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  • JT Editorial: Tokyo Metro Govt fuels “Flyjin” myth with flawed survey; yet other NJ who should know better buy into it

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on May 7th, 2012

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    Hi Blog. The Japan Times came out with an editorial last Sunday, entitled “Flyjin rather few,” which talked about a recent Tokyo Metropolitan Government survey of NJ in Tokyo, carried out to ascertain how many stayed or left after the disasters of March 2011 and beyond. The survey was trying to see if the “Flyjin” phenomenon really happened, and in doing so, the JT notes, potentially resuscitated the invective of Japanese media and xenophobic pundits branding NJ as deserters.

    The JT editorial is a doozy. Not only does it demonstrate that “the vast majority of foreigners in Tokyo stayed right where they were — in Tokyo“, it also castigates the whole thought process behind it:

    The survey did little to focus on what can be done to ensure that all residents of Tokyo be given clear information about conditions and constructive advice about what to do in the event a similar disaster strikes in Tokyo in the near future.”

    “The ‘flyjin’ issue, besides being a derogatory term, was always a tempest in a teapot. Surveys that find information to help improve communications are important, but it is the actions that follow that really count. The metropolitan government should prepare a means to give all residents of Tokyo, whatever nationality they are, trustworthy information during emergencies so safe, sensible decisions can be made.”

    Thank you.  Read the full JT May 6, 2012 Editorial at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/ed20120506a2.html

    In other words, the JT was easily able to see through the stupid science (e.g., the singling out of NJ, the small sample size, limiting it to Tokyo residents, the lack of clear aim or rigor in methodology, and ultimately its lack of conclusion: “The survey did little to better understand all Tokyoites’ complicated reactions to the crisis.”)

    Yet people who should know better, and who should be advocating for the needs of the NJ Communities in Japan, are already citing this survey as somehow indicative. Japan Probe, for example, states that this survey “confirms Post-3/11 “Flyjin” Phenomenon / 25 Percent of Tokyo’s Foreign Residents Fled“, and apparently “deals a major blow to certain bloggers who have claimed that the “flyjin” phenomenon was a myth.

    One of those certain bloggers indeedy would be me.  And I gave much harder and rigorous numbers from all of Japan and from the central government and for the entire year, clearly exposing the “Flyjin” phenomenon as myth in my April Japan Times column.  Hence, there’s no clearer interpretation of Japan Probe’s conclusion than the will to live in obtuse denial.

    But that’s what keeps hatenas hovering around my head.  Wouldn’t it be nicer if online resources like Japan Probe (which calls itself “The web’s no.1 source for Japan-related news and entertainment”) would work for the good of the NJ communities it purports to inform? It did do so once upon a time, for example, during the whole GAIJIN HANZAI mook debacle, where Japan Probe was instrumental in helping get the racist magazine on foreign crime off the shelves and the publisher bankrupted. But now, why try so hard, as the Japan Times Editorial above saliently notes, “to exaggerate the extent of foreigners leaving the country and impugn their motives for leaving“?

    What’s gained out of any of this, James at Japan Probe? The smug satisfaction that you’re somehow right? (Even though you’re not?) Or that you’re somehow “more dedicated to Japan” because you didn’t leave? (Assuming you are in Japan.  Who cares?  Moreover, what if, as I argued in my May 2011 JT column, people did leave Japan anyway?  It’s their life and their decision.  Why should you care anyway?)

    Why, in these days of seemingly-endless self-sacrifice in Japan, do people have to turn on themselves like this and just make things worse for everyone?  Especially themselves?  It’s a serious question.  So let me pose it.  Arudou Debito

    //////////////////////////////////////////

    Referential J media:

    25 percent of foreigners living in Tokyo left Japan temporarily after March 11 quake
    May 01, 2012 (Mainichi Japan)
    http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20120501p2a00m0na016000c.html

    Twenty five percent of foreigners living in Tokyo left the country temporarily following the March 11, 2011 disasters, according to a recent Tokyo Metropolitan Government survey.

    The survey was conducted between October and November 2011 as part of the metropolitan government’s efforts to re-examine the way information is delivered to foreigners residing in the capital in case of a disaster. It obtained responses from a total of 169 Tokyo-based foreigners.

    According to the survey, among those who had briefly returned to their home countries following the disasters, nearly half were foreigners who have lived in Japan for less than three years, hinting at the tendency that the shorter a foreigner had lived in Tokyo, the more likely they were to leave after the disasters.

    Among the most common reasons for those who had briefly left Japan were, “Strongly urged by families abroad,” and “Following embassies or employers’ instructions to leave temporarily.”

    Meanwhile, 56 percent of the respondents said they did not leave Tokyo following the disasters, while 5 percent had moved to the Kansai area in southern Japan or other places within the country.

    In terms of the means foreigners used to collect information related to the disasters, 75 percent said they relied on TV broadcasts, 37 percent used the Internet, and only 7 percent read newspapers at the time.

    Among the respondents, 44 percent said they used mobile phones and 28 percent used e-mail as a means to contact relatives and friends immediately after the disasters, though only 51 percent reported the attempt was successful.

    Among the free answer section of the survey, some opinions stressed the need for more accurate and faster information services for foreigners, one explicitly pointing at the fact that “A panic was caused at the time due to a lack of accurate information provided to foreigners overseas.”

    At the same time, the survey also hinted at the need for information provided in easy Japanese, based on the results that while 76 percent of the respondents said they could understand Japanese, when asked if they could understand the language if simple phrases are used, responses increased to 85 percent.

