It is said that there are more than one million Japanese immigrants and their descendants are living in Brazil today — the largest such population outside of Japan. Japanese Brazilians, well into the second and third generations, participate in every facet of Brazilian life — social, political and economic.
Japanese immigration to Brazil has followed patterns of their exclusion from the United States. In 1908, when the Gentlemen’s Agreement was signed to limit Japanese immigration to the United States, the first shipload of some 800 Japanese arrived at the port of Santos in the State of São Paulo. In the1920s when Exclusion Acts were passed by the United States government, the slow stream of Japanese immigrants to Brazil became a flood, and thousands came to Brazil to work as contract laborers on coffee plantations. By 1940 more than 190,000 Japanese had passed through the port city of Santos, disembarking from any one of 32 Japanese steamships that crossed the oceans in over 300 trips. While the vast majority of these immigrants came to Brazil as contract laborers, a small percentage came as settlers, buying tracts of land and colonizing farming communities.
Karen Tei Yamashita, Pre-Foreword - Brazil Maru