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Amid global economic turmoil, Brazilians find jobs hard to come by in Japan.
SAO PAULO — Everything was going just as planned for the Hashimoto siblings in Japan. Sheila, 29, Eliane, 26, and Gerson, 23, had moved there to work for a couple of years in the world's second largest economy, in hopes of saving to buy a house back home in Brazil.
They were among the 316,967 Brazilians registered to work in Japan as of the end of 2007, according to CIATE, an agency that helps dekasseguis — as Brazilian workers in Japan are known — to find jobs. Nowadays, Brazilians make up the third largest group of immigrant workers in Japan, behind Chinese and Koreans.
The connection between the two countries dates back more than 100 years.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Brazil’s economy was booming, thanks to the coffee industry. As a result, immigrants were needed to work in Brazil's fields and factories, and the Japanese seized the opportunity to leave an overpopulated and jobless country. In 1908, 781 Japanese immigrants arrived in Brazil on the Kasato Maru ship, according to the Immigrant Museum in Sao Paulo, marking the beginning of what would become the largest Japanese colony outside Japan.
In the 1940s and 1950s, nearly 275,000 Japanese immigrated to Brazil, according to Brazilian government statistics.
The migration between the two countries switched direction in the 1980s. Nearly 30 years ago, Brazilians of Japanese descent began moving to the homeland of their parents and grandparents, fleeing Brazil's unstable economy. Thus began the dekasseguis movement.
Back then, job offers were abundant in Japan. And just as Brazil welcomed early Japanese immigrants seeking work in fields and factories, Japan absorbed the dekasseguis, many of whom spoke little or no Japanese.
But with the global economy in dire straits, today's dekasseguis are no longer finding Japan so welcoming.