    The survey also showed that 41 percent of the respondents had never experienced earthquakes prior to moving to Japan.
    ENDS
    ==========================
    ORIGINAL JAPANESE:
    東日本大震災:都内外国人、25%が一時帰国 母国の家族ら心配−−都アンケ /東京
    毎日新聞 2012年05月01日 地方版
    http://mainichi.jp/area/tokyo/news/20120501ddlk13040130000c.html
    都内在住の外国人に東日本大震災時の行動を尋ねた都のアンケートで、25%が周囲の勧めなどで一時帰国していたことが分かった。地震の直後、家族や友人と連絡がうまく取れた人は半数にとどまり、母国の家族らの心配が大きかったことがうかがえる。
    調査は昨年10〜11月、災害時の外国人への情報提供のあり方を検討する資料にするために実施。169人から回答を得た。41%は日本に住むまで地震に遭った経験がなかった。
    一時帰国の理由は「母国の家族から強く言われた」「在日大使館や職場からの指示」などが多かった。「国内滞在3年未満」が帰国者のほぼ半数を占め、滞在が短い人ほど東京を離れる傾向があった。56%は震災後も転居や帰国をせず、5%は関西などに引っ越していた。
    地震の直後は44%が携帯電話、28%がメールで家族や友人と連絡を取ろうとしたが、「うまく連絡が取れた」と答えたのは51%。震災関連情報は75%がテレビ、37%がインターネットから得ており、新聞は7%にとどまった。自由意見では「海外の外国人に正確な情報が伝わっていないため、パニックが起きた」として、的確で迅速な情報公開を求める声もあった。
    ends

    /////////////////////////////////////

    UPDATE MAY 9, 2012:

    ‘Exodus’ of disaster-panicked foreigners from post-3.11 Japan doesn’t add up

    Mainichi Daily News May 9, 2012, courtesy of MS

    http://mainichi.jp/english/english/features/news/20120509p2a00m0na013000c.html

    Where have all the foreigners gone?

    One year ago — less than two months after the Great East Japan Earthquake and with the Fukushima nuclear crisis in flux — anyone walking the streets of Tokyo might very well have asked that question. With Japan in the teeth of disaster, it seemed as though the country’s foreign population had evaporated, an image reinforced by news footage of gargantuan queues at Narita International Airport check-in counters.

    Some 531,000 foreigners left Japan in the four weeks after the March 11, 2011 disaster, according to a Ministry of Justice announcement of April 15 that year. It was mass panic, a rush for the last lifeboats on the Titanic. The expatriate community had left Japan for dead.

    Or had they?

    Of those 531,000 people who left in the first month, about 302,000 had obtained re-entry permits, suggesting most were at least considering coming back. Furthermore, a look at foreign resident numbers and the job market for foreign talent months after the disaster show that the exodus was in the end more a trickle than a flood, and perhaps only an acceleration of pre-existing trends.

    Certainly in the days after the quake, with a nuclear crisis and all its potential horrors brewing at the Fukushima nuclear plant — about 225 kilometers from the heart of Tokyo — the first reaction of many was to get somewhere else in a hurry. Canadian Jason Yu, a senior IT manager at the Tokyo offices of a European investment bank, says more than half his predominantly foreign staff disappeared soon after the disaster.

    “We had around 120 (workers), and I’d say about 70 left,” he says. “It was really something, because one day they were there, and then they weren’t.”

    According to Yu, amid the hysteric coverage of the nuclear disaster in the Western media and a general sense that the government wasn’t telling the whole story, his firm allowed employees to leave if they didn’t feel safe and return when they were ready. Eventually, of the some 70 who had left — many with families — about 50 returned to their posts. However, “a lot of them moved on” to jobs outside Japan when their contracts ended that summer.

    “That was typical,” says Christine Wright, managing director of Hays Specialist Recruitment Japan, a recruiting firm that also does broad research on employment trends. “There was a bit of a knee-jerk reaction,” where lots of people left, if not Japan, then the Kanto area, and then came back.

    The rush for the exits was not, however, entirely illusory. Hays Japan saw a wave of openings in the “professional contractors” area, which includes IT and other positions where Japanese language proficiency is not necessarily a requirement. With so many foreigners in certain fields having absconded, Wright says some of Hays’ client firms expressed a preference for Japanese candidates with good English skills, as they were seen as more likely to stay long-term. Furthermore, “a lot of roles that can be (filled) by a non-Japanese speaker have been off-shored” to places like Hong Kong and Singapore, she adds.

    So how great was the exodus?

    “When you look at the statistics, the losses weren’t all that huge,” Nana Oishi, associate professor of sociology at Tokyo’s Sophia University, told the Mainichi. According to Oishi, the Ministry of Justice — which administers Japan’s immigration system — has not released how many of the half a million-plus foreigners who left Japan from March 12 to April 8, 2011 have returned. However, what the ministry will say is that the total foreign population in the country fell from 2,134,151 in December 2010, to 2,078,480 by December 2011 — a loss of 55,671 people, or just 2.6 percent.

    Moreover, the loss was not disproportionately greater than those of preceding years. Japan’s foreign population peaked at 2,217,426 in 2008 — the year of the Lehman Shock — and has been in decline ever since, dropping by 31,305 from the end of 2008 to the end of 2009, and by 51,970 in the same period in 2009-2010.

    A closer look at the foreign population by resident status furthermore shows that the decline was far from an across-the-board phenomenon, with some categories even posting significant gains. The number of technical trainees, for example, jumped to 141,994 in December 2011 from 100,008 at the same time the previous year — a 42 percent rise. Permanent residents went from 964,195 to 987,519, up 2.4 percent; investor and business manager visa holders from 10,908 to 11,778, an 8 percent climb; and teacher numbers inched up 0.9 percent, from 10,012 to 10,106.

    Even in categories that saw declining numbers, the justice ministry statistics show a pattern of losses predating 3.11 by years. “Specialist in humanities and international services” visa holder numbers peaked in 2009, and have since been drifting downwards by several hundred annually. The number of foreign engineers, which dropped by 8.5 percent to 42,634 between December 2010 and December 2011, had already fallen from a high of 52,273 in 2008 to 46,592 by the end of 2010. Intra-company transferee numbers — those posted to Japan by their firms — have also been declining since 2008.

