Brazilian community in the Homi Danchi, Toyota City

The Homi public housing development (“Danchi” in Japanese) in the Homigaoka area of Toyota City, in Aichi Prefecture, is now home to a large population of Brazilian immigrants. They mainly came to the area to work at Toyota and related manufacturing jobs, but are now often the first to lose those jobs due to the worsening recession. The Homi Danchi (population over 11,000) is decades old and was originally inhabited entirely (or almost entirely) by Japanese, but due to its affordable prices and location now has a majority of Brazilians, and the stores in the area reflect that ethnic shift.

Tensions between the Japanese and Brazilian residents of the Danchi over such issues as garbage disposal and communication difficulties have existed as long as Brazilians have been moving into the city residential complex, but have worsened as the Brazilians have become the majority. Japanese residents, who are now largely elderly and single residents or single-mother families, often complain that the non-Japanese speaking Brazilian newcomers have not assimilated as well as they had hoped, and do not follow the rules that had been set by the “Community Board” (自治会) long before their arrival. Although there are around 400 vacancies in the Homi Danchi, the Japanese Community Board and the city have an agreement to only allow 40 units to be newly rented out each year so that new residents have time to acclimate, but the Brazilians claim that this quote is a form of ethnic discrimination. This has become particularly contentious as newly out of work Brazilians in the area are in need of cheaper housing. On top of this, Brazilians who can no longer even afford the low rent of the Danchi are moving out and leaving behind huge amounts of trash, particularly bulk trash which clutters the hallways and public areas. To attempt to resolve these issues, and to negotiate with the Danchi Community Board and the Toyota City government, the Brazilians organized their own Japan-style Community Association (保見ヶ丘ブラジル人協会) in January of this year.

Some more information, in Japanese and slightly out of date, can be found at this web site.

I was taken to visit the Homi Danchi by a friend who had an appointment there on March 1 during my first visit to the Nagoya region. We stayed for a few hours, and the introduction above is based on what my friend, those present at the Brazilian Community Association meeting, and other residents told me.

Photos can be viewed in either this Flash slideshow, or in flat HTML/JPEG below. All photos were taken with Canon 50D camera using 17-85 EF-S IS lens.

These men are hanging around outside the community center, located in the basement of the building containing the large supermarket.

Most of the original neighborhood stores have been replaced by Brazilian ones.

“Homigaoka Latin America Center”

“The campaign for helping each other, whether Japanese or Foreign.”

Busy times at the center, presumably to help deal with the effects of the recession on the community.

The tent is a bit of symbolism inspired by the recent Haken Mura (AKA Asoville) in Hibiya Park over the new year holiday period.

Social workers and others are stepping up efforts to provide services to the community.

This market was 100% Brazilian. I ended up buying some kind of coconut pound cake that was pretty good, although a bit on the dry side.

The amount, variety, and size of pieces of meat offered are simply staggering for Japan. Not to mention the prices, which were such a bargain that I had half a mind to load up on sausages and steaks.

Bootleg copies of current TV from home, a staple of ethnic stores in any real immigrant neighborhood in any country in the world. Note the UFC label on the left. Brazilians ALWAYS win that.

So we have a copy of a Brazilian magazine about Japanese pop culture and a Brazilian edition of an issue of Mad Magazine parodying popular Japanese manga, for sale in a Brazilian shop in Japan.

This neighborhood, still Homigaoka, located just across the way from the Danchi, was where the Brazilian Association meeting took place.

The fellow at the head of the table is the chairman whose name I forget. To his right is Habio Hideo Osaka, Cultural Director of the Association.

And people say the iPhone is a failure in Japan.

A courtyard in the housing complex.

An area for trash collection and sorting. As can be seen from this and subsequent photos, trash handling has been one of the biggest bones of contention between the Japanese and Brazilians in the Danchi. The Brazilian Community Association is naturally led by more assimilated, older Brazilians who share similar concerns about the social environment and long term implications.

Some bilingual flyers about manners donations for child vaccination, posted inside the above elevator.

Quite a lot of trash is left strewn around in common areas.

“I love the Devil, the Devil is the best”

Pretty typical teenager wall-scrawl.

