One of the players who impressed me (and there weren’t that many) during the recent FIFA World Cup was Japan’s centre back Tulio. Marcus Tulio Tanaka was born in Palmeira d’Oeste,Brazil in 1981.His father was a second generation Japanese-Brazilian and his mother Italian-Brazilian. Tulio moved to Japan at age 15 to complete his high school studies. After graduation in 2001, he joined the J.League club Sanfrecce Hiroshima. Tulio made his international début in 2006, and has played 43 times for Japan, scoring twice.
Tulio is the latest in a succession of Brazilian born players to represent Japan at the highest level. Some of these players have shared Tulio’s mixed heritage, whilst others have been Brazilians who became ‘naturalized’ in Japan.
In 1967 Nelson Yoshimura became the first Brazil born player to appear in the Japanese league. Nelson was born in São Paulo. In 1970 he became a Japanese citizen and took the name Dashiro Yoshimura. Dashiro went on to play international football.
George Yonashiro was born in São Paulo(1950). He obtained his Japanese citizenship in 1985 and played twice for Japan that year (no goals).
Ruy Ramos (born Ruy Gonçalves Ramos Sobrinho in Rio de Janeiro,1957) became a naturalized Japanese citizen in 1989. He joined Yomiuri FC (now Tokyo Verdy) in 1977. He played 32 games for Japan between 1990 and 1995, scoring once.
Wagner Lopes (born Wágner Augusto Lopes,São Paulo, 1969) is a naturalised Japanese citizen.He was an important member of Japan’s 1998 FIFA World Cup squad, playing 20 internationals between 1997 and 1999, scoring five goals.Alex (born Alessandro dos Santos, Paraná,1977) played 82 times for Japan between 2002 and 2006, scoring seven goals.Alex moved to Japan at the age of sixteen. He became a Japanese citizen in 2001, and represented his new country at the 2002 FIFA World Cup. Alex also played at the 2006 World Cup, including a match against Brazil.