    What’s more, according to justice ministry statistics, the inflow of foreign workers has also been in annual decline since a 2004 peak of about 158,900, dropping to some 52,500 by 2010.

    In other words, not all the blame for even the modest drop in the foreign population can be put on disaster panic, as the overall numbers — and those in certain professional categories in particular — had been in decline for some time.

    What the earthquake and the nuclear crisis have done, according to Oishi, is accelerate pre-existing trends. First of all, Oishi and Wright point out, off-shoring of back-office and non-Japanese speaking jobs was already in progress when the disaster hit. Furthermore, there was already employee attrition in some sectors for reasons completely divorced from the disaster. As Jason Yu points out, there were already staff cuts and transfers going on at the investment bank where he works before 3.11 because “it was not a good year” financially, “so you can’t say people left just because of the earthquake.”

    Even the outflow of foreigners with children, which Yu says accounted for a significant portion of those who left his firm, was not all down to the disasters, according to Oishi.

    “When the earthquake happened, that trend accelerated because of the radiation issue,” she says, but she points out that the departure of skilled foreign workers with kids, too, was a pre-existing trend. In a paper published on April 13 in the journal American Behavioral Scientist, Oishi points out that concerns over the quality of Japanese public education and the high cost of international schools — which do not receive government funding — was already pushing skilled foreigners with families out of the country.

    The fear and the airport lines in the weeks after the earthquake and meltdowns were real. Over the long term, however, it can be said that there was no “exodus” of foreigners, but rather a smaller-scale reshuffle of certain types of foreign residents that was sped up by 3.11. “You can’t really say the quake chased away skilled workers,” says Oishi.

    In fact, asked if the disasters had impacted firms’ drive to internationalize their workforces, Hays’ Christine Wright said, “One year on, no.”

    According to Wright, Hays Japan’s business in foreign talent has jumped to “record levels. We’ve got record levels of vacancies, record levels of placements, so our business is performing at the best it’s performed” in the firm’s 11 years in Japan.

    Furthermore, Wright says that the initial post-quake preference for Japanese candidates has weakened and “the market for foreign talent in the future … will continue to increase,” with fluent bilinguals and those capable of filling leadership positions particularly in demand.

    The image of foreigners streaming out of Japan in March and April 2011 was a strong one. Wright says that she was thanked by Japanese associates for staying, and that her business relationships with some clients even improved when it became clear she would not be absconding.

    More than a year on, however, government statistics and employment trends show that the exodus was if not entirely imaginary then at least ephemeral. The reality is, the foreign population remains in the millions, job openings for foreigners and foreigners hoping to fill them remain plentiful, and Japan remains a major destination among the globally mobile. (By Robert Sakai-Irvine, Staff Writer)
    ENDS

    52 Responses to “JT Editorial: Tokyo Metro Govt fuels “Flyjin” myth with flawed survey; yet other NJ who should know better buy into it”

    1. Colin Doyle Says:

      One thing which would cast a bit of perspective would be a study on how many Kanto residents *as a whole* left Tokyo/Kanto in the wake of the quake/tsunami/meltdown. In the aftermath of the quake, a student of mine in the hotel business remarked that there wasn’t a hotel room available in all of Osaka: most of the rooms were taken by mothers and wives (who usually decide these things in Japanese families)in town to find schools for their kids to transfer to or homes to move into in the Kansai area. This might have been a temporary panic and they all later returned to Kanto, or there might actually have been a noticeable population shift from Kanto to Kansai int he past year. We might have to wait until the next census to find out, but meanwhile, the Tokyo government can avoid the issue by rabbiting on about flyjin.

    2. Johnny Says:

      I doubt to be honest that the Tokyo metropolitan government is happy with large numbers of foreign expatriates leaving, even if the numbers are less than what was insinuated.

      A lot of these guys earn really big money, and as a result pay a heck of a lot of tax. I suspect this is what Blinky and company were concerned about.

      I don’t have a source unfortunately, but for example in Minato-ku, foreign nationals were 10% of the population but paid 20% of the residence tax.

    3. Flyjin Says:

      Well, I am living proof that there are flyjin, but I do not quite fit into the demographic alleged in the article as I had been in Japan alot longer than 3 years.

      This is probably why my J-boss scolded me for leaving, as “I had been in Japan such a long time and was now deserting”.

      So the longer you stay in Japan, the more “giri” (obligation) to Japan you incur?

      However in my case I was single,in an not particularly secure job, with no J-family.I had noticed an employment trend even before 3/11 which should have been blindingly obvious; permanent residents and those with J families tend to stay in Japan/are more “reliable” for work, or “trapped” might be another way of looking at it.

      It would be interesting if there were figures of how many who stayed were married,with kids, and how many were single.

    4. Jim Di Griz Says:

      Great post Debito!
      I think the J-interest in the NJ who left is absolutely all about diverting attention from the Japanese who left Kanto. It’s being used by the J-media to reinforce ideas of ‘we Japanese’. It is a pity that some NJ couldn’t see this, and reacted by being by far the most vocal critics of those who left. What reward did they hope to get for that?

      – Some kind of bragging rights, I guess. The irony is that they assume that all the bad-mouthing they do about their fellow NJ won’t tar them as well.

    5. DeBourca Says:

      @Flyjin,

      IMO, you should be asking for relocation money off the J Government. In the wake of the Fukushima meltdown, we know that the government were considering the evacuation of Tokyo. By leaving (at their own expense) the “Flyjin” did Japan a huge favour by taking the stress off the country (in terms of not using power/public utilities etc), so tell your ex boss to shove it and ask him for your airfare on behalf of the Japanese people.

