Return of the prodigal 'flyjin'

TOKYO —

There was a time when Anders (not his real name) had given up all hope of returning to Tokyo after the events of 3/11 forced him to leave Japan indefinitely.

Yet over a year later, he was back in the country he had called his home for half a decade.

“It’s a strange feeling to be back,” Anders says. “On one hand, Tokyo is exactly as I remembered it, almost as if I had never left. Yet at the same time, some things have changed and they remind me of how much time has really passed.”

Like many of Tokyo’s inhabitants, Anders was at work when the large earthquake struck Japan on March 11, 2011.

Although Anders had lived in Japan for several years, this was the first time he had experienced an earthquake of this magnitude.

“I remember there were some tremors in Tokyo following the big (Chuetsu) quake in Niigata in 2007, but the Tohoku earthquake last year was much stronger and lasted longer,” he said.

He admits to riding out the initial quake on March 11 sitting at his desk and being transfixed by spectacle taking place outside the office windows, where high rise buildings were “swaying ridiculously from side-to-side, as if they were animated structures in a Looney Tunes cartoon.”

“When I exited the office building after the quake, there was already a shell-shocked crowd gathered while alarms and sirens were going off in the background,” Anders says. “My co-worker commented that it all felt as if aliens had invaded the Earth, and I felt it was an apt description of the situation at the time.”

While Tokyo as a whole was left relatively undamaged by the earthquake that day, most if not all train lines in the greater Tokyo area were shut down following the disaster, meaning that many people had no immediate way to return to their homes.

Because Anders lived on the outskirts of Tokyo, he was able to get home by foot, joining the hundreds of thousands of people who had the same idea.

“I had never seen so many people crowding the footpaths before, not even during a fireworks festival in summer,” he says. “Fortunately, all the people were so orderly and composed that the whole experience wasn’t as chaotic as it could have been.”

While the weekend following the earthquake was mainly marred by news of power blackouts and continued train issues, a more precarious development would soon rear its head.

“Two days after the quake, my parents (from overseas) called me out of the blue,” Anders says. “They asked me whether I knew what was happening in Fukushima and if I was making preparations to leave the country.”

Anders was a bit perplexed that his parents would suggest he leave Japan only because of an earthquake and tsunami in Tohoku, but it turned out his parents were concerned about something else.

“When they first told me that there was an explosion at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, I had trouble believing what they were saying,” he says. “I just told my parents that it’s probably not as bad as the media makes it out to be, and that Fukushima Prefecture is really far from Tokyo.”

When Anders came into work the following Monday, he had barely sat down at his desk when he received another phone call from overseas.

“Another explosion had occurred at the nuclear power plant and my parents were absolutely hysterical at the news,” he says. “They were begging me over the phone to drop everything and get on the first flight out of the country.”

After ending the call, Anders turned to the Internet for additional information and updates about the crisis brewing in Fukushima, but instead found himself faced with more damning evidence.

“At that very moment, NHK was running a story about how radiation from the power plant was making its way to Saitama, which is next to Tokyo,” he says. “Additionally, it seemed like everyone I knew in Tokyo was posting on Facebook about how they were evacuating to Osaka that day.”

Anders called an emergency meeting with his superiors to ask for permission to temporarily leave the country, only to be told that the company’s official position was Tokyo was safe, as no formal evacuation orders had been ordered for the city and surrounding prefectures.

“The only way I could convince them to let me leave was by promising that I would be back at work within two weeks,” he says. “I think we all expected the situation in Fukushima to be over in one way or another by then, though it didn’t quite end up that way.”

The following day, Anders was on a plane back to his family’s home in Sweden.

“Before I got on the train to the airport, I saw numerous people walking on the streets with open umbrellas but there was no rain that evening,” he says. “People were genuinely afraid of radiation raining down on them.”

After Anders boarded the plane and it began to taxi for take-off, he found himself overwhelmed with emotion.

“As soon as I got on that plane, I knew I would be saying goodbye to my life in Japan forever,” he says.

That initial hunch would turn out to be prophetically true, as what initially started out as a two-week sabbatical from Tokyo would soon stretch into a month and beyond.

As the days went by, Anders hoped in vain for a breakthrough at the Fukushima plant that would enable him to return to Japan and the life he had left behind, but he says that day never came.

“While there were no further explosions at the nuclear power plant after I left, the situation there never really seemed to improve overall,” Anders says. “Then the Fukushima nuclear disaster was given the highest rating (on the International Nuclear Events Scale by the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency), and that was the final nail in the coffin.”

While Anders felt it was safe enough to return to Tokyo, his family, who had lived through the Chernobyl accident in 1986 that affected Europe, did not.

“I tried on numerous occasions to change their mind, but every time I failed,” he says. “I knew if I returned without their blessing, I would either get disowned or have to take responsibility for any undue stress I would cause them, and neither prospect appealed to me.”

Anders eventually emailed his resignation to his employer, but made sure to keep an open line of communication with his Japanese superiors “to avoid burning any bridges.”

“My boss was very patient and understanding of my situation, and he tried on many occasions to convince me to come back,” he says. “Sadly, my hands were tied the entire time and I was unable to do that.”

Anders would only have the chance to return to Japan over a year later, once the nuclear disaster in Fukushima had come to a standstill, mainly to take care of what he describes as “loose ends” left in the wake of his departure.

On that occasion, Anders decided to visit his former workplace in Tokyo to meet with his former boss and co-workers in person for the first time since leaving last year.

Any fears Anders had about being scorned by his Japanese employers vanished when the first thing they did was invite him to an impromptu lunch.

“Despite the fact that I had failed to keep my promise to return to Japan and quit my job, they seemed to be completely understanding of my situation and didn’t seem to hold a grudge against me in any way,” Anders said. “I felt like I was returning to family after a long absence.”

While people like Anders may have grudgingly accepted their fate in the wake of 3/11, others such as Stuart accepted it as a sign to pick up and leave the Japan permanently.

Although Stuart weathered the earthquake that had shook his Tokyo office much in the same way Anders had, he admits to immediately researching the distances involved in the Chernobyl and Three Mile Island disasters following the news of what was happening at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

“I was trying to figure out if people in Tokyo would be evacuated, whether we were in any danger and what the extent of the risk was if we were exposed to radiation as in those earlier cases,” he says.

The lack of what Stuart felt was “trustworthy information in a timely manner” about food and air radiation levels in various locations around Japan, as well as the resulting aftershocks and threats of future earthquakes, would convince him to finally uproot from Japan after living there for over a decade.

“Both my fiancée and myself are not Japanese with nothing except our jobs keeping us in Tokyo, so we immediately began considering leaving,” he says. “However, we ultimately decided to stay and wait for more information, hoping that the risks, transparency and general outlook would improve over the next two months. Only after we did not see any significant solutions, nor much future change, coming did we begin making mutual plans to leave Japan together.”

After preparing all of the relevant paperwork involved in quitting work, such as HR documents, taxes, and pensions, Stuart handed in his resignation at his workplace, citing “family reasons” as a reason for his departure.

“After 10 years, I find Japan work relationships to be a very funny, fragile thing,” he says. “At certain places I could have been more honest, but due to the industry I worked in and where I was specifically, I thought it best for my future career possibilities to have a Japanese style tatemae (official position) excuse that did not upset anyone or break the so-called harmony of the workplace.”

Stuart found that by giving his Japanese employers a non-disaster-related reason for quitting the job shortly after the events of 3/11, as opposed to telling them directly that he was leaving Japan because of the nuclear disaster, meant there were no awkward discussions or questions that, for example, Anders said he had to field.

With news of non-Japanese fleeing Japan in the wake of the Fukushima incident, then branded under the “Flyjin” moniker, there was concern among some of the ex-pat community that this reaction would reflect badly on them.

A popular opinion at the time was that if a company is faced with the choice of hiring a Japanese and non-Japanese candidate, the Japanese one will be hired because there will be concerns about whether the non-Japanese is going to stay long term.

A Tokyo-based pharmaceutical executive headhunter, who spoke under condition of anonymity, says the notion is true but “not because of the Flyjin effect.”’

“It has more to do with Japanese culture and how Japanese prefer to stay at one company their entire career,” he says. “Foreigners, on the other hand, change often.”

He adds that whenever a foreign candidate was sent to an interview, the one question that came up time and time again was whether or not they plan to stay with the company or change in three to five years down the tract.

Another concern attributed to the exodus of non-Japanese last year was the portrayal of non-Japanese as ones who view Japan only as a place to work for a few years, earn a lot of money and then return their home country.

“Employers do raise concern over long term prospects of foreigners, and the Flyjin phenomenon may have increased that distrust,” the recruiter admits. “Though, I’m not convinced about the ‘foreigners making a lot of money and leaving for home’ part.”

In the event an employee candidate submits a resume that may show a gap in employment after March 2011, possibly due to evacuating Japan and/or quitting their job, there is concern over whether this would affect one’s job prospects.

