Finding substitutes for traditional Japanese food items posed a tremendous challenge to Japanese women who settled in Brazil.

They made ersatz umeboshi pickled plums with a type of berry growing along the banks of the Amazon, and used papaya roots instead of burdock to replicate “kinpira” (chopped vegetables cooked in soy sauce and sugar).

They also discovered that tomatoes, boiled down until they were black, could work as a soy sauce alternative.

A large number of Japanese moved to Brazil before and after World War II.

“100-nen Burajiru e Watatta 100-nin no Jyosei no Monogatari” (100 years: Stories of 100 women who immigrated to Brazil) chronicles the hopes and struggles of Japanese immigrant women.

The book is based on a series of stories that ran in the Sao Paulo Shimbun, a Japanese-language newspaper published in Brazil.

One woman recounts her decision to immigrate and “take my destiny into my own hands.” Another recalls, “Work today to eat. Work tomorrow to eat. That was all.”

Yet another describes her life today, surrounded by grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

The newspaper, first published in 1946, must have always stood by those women.

Its circulation continued to decline over the years along with the shrinking population of first- and second-generation immigrants fluent in Japanese. Despite the publisher’s efforts to keep going, the paper finally folded, ending with the Jan. 1 edition.

Copies of last year's paper covered political developments in Japan and local community news. There were also stories about Hiroshima and other prefectures, from which a good number of immigrants originated.

I imagine the paper not only provided information to readers, but also gave them the joy of reading in Japanese, particularly in the pre-Internet age.

For foreigners living in Japan, there are news sources in their native languages, both print and digital. The population of foreigners seeking Japanese news as well as news from home is bound to keep growing.

I wonder what we can do to help.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Jan. 29

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.