    6. Flyjin Says:

      Jim, the NJs bad mouthing the NJs who left are trying to prove their loyalty to the Japanese empire, and basically say “I am a good gaijin, I didnt desert you”.

      Like the Irishman in “Gangs of New York” who joins the anti-Irish gang and beats on other minorities whom he sees even lower down in the pecking order.
      “Don’t mind him, he used to be an Irishman (gaijin)”

      Looking back at my 2 decades in Japan, one of the nastier aspects of it was how other NJs you meet just saw you as competition, and there was a lot of back-stabbing going on for presumably an ever-shrinking piece of the pie, or more aptly
      “Crumbs from the rich Japanese table” that they may deign to give to the NJ pets when they are good!

    7. md Says:

      Isn’t Japan Probe notorious for “articles” like this. Every other blog entry is about how great (somethingJapanese) and how bad/untrustworthy/stupid/etc (somethingnotJapanese/someonecriticalofJapan) is. I know the type all too well, best to ignore them and not give their blog any of your precious time and them any hits.

      – Point taken. I still wonder what made James flip from his previous pro-NJ-activism bent, though.

    8. Flyjin Says:

      @ Debito, above. Perhaps James has put down roots, thrown in his lot with, decided to make Japan his permanent home and sees some potential in promoting the Japan brand via Japan Probe? Perhaps he felt his pro NJ activism was not making him any money?

    9. Johnny Says:

      Japan Probe seems to be a bit of a haven these days for the Tepido Apologist crowd with a number of them posting there, the diminutive Ken Yasumoto-Nicolson amongst them.

    10. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @Flyjin #8
      But is the flag-waving Japan Probe making him any money? I think that Hoofin did an analysis of this recently, and concluded;No.
      http://hoofin.wordpress.com/2012/04/page/27/

      @Debito,
      As far as I can see, all the regulars at the stalker-site have been posting regularly over at Japan Probe for the last couple of years. Maybe he was afraid of incurring their wrath, or maybe he is one of the (apparently many) NJ who envy what they perceive to be as your position as ‘mouth-piece for NJ in Japan’. I think that a lot of the expat bloggers have a less than secret desire to be some state-side ‘man in Japan’ for a news show or ‘cool’ lifestyle magazine (Hoofin really has made better efforts to understand the NJ bloggosphere than I have).
      Or maybe James just is addicted to all the shallow ‘wahs!’ he gets when he explains to Japanese people the pro-Japan site he runs. What is more interesting about Japan Probe is the growing list of bloggers who are critical (in even small ways) of Japan, who are banned from commenting.

    11. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @ MD #7

      Personally, I much prefer to follow a site dedicated to not sugar-coating Japan’s problems. I think it’s much better follow a blog where EVERY entry is about how bad Japan is.
      I don’t need to waste my time reading about Japan’s ‘nice’ things. I did all that 12 years ago when I was a tourist with no investment in the country.

    12. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @ Colin Doyle #1

      But last month the Japanese Office of National Statistics was quoted in the Japan Times as saying that in March/April 2011 a NET 25,000 Japanese left Japan. I quoted it on my facebook as ‘逃げる日本人’ (nigeru nihonjin), and I posted it on a Debito.org thread as well. I can’t find the JT page now.

    13. Smaug Says:

      Frankly, I don’t know what the big deal is. A NJ leaving Japan after a nasty earthquake and tsunami, in the middle of a nuclear meltdown, blackouts, food and fuel hard to come by, reliable information scarce, embassies packing up and heading for Osaka, pressure from home to gtfo (the international media made a huge fuss about these things), and the end of the school year to boot. Why not? Do NJ have some kind of obligation to stick around when there is a perceived danger? Obviously someone has a vested interest in trying to make NJ look bad.

    14. Loverilakkuma Says:

      Mass media’s tendency to invent a language for the creation of demagogue is a malaise inflicting the system of deliberate democracy today. The inability to maintain a high standard in social scientific research—and the ignorance of such ineptitude— is a clear reflection on J-media’s low-standard of professional journalism. Too bad there are very few local journalists in the J-media who can investigate the problems that affect the foundations of public goods for both Japanese and NJ. I know there are some sapient Japanese journalists—such as Takashi Tachibana, Makoto Kanie, Hiroko Tabuchi—, but most of these folks are working as a freelance or a correspondent of foreign media.

    15. Flyjin Says:

      I was once interviewed by an NJ journalist working for the English language Asashi newspaper. I had won a competition without the judges figuring out I was an NJ. As soon as they did, things changed and the prize was not awarded as I was “not what they were looking for”.

      All I said to the reporter was “I think they thought I was Japanese!” and that was enough for him to reach over, switch his recorder off, and say “You do realize if you say anything negative about Japan I cannot sell this story”. It was in 1998.

      There was an Aussie lady called Donna who was running her own business in Japan hiring foreigners, who refused to have any written contracts “because its not the Japanese way”. Needless to say, there were disputes over pay and what had been agreed, etc. and again she trotted out the “You are not actiing in an appropriate manner for Japan, by questioning the pay check”.

      So, some NJs act more Japanese than the Japanese for economic survival and to exploit other NJs.What a bunch of desperate apologists.

      And they are wrong about the Japanese way, too.

    16. Jiong Says:

      @ Flyjin: What was the competition?

    17. Loverilakkuma Says:

      @Flyjin, #15

      “You are not actiing in an appropriate manner for Japan, by questioning the pay check.”

      Yes, yes. This is a sort of rhetoric many Japanophiles deploy in defense of a ‘poor, pathetic’ state of J-land from ‘rogue’ assailants, while turning a blind eye on real problems that affect the general public. In my impression, I see some NJ who takes sides with Team-J and apologist gangs more annoying than native Japanese who are political conservatives or pro-LDP. I’m gonna be very pissed if I gets reprimanded by NJ or Japanophile for criticizing cultural and socio-political system of J-land. How dare could these ignorant toadies give me a piece of mind about J-land, a country place I was born and raised, and have lived for +20 years as a citizen? They are a part of the reason for misrepresentation of Japan.

