Liberdade - Sao Paulo's Japantown


Brazil is home to 1.5 million people of Japanese descent. Sao Paulo has the largest community of Nikkei in Brazil and the heart of the community is a district called Liberdade. In February 2008 I took a trip to Sao Paulo for the first time. These are my pictures from Liberdade.

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Liberdade is located in the heart of Sao Paulo and historically was the quarters where freed slaves lived, hence the name "Liberty" or "Liberdade" in Portuguese. Today it is known as Sao Paulo's Japan Town, but other Asian ethnic groups have also settled here.

Liberdade Torii
Contributed by: bokinaka

A living community

The area is a mix of local shops, restaurants, apartments, hotels and community centers. Walking around, you really get a sense of a living community.

Nikkei Man in Liberdade
Contributed by: bokinaka

Culture center

Inside this building is the Museum of Japanese Immigration. It tells the story of the Japanese settlers in Brazil. Many cultural and community centers are located in Liberdade, like kenjinkais (prefectural associations) and trade associations.

Contributed by: bokinaka

Buddhist temple

The Japanese immigrants brought their beliefs with them. This is a Buddhist temple in Liberdade. But not all Nikkei are Buddhist. Many have converted to Catholicism. But I did not see other churches in Liberdade.

Busshinji Temple in Liberdade
Contributed by: bokinaka

Street views

The concrete buildings in Sao Paulo are pretty drab, but in Liberdade, some of the buildings incorporate a Japanese theme, like this McDonalds.

Liberdade MacDonald's
Contributed by: bokinaka

Japanese flavor

Many of the businesses cater to the Asian community in Sao Paulo. People shop here for Asian groceries, Japanese books and household goods. There is one street that has a row of futon stores. There are also gift shops offering Japanese knick-knacks like tea sets, cheap kimonos and fake samurai …

Making takoyaki in Liberdade
Contributed by: bokinaka


One of the things I noticed was that the McDonalds was the only fast food joint I saw. People can get a bite to eat at these corner markets called "lanchonetes," located on almost every block.

Lanchonetes at night
Contributed by: bokinaka

A peek inside

Here's a closer look inside the lanchonetes. I liked drinking "sucos" - freshly-squeezed fruit drinks. Some of the choices are exotic fruits from the Amazon.

A look inside a lanchonetes
Contributed by: bokinaka

Eating in Liberdade

There are plenty of Japanese restaurants in Liberdade. This establishment serves buffet-style Japanese food. Besides the restaurants there isn't much nightlife in the area other than a few karaoke places.

Nandemoya - 1
Contributed by: bokinaka

Cross-cultural cuisine

One of the things I was looking for on my visit was how they mixed Japanese and Brazilian food. I did find this unusual strawberry maki sushi (center of the picture). I also learned that yakisoba was a popular Japanese dish among Brazilians.

Nandemoya - 2
Contributed by: bokinaka

Sakura soy sauce

This is Sakura soy sauce made by a Japanese immigrant to Brazil. Immigrants came to Brazil to work in agriculture and later started up other businesses, many of which catered to other Japanese.

Sakura soy sauce
Contributed by: bokinaka

Old friends

Liberdade has its own subway stop. The plaza in front of the station is a community area where people gather.

Liberdade gathering spot
Contributed by: bokinaka

Weekend market

On weekends, the plaza becomes a street market where shoppers can buy clothes, gifts, handmade crafts and other items.

Street Market in Liberdade
Contributed by: bokinaka

Food stalls

The food stalls at the street market were mouth-watering good! This stall served meat on a stick and I'm not sure if it was Brazilian-style barbeque or giant-sized yakitori. Maybe both?

Food stall at Liberdade
Contributed by: bokinaka

Good fortune

This Shinto priest writes good luck fortunes and sells protective amulets for people at the street market.

Liberdade street market - good luck charms
Contributed by: bokinaka

Origami crafts

Nathalia makes very tiny origami accessories and sells them at the street market with her father. She is also on a roller hockey team that sometimes competes in North America.

Liberdade street market - origami stand
Contributed by: bokinaka

Anime kids

Recently, Brazilian teenagers come to the station plaza to hang out on Sundays. They come here because they are anime fans and Liberdade is as close to Japan as they can get. Unfortunately, this picture was taken on Saturday.

Graffiti art at the Liberdade Metro plaza
Contributed by: bokinaka

Graffiti art

The streets of Liberdade are covered with a lot of cool graffiti art. This piece was made by Titi Freak and Ramon Martins.

Liberdade graffiti art - Fish
Contributed by: bokinaka

Titi Freak

Titi Freak is a Japanese Brazilian street artist. His real name is Hamilton Yokota. You can see more of his artwork at

Graffiti art in Liberdade
Contributed by: bokinaka

Future art museum

Work is being done on renovating this old school into a Japanese Brazilian art museum. It is named after Manabu Mabe, a famous abstract painter who was born in Japan, but grew up in Brazil.

Museu de Arte Moderna Nipo-Brasileira Manabu Mabe
Contributed by: bokinaka

Taiko performance

These young people performed taiko at an anime festival held at Bunkyo, the community culture center.

Hikari Daiko
Contributed by: bokinaka

Tanabata Festival

Every July, the streets of Liberdade are decorated with colorful streamers to celebrate the Tanabata Festival, just like the one in Japan.

Contributed by: yn

Daniele Suzuki

Daniele Suzuki is a television personality in Brazil. Here she is reporting from the Tanabata Festival.

Brazilian Nikkei have formed communities, built homes and businesses and integrated into all aspects of life in their new homeland. This year marks the 100th anniversary of Japanese immigration to Brazil. Omedetoo gozaimasu!

Daniele Suzuki
Contributed by: bokinaka

Album Type

online exhibition

bokinaka — 更新日 6月 28 2021 1:49 a.m.

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