June 18, 2008 / 6:01 PM / 11 years ago

Brazil welcomes Japanese prince for celebrations

BRASILIA (Reuters) - President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva welcomed Japanese Crown Prince Naruhito to Brazil on Wednesday for celebrations marking 100 years of Japanese immigration, praising the contribution the Japanese community had made to the Latin American country.

Cannons fired a salute and presidential guards in crisp uniforms greeted Prince Naruhito, whose visit is the highlight of weeks of events.

“The Japanese immigrants who arrived here with hope for the future helped to build Brazil and the strong relationship (between the two countries),” Lula said at a ceremony.

Brazil already benefits from Japanese investment but wants even closer relations between the two countries, Lula said.

“We have all the conditions to launch partnerships with greater ambitions than those of the past. The difference is that now we are also going to invest in Japan,” he said.

The first 781 settlers arrived in Brazil on the Kasato Maru ship to work on coffee plantations in 1908. Brazil now has the largest community of Japanese outside of Japan, with about 1.5 million people. Their influence on Brazilian society has spread to arts and cuisine, politics and business.

“I sincerely hope that the interchange and countless events which are taking place in the year ... leads to a rise in and a strengthening of the mutual understanding and relations between the two people,” the prince said.

Reporting by Ana Nicolaci da Costa

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