      – Now imagine how frustrating it is for the NJ (or naturalized J) who don’t have the “roots rights” of, say, birth or duration? They have less of a leg to stand on. And yet they get dissed (sometimes even stalked) by obsessives including unsupportive NJ. It’s all about power, and Apologism is a facile way for NJ to claim a shred of power for oneself by deferring to an imagined locus of power. The irony is is that Apologism is self-defeating, since those NJ who defend the disempowering and disenfranchisement of NJ are ultimately only hurting themselves.

    18. MD Says:

      Spot on analysis. Thanks. Worst of all, you find apologists lecturing you on Japan and correct behaviour not only in but also outside of Japan. As I said in #7 best to ignore them, resistance is in fact usually futile, as their convictions often border religious zeal …

    19. Mark Hunter Says:

      Debito. No more need be said about apologists. How succinct. Why they don’t get it is absolutely mind boggling.

    20. debito Says:

      UPDATE MAY 9, 2012:

      ‘Exodus’ of disaster-panicked foreigners from post-3.11 Japan doesn’t add up

      Mainichi Daily News May 9, 2012, courtesy of MS

      http://mainichi.jp/english/english/features/news/20120509p2a00m0na013000c.html

      Where have all the foreigners gone?

      One year ago — less than two months after the Great East Japan Earthquake and with the Fukushima nuclear crisis in flux — anyone walking the streets of Tokyo might very well have asked that question. With Japan in the teeth of disaster, it seemed as though the country’s foreign population had evaporated, an image reinforced by news footage of gargantuan queues at Narita International Airport check-in counters.

      Some 531,000 foreigners left Japan in the four weeks after the March 11, 2011 disaster, according to a Ministry of Justice announcement of April 15 that year. It was mass panic, a rush for the last lifeboats on the Titanic. The expatriate community had left Japan for dead.

      Or had they?

      Of those 531,000 people who left in the first month, about 302,000 had obtained re-entry permits, suggesting most were at least considering coming back. Furthermore, a look at foreign resident numbers and the job market for foreign talent months after the disaster show that the exodus was in the end more a trickle than a flood, and perhaps only an acceleration of pre-existing trends.

      Certainly in the days after the quake, with a nuclear crisis and all its potential horrors brewing at the Fukushima nuclear plant — about 225 kilometers from the heart of Tokyo — the first reaction of many was to get somewhere else in a hurry. Canadian Jason Yu, a senior IT manager at the Tokyo offices of a European investment bank, says more than half his predominantly foreign staff disappeared soon after the disaster.

      “We had around 120 (workers), and I’d say about 70 left,” he says. “It was really something, because one day they were there, and then they weren’t.”

      According to Yu, amid the hysteric coverage of the nuclear disaster in the Western media and a general sense that the government wasn’t telling the whole story, his firm allowed employees to leave if they didn’t feel safe and return when they were ready. Eventually, of the some 70 who had left — many with families — about 50 returned to their posts. However, “a lot of them moved on” to jobs outside Japan when their contracts ended that summer.

      “That was typical,” says Christine Wright, managing director of Hays Specialist Recruitment Japan, a recruiting firm that also does broad research on employment trends. “There was a bit of a knee-jerk reaction,” where lots of people left, if not Japan, then the Kanto area, and then came back.

      The rush for the exits was not, however, entirely illusory. Hays Japan saw a wave of openings in the “professional contractors” area, which includes IT and other positions where Japanese language proficiency is not necessarily a requirement. With so many foreigners in certain fields having absconded, Wright says some of Hays’ client firms expressed a preference for Japanese candidates with good English skills, as they were seen as more likely to stay long-term. Furthermore, “a lot of roles that can be (filled) by a non-Japanese speaker have been off-shored” to places like Hong Kong and Singapore, she adds.

      So how great was the exodus?

      “When you look at the statistics, the losses weren’t all that huge,” Nana Oishi, associate professor of sociology at Tokyo’s Sophia University, told the Mainichi. According to Oishi, the Ministry of Justice — which administers Japan’s immigration system — has not released how many of the half a million-plus foreigners who left Japan from March 12 to April 8, 2011 have returned. However, what the ministry will say is that the total foreign population in the country fell from 2,134,151 in December 2010, to 2,078,480 by December 2011 — a loss of 55,671 people, or just 2.6 percent.

      Moreover, the loss was not disproportionately greater than those of preceding years. Japan’s foreign population peaked at 2,217,426 in 2008 — the year of the Lehman Shock — and has been in decline ever since, dropping by 31,305 from the end of 2008 to the end of 2009, and by 51,970 in the same period in 2009-2010.

      A closer look at the foreign population by resident status furthermore shows that the decline was far from an across-the-board phenomenon, with some categories even posting significant gains. The number of technical trainees, for example, jumped to 141,994 in December 2011 from 100,008 at the same time the previous year — a 42 percent rise. Permanent residents went from 964,195 to 987,519, up 2.4 percent; investor and business manager visa holders from 10,908 to 11,778, an 8 percent climb; and teacher numbers inched up 0.9 percent, from 10,012 to 10,106.

      Even in categories that saw declining numbers, the justice ministry statistics show a pattern of losses predating 3.11 by years. “Specialist in humanities and international services” visa holder numbers peaked in 2009, and have since been drifting downwards by several hundred annually. The number of foreign engineers, which dropped by 8.5 percent to 42,634 between December 2010 and December 2011, had already fallen from a high of 52,273 in 2008 to 46,592 by the end of 2010. Intra-company transferee numbers — those posted to Japan by their firms — have also been declining since 2008.

