OIZUMI, Gunma Pref. — Cheers and car horns echoed through this rural industrial town, home to thousands of Japanese-Brazilian and Latin-American residents, heralding Brazil’s 2-1 victory over England on Friday in a World Cup quarterfinal match.
Hundreds of people gathered before a screen showing the match at the Brazilian Plaza supermarket, raising hell with yells, whistles, drums and horns as their heroes took the lead early in the second half.
“Brazil will definitely win the World Cup,” said Conceinson Domizete, a 36-year-old factory worker from Sao Paulo.
Oizumi boasts more than 6,000 foreign residents, accounting for more than 14 percent of its population of 42,500. Most of the foreign residents are Japanese-Brazilians whose families moved to Japan after an amendment to the Japanese immigration law in 1990 paved the way for Japanese descendants with foreign nationalities to work in the country.
Many work as laborers at the subcontractors of major manufacturing companies such as Sanyo Electric Co. and Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd.
The main street features a host of restaurants, clothing stores, beauty salons, and offices geared toward the Brazilian community, and many Brazilians living in other parts of Japan often visit the town for a taste of home.
“There are no Brazilians who do not like soccer and Samba,” according to Haruo Yoshimi, manager of S.M. Nagamine’s Cafe in the Plaza and a second-generation Japanese-Brazilian.
However, there were fewer Brazilians than expected in the plaza, as the 3:30 p.m. kickoff meant many were still at work.
“The Brazilian team’s victory provides them with a big dream,” town spokesman Toshio Iwase said. “(But) if they skip work, they will be fired right away.”
The trajectory of the four-time World Cup champions provides the town’s Brazilian residents with a welcome diversion from an otherwise grueling existence in Japan.
Foreign laborers are often the first to go as companies trim down to deal with the stagnant economy. And local manufacturers in this town are increasingly shifting their production foundations to China, leaving many of Oizumi’s foreign population jobless, said a local company official.
And of the almost 300 children of foreign parents living in the town, around half do not attend school, according to the town government, which attributes the low attendance rates to communication difficulties.
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