Surprising fact: São Paulo has the largest Japanese community outside of Japan in the world and has been growing since the 1950s! In New York we have China Town… in Sao Paulo we have the equivalent, ‘Japantown’ known as Liberdade. It is very similar to NY’s Chinatown lined with all different types of stores, people selling random stuff, ‘asian’ restaurants and of course people selling knock off designer bags then running when someone yells ‘Policia!’ The biggest diference between the two: Cleanliness! Liberdade is definitely much cleaner and doesn’t smell disgusting the way Chinatown does (No offense to anyone that enjoys it, I lived in NY’s Chinatown one summer and that was enough for me!) which makes visiting a more enjoyable experience. The entrance to Liberdade is marked my a 9 meter tall red torii (a Japanese arch that marks the entrance to Shinto temples) so if you see that, you know you are in the right place!Every Sunday people flock to Praça da Liberdade, the public square in the middle of Liberdade to purchase craft goods and indulge on delicious ‘asian’ food. All of the food is incredible and very authentic, highly recommend trying the large dumplings (above), it was my favorite ‘snack’. If you are going to the fair, go early to beat the crazy crowd, and go hungry, I felt like I was at the Sizzler trying a bite of everything they were selling like an all you can eat buffet..If you are on a diet, make this your ‘cheat day’ everything looks and smells so good you won’t be able to resist!
There are lots of Japanese businesses in Liberdade, where you can buy Japanese products, crafts and the highlight: supermarkets! Whatever spices, noodles, foods you like; they have, so you can make your favorite Japanese and Chinese dinners at home. For those wondering, yes I did pick up some dumplings, and pork buns for the house (excellent move). As you can imagine, there are plenty of authentic Japanese restaurants, and karaoke bars. If you like ‘noodle’ shops, then you must try Lamen ASKA (R. Galvão Bueno, 466), it’s one of the best in the city, there is always a line out the door (so prepare to wait- it’s worth it) plus it’s a great ‘cheap eats‘. The large noodle costs R$13 and it is enormous, could definitely feed 2-3 people.
If you need a break from shoveling your face with amazing food, or from buying up a million home items you don’t actually need, visit the Historical Museum of Japanese Immigration (Rua São Joaquim, 381).