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Tea Leaves

Japanese Brazilians move beyond 'Little Tokyo'

Drive and determination of forebears provide lessons for Japan

A Japanese Brazilian girl gives a "taiko" drum performance during a cultural festival in Sao Paulo.   © Reuters

In the center of Sao Paulo, Brazil's financial capital and largest city, lies Liberdade, a district of Japanese-style restaurants, hotels, supermarkets and shops. Streets adorned with red lampposts lead visitors to a traditional Japanese torii gate. Walking there is like strolling into a Japanese shrine.

For me, a Japanese on my first visit to Brazil, Liberdade was both familiar and surreal. Most Japanese know that there are ethnically Japanese citizens of Brazil. But few know much of their history or their lives, perhaps because Brazil is so far away -- a 30-hour flight via New York or London.

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