According to the recruiter, whatever perceived negative effect the Flyjin phenomena may have had, he is not seeing it.

“It’s still not easy to get hired, but I’ve seen an increase in openness for foreigners at the manager level or above, and many Japanese companies hire more foreigners as new graduates,” he said. “A few of my Japanese clients have even mentioned that they’d like to hire a few foreigners to help shake things up.”

After having returned to the U.S. with his fiancée, Stuart would return to Japan over a year later to officially cancel his visa status in order to claim his pension refund, as well as catch up with friends and former co-workers.

Despite having left Japan soon after 3/11, Stuart says his former employers were happy to see him again and even asked if his Tokyo visit meant that he was moving back to Japan.

“All-in-all, they treated me as someone they respected and missed, and they were happy to see me for the day,” he says.

However, when the discussion turned to Stuart’s fiancée and whether he was thinking of having kids, the mood of the conversation changed.

“When I asked them the same question, they told me they had no plans due to the ongoing nuclear crisis, as they now felt Tokyo was not a safe place to raise children,” he says. “This was not said by just one person, but by multiple people that I caught up with during my visit to Japan.”

Stuart admits to being surprised by these admissions, as one year earlier he had found an overall unwillingness by his close Japanese friends, some whom he had known for many years and even attended their weddings, to discuss anything about the nuclear crisis, such as the food quality and the radiation in the air.

“I caught up with two married couples, one Japanese and one mixed one, who were trying to have children in 2011 but have since reversed their stance,” he says. “Whether they are right or not, they have decided it is not safe to raise children in the Kanto due to various reasons and will now wait to have kids, presumably until they move farther west or out of the country.”

For these reasons, Stuart admits that he does not foresee himself resettling in Japan in the near future, if at all.

“As more and more news is released about what really happened with the reactors in Fukushima, as well as about the cleanup efforts of the radiation contamination, it makes it really hard to want to live in that environment and raise a family when so much more of the world is available to me,” he says. “Additionally, I want to see and explore more of the world now after having 10 years of Japan under my belt.”

While Anders says that he often spent time contemplating how different his life would have turned out if the events of March 11, 2011 had not deteriorated in the way they had, he finds himself doing less so as time goes on.

“Throughout 2011, not a single day went by without me considering how I could return to Japan and pick up my life in Tokyo from where I left off,” he says. “But the passage of time, as well as my recent trip to Japan, has gradually helped me to accept my fate.”

Despite having started a new life in Sweden, Anders adds that he still has not given up on the idea of returning to Japan and resettling there one day.

“When I had lunch with my former boss, he told me drop him a line if I ever decide to return to Tokyo,” he says. “Even after I had greatly inconvenienced him and the company by leaving soon after the earthquake, he showed a willingness to set me up with another job.”

  • -6

    Yubaru

    Stuart found that by giving his Japanese employers a non-disaster-related reason for quitting the job shortly after the events of 3/11, as opposed to telling them directly that he was leaving Japan because of the nuclear disaster, meant there were no awkward discussions or questions that, for example, Anders said he had to field.

    So in effect he lied to his employer and flew away. I wonder why he came back in the first place. For a visit?

    He'll always be a flyjin.

  • 28

    combinibento

    Is there a word for Japanese that fled Tokyo after the disaster? My neighbors pulled their kids out of school and headed to grandma's place in Osaka for several weeks. I don't see any shame in leaving. It was a nuclear disaster being managed (no offense here) by the oh-so-open-and-totally-competent Japanese officials. No one knew how bad it would get. If you had somewhere to go, why not go?

  • 5

    sakurala

    I really wonder how many people were actually flyjin...I think the timing of the whole crisis was at a time of the year where there generally is a large amount of foreigners coming and going from Japan. Many people may have already had plans to leave the country at the end of the school year or had travel plans for spring vacation. I personally had my honeymoon at the end of March 2011 but it was pre-planned. Of course there were a lot of people but I feel like the numbers may have been inflated because other factors weren't taken into account.

  • 14

    LiveInTokyo

    Is there a word for Japanese that fled Tokyo after the disaster?

    Exactly, I knew a lot of Japanese that fled Tokyo for Osaka during the crisis. My work was very quiet for a couple of months after the initial crisis due to that very fact. It's pretty insulting to tar a whole group with the same brush, but the Japanese seem to enjoy doing it.

  • 2

    japan_cynic

    A lot of people who were looking for an excuse to leave, left. Most of the rest just shrugged their shoulders and got on with life.

  • 21

    marcelito

    I agree - Japanese react in exactly the same way to disasters that happen overseas . There was an exodus of Japanese nationals after the earthquake in Christchurch , NZ, ( before Fukushima ) and from Thailand when the flodding occured ( after Fukushima ). J-media certainly didn,t look at them as any sort of a J flyjin.. Fukushima was unprecedented and compunded by not enough information and often lies from TEPCO, governemnt and media. People made their choices the best they could. Some left some of us stayed. Thats all there is to it.

  • 17

    Yubaru

    I know a couple of families that moved down here to Okinawa after the Fukushima disaster. They lived in Tokyo and their fears were for their children. Both ofthe families have children that are ill, one has luekemia and their fears of increased radiation were real.

    Call them what you want, anyone who left, did so of their own accord, and that is their choice. I wish them luck.

  • -1

    y3chome

    Nothing wrong with leaving Tokyo, many Japanese did the same (As anyone trying to drive westward out of Tokyo would have seen). If it was cheaper comparatively to move temporarily to Osaka or Kansai then I'm sure many gaijins would, but the reality is that people will flee to somewhere they know well (ie, overseas, their own country or somewhere they have worked/lived before) rather than flee to a region they know little about (esp if it costs the same or more). This guy "Anders" (Stuart?) seems to be overly fearful though, or at least over-thinking the situation.

  • 13

    Aliasis

    Anders did nothing wrong with leaving. After the disaster, the fear of radiation, etc., he had every right to be with his family. He has no obligation to suffer in Japan just because Japanese people do. Japanese people would do the exact same thing had the situation been reversed, this "flyjin" crap is so offensive.

  • 2

    Maria

    Is flyjin a term invented by the Japanese media? I always thought it was used by other, English-speaking foreigners, using their choice to stay as a means of harrassment ofthose who chose to leave.

  • -15

    gogogo

    Can't call Japan "home" if you ran away.

  • 1

    TorafusuTorasan

    "felt like the only foreigner in Japan"

    That was similar to how it felt being an anti (or hantai?) flyjin--having gone back to the U.S. for a couple weeks at the end of February and purchasing my return ticket just a few days before 3/11. At a relatives house the day of departure, watching footage of the nuclear plant explosions over and over. As part of my preparations, at a pharmacy to ask about iodine pills that my hasty research into radiation blockers told me to look for, I found out that it was not something that they keep in stock.

    It was memorable being the only non-Asian person on the flight into Kanku via Incheon on the 16th, with Kansai Kokusai Kukou being more crowded than usual. I spent several hours waiting for my wife to finish work by sitting in a coffee shop making a scrapbook out of all the news articles that I'd saved from the last five days dealing with the worst environmental disaster to hit Japan in my lifetime. Something that was intended for my own reference but will someday be something to show my daughter who was conceived within one month of Higashi Nihon Daishinsai.

  • -8

    southsakai

    YubaruNOV. 12, 2012 - 08:08AM JST So in effect he lied to his employer and flew away. I wonder why he came back in the first place. For a visit? He'll always be a flyjin.

    Yeah once a flyjin, always a flyjin

  • 4

    JeffLee

    Is there a word for Japanese that fled Tokyo after the disaster?

    Yes, "fry-jin." Also applies to the hordes of Japanese who fled Bangkok, because of flooding (mostly in central Thailand.) The Western expats in Bangkok had a big laugh when they watched the Japanese march out of the capital, I recall.

    The line to the immigration bureau in Tokyo stretched around 2 city blocks,

    Mid- to late March is always peak time at immigration. Students on the April academic year and company folks on the April fiscal year often have terms that generally begin around April 1. Those people include me, and I can attest that lines need to be extended down the stairs, into the lobby, etc, in a normal year.

  • 2

    Frank Rizzo

    Those who left Japan after 311 should be proud to wear the label "flyjin." They are the ones who were smart enough to see that Japan wasn't ever going to fix itself. Let's set aside for the moment the question of how dangerous the radiation is, let's just focus on how the Japanese government responded to the crisis and continues to respond (or not respond) to it. Any reasonable observer had to conclude that the clowns running the show in Japan were completely incompetent. The whole Fukushima disaster provided a moment where people could see the reality of this incompetence in stark relief. So, many of those, including myself, left the country.

  • 2

    nandakandamanda

    Similar experience as TorafusuTorasan. I was abroad looking at the footage and couldn't find iodine pills or geiger counters for sale anywhere in my country. Came back to Japan in mid/late March. Some Japanese colleagues seemed pleased to see me back. They thought I might have stayed away.