18 thoughts on “Brazilian community in the Homi Danchi, Toyota City”

  1. Some of those pictures look pretty bad and that IS a subsidized housing project.

    Is the Brazilian organization trying to police or change behavior or is it just for advocacy?

    Did it only start to get really bad (the obvious vandalism) after people started to lose their jobs?

  2. Good questions. The Brazilian Association that started in January, which I attended a meeting of, is basically trying to negotiate with the authorities and local Japanese community, as well as modify the behavior of the Brazilian community, along the lines of a Japanese community board (自治会). There are also social workers and NGOs that

    I’m not actually sure if graffiti was a problem before, but garbage has been an issue for a few years, and seems to have gotten substantially worse since people have been losing jobs.

  3. “bilingual flyers about manners”

    The Japanese one seems to be about the drive to turn in PET bottle caps to help get vaccines for children in Africa (and something tells me that the Portuguese one is the same). I don’t want to be picky, but I do want to note that I was saving my PET bottle caps for this quite worthy cause when I was in Japan last and they piled up shockingly quickly. I would encourage all MF readers to start saving your caps now and be on the look out in local supermarkets or garbage notices for info on how to turn them in for charity.

  4. M-Bone – quick question:

    Is that PET bottle cap collection thing on the up-and-up? It sounds very familiar to me. I’m thinking it’s a potential update/modification of an urban legend in the US that i remember having some momentum about 8-9 years ago (the nonsensical belief that collecting pull-tabs from cans could somehow benefit those who need the use of dialysis machines).

    A quick search on ‘pet bottle cap hoax’ gives me a hit for a recent news story in West Virginia (the armpit of the USA)

    The story there ties into chemotherapy… not what you’re referencing here, but I’d say it warrants further investigation. Hopefully i’m wrong and PET bottle caps can in fact save kids in Africa, but i’ll admit your description set off my bullshit detector.


  5. I wonder if that is a regional thing, as I have never seen those notices. Haven’t looked of course (hard to look for things you don’t know exist).

  6. It is on the up and up –

    Here is the data for Adachi-ku (not trying to guilt trip anyone, it was the first good result of a google search)

    Here is an NPO page –

    And the government stamp of approval –

    Since lots of city halls and school boards are participating, if it is a scam, it is a really huge scam.

    It is actually quite amazing to keep track of how many you can pile up in a month as well….

  7. It does sound suspiciously like the aluminum can tab thing. Which, note, was never actually a SCAM so much as people attempting to do the same thing as this bottle cap proposal without realizing there was any point to it. Of course, a single bottle cap is quite a bit more volume than a single tab from a metal soda can so maybe there really is something to it.

    Anyway, it IS close enough to the urban myth about can tabs so it would be a good idea to get Snopes to put in a supplement saying that THIS seems to be a real scheme.

  8. NHK the other night had a show called 「離れても“アミーゴ”~滋賀 不況にゆれる教室~」 about the situation of one family living in a city in Shiga with a high population of Brazilians. Both parents got laid off, and they were stuck with the decision of whether or not to continue paying for their son to go to a Brazilian school; furthermore, they had to decide what to do about staying in Japan (since they couldn’t afford the trip home).

    The kids have it tough because many of them do not come here young enough to be able to jump into an all-Japanese school environment. I’ve taught kids who came to Japan at 12 or 13 and were miserable in Japanese public schools. These parents pay extra to send the kids to school in an all Portuguese environment, and then end up saving less. The apartments the family in this documentary was staying in cost them 6000 yen a month, so you can only guess what they were taking home in factory wages.

  9. Ah yes, I actually remember seeing that article when it was first published and had completely forgotten that I’d read it, even when I went to the place. It doesn’t seem too bad, aside from the lousy title. And I also the first paragraph is wrong when it says “Japan made an exception for Japanese-Brazilians.” Wasn’t the exception for anyone of Japanese descent, who happened to be mostly Brazilians, but also included many Peruvians and could theoretically include, say, US citizens?

    Do you have any corrections to make on my own text?

  10. BTW, worth noting that in contrast to how Onishi is often criticized for dwelling on the negative in his articles, this particular one could be said to paint an unrealistically rosy picture of the situation. Has the environment/trash situation in Homi Danchi really deteriorated so much since mid-2008?

