Photo Credit: Sayiury Koshima
What It's Like Being An Afro-Japanese Woman Living In Brazil
Daughter of a Japanese father and an Afro-Brazilian mother, Sayuri Koshima is an Afro-Japanese woman living in Salvador, Brazil. With a law degree and also working as a tour guide, she has always been viewed as the exotic girl because of her Asian eyes, dark skin and curly hair.
“My heart for sure is 50% Japanese and 50% Afro-brazilian,” Kushima told Travel Noire.
Salvador, in Brazil, is known worldwide for being the most representative city of the African continent in the Americas. With a population of nearly 3 million people, over 80% of Salvador’s population identifies as Afro-Brazilian. The African influence can be seen all over the city through its cuisine, religion, culture, music, dance, and art.
With so many particularities, one can only guess what it’s like to be an Afro-Japanese person in this Afrocentric Utopia.
She previously lived in São Paulo, Latin America’s top business hub and land of the largest Japanese community outside Japan.
“ I lived in São Paulo for 13 years, when I had a close relationship with my Japanese family. I worked for 10 years for a Japanese Bank.”
When she returned to Salvador, she decided it was time to strengthen her African roots.
“When I came back to Salvador in 2009, I started working part-time in tourism. I connected with my Afro heritage, especially through going to Candomblé ritual (an Afro-Brazilian religion originally from Yoruba culture).
Learning more about her African heritage made Koshima feel stronger.
Currently, she works as a tour guide, taking tourists to historic places in Salvador and teaching them about Afro-Brazilian history in the country.
“Being an Afro-Japanese woman in Salvador catches my clients by surprise. Most of them have no idea how big the Japanese community is in Brazil, even in Bahia, the blackest Brazilian state.”
After Kushima’s father died, she decided to establish a strong connection to her Japanese roots visiting Japan for the first time, with her mother and brother in 2017.
Landing in Japan was a very revealing experience, Kushima recalled.
“The moment that I arrived in Japan, I understood that I belong there as much as I belong to Brazil. The food, faces, the way the Japanese walk, everything made me remember my grandmother’s house and my father. That was my first international trip, and it was a very touching experience. No one there recognized me as a Japanese woman. It is very weird to be Japanese, but not look like Japanese.”
She spent 2 months in Japan, visiting Hokkaido, Okinawa, Shiga and Tokyo.
“Okinawa is my favorite place in Japan. In my opinion, Okinawa is the Bahia in Japan.”
Now, Sayuri wants to visit West Africa to feel the same experience she had visiting Japan.
“The Afro tours that I offer in Salvador give me a lot of experiences, and I feel my ancestors, every day of my life. Soon, I will be visiting West Africa for another experience to help connect me to my roots. I have already been to Morocco, but I need to really feel our Motherland in West Africa.
You can follow more of Sayuri Koshima’s journey via her Facebook page.