  • 3

    herefornow

    Those who left Japan after 311 should be proud to wear the label "flyjin." They are the ones who were smart enough to see that Japan wasn't ever going to fix itself. Let's set aside for the moment the question of how dangerous the radiation is, let's just focus on how the Japanese government responded to the crisis and continues to respond (or not respond) to it. Any reasonable observer had to conclude that the clowns running the show in Japan were completely incompetent. The whole Fukushima disaster provided a moment where people could see the reality of this incompetence in stark relief. So, many of those, including myself, left the country.

    Frank Rizzo ... Bravo. Japan was already on the ropes prior to 3/11 due to an aging/shrinking population and a government saddled with way too much debt. The Fukushima disaster was simply the third element in this "perfect storm". And now the surge in the yen and the spat with China have only added to the problems. As Aliasis says, foreigners have "no obligation to suffer in Japan, just because Japanese people do", as the world is now a global marketplace for talent, and if they can live better, happier, and safer elsewhere, they have no reason to feel guilty for leaving. Japan brought much of this problem on themselves, based on their lax supervision of nuclear power, even the NRA and TEPCO admit that, so allegiance to Japan Inc. is simply stupid at this point.

  • 2

    Jimizo

    'Once a flyjin, always a flyjin' 'Can't call Japan home if you ran away' I remember similar macho sentiments being spouted at the time. I think some expected medals for gallantry for staying.

  • -2

    Blacklabel

    I have no problem with the flyjin. They had a choice to make and they made it to their own benefit.

    But I also think that if you left Japan during the time of crisis you cant call Japan "home" anymore. The two people in the article both lied to leave Japan and left others to do the work they were responsible for, that is what they did "wrong".

    Now they come back and seems they think everything is ok? I highly doubt that, their Japanese "friends" and coworkers were just being nice because they know they wont actually have to see them anymore after this.

  • -2

    JapanGal

    I stayed out of choice. A little bit of radiation will never hurt you. PLus the waves here are good for surfing, and the people are nice.

  • -4

    Betraythetrust!

    Anders is a mummies boy and Stuart is a liar. Both ran away from their responsibilities and gave other foreigners a bad name, not that i am too bothered about that. We should hear about some that stayed and carried on their responsibilities to their companies not ran away back to their middle class homes where mummy and daddy can look after them.

    As for those who left, keep it to yourselves and go to other forums, you ran off, why comment on a country you have no loyalty to?

  • 14

    Maria

    What you're suggesting, those of you criticical of, or otherwise disparaging towards those who left, is that anyone who leaves their home at times of actual or potential danger, doesn't deserve to return.

    What absolute nonsense. You offend those who are refugees from war, political harassment, famine, extreme climate conditions, and poverty. To anticipate danger and take steps try to protect yourself and those you care about is human nature and common sense. Those who stay to protect their house, possessions, principles, or the foundations upon which their country was built, are often the ones who end up dead. And those people who live in the Ukraine, who have nowhere to go, who are suffering the effects of Chernobyl, would look at you in astonishment.

  • 1

    y3chome

    Blacklabel and others say those who left can no longer call Japan home.......... What you fail to realise is that for many of us living abroad, we often feel like we don:t have somewhere to call "home" , as we feel disconnected from our original country, but not yet fully connected where we land. How long that takes depends on the person/situation I guess but I think it would be a considerable about of time. We get to something close to home, but it takes a very long time. Though anyone has the right to call it "home" if they feel so.

  • 1

    y3chome

    telling people they have no right to call it "home" due to some sense of having been here longer/or having stayed put during the disaster is not cool. It:s a kind of insecurity where one compares one:s perceived contribution to another persons, with desire for some kind of recognition. Some people can be here 4 yrs and find it "home", others 24 yrs and still not think it "home"

  • 6

    zichi

    I never thought about leaving, and I didn't. I started contacting family, friends, clients inside the disaster zone to see what we could do to help.

    If people decided to leave, well, that was up to them but I would never desert my family, friend and clients in their darkest hour.

  • 11

    DentShop

    Like most foreigners who "toughed it out" I really thought that leaving was too much trouble and couldnt be bothered.

    It is important to realise though, the government and TEPCO are still lying to us all, still arent managing the situation very well and the potential for danger continues to be enormous. Just sayin'.

  • -2

    Blacklabel

    I dont mind if people left, thats ok. Just stay gone, dont try to make up some excuse and come back like nothing ever happened.. Flyjin left their friends and coworkers to fend for themselves in a time of need. Japan did without you then, it can do without you now.

    You offend those who are refugees from war, political harassment, famine, extreme climate conditions, and poverty.

    And Japan was none of these. People left out of convenience and fear for their own personal safety. I wasnt leaving because I couldnt take my friends and coworkers with me. So together we stayed here and did what we could to try to make it ok again. SO now that it is kinda ok here, all the flyjin want to come back? no thanks.

  • 1

    sighclops

    I, like a true Australian, donned a mask and held the fort - for the simple fact that I, like so many others, were in the same boat. It's not like we could just up & leave our daily lives! Oh, what a convenience!

  • 2

    moomoochoo

    The only mistake Anders made was coming back.

  • 3

    y3chome

    Out of curiosity, for all those berating those who left............ when is it acceptable to leave? If its when everyone is asked to leave, how logistically possible do you think that would be?

  • 2

    Pattie Inoue

    I had initially made plans to go home at the end of march when 3/11 struck. My family hounded me daily to shelf my initial plans and to leave immediately but i stayed back because i felt i needed too. We ( the non working mums ) queued up daily to buy the neccesities ( rice, toilet paper & etc ) for ourselves and also for the working mums, took their kids in after school ( as school hours were cut shorter ), and did everything we could to instill a sense of normalcy during the crisis. I don't condemn those who left because everybody has a right to make their own choices. If i had felt at that time that there was no purpose in my staying back, maybe i would have left too.

  • 6

    Aliasis

    People left out of convenience and fear for their own personal safety.

    Personal safety is not a good reason to move back to your home country?

    But I also think that if you left Japan during the time of crisis you cant call Japan "home" anymore. The two people in the article both lied to leave Japan and left others to do the work they were responsible for, that is what they did "wrong".

    So, if your house is on fire, you should stay there until the flames get you because it's your "home"? Wow. Even now, Japan is not a great place to be, we hear every day about more lies, about how the situation is worse than previously thought. I'm here in Japan, I consider it a home, but if I feel like I'm in danger, absolutely I'm going to leave, as Japanese people should, too. Expecting people to sit and take it quietly is stupid and selfish. Safety should be everyone's number one priority, and if they don't feel comfortable being here anymore, they should go home with our blessing - it's not an easy choice for anyone.

  • -1

    Meguroman

    Stayed here in Tokyo but made plans to get the family to Kansai, which we decided wasn't necessary. The US embassy was pretty good with info. Literally millions of people stayed put - I don't feel special but I know a lot of gaijin who lost face with their Japanese subordinates & colleagues calling in from overseas while everyone came to work as usual.

  • 0

    Badge213

    I never left Japan (Tokyo), if I saw that the Emperor/prime minister, and the US Ambassador hauling butt then I would of left, but none of them did. The US government (at least) kept their operations in Tokyo open, while some other governments fled to Osaka abandoning their citizens in Tokyo.

    Frankly it was the western media that overhyped it, again if I saw the US ambassador hauling butt or the emperor out of Tokyo that would of been the time I left, but none of them did.

  • 0

    Badge213

    So the guy essentially lied to his employers and ruined his relationship with that employer. So why is he back?

  • 5

    GW

    I think if we were told more of the truth in the early days about HALF of those layin into flyjins wud have picked up & left!

    I know it wud have been 50:50 for me, I have a house here, job, family same as most but it wud have been 50/50 I wud bet.

    It was hard enough with my mother calling & begging me to come back, friends around the world offering me refuge if needed, people calling, it was an extremely intense experience especially being bombarded by aftershocks & soon wondering if we were being radiated at dangerous levels & knowing the govt was lieing their a$$es off & still to this day!

    I find myself wondering where I wud be, what I wud be doing if I left............. is staying the right thing to do???

    I still cant say staying was the right thing to do, only time will tell & for each of us it will be both similar & different at the same time

  • 3

    slumdog

    Respect to the employers and how they reacted when Anders came back for a visit.

  • 0

    y3chome

    lost face with their Japanese subordinates & colleagues calling in from overseas while everyone came to work as usual

    some of us "came to work" in other offices, often from overseas offices... don:t assume everyone just ditched work and ran.

  • 0

    taj

    Tough call: colleauges who depend on you vs. parents who are hysterical with fear for you. I won't judge anyone's choice. I am curious though, as to what happened with Anders apartment for the year that he was gone. Did he continue paying rent that whole time? Or did he pay some movers to go in and pack everything up and ship it to him? Maybe some friends took care of that?