      What’s more, according to justice ministry statistics, the inflow of foreign workers has also been in annual decline since a 2004 peak of about 158,900, dropping to some 52,500 by 2010.

      In other words, not all the blame for even the modest drop in the foreign population can be put on disaster panic, as the overall numbers — and those in certain professional categories in particular — had been in decline for some time.

      What the earthquake and the nuclear crisis have done, according to Oishi, is accelerate pre-existing trends. First of all, Oishi and Wright point out, off-shoring of back-office and non-Japanese speaking jobs was already in progress when the disaster hit. Furthermore, there was already employee attrition in some sectors for reasons completely divorced from the disaster. As Jason Yu points out, there were already staff cuts and transfers going on at the investment bank where he works before 3.11 because “it was not a good year” financially, “so you can’t say people left just because of the earthquake.”

      Even the outflow of foreigners with children, which Yu says accounted for a significant portion of those who left his firm, was not all down to the disasters, according to Oishi.

      “When the earthquake happened, that trend accelerated because of the radiation issue,” she says, but she points out that the departure of skilled foreign workers with kids, too, was a pre-existing trend. In a paper published on April 13 in the journal American Behavioral Scientist, Oishi points out that concerns over the quality of Japanese public education and the high cost of international schools — which do not receive government funding — was already pushing skilled foreigners with families out of the country.

      The fear and the airport lines in the weeks after the earthquake and meltdowns were real. Over the long term, however, it can be said that there was no “exodus” of foreigners, but rather a smaller-scale reshuffle of certain types of foreign residents that was sped up by 3.11. “You can’t really say the quake chased away skilled workers,” says Oishi.

      In fact, asked if the disasters had impacted firms’ drive to internationalize their workforces, Hays’ Christine Wright said, “One year on, no.”

      According to Wright, Hays Japan’s business in foreign talent has jumped to “record levels. We’ve got record levels of vacancies, record levels of placements, so our business is performing at the best it’s performed” in the firm’s 11 years in Japan.

      Furthermore, Wright says that the initial post-quake preference for Japanese candidates has weakened and “the market for foreign talent in the future … will continue to increase,” with fluent bilinguals and those capable of filling leadership positions particularly in demand.

      The image of foreigners streaming out of Japan in March and April 2011 was a strong one. Wright says that she was thanked by Japanese associates for staying, and that her business relationships with some clients even improved when it became clear she would not be absconding.

      More than a year on, however, government statistics and employment trends show that the exodus was if not entirely imaginary then at least ephemeral. The reality is, the foreign population remains in the millions, job openings for foreigners and foreigners hoping to fill them remain plentiful, and Japan remains a major destination among the globally mobile. (By Robert Sakai-Irvine, Staff Writer)
      ENDS

    21. Eric C Says:

      Hi Debito,

      I posted this on another “flyjin” thread several weeks ago, but I think it bears repeating here:

      Let’s leave aside for a moment the question of whether a higher percentage of non-Japanese fled Tohoku or Kanto than Japanese did. Or, actually, let’s assume, for the sake of argument that NJ fled in higher numbers. Maybe this tells us more about the quality of information they had access to than their “loyalty to Japan” or alleged lack thereof. Let’s face it: even now, most typical Japanese are woefully under-informed about the dangers of nuclear power and the real situation in Fukushima and parts nearby.

      In contrast, any number of English-language media outlets broadcast good, accurate information almost from the word go. Think of the work done by the New York Times and Greenpeace, as well as sites like Enenews.com. As evidence for the poor quality of the news most Japanese receive, I would offer all of the articles you mention deriding NJ as “flyjin.” I mean, in a country where the news media is even willing to censor the comments of the Emperor on the danger of nuclear power, can you possibly expect citizens to be well-informed? Those dubbed “flyjin” should wear the epithet as a badge of honor. It should be seen as a mark of being able to distill the truth from masses of misinformation and outright propaganda, as well as a sensible willingness to put the health and safety of one’s family before loyalty to a country that in no way, shape or form returns that loyalty.

      Also, I do believe that a certain percentage of NJ did actually leave Japan after 311, and not just temporarily, but for good. I am sure that many of those did not even live anywhere near the danger zones. This was not out of some fickle disloyalty to the country. Rather, I suspect it was because 311 was a kind of last straw, a kind of “aha” moment (“目からうろこが落ちた”). They saw how the government handled (actually, mishandled) the situation and how few changes were made to the system in the months that followed and they said, “Forget it. This place is screwed.”

      The Stockholm-syndrome suffering NJ who derided those NJ who chose to briefly or permanently leave Japan in the wake of 311 were mostly venting their own frustration at their inability to do the same (either for fear of losing their jobs or simply not having the guts to make a move). As for those Japanese who took the opportunity to bash NJ in the aftermath of 311, well, they should be aware that hotels in Kansai and other parts of Japan, as well as other parts of Asia, were filled with wealthy Japanese fleeing Kanto and Tohoku. And, let’s not forget one hugely important fact (which the Emperor nobly pointed out in his speech about 311): Non-Japanese and foreign countries provided huge assistance to Japan after 311. In fact, I’d bet my entire fortune (not a great sum, mind you) that a higher percentage of NJ residents of Japan actually went up to Tohoku and volunteered in the cleanup than did Japanese citizens.

      Let’s face it: there will always be a certain percentage of Japanese who will look upon NJ with suspicion, disdain and even hatred, and there will always be a certain percentage of NJ who will suffer Stockholm syndrome and start adopting the attitudes of these racist Japanese. They are, as I’ve said elsewhere, pets who start to resemble their owners.

    22. Flyjin Says:

      Eric C, Yes I do wear this moniker as a badge of honor. Or as living proof that if Japan does not make staying worth my while, then why should I stay? Japan is just one Asian country of many. A lot of the things that may have made it a bit of a special experience have dwindled, as I will expand on below.

