Attractions in Brazil: the Japanese district of Liberdade

Since it is the largest country in South America, it can be tough to pick which to visit. However, for those who want to incorporate global culture into their trip, a visit to Liberdade in São Paulo can be an eye-opening experience. Travelers might think that a trip to Brazil means exposure to only the Brazilian way of life, but in Liberdade, visitors have the unique opportunity to see how Japanese culture has been infused in South America.

Liberdade, which means “freedom” in Portuguese, is a Japanese district in São Paulo and a representation of the deep manifestation of Asian culture in Brazil. The first Japanese immigrants came to the country in 1908 in order to work on the coffee plantations around São Paulo. Only four years later, the area that is now called Liberdade was teeming with Japanese immigrants who were hoping to find a job nearby. As the area developed, it became a hub for the Japanese community as well as a home to Asian schools, a Japanese newspaper and booming businesses. Still, things have not always been easy for Liberdade’s residents. In 1942, President Getúlio Vargas broke diplomatic relations with Japan and forced all Japanese individuals to leave the area. These displaced people were only allowed to return after World War II ended in 1945.

One of the main reasons this area attracts so many visitors is its shopping. Every weekend, the streets of Liberdade are filled with vendors, who sell many traditional Japanese items that make great souvenirs. As Asian music plays through loudspeakers and stereos, visitors will find small carts full of items such as bamboo carvings, orchids and bonsai trees. However, the weekends are also a great time to try traditional Japanese food in the district, which is also sold by street vendors. Many people recommend the yakisoba, a fried noodle dish. For dessert, travelers can snack on imagawayaki, a type of soft pastry filled with sweet items such as vanilla custard, fruit and preserves.

Depending on the time of year in which individuals travel, visitors may also have the chance to see a festival in Liberdade. Some of the most popular celebrations that occur in the area are Chinese New Year, which usually falls during January and February, and Sendai Tanabata Matsuri, which is observed in July.