Today is Lunar New Year – the welcoming the year of the snake. Fact of the day: Brazil has a substantial East Asian population, including the largest population of Japanese-descended persons outside Japan. São Paulo in particular is a major Japanese-Brazilian (nikkei) center, with Japanese cultural heritage on full display in São Paulo’s Liberdade neighborhood (which means “freedom” in Portuguese). Though originally settled by the Japanese, today the area is also home to many recent Chinese and Korean immigrants. Due to this, Liberdade is a great place to experience Lunar new year! In 2011, 200,000 people attended new years celebrations in Liberdade alone.
Liberdade is a very cool place, marked by its distinctive red lamp posts and a red Japanese gate (torii) at the entrance to the main street. We visited Liberdade in 2012, right after new year, but the place was still hopping. The neighborhood is also famous for its weekend street fairs, which are full of food, and bring out Paulistanos from all areas of the city. On any day of the week you can get some of the best yakisoba , bubble tea and gyoza in Liberdade. In many other Brazilian cities, Japanese food is quite expensive, but Paulistanos have the pick of any range of restaurants. There is even a dedicated Sake shop!