A nondescript building conceals this fascinating museum dedicated to documenting the story of Japanese immigrants to Brazil. It chronicles every imaginable aspect of the immigrant experience, making it a perfect place to spend an hour or two exploring the history of the country with the largest Japanese community outside of Japan.
Within its dark corridors, you’ll find a treasure trove of artifacts and stories collected from the Japanese diaspora all over Brazil. Much of the museum focuses on the contributions Japanese immigrants made to Brazil’s agricultural industrialization.
You’ll learn about the experiences of ordinary workers who, through their toil and sweat, cleared jungle to make coffee and sugar plantations. Plants and foods the immigrants would have learned to subsist on and use to cure diseases are displayed next to taxidermied and embalmed specimens of animals they would have encountered and learned to fear, such as the jaguar, giant anteater, and jararaca pit viper.
One of the most impressive exhibitions in the museum is an authentic and eerie recreation of typical hut an immigrant coffee plantation worker would have lived in in the 1930s. It’s complete with portraits of the Japanese imperial family and a Shinto shrine, as if stuck in a time warp.
The museum contains much more than agricultural content, though. There’s a vintage photo archive featuring late-19th-century and early-20th-century photographs. Medical supplies, agricultural instruments, and the worldly possessions of new immigrants are displayed alongside kimonos, katanas, and mempō masks.
There are even documents and weapons used by Japanese spies who operated within Brazil during World War II. The many murals and paintings on display are also quite striking, and the stories chronicling the racism, discrimination, and internal division the community faced during and after the war are moving.
Know Before You Go
You'll find the museum on the seventh, eighth, and ninth floors of the Brazilian Society of Japanese Culture building. The museum also offers multi-language audio guides that are supplied at the entrance and features many audio-visual displays giving context to the exhibits. It's open Tuesday through Sunday from 1:30 to 5:00. You can get there by foot from the São Joaquim metro station (on the blue line).