On Saturday, Princess Mako arrived in Brazil to undertake a two-week visit to celebrate 110 years since Japanese immigrants came to São Paulo. An estimated 1.9 million immigrants have made Brazil their home, making it the most prominent Japanese community outside of Japan.
Japanese culture dates back to 1908 when immigrants arrived in Port Santos aboard a cargo and passengers ship. Debt ravaged Japan’s industrial era, causing some of the Japanese population to flee to South America where there was a labour shortage. The devastation of World War II caused a second wave of immigrants to flee Japan.
Princess Mako has recently made headlines after it was announced she planned to marry paralegal Kei Komuro. By law, female members of the Imperial Household must give up their title in order to marry a “commoner”, potentially making this one of her last duties as a royal. Mako, the eldest granddaughter of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, is the ninth female member of the Japanese Imperial Family to marry a commoner for true love. Though her relationship with Komuro has been quite a polarizing topic in Japan, they are set to marry in 2020. Until then, Princess Mako continues to represent the world’s oldest monarchy.
Earlier in the week, she landed in Rio de Janeiro where she visited the Christ the Redeemer statue and Botanical Gardens. Her plan is to visit 13 cities during her two-week visit.
Soon after her arrival in the vibrant city of São Paulo, Princess Mako visited the Japan Festival, which highlighted culture and cuisine indigenous to Japan. In a ceremony to mark the 110th anniversary of Japanese immigrants, Mako made a speech that expressed her gratitude saying she, “sincerely respects the efforts of Japanese immigrants and their descendants to build, develop and support Japanese-Brazilian communities.”
Later Saturday evening, Princess Mako laid a wreath in São Paulo’s Ibirapuera Park in memory of Japanese immigrants. After, she spoke with volunteers from the Japan International Cooperation Agency and young Japanese-Brazilians. She will continue her trip with visits to Manaus and Tome Acu, along with a courtesy call on Brazilian President Michel Temer.