Opinion – Normalitas: Japanese immigration: book brings together accounts of repression in times of war

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Vila Moraes, south-central zone of São Paulo.

There, between Japanese-influenced neighborhoods like Saúde and Sacomã, squeezed between streets with multi-expressive names like Operários, Evolução and Gustav Klimt, is Professor Koichi Kishimoto, a discreet residential slope of just four blocks.

Discreet but powerful: the name is a tribute to a Japanese immigrant who landed on Brazilian soil exactly a century ago, in 1922, and whose combative voice is now revived in an unprecedented book launch.

Seventy-five years after its original publication, Kishimoto’s best-known work, “Isolados em um Território em Guerra na América do Sul”, controversial and censored over time, finally receives a first edition in Portuguese (by Ateliê Editorial, with translation by Seisiro Hasizume and presentation by journalists Jorge Okubaro and Masayuki Fukasawa), with a double launch this Saturday (10) and next Tuesday (13), in São Paulo.

The book brings together stories of Japanese immigrants who, like Kishimoto, suffered repression by the Brazilian state after the breakup of diplomatic relations between Brazil and Japan during World War II.

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Like so many (my maternal grandparents included), Kishimoto (1898-1977) sent himself to the other side of the blue planet in search of a better life.

Born in Shibata, on the coast of the Sea of ​​Japan, he was only 24 years old when he arrived in Brazil and settled in Promissão, in the interior of São Paulo, with his wife and daughter, to work as a farmer.

Afterwards, he moved to São Paulo, where he studied Portuguese and became a primary school teacher. The daughter would die, two more would be born. In 1931, he founded Liceu Aurora (in Japanese, Gyosei Gakuen), a boarding school in Pinheiros that remained active for over 50 years.

His story, which replicates that of many, could have been lost in time, had it not been for the fact that this well-read gentleman with round glasses and a defiant look (photos, that’s all we have, and stories, and feelings: let’s not forget) put mouth on the trombone, denounced, wrote — and a lot. And insistently.

Even after having the house broken into and searched by the police a handful of times.

Even after being banned from teaching Japanese.

And even though he was arrested a few times, followed around the neck by the DEOPS, and going through a process of extradition and silencing that would drag on for decades.

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As Kishimoto himself explains in the preface to the first edition, from 1947, “the immediate consequences [do rompimento Brasil-Japão] there were a series of pressures against immigrants: imprisonment for those who simply spoke in Japanese on the streets, censorship and seizure of Japanese books and even letters that contained any word written in Japanese; anyway, for the Japanese immigrant it was extremely dangerous to leave the house”, he says.

“Nevertheless, I continued writing the book, at the risk of arrest, as a desperate cry against the endless restrictions imposed by the authorities.”

Completed in 1943 during a stay in prison (amazing: for speaking Japanese at home) and revised after a second detention, “Isolados…” is the only work in Japanese ever censored in Brazil.

Through detailed testimonies and personal subtleties, it helps to shed new light on a still somewhat obscure period in the recent history of our country, taken by ethnic persecutions that impacted the lives of many and whose ghosts continue to haunt our generations of Japanese descendants.

There are stories like that of the 38-year-old boy, identified only as “Mr. I.”, Kishimoto’s cellmate at DEOPS: coming from Tokyo, one fine day he showed his neighbors photos of his period in the military service in Japan. As a result, he was denounced and arrested as a spy for the Japanese government in Brazil.

As journalist Masayuki Fukasawa observes in the introductory text of this new edition, the collected reports can contribute to updating the historical perspective on the period.

As a complement or counterpoint to the narrative propagated by works such as “Corações Sujos”, by Fernando Morais, centered on the role of the Shindo-Renmei terrorist organization and the political polarization within the immigrant community itself (among those who accepted and did not accept Japan’s defeat in the war ), in the reports of “Isolados…”, the State is the main agent of repression.

” The war is over, but our fight is just beginning. The insane fight that lasted four years must be considered a memorable milestone for our people, an unforgettable episode for the three hundred thousand patricians living in Brazil [hoje, 2 milhões, a maior comunidade nipodescendente do mundo]and which must be propagated as a precious legacy to our children, and from them to our grandchildren”, says Kishimoto in the original preface.

“It should not be transmitted only orally, nor should it ever be treated as a legendary narrative. It is up to us the important mission of bequeathing to young people, through historical records and literary texts, the real aspects of the events addressed, with the utmost rigor and depth. “

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The book launch will take place this Saturday (10th) at Livraria da Vila and also next Tuesday (13th) at the Union of Journalists of the State of São Paulo, with mediation by Cláudia Alexandre, a member of the Commission for Racial Equality. The work can be purchased on the publisher’s website.

Isolated in a Territory at War in South America, by Koichi Kishimoto (Ateliê Editorial)

Release (both open to the public):

December 10, 2022, from 6 pm to 9 pm
Village Bookshop – Lorena

Alameda Lorena, 1501 – Jardim Paulista

December 13, 2022, from 7:00 pm to 9:30 pm
Auditorium of the Union of Journalists of the State of SP

Rua Rego Freitas, 530 – República, São Paulo – SP

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