Japantown Walking Tour, Sao Paulo

Japantown Walking Tour (Self Guided), Sao Paulo

Home to the world's largest ethnic Japanese community outside Japan, the Sao Paulo district of Liberdade entices tourists with its Asian-inspired influences present everywhere: restaurants, shops, decor, markets, etc.

Up until the late 19th century, the area was known as Campo da Forca (Field of the Gallows) as the one reserved for the execution of slaves and convicts – for whom the only way to liberty was death. The hangings were carried out until 1891 in Largo da Forca (Gallows Square), the public square now known as Praça da Liberdade (Liberty Square). Igreja da Santa Cruz das Almas dos Enforcados (Church of the Holy Cross of the Souls of the Hanged), prominently located to the south of the square, commemorates the dead of Campo da Forca.

The Japanese presence in the neighborhood began in 1912. As of 1974 the entrance to Liberdade has been marked by a nine-meter tall red Torii (a characteristic arch marking the entrance to Shinto Shrines). This towering structure, situated on Rua Galvão Bueno (Galvão Bueno Street), is a distinctive representation of the neighborhood. People from all over the world, as well as other parts of Brazil, are often seen mingling with the Japanese housewives doing grocery shopping on Galvão Bueno and the businessmen looking for some low-priced Asian food for lunch.

As of recently, sizable populations of Chinese and Koreans have also inhabited Liberdade. Nowadays, the area is a popular tourist destination and a meeting spot for those interested in Asian (mainly Japanese) culture.

If you are suchlike and would like to explore the most popular attractions of Liberdade on your own, take this self-guided walking tour.
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Japantown Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Japantown Walking Tour
Guide Location: Brazil » Sao Paulo (See other walking tours in Sao Paulo)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 6
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 0.8 Km or 0.5 Miles
Author: vickyc
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Praça da Liberdade (Liberty Square)
  • Igreja Santa Cruz das Almas dos Enforcados (Church of The Holy Cross of the Souls of the Hanged)
  • Oriental Garden
  • Monumental Torii
  • Galvão Bueno Street
  • Museum of the Japanese Immigration
Praça da Liberdade (Liberty Square)

1) Praça da Liberdade (Liberty Square)

The Liberty Square was known as Largo da Forca. In 1831, with the abdication of Emperor Pedro I of Brazil , the then Legal Course Fountain was named as "Fonte da Liberdade". This name, over time, started to designate the entire neighborhood around it.

Until the arrival of Japanese and Chinese immigrants, it housed bars and cinemas. After the arrival of immigrants, the Liberdade neighborhood was customized according to the culture of its new inhabitants, including the square, which gained oriental lighting, oriental temples and space to celebrate the Chinese New Year.

On weekends the Square houses The Liberdade Street Fair. This popular open air market began in 1975 and operates near the Liberdade Metro station. There is a number of attractions, festivals and other artistic events that occur all year along at the market.

The street market was created to emphasize all kind of handicraft works and artisanal wares from the Asian immigrants. In recent years artisans of other nationalities have begun selling their crafts at the market. These newcomers to the Street Fair are from Northeastern Brazil, India, and Taiwan. They sell candles, toiletries, leather products, sculptures and so on.

Booths selling traditional Asian foods like yakisoba and gyoza are common.
Igreja Santa Cruz das Almas dos Enforcados (Church of The Holy Cross of the Souls of the Hanged)

2) Igreja Santa Cruz das Almas dos Enforcados (Church of The Holy Cross of the Souls of the Hanged)

This church was built on the site of an old cross that honored an executed soldier, Francisco José das Chagas. Francisco José das Chagas was accused of being part of a revolt against the battalion commanders, seeking lost wages. Wages due to soldiers were often unpaid for months and years. He was condemned and executed on September 20, 1821. During the execution, the gallows rope broke twice, and the authorities completed the execution by beating Francisco José das Chagas to death.

The locals who watched the execution begged for mercy, which was not given. The twice-broken gallows rope seemed to speak of a divine sign of das Chagas's innocence. Local Catholics installed the cross as a tribute to das Chagas.

In 1887, the Holy Cross of the Hanging Church was built. The church was renovated in 1958, and the tower was added. The interior features an ornately painted nave, gilded accents, and a stunning chandelier.
Oriental Garden

3) Oriental Garden

The Oriental Garden in the Liberdade distric is a lush, authentic Japanese-style garden. It is beautifully maintained and differs from other gardens in Sao Paolo with its unique Asian inlfuence. The garden features 3 lakes and is home to many exotic, rare birds and ornamental fish.
Monumental Torii

4) Monumental Torii

The Torii is a traditional Japanese gateway of a Shinto temple. It consists of two upright posts or pillars and a top crosspiece that usually bends inward in the middle. Red Torii at the city of Osaka Viaduct was once the main entrance to Liberdade. This red torii is nine meters high and is the monumental tower of this neighborhood.
Galvão Bueno Street

5) Galvão Bueno Street

If there's one street illustrative of the Asian sensation of Liberdade, it is undoubtedly Rua Galvão Bueno, a public road typically decorated with oriental-style lamps. As of 1974 the entrance to this Japanese neighborhood of Sao Paulo, inhabited not just by the Japanese, but also the Chinese, Taiwanese and Koreans since the 1950s, has been crowned by a nine-meter tall red torii (a distinctive arch marking the entrance to Shinto Shrines). This towering structure, situated on Rua Galvão Bueno, is a landmark symbol of the area.

Being the main thoroughfare of Liberdade, Rua Galvão Bueno is busy from dawn to dusk with local housewives, business folk and tourists searching for Oriental products or a good restaurant with low-priced Asian food for lunch. The avenue is like an open-air market every day of the week and even more so on weekends.

People from all over the world, as well as all the corners of Brazil, come here to explore dozens of Asian grocers, Japanese bookstores, antique shops, and the So-Go Plaza Shopping mall dedicated to all things oriental, including anime and manga memorabilia. Also adding color to the area are myriads of street vendors selling knick-knacks and art, easily recognizable by the brightly-colored umbrellas that keep them away from the sun.

The street owes its name to Dr. Carlos Mariano Galvão Bueno, a lawyer and professor who lived in the 1880s, as opposed to the more contemporary Galvão Bueno, the sports broadcaster at Rede Globo, as some may erroneously have thought.

Rua Galvão Bueno crosses over the Viaduto do Glicério (a large highway) in Liberdade, thus offering an interesting photo opportunity. Albeit not entirely panoramic a view, one can get from here a pretty good glimpse of the sheer vastness of the city of São Paulo.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Museum of the Japanese Immigration

6) Museum of the Japanese Immigration

Museum of the Japanese Immigration was founded in 1978. It is located in the Building Bunkyo and its exhibitions are on the 7th, 8th, and 9th floors. There is a library filled with historic items, photos, and documents related to the immigration of the Japanese people and their way of life.

Operation Hours: Tuesday - Sunday: 1.30 pm - 5.30 pm.

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