By Avi Landau
The Japanese word ARIGATO and the Portuguese word OBRIGADO, which both mean THANK YOU in their respective languages, can often sound uncannily alike. And since Portugal WAS the first European country to have made contact with Japan ( in 1543), and DID in fact leave several linguistic traces of its presence (not to mention the introduction of Christianity and firearms, among other things!) which continue to live on in Modern Japanese, including the words for bread- PAN, button- BOTAN, cape- KAPPA, alcohol- ARUKORU and even the word TEMPURA, it is not surprising that there are MANY who assume that ARIGATO is also a word of Portuguese origin.
And though I KNOW that the Japanese word for THANK YOU actually derives from the adjective ARIGATAI, which appears in texts as old as the 8th century MANYOSHU, and for this reason CANNOT be related to the Portuguese , whenever I hear a hearty OBRIGADO, I am taken aback by the similarity.
I have met only one or two Portuguese nationals in Japan in all my years of living here, but I have still been fortunate to have often heard the Portuguese language spoken in Japan- in its Brazilian form ( it is often said by language lovers that Brazilian Portuguese is the most beautiful of all tongues!). This is because, since the 1990`s , thousands of Brazilians, mostly with Japanese ancestry of some degree, have come to Japan to take advantage of its (once) booming economy.
They settled primarily in 3 areas. Aichi Prefecture, in the towns with Toyota related factories, in Ota City in Gunma, and- in our very own Ibaraki Prefecture, especially in Mitsukaido and Ishige (which have now merged into Joso City). While most of these immigrants were working at factories (such as Cannon) and had their own special visa status as NIKKEI-JIN, there were of course some entrepreneurs among them who went out and started up businesses of their own, many of these catering mostly to the Brazilian community.
That is why, when you drive to or get out at Mitsukaido Station (on the Joso line, which you can catch in Moriya), not only will you surely be able to catch the melifluous tones of Brazilian speech in your ears, but you will also be able to stock up on , lunch on, or just nosh on your favorite Brazilian foods and snacks. Close by the station`s exit, you will find the little mall called TAKARA, which has a supermarket, fresh bakery, and a kitchen where you can get all sorts of goodies that you cannot normally find in Japan ( or outside of Brazil for that matter).
Maybe its because I always need a little VARIETY, but sometimes I cant contol the urge to head on out to Mitsukaido (by train or car it takes less than an hour) for some Pastel or Conxinhas (these are fried pastries made from flour or casava) which might contain chicken, cheese , ham, or my favorite – palmitas (palm fruit). Leila Kondo, who is behind the counter can also whip up a tasty burger. Whatever she cooks up can be spiced up with the various sauces left out at the tables.At the supermarket, there are several things that are special- the famous Brazilian sausages (perfect for barbecues ) the cashew juice or acai juice, and the baked goods. The breads have a unique CHEWINESS which is brought about by the use of casava flour. I like the bite-sized cheese breads called pao de queijo (47 Yen), especially when eaten just out of the oven.
For those who want to try other Brazilian dishes ( including the famous feijao, a hearty and flavorfull bean and meat stew, or sit down for a bigger,more leisurely meal, a short walk around the corner will take you to the restaurant OPCAO (though I`m not sure if its still in the same location it used to be- ask at the supermarket!). There you can expect your stomach to be more than comfortably weighed down, while your wallet is hardly lightened at all.
Immigration to Brazil from Japan began back in 1908 when close to 800 Japanese sailed to the port of Santos (half the expense having been paid by the State of Sao Paolo) to work on the coffee plantations. Over the next 70 years, about a quarter of a million Japanese settled in Brazil as contract labourers or more rarely, as independant farmers. The large majority settled in the State of Sao Paolo and the remainder in the States of Parana and Para. Naturally, there was a trend for later genrations to head to the cities and go into other trades and professions. In Japan`s booming late 80`s and through the 90`s , some of the descendants of these immigrants (and sometimes their spouses) came back to their ancestral homeland , though they have tended to stick together, forming an intersting subculture in Japan.
If you need a little variety , why not take half a day to spice up your life with a little Brazilian food around Mitsukaido Station.
If you are looking for a little variety , why not take half a day to SPICE UP YOUR LIFE with a little Brazilian food around Mitsukaido Station.