  • 7

    akumakoe

    Unless you were one of the leavers' employers or loved ones, who on earth are you to judge them and whine about them leaving? And, if Japan felt like home, then they can call it 'home' if they damn well please. Anyone can. Maria put it perfectly up there in the comments. I don't get how you can legitimately condemn someone for leaving for their own safety. Pride is definitely not worth much if you're dead, and if these people were worried about their safety, then good on them for getting out of danger.

    That's not to say choosing to stay was a bad call, either. That choice was a tough one for many, and there was no right answer. In the anecdote above where the guy wasn't entirely truthful with his employer, it's silly to cry 'liar' when he did exactly what many Japanese might have done. It was appropriate for the delicate situation in such a society.

    The last comment I have, unrelated to the other comments, is that I just wish there were anecdotes from people in more affected ares. I get a little tired of only hearing about people in Tokyo when the most affected areas weren't all that close.

  • 0

    akumakoe

    In the previous comment, I meant 'no right or wrong answer'.

  • -1

    basroil

    So why do we need to "praise" an idiot that helped the country step back 30 years in terms of employment of foreign nationals?

  • -2

    kurisupisu

    Actually some parts of Tokyo are more radioactive than Fukushima, Yokohama also has hotspots. Radiation from Fukushima has been detected in Kyushu,Taiwan. It circled the globe and set off alarms in Korea! Radiactive contamination is just not being reported in the mainstream press much. Would I live in Tokyo? No ..... Unless, one moves to the southhern hemisphere, there isn't an escape from elevated levels.

  • 7

    pointofview

    Geez! They still cant get it right. Its "Flykokujin."

  • 1

    tmarie

    Ozawa fled to Kyoto and wasn't his area Fukushima of all things?! Why is it the foreigners who only got tarred with this label?

    And yes with regards to those who commented that the Japanese do exactly the same- Thailand, NZ, Fukushima... Yet I don't see any labels. JT did run a story about the locals who fled. In my opinion, not enough if them fled Tohoku!

  • -9

    Blacklabel

    So, if your house is on fire, you should stay there until the flames get you because it's your "home"?

    You dont leave your home when it is on fire until everyone else gets out. Using your fire example, these flyjins left their Japanese friends and coworkers in the burning house. They lied, didnt even say it was because the house was on fire, just said "oh need to go out for 2 weeks, be back later" and left out the back door.

    Now months and months later people have the nerve to come back to their "home" to see what happened to those who they left behind. No apologies, just checking in to see if they can get their jobs back or not.

    Personal safety is not a good reason to move back to your home country?

    Sure, that is fine if u were scared. But some of these people are trying to say Japan is their home, not the place they flew away to. I am saying when you move back to your "home country" because you left as a flyjin, stay in your "home" country.

  • -2

    YongYang

    Half a decade. Whoa, long stayer eh. Hmm. Everyone made their choices and everyone should be cool with what others did and do. We don't ingest any foods or drinks from Japan.inc, not with infants to feed. Evrything is: YOUR call. Live and let live. We left for four months, damn right. Tokyo could have quiet easily been lost, Mr Kan saying so himself, even now the Monster sits up North, very ready to do its worst. The catastrophe continues. It is NOTover. Pandora's Box is till very much without a lid.

  • 1

    Marilita Fabie-Fujisawa

    I truly agree with Gogogo....I stayed and cried for a month upon seeing the news and the devastating effect..I told my husband I was staying as this is my adopted country where my children were born and who are Japanese themselves..it's either we all go away together, or we all stay together..I stayed..and I don't regret it.

  • 6

    Sheila Usui

    I live 80 miles south of Fukushima in Tochigi Ken.I called my Embassy for advice during the crisis,and was told that while I was not in their 50 mile evacuation zone that I was still very close and should strongly consider leaving.Having two young children,I decided to fly.Although I have since returned home,yes HOME,built from the ground up with my and my husbands hard earned money,I stand by my decision to leave.I would go again in a heartbeat if my family was in such grave danger.I live in a small town with one road in and one road out.A mass evacuation impossible.That was the deciding factor for us being we were given a 50/50 chance of that by international news reports.I was honest with my employer with why I was leaving,and shared with them what my embassy said as well as what news from cnn etc.were reporting.I also said I fully intended to return before school started (for my children)unless of coarse...worst case senerio.When I returned to work I was treated very badly,and even still people make snide remarks.

  • 5

    hatsoff

    tmarie - spot on. Ichiro Ozawa represents Iwate 4th District, and I heard he fled like a scalded cat. I also read he sent people to tell his wife he had moved and they offered to take her but she refused.

    This flyjin thing is old. Nothing wrong with leaving as a precaution. The only possible negative is abandoning the work and responsibilities they had, and their apartments and other commitments (e.g. bills) with no notice. I know one Japanese senior manager who moved his family to Hawaii and visited them on weekends.

    I personally don't think we were at the sharp end. As Badge 213 said above, if I'd seen embassy staff and the Royal Family hitting the road then I would have had second thoughts for me and my family. Those who moved away actually avoided a hell of a lot of hassle, though the atmosphere of those days have made for some interesting memories that money can't buy.

    Although there was at times a slight feeling of solidarity, those who stayed in Tokyo were not heroes. We'll save those kinds of words for the people further north.

  • 6

    Serrano

    "the events of 3/11 forced him to leave Japan"

    Nonsense. He chose to leave.

  • 4

    Hikozaemon

    Okay, first let's be clear - the term "Flyjin" is not a Japanese one. It was made up by gaijins to taunt other gaijins for being 'soft.' Articles portray this as a denigrating term used by Japanese against foreigners are either ignorant or willfully race baiting. I'd defy anyone in Tokyo to find a non-English speaking Japanese who has even heard of the term.

    Second point - both Anders and Stuart are victims of the western media coverage of these events, whose sensationalist coverage caused heart attacks to parents and loved ones out of Japan, and as Anders experienced, led to almost singular blind hysteria from foreigners screaming to get their loved ones out of japan like they were saving them from the Holocaust. Combine with that an inability to gather information in Japanese and a reliance on news being dictated in editorial rooms on the otherside of the globe trying to out-exaggerate one another, and you have a lot of people who were forced to drop and abandon their lives here in panic, and an equal, possibly larger group of people who stayed here but faced emotionally traumatic bombardments from friends and loved ones thinking they were trying to save their friend's lives.

    Beyond that, you have the Japanese affected by the mass hysteria among the foreign community here. Businesses crippled by chefs, teachers, engineers and bosses who disappeaered over the weekend without notice never to come back, as well as wives and loved ones who shared their lives with gaijins who suffered abuse over telephones and emails for not leaving.

    I never left - although I got my son a passport and was getting ready to when the Tokyo water supply was briefly contaminated. I have no problem with those who did. The Flyjin thing is just a nasty jab by expats like me wanting to get psychological revenge on those that abandoned their posts, that I think is unfair and unnecessary.

    I will however never forget the shameless journalists and foreign news agencies that treated this whole crisis as a sensationalist ratings opportunity, and the endless damage they caused to myself, my family, my friends, and the community of foreigners here in Tokyo with shameless, opportunistic parachute journalism. I'll never trust the BBC again - which until then I considered the best of a lousy bunch.

  • 0

    TheDevilsAssistant

    So whats the term used for Japanese people that left the area?

  • 5

    WilliB

    The article quotes Anders as saying:

    " Before I got on the train to the airport, I saw numerous people walking on the streets with open umbrellas but there was no rain that evening, he says. “People were genuinely afraid of radiation raining down on them. "

    Has anybody else seen that? I haven´t, and I was here all the time. Sounds to me like Anders wants to create an urban legend?

  • 2

    WilliB

    Hikozaemon:

    " Second point - both Anders and Stuart are victims of the western media coverage of these events, whose sensationalist coverage caused heart attacks to parents and loved ones out of Japan, and as Anders experienced, led to almost singular blind hysteria from foreigners screaming to get their loved ones out of japan like they were saving them from the Holocaust. "

    I can confirm that. The news reporting in my home country was crazy. Watching TV news, you would have thought that all of Japan was night-glowing, rubble-strewn apocalyptic disaster zone. Journalistic feeding frenzy at its worst.

  • 2

    hatsoff

    I can confirm that. The news reporting in my home country was crazy. Watching TV news, you would have thought that all of Japan was night-glowing, rubble-strewn apocalyptic disaster zone. Journalistic feeding frenzy at its worst.

    Agreed. But some - shamefully - orchestrated it themselves, like Keely Fujisawa in...wait for it....Nerima, Tokyo.

    Trapped in City of Ghosts: Tokyo http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/3473142/My-nightmare-trapped-in-post-tsunami-Tokyo-City-of-Ghosts.html

  • 3

    Maria

    That Fujisawa girl looks like a right nutter - deliberately or not, who knows? but it was the Sun she approached, so ... I wonder how well she profited from her imaginary suffering.

  • 0

    Fadamor

    @Yubaru,

    So in effect he lied to his employer and flew away. I wonder why he came back in the first place. For a visit? He'll always be a flyjin.

    His reason was given in the article. Didn't you read it?

