Partying off the tourist trail: Asian Clubbing in Sao Paulo (Balada Japa!!)

Yes, you read right, this post is about Asian nightclubs in São Paulo, Brazil.

When I lived in New York, I spent many nights, some memorable and some memory-less, at a certain Asian nightlife establishment. It was such a regular part of my social life that when I relocated to São Paulo for work for half a year, many of my friends asked me half-jokingly if I was missing Circle (the go-to Korean nightclub in NYC).

Well, imagine my surprise when I heard that Asian clubbing exists in São Paulo too! I knew that I had to make some Asian friends in Sao Paulo and ask them to take me to one of these clubs…

Source: Verve Land
Asian nightclub “balada japa” in Sao Paulo. Source: Verve Land

A little known fact about Sao Paulo is that it is actually the metro area with the largest number of Japanese descendants, outside of Japan. The Japanese arrived in Brazil in droves about 100 years ago, so most Japanese Brazilians are 3rd or 4th generation. Most don’t know how to speak Japanese, and neither do their parents!

Due to the friendly nature of Brazilians and my good fortune, within a month of being in Sao Paulo, I befriended a couple Japanese Brazilians. I went Asian clubbing with them several times and they gave me the fascinating inside scoop on Asian nightlife there!

While the best Asian nightclubs in NYC are run by Koreans, in São Paulo they’re run by Japanese Brazilians. The clubs are known as Balada Japa (“Japanese nightclub”), since most Asians in Brazil are of Japanese descent.

My “Japa” friends in São Paulo took me Asian clubbing a couple times. Unlike in New York, where the parties are relatively small due to the size of venues, these São Paulo Asian events are huge and always packed! Seeing a swarm of 1,000+ Asians who only speak Portuguese was amazing and exciting to me. I was getting a 100% immersion experience to Japanese Brazilian life in Brazil.

These parties, with names like “Glow”, “A Night in Hollywood”, and even “Asian Zone”, play regular Brazilian club music: Brazilian pop (everyone goes crazy and sings at the top of their lungs when “aí se eu te pego” comes on), American pop (like Taylor Swift), Brazilian sertanejo, and commercial dance music.

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The only thing that makes the clubs “Asian” is the clientele. It was really trippy for me to see a club full of Asians whose mother tongue is Portuguese. I would say that the clubs’ demographic is 90% Asians, with rest being friends of the japas who brought them there.

Due to the drinking age, compared to in New York, the clubbers seemed a lot younger. Many look to be university or high school students. Besides their youthful looks, one clue that gave their “immaturity” away was that there was always a line of kids passed out along the walls or on the couches….

Weaksauce.. :p
Weaklings.. :p

A producer of the Asian events remarked that these parties are Asian-interest to promote the community spirit and unity of the Japanese Brazilian community, so that folks remember their roots. Apparently Japa clubs began to appear way back in the 1980s!

asianclub3
Source: Verve Land

There are a couple different event promoters that host the parties. None of the promoters have a fixed space and schedule, so you have to check their sites or Facebook pages to find and when and where the next parties are.

Check out the agenda for each group here:

I got a huge kick out of the bizarre situation of going out clubbing with hundreds of Asians in Brazil, of all places, and getting hit on by Asian guys telling me I’m beautiful in Portuguese! Another reason I love the diversity here 🙂

Me and my beautiful
Me and my beautiful “japa” girlfriends, Claudia and Carina… Yes, girls take bathroom selfies no matter which country they are from.

Here´s a video!

See my Rules of Thumb when Clubbing in Brazil – they to Asian clubbing in Brazil as well!

Also read my own take on what it is like to be Asian in Brazil.

Have an Asian food craving while in Brazil and other South American countries? Here is the rundown of where the Asian neighborhoods are.

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  1. […] Also check out my post about Asian nightclubs in Sao Paulo. […]

  2. […] never see in America! And, also, there are Japanese nightclubs in Sao Paulo – known as a balada japa. Being in a room full of hundreds of Japanese Brazilians that only speak Portuguese is quite a […]

  3. Hey!

    Love this post and totally agree on what you wrote. I’m currently in Sao Paulo for research (grad student) but want to party now that the workshop is over! Unfortunately, I have one night left and can’t find any balada Japa leads anywhere! I’m sorta Japanese Canadian and always was curious about my Brazilian cousins and how they turn up lol

    Anyway, let me know if you have any way to find them as I likely will be back to SP soon. Love the blog and your style. Brazil is pretty rad!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Ro

    1. Thanks for your comment! 😀 Ahhh, yeah these parties can be kind of hard to find sometimes, and they don’t do them weekly. So worth it to go though! 😛
      I googled around and it seems like the next big one is 17 December
      https://www.facebook.com/groups/110405785722511/
      And maybe follow this page? (“The best oriental clubs of sao paulo”) https://www.facebook.com/AsMelhoresBaladasOrientaisDeSaoPaulo
      Or… When you are in town again, I can try asking around my japa friends in Sao Paulo to see if they know of anything 😉

  4. […] of Japan. Japanese descendants have been living in Brazil for over 100 years. There are even Japanese nightclubs in São Paulo (balada […]

  5. It’s a shame that Japanese in Brazil don’t speak Japanese though. It’d be better if they had held onto their Japanese roots and heritage more. This is one reason it’s better to be Asian in the States, as the Asians there tend to be much closer to their Asian roots and many can still speak their parents’ language. There’s also a greater diversity of ethnicities within the population, instead of being dominated by one ethnicity like how most Asians in Brazil are Japanese.

    1. Yes it’s unfortunate that the large majority of the younger generation does not speak Japanese anymore. I believe it’s because they’re 3rd, 4th generation.. many of their parents don’t even speak Japanese! In the US, most Asians are first or second generation, which is why I believe they’ve still retained the language.
      However it seems like many Japanese Brazilians are very fond of their Japanese heritage. Most of them have Portuguese names, but they prefer to go by their Japanese names (i.e. I have a friend called Sayuri). I also know another guy who did a year abroad in Japan to learn Japanese and connect with his roots.

  6. Haha this is so awesome. I would so be up for attending an Asian Nightclub with you! Fabulous insight and I am so glad I have found your blog. Following you for sure.

  7. I used to love clubbing and still probably do but just never get the chance. Thanks for sharing your story, I never even thought of going to an Asian Nightclub! How fun!

  8. Interesting read! It sounds like a pretty fun night out, I would definitely be in for a night at a club like this. I’ll definitely be saving this article!

  9. Curious fact about the Japanese in Brazil. Never knew that.

  10. Such a cool post – I never knew that Sao Paolo had the highest number of Japanese outside of Japan!

  11. wow ! sounds like a great time. so glad you were able to find some fun that reminded you of home! Seems like a great place to meet like minded friends 🙂

  12. Must have been a crazy night out! I’m not much of a party animal but I can imagine it felt really familair and awkward too to go Asian clubbing Sao Paulo.

  13. as someone who lived in Japan for several years, I had no idea that Sao Paulo was so popular with the Japanese.

  14. Really fascinating post! And thanks for the historical info – otherwise, I would have never expected there to be so many Asian clubs in Brazil! Partying there sounds like a blast though!

  15. I’m not a fan of clubs but I really enjoyed your post and it made me want to go 🙂

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