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Okinawans flock to Brazil for centennial celebration

Date Posted: 2008-08-30

One century after 325 Okinawans boarded the steamship Sasato-maru for an ocean voyage to South America in a quest for a new life, thousands of Okinawans have gathered in Brazil to pay tribute to the immigrants.

Ceremonies this week at the Okinawan Cultural Center in Diadima City paid homage to the immigrants, who arrived in Port Santos to begin a new life in a new world. More than 6,000 Okinawans from America, Okinawa, mainland Japan, Peru and other Okinawan enclaves in Brazil participated in Sunday’s ceremonies.

“The mother prefecture Okinawa is far away, but pioneers have been patient enough to build their lives in Brazil,” said Vice Governor Katsuko Asato, who represented Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima at the ceremonies. “I believe it was so very hard, but this experience has brought Brazil and Okinawan people closer in friendship, and the experience will be reflected in the future.”

The Okinawa Prefecture Association in Brazil had praise for the immigrants, too. Akio Yogi said “This 100 years anniversary brings out the history of the pioneers who fought and struggled through hardships. I pay my respects to them and thank you.” Akio then looked ahead to the next century in Brazil, telling the gathered throng he expects greater relationships between Okinawa and Brazil, while asking “what should we do in the future?”

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