    After having returned to the U.S. with his fiance, Stuart would return to Japan over a year later to officially cancel his visa status in order to claim his pension refund, as well as catch up with friends and former co-workers.

  • -7

    nigelboy

    Those who left Japan after 311 should be proud to wear the label "flyjin."

    They should be ridiculed and justifiably so. If majority of the Tokyo residents acted irrationaly in the way "flyjin" did, the metropolitan of Tokyo would cease to exist.

  • 0

    Daffy_Duck

    Yeah once a flyjin, always a flyjin

    How very judgmental of you, and all these other posers disparaging people who made a very reasonable and sensible decision.

    I wonder if folk would be so inclined to come up with a term for the numerous Japanese people who have fled their homes or countries in times of disaster?

  • -5

    nigelboy

    Yes, "fry-jin." Also applies to the hordes of Japanese who fled Bangkok, because of flooding (mostly in central Thailand.) The Western expats in Bangkok had a big laugh when they watched the Japanese march out of the capital, I recall.

    Factories were shut down so they were ordered to fly back home. In fact, during the stoppage, Thai technicians were sent to Japan on a special visa so that they could teach the factory workers in Japan. Perhaps these 3/11 flyjins were also "orderd" to fly back home.

    Mid- to late March is always peak time at immigration. Students on the April academic year and company folks on the April fiscal year often have terms that generally begin around April 1. Those people include me, and I can attest that lines need to be extended down the stairs, into the lobby, etc, in a normal year.

    311,876 foreign residents left Japan during the post quake from 3/12/11~4/1/11 (20 day period) while only 171,996 foreign residents left Japan during the entire month of March 2010.

    I’ll go further.

    From 3/5/11~4/1/11 (26 day period) 345,065 foreign residents left the country which is more than DOUBLE for the entire month of March in 2010.

    During the period of 3/12/11~3/25/11, an verage of 18,222 foreign residents left per day while only 5,548 foreign resients left per day on average during the entire month of March of 2010. This is more than three times the norm.

    There's a "peak". Then there are "PEAK"(with flyijins)

  • 7

    herefornow

    They should be ridiculed and justifiably so. If majority of the Tokyo residents acted irrationaly in the way "flyjin" did,

    Nigelboy -- horse manure. There was nothing "irrational" about leaving Tokyo under the cirumstances/conditions that existed immediately after 3/11. As others have pointed out, many thousands of Japanese citizens did, in fact, flee Tokyo, just like the "flyjin" you mock did. I left about ten days after the quake to: assure my aging parents that I wasn't glowing; decompress a little from the stress the disaster had caused, especially in regards my company; and, let things settle down a bit back in Tokyo. I returned to Tokyo after about three weeks in a much better mental and physical state. And, if in your mind, that qualifies me to be "ridiculed", then I will wear that badge proudly. Because, IMO, the folks who should be ridiculed are the ones who just blindly accepted all the assurances coming from TEPCO and Edano after 3/11 and decided to risk their and their loved ones well-being on that. And given all the disclosures that have come to light since then, I' say that was much more "irrational", because you didn't use the brains god gave you and just fell into the "shoganai" mentality. Did you leave your powers of reasoning at Narita?

  • 1

    Outta here

    basroil

    So why do we need to "praise" an idiot that helped the country step back 30 years in terms of employment of foreign nationals?

    You are spot on why should we praise a person for looking after themselves and their family during this crisis. Especially with the pathetic and incomplete details coming from those that were "in charge" of this disaster..... Sarcasm intended.

    These people that left Japan during this disaster did so for a reason. They did so because the info coming from the so called Japanese experts was pathetic at best and criminal at worst. The foreign media did overreact just as the j media under reacted and under reported. To ridicule and deride people who put their welfare and the welfare of their family above all else is weak. But then reading back it seems those who are deriding those that did leave are those same that have been playing down this incident and ridiculing anyone with concerns since day one.

  • -5

    nigelboy

    Nigelboy -- horse manure. There was nothing "irrational" about leaving Tokyo under the cirumstances/conditions that existed immediately after 3/11.

    Of course, it's "irrational". If everybody in Tokyo acted the way you did, not only there would be a secondary disaster that possibly surpasses the death toll of the earthquake/tsunami itself, Tokyo would cease to exist. And if you took the plane to go across the Pacific, you are exposed to more radiation than those who remained in Tokyo.

    Doubting the government is fine. But doubting the numerous scientists who were analyzing the almost negligible effects of radiation as a result of this is paranoid and deserve the ridicule that is inherent in the term "flyjin".

  • 4

    herefornow

    But doubting the numerous scientists who were analyzing the almost negligible effects of radiation as a result of this is paranoid and deserve the ridicule that is inherent in the term "flyjin".

    Nigelboy -- again, pure nonsense. The "numerous scientists" you refer to were all TEPCO or Japanese government employees. And, if anyone is to be ridiculed, it is the ones like yourself who simply accepted their statements as fact. Or have all the revelations of the past 18 months or so simply not registered with you? Especially the one where it was confirmed that the government DELIBERATELY withheld the projections on how the radioactivity was likely spreading, just because they knew people with any brains would get out of Dodge. Sorry, but in my opinion, "flyjin" is synonomous with "rational", not ridicule.

  • -5

    nigelboy

    Nigelboy -- again, pure nonsense. The "numerous scientists" you refer to were all TEPCO or Japanese government employees. And, if anyone is to be ridiculed, it is the ones like yourself who simply accepted their statements as fact. Or have all the revelations of the past 18 months or so simply not registered with you? Especially the one where it was confirmed that the government DELIBERATELY withheld the projections on how the radioactivity was likely spreading, just because they knew people with any brains would get out of Dodge. Sorry, but in my opinion, "flyjin" is synonomous with "rational", not ridicule.

    No they were not. They were independent scientists offering their analysis on TV on the actual reading of the radiation in numerous locations (including Tokyo). Just because you don't have the capacity to understand what they are saying (your lack of Japanese) does not excuse you from criticism. Listen hereforenow. We're not talking about the Xkm radius within the affected area in Fukushima. We're talking about TOKYO.

    As it turns out, the people that stayed in Tokyo and did not travel overseas during the entire year after the aftermath had quite a significant less exposure to radiation than you who took a trans Pacific flight. "rational" my a$$.

  • 2

    herefornow

    Nigelboy -- are you that incapable of understanding the point? NO ONE, not even these so-called independent scientists you so proudly listened to and believed, knew at that time what the final outcome of the disaster was going to be. As even the Japanese government now admits, they were perilously close to a complete and utter disaster. And, again, everyone with half-a-brain knew the government and TEPCO were NOT reporting that potential. Hell, they didn't even know one of the reactors had blown up until they saw it on NHK. So, yes, getting some radiation on a trans-Pacific flight, compared to believing some bumbling, incompetent, dis-honest TEPCO employees and bureaucrats was very rational. And, I'm glad you are so fluent in Japanese that you had the comfort of understanding these scientists. That quailification will help you as you ride the elevator down with Japan over the next decade. But you'll have the satisfaction of knowing, in your mind, you did the "rational" thing after 3/11.

  • -1

    nigelboy

    Herefornow,

    One of the other traits of flyjins is that they'll come up with more justifications on why they left when such thoughts were never even considered when they bought the tickets. If we go back to the previous articles and posts after 3/11 and their predictions came true, we'd all be dying from radiation poisoning by now. Fortunately, most developed societies consist of rational people with capacity to dissect many information to accurately distinguish the level of dangers. Some people don't so they panic like the flyjins but what makes them particularity unique is that they try to justify their short comings when all it boils down to is "save yourself".

    • Moderator

      Please tone down your rhetoric.

  • 0

    WilliB

    hereforenow:

    " NO ONE, not even these so-called independent scientists you so proudly listened to and believed, knew at that time what the final outcome of the disaster was going to be. As even the Japanese government now admits, they were perilously close to a complete and utter disaster. "

    I thought you and other people have been telling us for a year now that indeed there was a complete and utter disaster? So have you now changed your mind and admit that there wasn`t?

  • -1

    Fugacis

    Okay, first let's be clear - the term "Flyjin" is not a Japanese one. It was made up by gaijins to taunt other gaijins for being 'soft.' Articles portray this as a denigrating term used by Japanese against foreigners are either ignorant or willfully race baiting. I'd defy anyone in Tokyo to find a non-English speaking Japanese who has even heard of the term.

    This. The term is a particularly nasty and spiteful one concocted out of - I am convinced - jealousy and resentment. There is no normal response to an abnormal situation. At the time, we were facing thousands dead and millions displaced, a nuclear emergency which we knew had the potential to get very ugly indeed, and no reliable information from either the domestic (in retrospect vindicated as a series of obfuscations, cover-ups, and face saving) or international (lost and bewildered journalists unable to read Japanese scrambling for whatever rumours they could dig up).

