contribution to the community and contact with roots

I found the best way to contribute to the community of descendants by telling stories of myself, Nikkei groups and representatives, and keeping in touch with my roots in one thing. In other words, writing!

3. Learning through observation

I started to see Brazilian Nikkei with a more attentive eye. I started looking for similarities and differences not only between them, but also between them and me. I began to understand (better) my descendants and myself. And, as a consequence, I began to value local communities and my roots even more, and wanted to continue discovering new knowledge, collective or personal.

4. Nikkei are similar

I realized that Brazilian Nikkei are similar in some ways. They share common experiences and interests, but each has different values, customs and experiences. In the end, there is a Brazilian Nikkei culture that is the result of Japanese-Brazilian mixing. I always found it natural, for example, the habit of – at lunches and family gatherings – eating both Japanese and Brazilian dishes in the same meal (the typical barbecue with makizushi and manju for dessert).

5. Unique life stories

Each life story is unique and surprising. This way, I came to better understand what it means to be a Brazilian Nikkei. Some people were and are very close to traditions, while others less so and to varying degrees. Little by little, from story to story, I gathered information and made connections with things I didn't understand and discovered things I had no idea existed.

6. Discovery of identity

I discovered my identity and accepted it as it is. Even though I grew up distant from the culture, I shouldn't be called a "fake Japanese". Nor can it be said that I am less of a descendant than someone who has always been in contact with their origins. Everyone who has a father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, great-grandfather, great-grandmother, belonging to different generations, are descendants, no matter if the ancestry is 25, 50 or 100%.

Furthermore, I realized that there are many people who have no contact with the community or culture and that you cannot force anyone to get involved in activities. This distance has to do with each person's (and their family's) life story and what they think and want for the future.

And, in fact, identity, whether individual or collective, is always changing. Although there is a common thread as a starting point, this identity is also constructed by difference, which sets the limits of the “I”, of who I “am”. “These limits can be quite fluid, transforming according to the individual’s experiences, reflections and life trajectory” [1].

7. Power to generate identification

I also discovered that I have the power to generate identification between people, influence – in the good sense of the word – and make descendants – such as, for example, my own family members, as well as readers and those interested in Japanese culture and the Nikkei community – get closer to their roots, their history, their identity.

8. The Nikkei community has a lot to teach us

Finally, the Nikkei community has a lot to teach me and society in general. It is important to know the vision of active people, the role of associations, the discussions that have been held and to have contact with the mix of cultures. Without a doubt, it is a legacy that must be remembered and passed on to new generations.

The most curious thing is that I often end up surprising myself, because – even without expecting it – I realize that I am facing new teachings and, therefore, obtaining new points of view on the development of the Brazilian Nikkei community and its peculiar culture, a mix of Japanese with Brazilian and with the influence of so many others, Asian or not.


1. MARTINO, Luís Mauro Sá. Digital media theory: Languages, environments and networks . Petrópolis, Voices, 2014.

© 2023 Tatiana Akemi Maebuchi

Brazil identity Japanese Brazilians
About the Author

Born in São Paulo, Tatiana Maebuchi is a third generation Japanese Brazilian on her mother’s side, and fourth generation on her father’s side. She is a journalist with a degree from the Pontifícia Universidade Católica in São Paulo, and has written for magazines, websites, and media marketing. She is also a travel blogger. As a member of the communications team of the Brazilian Society of Japanese Culture and Social Welfare (Bunkyo), Maebuchi helped contribute to the dissemination of Japanese culture.

Updated July 2015

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