Saturday, October 26, 2013

São Paulo and Tokyo

Sao Paulo and Tokyo are more than 10 thousand miles apart. Their language, diet, and people couldn’t be more different. Still, these two cities have many things in common such as: size, skyscrapers, immigration, and even the love for food.

The first difference we notice is the language; however, there are similarities. While Japanese is spoken in Tokyo, Portuguese is the language in Sao Paulo. It’s a surprise when we learn that many Japanese words were invented by Portuguese influence like: kappa (raincoat, capa in Portuguese), koppu (cup, copo) and pan (bread, pão), just to name a few. On my last visit to Japan I was startled when I understood the word “metoro”: subway. Subway, in Portuguese, is metro.

Another difference is the people and I’m not just talking about looks. I’m talking about friendly and helpful people. I feel sorry for people who get lost in Sao Paulo because they are not going to be helped in any way. Paulistas (how people born in the city are called) are very busy people who don’t stop what they are doing to help in anything. On the other hand, people in Tokyo are very friendly and helpful, even though it’s obvious they are busy and in a hurry. I can’t count how many times I was offered help in Tokyo without even asking for it. Also, a couple of times, people just stopped what they were doing to walk with me to my final destination. That would probably never happen in Sao Paulo.

One more difference is in the diet. While people in Tokyo eat a more balanced meal every day, in Sao Paulo the meals are heavier and high in protein. Even though Sao Paulo has many vegetables and fruit farms, beef is the prefered food. On the other hand, beef is very expensive in Tokyo, but vegetables and fruit are more affordable.

Despite all these differences, Sao Paulo and Tokyo share important characteristics.

Both cities are huge in size and have high in density. There are people every where, every time of the day and night. Neither city seems to stop: there is always an open shop, a late night snack bar, and a taxi waiting somewhere.

Similar are their skyscrapers. When walking on the streets and looking up, they seem like giants surrounding you. They are also similar in modern architecture and style: big glass windows, elegant elevators, marble entrances, giant doors.

Who would know that pizza in Tokyo tastes as good as in Sao Paulo? Although there was no big Italian immigration in Tokyo, pizzas are as good as the ones in Sao Paulo, which received an Italian mass immigration for almost one century. Also, the Japanese restaurants in Sao Paulo are very similar to the ones in Tokyo; maybe because their owners are of Japanese ancestry. Both cities have high-end local and international restaurants spread around the most expensive neighborhoods.

Speaking of immigration, Tokyo and Sao Paulo share a history. The first Japanese arrived in Sao Paulo in 1908 to work at the coffee plantations. Almost 80 years later, Japanese-Brazilians started making the journey back to work in industry. Sao Paulo is home to the biggest Japanese community outside Japan; it concentrates in a neighborhood called Liberdade, which means freedom in English. Tokyo, on the other hand, has few Brazilian markets to make Brazilian immigrants happy.

Sao Paulo and Tokyo are so different, but at the same time they share a positive history of immigration, love for food, and similar modern architecture that created a bond between these two cities.


 São Paulo

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