    In the face of such uncertainty, people both Japanese and foreign reacted in different ways. Some people chose to step into the breach and volunteer to help out in the stricken regions, and their courage is to be commended but not expected. Many more, both Japanese and foreign, moved to anywhere safe where they had connections, be that Osaka, Fukuoka, New Zealand or Finland, and their responses were perfectly rational too.

    • Moderator

      Readers, no more acrimony please.

  • 3

    Nessie

    "Flyjin" is like "road rage": a catchy word for a non-existent phenomenon.

  • -3

    BoredToTears

    The flyjin will never get sympathy or respect from me. Worried or not, many of us stayed and did our jobs, and kept things rolling. For all the flyjin that bailed on their govt jobs (actual Civil Service or as contractors), they should have been fired and permently had thier security clearances revoked.

  • -4

    basroil

    Outta hereNov. 13, 2012 - 05:53AM JST

    You are spot on why should we praise a person for looking after themselves and their family during this crisis.

    Clearly you didn't read the story, he was a single man.

    Especially with the pathetic and incomplete details coming from those that were "in charge" of this disaster..... Sarcasm intended.

    If you looked at any actual fallout maps available online to anyone that searched, you would be able to see that it would be impossible to get anything more than trace levels that far out.

    These people that left Japan during this disaster did so for a reason. They did so because the info coming from the so called Japanese experts was pathetic at best and criminal at worst.

    Well, guess what, INTERNATIONAL experts already had better information that you could check up on. The only criminal acts were by those who fled from their jobs (civil penalties) and the media who made wild accusations that all of Japan would practically glow in the dark (inciting panic is criminally punishable). Ignorance is not an excuse, nobody should be praised for running away at the first sign of trouble.

  • -3

    basroil

    Edit to above, single man with a girlfriend, but not married and no mention of children.

  • -4

    YongYang

    I 'deserted my post' 'left the ship' ' got out od dodge' and when I cam back stress-free and sleek, I got a RAISE! Brilliant. My or mine didn't sit under a radioactiv eplume or suffer the fear of actuality. Kicked back and watched the catastrophe, which it is, unfold. The 'cooling' via helicopter especially desperate for those here leaving their fate in other's hands. No, plough your own road and live the way YOU do.

  • 4

    Outta here

    Basroil,

    This one person may have been single, but there where many that took their families as well, and frankly your derision is extended to them as well. As for the amount of radiation people could have got "that far out" that comment amuses me. You have since day one downplayed this incident, you have disparaged anyone with a concern and put people down for having a different opinion to your own tepco company line. Reading your posts is like reading a tepco press release at time!

    You say it would be impossible to get anymore than a trace amount in Tokyo. Well sorry but why exposé yourself to anymore than you have too. You kinda forgot the tea issue from Shizuoka to didn't you how did those crops get a dose that caused the to fail EU testing? You do realise Tokyo is between Shizuoka and Fukushima?

    While my family didn't leave Japan during the disaster although we could have we where banned from traveling to Tokyo by our home company. I do not blame or begrudge those that did leave, unlike you they are not lemmings that recite the company line word for word and place a greater value on their lives and that of their families. There is nothing criminally wrong with that, and for the record the only criminals in this matter are the incompetents at tepco, the j governments and the apologists that continually downplay this issue.

  • -2

    Blacklabel

    So the people that left just didnt care about their coworkers and "friends" who couldnt leave? just go back home and chill out and watch what happened, then once it is safe try to come back like nothing happened? justify it all you want, its WRONG.

  • 0

    hatsoff

    Just for the record, it doesn't follow that if someone believes/believed there was no significant risk in and therefore no need to move that they therefore were toeing the TEPCO line.

    As I stated before, I have no problem with people's decisions to move (exceptions in my earlier post). I stayed but that doesn't mean I swallowed what TEPCO were saying.

    "You swallowed what TEPCO and the government told you" is as bad as "You're a flyjin."

  • -4

    Hikozaemon

    Well - let's consider what the government and TEPCO said for a minute. Apart from the fib about the meltdown, and withholding of SPEEDI data, compare this to what western media was speculating.

    Now exactly how many people in Tokyo have suffered any form of radiation sickness? How many children have suffered radiation poisoning? Even in Fukushima?

    People fled Tokyo fearing for their health and their lives. 30 million Japanese and foreigners remained in Tokyo and environs. Not a single one got sick.

    And we are somehow naive for not succumbing to western media news ratings enduced panic?

    I know for a fact people who became ill because of 3/11 - due to the unbelievable psychological stress of the event, which foreigners went through possibly worse than anyone else. In the end of the day, hysterical gaijins caused more physical and mental harm to one another in Japan than Daiichi did.

  • 3

    Outta here

    Hikozaemon,

    You say that "hysterical gaijins caused more physical and mental harm than daiichi did"?

    Really what physical harm did these people who left cause? Any? Nope thought not, for a minute l thought l missed the riots they caused, or the murders or rampages in their attempts to flee.

    As for mental harm, yeah sure. Did these people leaving cause as much anguish as oh let's see the government not realising information, lying about the extent of the damage, changing food safety levels, feeding contaminated food to kids?

    I know which one really caused more anguish and it wasnt the people leaving. Oh and if a gaijin becomes a flyjin then what does a local Japanese become because many many of them left too.

  • 0

    Hikozaemon

    Outta here.

    1) Flyjin is a term used by gaijins against gaijins. There is no term for Japanese because they don't call anyone that. And I'm sick and tired of people allowing themselves to be race baited by this term into attacking Japanese people in response to what is a jibe deliberately aimed at provoking that respones.

    2) The fact you can't even conceptualize that the stress people in Japan were subjected to by worried friends and loved ones who themselves were traumatized by extreme speculative news coverage, that that stress could not lead to physical illness, portrays exactly the kind of self serving mindset of provocateurs who exploited this whole disaster for political and rhertorical gain without consideration for the very real consequences.

    I know lots of people who suffered extreme stress during this time, Japanese and foreigners, but foreigners were more exposed to extreme and misinformed hysteria and I believe suffered stress worse, and besides long term psychological damage, plenty got ill and suffered physical effects of stress resulting from the kind of psychological torture they were subjected to during this time. Stress causes illness. Everybody bombarding loved ones with messages to escape Japan no doubt did so presuming that whatever stress they were causing would be less harmful than the radiation they would otherwise be exposed to.

    One thing that is completely clear now is that this was not the case. The stress was infinitely more harmful than Fukushima radiation.

    While I have trouble condemning those who caused this stress out of genuine fear and concern, I will never forget or forgive those who exploited and exaccerbated that stress for economic (foreign news) and political (the anti-nuke lobby has a lot to answer for for the propaganda and misinformation it spread capitalizing on this disaster) gain.

    Doing so in willfull ignorance of the genuine harm it caused residents who stayed is extremely aggravating.

  • 4

    Maria

    In the days following the earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima meltdown, we didn't know whether or not another reactor would blow - there was that risk. It could have been so much worse. Because we were lucky in that respect, doesn't mean people were wrong to worry. What if there had been a second, third, earthquake and meltdown? We would have been f'ed.

  • 0

    BoredToTears

    Don't forget that they didn't just leave. They dropped everything and then expected people still here to mail thier shit back to them, where ever the hell the fled to. And don't forget the animals that just got dumped at the airport as the losers made thier escape. Can you believe that when there idiots returned to the base I'm on, they actually demanded to get thier pets back that they let loose on the base? I'm still waiting for a Congressional hearing on the straight up fraud waste and abuse that went on during this time.

  • 0

    Hikozaemon

    Maria - I'm not upset at the worrying, or even at the people worried for their loved ones, or at those who took a precautionary approach by leaving.

    I am upset at those who exploited and exaccerbated the worry deliberately for economic and political ends, and who still pretend like they did nothing wrong. Apologies are owed by more than just the government and TEPCO.

    I'm fine with Flyjins - except those who genuinely and recklessly attempted to spread panic and hysteria, some of whom I also had to deal with.

  • -1

    WilliB

    Boredtotears:

    " The flyjin will never get sympathy or respect from me. Worried or not, many of us stayed and did our jobs, and kept things rolling. "

    I think there are shades of grey here. E.g. it is one situation if you are a single adult, and quite another if you are responsible for small children. And it is one thing if you run away and let your work collegues high and dry, or if you arrange for an orderly exit. Also, there were a number of expats you were told by their home offices to fly away; they would be counted in the exit numbers, but are hardly flyjin.

    I look down on some them like you, but it really depends.

  • 1

    Thomas Anderson

    Hikozaemon, surely there really wasn't anyone who deliberately attempted to spread panic and hysteria (what would they gain out of that?). You don't think that they were genuinely scared or frightened? Not many people have experienced a full nuclear meltdown before. Think of what that experience may have been like for many people.

  • 0

    moneyyen

    I am not so forgiving to those who ran. They want to be here when things are great but don't want to stick around when things are rough. Then they come back when we rebuild things. Sorry, but those who ran, I am happy if they stay away. Seems to me that anywhere you go in the world now there are problems. Hurricanes, Tornados, Floods, Earthquakes, Wars, etc. Those that ran, should keep running.

