The first Japanese immigrants arrived in the Liberdade district of São Paulo just over a century ago: now, the community is the biggest of its kind outside of Japan. Its 300 thousand members have left traces of their heritage all over the neighborhood. In Liberdade, red lampposts light the streets, the signs are written in ideograms and a nine-meter tall torii (a Japanese arch traditionally found at the entrance to a Shinto temple) has proudly marked its gates since 1974.
The district also features a Buddhist temple (at Rua São Joaquim), a Japanese garden and a wealth of karaoke bars, sushi restaurants and stalls selling curious products from faraway islands in the Pacific Ocean. Shops on Rua Galvão Bueno, Conselheiro Furtado and Rua da Glória sell cheap’n’cheerful piles of electronics and cosmetics.
But the place to be at the weekend is the Praça da Liberdade, home to a marvellous “anything goes” market—the Feira da Liberdade. The Feira’s organizers also promote cultural events: the sumo competitions, in particular, are always a rabble-rousing romp.
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