      I was told countless times I am gaijin so naturally I went back to “gaikoku” when the last straw came, with earthquakes every 20 minutes in a damaged building, an NJ partner and place outside Japan to go, and a caesium water supply and no mineral water left in the shops, I thought “screw this”. Indeed, a final straw movement.

      Things in Japan had kind of being winding down for some years anyway. All the quirky, interesting shops and restaurants had closed to be replaced by chain stores in some kind of horrible rationalization process. Salaries were going down but rents were not. Hay fever worsening every Spring.People were working harder, and socializing less, all making for a much duller place outside of work. It even seems more monolingual than in the 90s.

      I sitll work with Japanese, helping them outside Japan. There are a lot of them here! Are they flyjin?

    23. Becky Says:

      Eric C. #21, what a great post! I only wish there was a ratings system on this thread, so that I could give you 5 stars. I live in the Kansai region, and teach at a community college. Several of my students, mainly women, dropped out because of having to accommodate relatives fleeing from northern Japan. Many of them now are still sending food, water and even playground equipment to the relatives who chose to return to Kanto/Tohoku (and those relatives really had no choice but to return, because that’s where their livelihoods are). And your line about the “last straw” effect really rings true, too. Frankly speaking, a lot of NJ around me did leave Japan, temporarily or otherwise. In some cases it was because their companies yanked them out and sent them to Seoul or Singapore. And in other cases it was because it was because it was blindingly obvious that the J-government didn’t know what the hell it was doing, or even worse, was lying through its teeth about the situation. But in certain cases, it was that they saw the writing on the wall, and figured that they’d better get out while they could. Sensibly, many of them sent their wives and children back first, and stayed on to tie up the loose ends. I am filled with admiration for those men.

      None of them left Japan because they wanted to. Many of them genuinely loved Japan. But just loving someone doesn’t mean you have to put with being treated like shit … and that’s how Japan treats many of its citizens, both Japanese and otherwise.

      Believe me, a lot of Japanese people would give anything to have a foreign passport. If you have one, use it!

    24. Becky Says:

      Flyjin#22, my friend’s Japanese husband was working in Tennessee on September 11, 2001. His company sent him home at the request of his panicked family, and that response was typical. Another friend’s daughter was working in Auckland, New Zealand, when the Christchurch earthquake hit last year. According to her, about 90% of travel reservations from Japan were cancelled in the wake of the quake, and untold numbers of Japanese residents decided to head for home (some of them ended up in a worse situation in Tohoku a month or so later). The so-called “flyjin” phenomenon is perfectly normal. People who can leave will do so, in order to protect their loved ones. And those who can’t leave (for lack or money, connections, or a navy-blue passport) will stay and try mightily to justify their reasons for doing so. I can’t blame either side for doing the best they can at the worst of times.

    25. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @ Eric C #21

      I agree with the Stockholm Syndrome paradigm.
      In a way, it bears similarities to some wives who are victims of DV, yet will defend their ‘man’ from criticism to the last. As victims, they have reached the point where ‘it felt like a kiss’.

      PS, Nice to see you posting.

    26. Doug Says:

      Jim (#25)

      I think a comparison to victims of Domestic Violence is way over the top. Jim, are you still in Japan? Therefore do you suffer from Stockholm Syndrome or should you be compared to a victim of domestic violence.

      I have a good friend who was a victim of domestic violence. You should talk to her and share your comparison with her….I think you would find your comparison is beyond ridiculous and she would take a great deal of offense at the comparison.

      Personally I do not deride or care if someone chose to stay in Japan or leave. It is a personal decision and should be respected. For those that left responsibly (gave notice to employers, etc.) my hats off to you for doing what you thought was the right thing. As Becky said above…for those that sent families home and followed…very admirable if you were doing what you did in the belief it would protect your family. I hope things work out well wherever you end up. What is not acceptable are the people that left jobs without even bothering to notify their companies (no phone call, anything).

      For those that are staying and deriding the country (beyond reasonable complaints)….I guess if you are not a citizen why stay? Although I disagree with the recent post about it being time to give up on Japan, I respect the author for writing the post and acting on it.

      Maybe some people are stuck here due to family situations..I do not know.

      Debito-san pursuing the onsen in Otaru (especially when they wanted to admit one child and deny entry to the other) was a very righteous cause. Denial of access to rental property is another one. The Gaijin Crime magazine…fingerprinting at every entry…yes…good issues. But it seems this site is becoming a bit more polarized and I am not sure I agree with the microagression post or with this one.

      In post 21, Eric says “Let’s face it: there will always be a certain percentage of Japanese who will look upon NJ with suspicion, disdain and even hatred”

      I travel all over Japan for my work and I agree but I believe this percentage is relatively small.

      “… and there will always be a certain percentage of NJ who will suffer Stockholm syndrome and start adopting the attitudes of these racist Japanese. They are, as I’ve said elsewhere, pets who start to resemble their owners…”

      If you could expand this thought a bit more I would be interested to hear what you have to say…basically are you only referring to foreigners in Japan that criticize other foreigners? Or is your scope beyond that.

      I guess I could claim that I am feeling like a victim of “microagressions” while reading some of the posts here….

    27. Becky Says:

      Doug#26, you really need to look up the most recent definitions of DV. It doesn’t always involve physical violence. As for me, if I was married to a man who was poisoning our children (with, say, contaminated food) and lying about it, and insisting that I was over-reacting and/or imagining things whenever I confronted him? Yes, I would call that a form of DV. And I would leave. I wouldn’t stick around and make excuses for his behaviour.

      Some of the so-called “flyjins” did indeed behave irresponsibly, leaving employers in the lurch. As I mentioned #23, it’s not unique to NJ in Japan.