  11. When I was in Nagoya I stayed in a Danchi it was rather strange because I felt like I was in Brazil, most of the people were Brazilians and spoke Portuguese.
    It wasn’t as trashy as this one you showed.

    I believe that the big problem about the Brazilian immigration to Japan was how it grew. By the middle of the 90’s we had a big recession (Oh yeah I’m from Brazil, Hi) and a lot of people searched and found a better life in Japan, working there ass off as manufacturing jobs, and very little tried to enter (somehow) the Japanese society, placing their children in Japanese Schools and engaging in other Japanese day-to-day activities. Probably if you check the records of Brazilian Schools and Business there would be a Boom of opening by ht mid 90’s. Making it harder to develop a Japanese – Brazilian engagement, since it is easier to recreate some Brazilian standards in Japan then trying to become Japanese Likewise.

    I have many of friends from Japan then HAD TO come back to Brazil because of the recession and the Sad thing is that none of then can speak proper Japanese.

    Lets see what will happen in the Future… I believe we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg.

  12. Joao (how do you pronounce that?? “Joe Wow”?)

    Your story just about matches word for word what I have seen on NHK documentaries on this subject.

    If this recession ends up sending a majority of the Brazilian workers home, it looks like we might get a neatly packaged case study of a group of immigrants coming to Japan, importing their lifestyle wholesale, and then simply transplanting themselves back out when opportunity fades. I am tempted to call this a “failure of Japan to integrate an immigrant population in their society” but who’s to say that’s even necessarily desirable or possible.

    In the Mideast a plurality of the population of some countries consists of purposely unacculturated foreign workers, and the citizenry seems totally fine with it.. And in ancient Rome, it was actually “romanized” barbarians that slowly gained acceptance among the ranks of the military, took control of the emperor and ultimately brought about the collapse and fall of the empire in the west, so it doesn’t necessarily follow that cultural assimilation automatically breeds stability.

  13. @Roy:
    The name of the chairman is Sergio Kazuto Matsuda.except that there’s nothing to add in your original text.
    I agree about the “rosy picture” on NYT.
    Onshi had been working for Detroit Free Press before he moved to NYT,wonder whether he would determine the symptom of the white flight in places like Dearborn or Highland Park with the argument like “the cultural insularity of the white residents”.

    I don’t have to speak on behalf of our new Brazilian friend,but I believe it’s pronounced as “Joan”.
    The truth is,lots of Brazilians are here to work and make a better living.Not intend to become Japanese.I also covered mass rally of Brazilians in Nagoya on march 1st.All of them were waving Brazilian flags,but somehow strangely all the demand was targeted to Japanese government,which probably come from the fact that all of them know that local Brazilian consulate has done next to nothing and can’t ask for more.
    I would brand them as “nomad” or “migrant” than immigrant.

  14. hi im khan live nagoya im looking brazil femail friend im give home job im like help and need friend im whait our mail i hope see u soon here

  15. Gentlemen:

    I am a Nikkei Sansei living in Torrance, California. I have interest in investing in and operating a farm – organic produce, flowers, heirloom seeds, etc. – in Chiba Prefecture.

    Can anyone help me find a Nikkei Brazilian farming organization in Chiba Prfecture to obtain more information?


  16. Dear Sir,

    Please allow me to introduce my request. I’m working at a Swiss film company called Jump Cut Production, which has already shot a feature film last year in Japan and California (US).

    We are now planning to make a feature documentary about Detroit (US) and Toyota City (Japan). We will lay special stress on the way the two cities are facing the car industry crisis, the impact on the local population and how they try to overcome it in the perspective of two very different cultures.

    We have already found some information on the Internet through wikis, blogs, articles and websites. However, we need to collect personal feelings and knowledge about this topic in order for us to better define the focus of our research.

    Would you accept an invitation for a short phone interview (15-20 minutes) upon your availibilities ? If you prefer to communicate by mail, we will be glad to send you a set of key questions we want to stress. I remain available for any further details.

    Sincerely Yours,

    Antoine Stehlé — production assistant


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