Ilha Grande was originally territory of the Tupinambá. Since then, many people have lived here, – Portuguese settlers, English and French pirates waging wars for land. Later on, we probably had Greek immigrants too, judging by names of families and one of the islands of the bay (Jorge Grego Island).
Around the 1930’s, however, people from a distant archipelago in the Pacific Ocean, started to arrive in Ilha Grande. Japanese immigrants settled in many villages in the area, attracted by the great fishing potential the location offered. Sardines were the main source of product in fish processing factories that spread all over town, in a total of 27 joint ventures. They would sell the salt-cured sardines mainly to the Brazilian Northeast region, at a time freezers were not a common appliance in Brazilian households. The salted meat was a widely employed preservation technique back then. Starting in the 80’s, there was a slump in the sector, and factories started folding, one by one. The last company to close its doors was Kamome, located at Matariz Beach.
However, salt-cured sardines were not the only thing those factories produced. Before salt curing the meat, Japanese started making the dashico – a smoked, dry fish used on broths and soups. Handmade dashico took three to seven days to be prepared. The product was then sent to niponic communities in São Paulo and Paraná states.
The Japanese faced many challenges in their new life in Brazil. After the language barrier, they had difficulty adapting to our food. They took to planting foreign vegetables and making spices like soy shoyu, misso and dashico.
In 2016, Angra dos Reis City Hall, in a joint effort with the National Institute of Historic and Artistic Heritage (IPHAN) carried out the Project “During dashico’s time”. One of the outcomes of the initiative was a documentary telling the story of the Japanese in Ilha Grande, using, as a narrative resource, the dashico preparation technique. You can find more information on the website http://dashico.art.br/en/
The story of the Japanese in Ilha Grande is told in the Outros Caminhos (Other pathways) project. Visitors even get to try the Ilha Grande dashico, a rare spice nowadays, during the soup and broth tasting in some of our itineraries. Contact us to know more about how to experience that.