  • 0

    Maria

    Hiko - very true. People were making stuff up for the drama- as though more drama were needed, and to benefit themselves.

    I'd like to go back to the point - what you and I have both questioned about this article, which is whether the term flyjin is really a term the Japanese press thought up (which I'm sure isn't the case) or whether it's something foreigners thought up because they do like a catchy phrase with which to harass people.

    This article hasn't really helped clear any of that up.

  • 0

    JaneM

    My boss and co-workers told me to go back but I made my choice to stay. I have no problem with those who left Japan – that was their personal choice and they had the right to make it. Just for the record, I do not expect any medals for staying here. But what I realized several months after the accident was that my staying in Japan through the crisis was indeed very highly appreciated by my Japanese friends and co-workers. They never tell you such things directly but you feel it in their attitude. I am now one of them and not the foreigner I was before 3/11.

  • 2

    blendover

    If and when the next financial meltdown happens, numerous foriegn workers in this country will be required to pack up and leave. How loyal or otherwise they have been in the past won't have much of a bearing on that. Those who kick up a fuss will not be looked on kindly.

  • -2

    Hikozaemon

    Maria - I remember there were some looks at the term when it took off - although I can't find anything that shows how or by whom it was coined, other than of course the rash of webpages and articles - almost all in English, some mocking, some expressing outrage (like Debito) that resulted. The whole "flyjin" urban myth is one of the many bits of anti-Japanese propaganda to spread through the internet after 3/11 and one can see by the comments here, people still angrily demanding to know what to call Japanese who fled, that its race baiting purpose still works.

    My personal experience is that Japanese coworkers not only forgave but expected foreigners to leave - even though the manner in which some left, and the pressure some Japanese employers took (and indeed, way some took advantage of those leaving) left something to be desired in some cases.

    At my work, I was in a small group of employees with families with nowhere inside Japan outside of Tokyo to go. We had regular conversations concerned about what our options were and keeping on top of what was happening. I didn't get any particular appreciation for staying, so much as being in that situation, with a family in particular, led to me bonding with other worried parents with the same concerns.

    I have seen Japanese blogs cover the English spread of the term "flyjin" as a curiousity, but the fact that the term is completely unintuitive and needs to be explained when discussed in Japanese itself illustrates that it is not Japanese in origin. It is just more trollish expats playing to the victim mentality gaijin audience, as many make a living out of.

  • 2

    BoredToTears

    WilliB - Sorry, no shades of gray here for me. If somebody wanted to send thier spouse and kids away, that's fine. But if you have a job to do, you need to handle it. I didn't see this "orderly exit" crap people talk about. What I saw was people scrambling to get out, then expecting those of us still here to make everything "fixee fixee nicey nicey". There wasn't any planning, they just got on planes and left. When I talk about people bailing, I don't mean they just left extra workload for people. They expected people here to send somebody to thier house to pack thier crap and ship it to them, if it's safe. WTF is that? Hell, there were people that just disappeared. Yeah, left without telling anybody. Like I said, the flyjin will never get sympathy or respect from me.

  • -6

    basroil

    Outta hereNov. 13, 2012 - 10:10AM JST

    You say it would be impossible to get anymore than a trace amount in Tokyo. Well sorry but why exposé yourself to anymore than you have too. You kinda forgot the tea issue from Shizuoka to didn't you how did those crops get a dose that caused the to fail EU testing? You do realise Tokyo is between Shizuoka and Fukushima?

    1) The leaves had trace levels, so you haven't proven anything with that.

    2) Europe, especially this's guy's area in Sweden, have higher concentrations of radiation. Some is simply from building materials, other from the events at Chernobyl which were many hundreds of times worse. He likely had far more exposure as a child then he ever would get even living in ibaraki or fukushima city.

    3) The import threshold levels of radiation were dropped in response to Fukushima, but if you were to run European produce through the same test areas, practically everything would fail.

    4) It is not an excuse to leave your job to go to a place with higher radiation, it's just not justifiable even using the fear argument.

  • -2

    frontandcentre

    I wonder if Anders' parents now accept that they were absolutely wrong and that they totally overreacted ? Probably not.

    Of course people had (and have) the right to do what they want, but they can't expect their job to be waiting for them when they come back after an extended, unplanned "holiday", based on hearsay and misinformation. If your Japanese colleagues are expected to stay, so should you be. If you choose not to stick around, then there should be no whining about the consequences, including any ridicule that results.

    The international press & media were in some cases very culpable for sensationalizing the Fukushima story and even ludicrously exaggerating the impact of the quake on daily life in Tokyo - precisely one day's disruption, for most people. That's why gaijin residents faced pressure from worried family and friends overseas. But if you aren't adult enough to make your own decisions based on scientific advice, and let the Daily Mail and The Sun's nonsense influence you (or influence others who then tell you what to do), then more fool you, I say. Despite this massive mistrust of TEPCO and J-Government information, in the internet age it's easy enough to get reliable opinions from independent sources of scientific information, which was exactly what I did. Nothing heroic about that - it's just common sense.

    Consequently, I stuck it out and was never unduly worried. Had full support from overseas family and friends once I had reassured them based on real, rational scientific evidence rather than misinformation and hearsay.

    FnC

  • -7

    basroil

    frontandcentreNov. 13, 2012 - 01:33PM JST

    Despite this massive mistrust of TEPCO and J-Government information, in the internet age it's easy enough to get reliable opinions from independent sources of scientific information, which was exactly what I did. Nothing heroic about that - it's just common sense.

    Consequently, I stuck it out and was never unduly worried. Had full support from overseas family and friends once I had reassured them based on real, rational scientific evidence rather than misinformation and hearsay

    Exactly right. I'm actually more concerned about side effects from their use of ancient xray machines (it's like they never heard of digital xrays even though Japanese companies practically invented it) since I actually checked up on the data. Unless you lived within a half hour's drive of the plant there was no reason to leave immediately, far less if you lived in Tokyo where the buildings and pre-fukushima rains themselves give off more radiation.

  • 1

    Outta here

    Basroil,

    As l said earlier and will repeat, to attack and ridicule someone because they placed their own safety ahead of towing the national line in my book is a very weak and cowardly act. To label a person a flyjin merely because they left a country that lets face it has a history of turning on foreigners in a crisis, a nation that really doesn't cater for foreigners in a massive incident like Fukushima then that is the act of a weak group. The ones that place their own safety and that of their families (if they had one on Japan) over some misguided loyalty to a company are the brave ones.

    • Moderator

      All readers, please cut out the acrimony. We won't ask again.

  • -1

    Heda_Madness

    Agreed. But some - shamefully - orchestrated it themselves, like Keely Fujisawa in...wait for it....Nerima, Tokyo.

    Trapped in City of Ghosts: Tokyo http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/3473142/My-nightmare-trapped-in-post-tsunami-Tokyo-City-of-Ghosts.html

    She wasn't real. She's made up by the Sun newspaper. Her claims are so outlandish that anyone who was in Japan at the time would know that they were false. Sadly, under British law, there's nothing could be done to the Sun because it's impossible to prove that they'd made it up.

  • 0

    Heda_Madness

    As others have said, there was plenty of information around to enable people to make a safe and sensible decision on but the media, bloggers even people on here made it easy for people to leave (there was one who was constantly piping up about how it was dangerous in Osaka based on his Geiger counter readings, only weeks later mentioning it wasn't any higher than previous background measurements were). I understand why people with young families left because we know that even if it's safe for adults that it's always more dangerous for children. However others panicked. Whether that be because that's because of pressure from family, or media or whatever but there were no scientific reasons to leave. Were they right to leave? Were they wrong to go? There is no answer to that question. Because we all did what we felt was right.

  • 0

    Ramzel

    @Heda_Madness

    Thanks for sharing that article - whilst completely frivolous, I heard a handful of similar stories from hysteric people... they were the ones responsible for the misinformation as they just panicked and painted the worst picture imaginable. Despicable.

  • -1

    Okaji Masatoshi

    what is "flyjin"?

  • 0

    WilliB

    Heda Madness:

    " She wasn't real. She's made up by the Sun newspaper. Her claims are so outlandish that anyone who was in Japan at the time would know that they were false. Sadly, under British "

    I had to laugh about her SUV story though.... people lining up at the car dealership to buy 4WD`s to get out of Tokyo??? ... hilarious.

  • 0

    WilliB

    Heda Madness:

    " She wasn't real. She's made up by the Sun newspaper. Her claims are so outlandish that anyone who was in Japan at the time would know that they were false. Sadly, under British "

    I had to laugh about her SUV story though.... people lining up at the car dealership to buy 4WD`s to get out of Tokyo??? ... hilarious.

  • 6

    Xenomorph

    I left Japan due to an uneasy feeling in my 26th floor office that large quakes could arrive again at any moment, but primarily due to the whole mess that is Fukushima Diaichi. The true disaster is how this has and continues to be handled, and the lack of transparency to this day. I personally have no qualms about being called a Flyjin by people who are quite likely unknowingly eating traces of Cesium in their meals. I have a baby daughter and simply don't consider it a risk worth taking on her behalf.

  • -6

    Hikozaemon

    Xenomorph - indeed, I quite agree. In fact, living anywhere in Europe, which is covered in large amounts of Chernobyl Caesium, or anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere, with trace amounts of evenly spread Plutonium from nuclear testing would be a similar risk.

    For this reason, I know people genuinely concerned about safety who escape to the Southern Hemisphere.

    I think it is however pretty ignorant of anyone to "escape" Japan to go back to somewhere else in the already completely conatiminated northern hemisphere.

  • -1

    lucabrasi

    @Heda

    You're right. She was definitely a figment of someone's imagination. When The Sun first broke the story, they called her "Fujiyama"; not even a real Japanese surname....

  • 4

    serendipitous

    Now we live in a world where being able to get too much information (including the wrong kind) can confuse things even more. It's basically the same as having no information!

    Some left, some didn't. All made decisions based on what they knew (or thought they knew) at the time. Whoopy doo.

  • -4

    Ch1n4Sailor

    Because Anders lived on the outskirts of Tokyo, he was able to get home by foot, joining the hundreds of thousands of people who had the same idea.

    Who cares...? Obviously he didn't car that much about Japan, and sticking it out...

    This is NEWS...? You mean there's nothing else more interesting happening in Japan, than reading about some self embellishing ego-manic who thinks people really care about his after college kid experiences...?

    I'll bet there are a thousand other stories that are REAL news worthy.

    And who are these Fly-Jins...? They're people that didn't want to be in Japan in the first place, and bailed at the first chance.. I don't know anyone who left, that wanted to be here... The people I know that wanted to be here, never left, 100% stayed... And the people that didn't want to be here, even those living more than a hundred miles away from Sendai, 100% of those, when given the chance bailed...

    Now when Fuji erupts and there's truly no potable water, sanitation or food, in the greater Tokyo area, then you will see people leave, even Japanese...

  • 3

    YongYang

    @BlackLabel: It's not wrong, it's instinct. Move AWAY from danger. We were already gone by Sunday morning, even before Unit 3 blew and that was RED LABEL ALERT. Those gnashing and pawing and lashing out do protest too much we who left and returned do think. Do we call you sheepjin? Stayjin? No. YOUR choice? Cool. OUR choice. Cool.

  • -7

    Akemi Mokoto

    If I was him, I would have stayed right there in Japan. Screw the radiation, if I die I'd be happy to die in the country I love. I went to Sapporo for the winter last year and loved it. I'm going right back. I am going to be a citizen of Japan soon and when I am, unlike this fella, I won't be taking off when it gets too tough. I won't turn my back on the nation I love.

  • -2

    nigelboy

    “After 10 years, I find Japan work relationships to be a very funny, fragile thing,” he says. “At certain places I could have been more honest, but due to the industry I worked in and where I was specifically, I thought it best for my future career possibilities to have a Japanese style tatemae (official position) excuse that did not upset anyone or break the so-called harmony of the workplace.”

    Tatemae.

    “When I asked them the same question, they told me they had no plans due to the ongoing nuclear crisis, as they now felt Tokyo was not a safe place to raise children,” he says. “This was not said by just one person, but by multiple people that I caught up with during my visit to Japan.”

    Another Tatemae. Except poor old Stuart doesn't recognize this after all those year in Japan.

  • 4

    Yuina Archer

    I'm proud to be a flyjin. In my eyes, my family will always be more important than the approval of some random people who I'll never meet (and at this point, don't want to). The people I love aren't getting any younger and it was worth it to go see them. Live life how you want to and stop judging other people's!

  • 1

    gogogo

    I guess from the thumbs down fest most readers on here ran away.

  • 3

    y3chome

    So is that it? The ones who are whining about "FLYJIN" turning their back on Japan.... is it through some desire to prove "i love Japan more" and have it recognised somehow? I do find it baffling that some would be so insecure as to require some kind of recognition of their love of Japan. Many people who love their homes fled too - doesnt really mean they love it less at all, as them staying here would have achieved.......... what exactly? consuming more finite resources??

  • 6

    Cecil John Howell

    @ gogogo, Akemi, Ch1n4Sailor, moneyyen....and the rest of you toting the line, "I will not forgive those who left Japan in their time of need."

    Here is the thing, I was in Shinagawa station, with my wife (pregnant) and 2 kids, trying to get on a Shinkansen to Osaka (after deciding to stay but changing position when it was clear that TEPCO was clearly in over thier heads). **Shinagawa station was FILLED (2-3 hr lines), with JAPANESE FAMILIES doing the exact same thing we were, trying to get to safety. ** So the term "flyjin" from that moment and this moment applies also to the thousands of Japanese who left their homes in Tokyo (for any amount of time) due to fear for themselves or their families.

    Truth is, many of us (people living in Tokyo and calling it home) reacted the same, the only difference is how far and how long some of us went. If your Jika was Kyoto, you went (or at least sent your family) to Kyoto. If your jika was Nagoya, then you went or sent your family to Nagoya. If your jika was Holland, then you went or sent your family back to Holland. Kind of makes sense, right? So you can only logically (assuming that you are reasoning people and not here to simply berate others for making a decision different to yours) point a accusing finger at foreigners IF you can take that same finger and point it at your fellow Japanese.

    I have many Japanese friends (most have small kids) who although they are back in Tokyo, their families are (semi?) permanently living back in their hometown. The Dads, like warriors in battle, work in Tokyo and either commute or have cheap apartment. They do what they have to do, but wish they had means to do otherwise. They are also "flyjin" according to your definition.

    After the meltdown continued for a week, we could not afford to keep paying for hotels (which were fully booked by other JAPANESE refugees from Tokyo), nor did it make sense to go back to Tokyo when the core was still melting down, so we opted to go back to my home overses (no rent, hotel fees, low food cost, etc.) and wait until the melt-down was over. When the meltdown, then continued FOR WEEKS (!!?), my wife (Japanese) simply did not feel that it was safe for her to be eat the food NOT KNOWING IF IT WAS SAFE while she was pregnant. So we decided that we had to leave Japan.

    I flew to Shanghai and Beijing to scout out housing, living conditions, hospitals, etc. The Japanese real estate agents in both cities, said that there were many JAPANESE who were moving and buying properties to get of of Japan just like us. Again, the gaijin flyjin correlation myth smashed to bits.e being in Japan count for more than just a "present" vote.

  • 1

    Heda_Madness

    What's very interesting is how strongly the 'Flyjin' feel that they need to defend their actions. As I said before, we all made decisions based on the information available and some chose to put themselves first, whilst others chose to stay, help and get involved. But it seems that the 'Flyjins' feel the need to justify their actions.

  • -1

    Heda_Madness

    In the immediate aftermath of March 11, my first thoughts were how could I get involved to help. I did my bit. As did countless others who stayed.

  • 4

    Cecil John Howell

    Justification is not synonymous with explanation. If anything it is to point a finger at the hypocrisy taking place in this forum where Japanese nationals point an accusing foreigner at foreign nationals living in Japan for doing the same thing that many Japanese did. Again, you have no soap box to stand upon.

    "Flyjin" is, in essence, a term to describe a leech or parasite; a person who lives off the of the society but does not contribute to the betterment of that society (in proportion to what they have received); They take and run, right? This is your issue: "These foreigners come to Japan, live here, take from us, and leave when it is convenient!"

    Sadly this characterization is far more attributable to Japanese national who owe much more to this country than any foreigner. Whatever you would expect of a non-Japanese to contribute to Japan in times of crises or times of peace, Japanese people are doubly as liable. So please enlighten us with the "bit" that you did to get involve and help and how much you have contributed to Japanese society (in proportion to what you have been given by society).

    drum roll please!....

  • 0

    cleo

    point an accusing foreigner??

    Plenty of them around, anyway.

  • 0

    Heda_Madness

    You do have a very interesting way of looking at it. As I said, my thoughts were how I could help the humanitarian disaster that was happening in front of my eyes on TV and just along the coast from me. You seemed to think that the option was to look after yourself.

    We all have different ways of reacting to certain situations.

  • 3

    unequivocallyobservingjapan

    It is simply amazing that some would criticize others for being concerned for their own safety.

    Also, it is rather obviously biased and hypocritical that the ones who criticize non-japanese for their own safety possibly won't and or don't criticize the japanese who fled the nuke disaster and the Thai flooding.

    Anders did the right thing.

    I can't imagine this scenario.

    " HEY! LOOK OUT! THERE IS AN ERRANT 10 TON TRUCK HEADING RIGHT FOR YOU!"

    " Ah, no problem. I'll stand here and take it like a man. "

    Just can't see that happening. Yet that's what some think should happen.

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