    28. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @ Doug #26

      I was in no way attempting to denigrate victims of DV. Please look at what I said;
      ‘it bears similarities to some wives who are victims of DV’.
      Key words are ‘similarities’, and ‘some’.
      It’s called an analogy, not a comparison. I am using it in an attempt to demonstrate that sometimes people defend situations that are abusing them. Like the apologists.

      As for;
      ‘For those that are staying and deriding the country (beyond reasonable complaints)’
      ‘reasonable complaints’? What’s that? Who has the power to define that and impose it on every NJ in the country?

    29. Eric C Says:

      @ Jim Di Griz #25,

      Thanks for the kind words. I am a keen reader of your posts and agree with your comments. Please keep up the good fight! And please keep posting!

    30. john k Says:

      The papers/authorities, rather than focus an issue of “how many left and how many are still here” referring to NJs etc…why not, just for a laugh eh, why not take a survey of how many people lived and worked in Fukushima before the Nuke melt down and how many are still there. But hey that is called serious reporting and not letting a good story get in the way of facts eh??

      Stop subverting the issue.

      How many citizens can actually get back to their homes and rebuild their lives? I suspect it is not that high, mixed with many who have chosen not to return. Again would be nice to see some objective independent statistics on this and report this!!

      The crime here, is not the oh…look the NJs are leaving (or not as proven to be), but what the heck is actually being down for those whom had no choice but to leave (or in many cases odered to). Where are they now?

      Some real human perspective is required in this disaster. Papers and TV news reports on looking at “flygin” NJs simply saves having to report hard facts and serious social issues that really exist now. With little appetite for reporting the real human cost to Japanese (and any NJs if they are affected) the silly peripheral reports and headlines shall continue.

      Honestly, who really gives a fly fu*k if a NJ left…or who gives a fu*k if a local left and not returned?…any difference?? Point being who is really looking out for the poor bastards unable to return (by decree!!) and WHY!!…and make a real effort to do something about it rather than pathetic inflammatory polemic headlines about NJs.

    31. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @ John K #30

      I agree, but I think there are two reasons why the reporting is so bad.
      1. The press club journalists don’t want to press the issue and ask the hard questions in case they and their newspaper/TV station are ‘punished’ by not being given further interviews. That and the fact that so many news organizations are in bed with the political parties financially. One hand scratches the other….
      2. Very Japanese, but since giving or accepting criticism is not a skill most Japanese can employ without simply reverting to/being accused of making a personal attack, introspection is direly lacking in Japan. Far easier to play the victim, preserve national pride, reinforce national identity, and bang on about how ‘the gaijin let us down’. Wrong. The Japanese have let themselves down (along with maybe the Canadians, and West Coast Americans OR Koreans and Chinese affected by all that radioactive water TEPCO has dumped into the pacific).

    32. flyjin Says:

      Hey Becky, I left “irresponsibly” leaving my almighty, “wonderful”, “caring” employer in the lurch. And I am proud I did, I saved one other person. The boss was deeply in denial about any possible threat (except the threat to his business).

      Under Japanese custom and frequent work contract, in the case of “Force Majeure” such as earthquakes, you will not be paid for same day cancellations. Capitalism cuts both ways, I am afraid. Due to “force majeure” no notice is necessary! Oh dear, poor, Kowaiso J-corporation!

      When it comes to nuclear contamination, there is no “responsible” course of action but to leave. All other concerns are petty considerations. You want loyalty to a corporation? I want my 1. Japanese bonus 2.Shakai hoken 3.Pension 4. Possibly an option to buy shares 5. To be treated with the respect I earned time and time again.

      As I got none of the above and was treated as disposable labor or part of a revolving door labor phenomenon, I can leave just like that! Tough. You treat employees like part timers, they act like part timers. You pay peanuts, you get monkeys!

      Were you expecting one month”s written notice or even for me to find and train a replacement? Come on.

      F`cough. And now I gotta fly…

    33. Doug Says:

      @Flyjin (#32)

      I am not sure what type of job you had but most nearly all foreigners I know in Japan have at least items 1 through 3 on your list, many have item 5. Very few have item 4.

      Also, I do not know your line of work, teaching? If this is the norm in the English teaching profession it sucks. If this is the way your employer treated you, I would totally agree with you and would understand why you would not feel loyalty to your employer. As you alluded to in your earlier post, perhaps the events of 3/11 just sped up the inevitible. Given the revelations in your last post (#32) I would do the same if I was in your situation and felt my health or personal safety was being threatened. On the other hand I run a business and offer all of my employees Items 1~3 and 5 on your list (and some Item 4) and I would be pissed if they left without giving some kind of notice.

      Finally, I do not think anyone mentioned you should find and train a replacement, nor was a set time frame for giving notice mentioned. I heard of several people that left and gave notice after the fact….which sucks.

      @Jim (#28) – Yes I stated ‘For those that are staying and deriding the country (beyond reasonable complaints)’ – You replied “‘reasonable complaints’? What’s that? Who has the power to define that and impose it on every NJ in the country?” – well heck, I do (Just kidding)

      Let me add a further clarification – When I come across friends or acquaintances that constantly complain about Japan with nothing positive to say (perhaps that would have been a better way to phrase my statement), yes…I do ask “Why do you stay?” – I think it is a logical question…why stay somewhere you do not like? Why not go where you will be happier and enjoy your life more? I do know some people that are in situations where they cannot leave (due to family, etc.) – and yeah, that is a shame.

      Maybe you have positive things to say about Japan (and they do not show up on this blog) but I do not know you and from reading your posts it seems you strongly dislike Japan (correct me if I am wrong). If you can, why not try somewhere else that you might like better and improve your quality of life? If you are stuck here due to kids, family, whatever I hope you find a way to find a situation that suits you…that is all.

      @Becky – Yes I do understand that DV also has many psychological aspects. I still do not think the analogy is appropriate. Also, you stated, “Believe me, a lot of Japanese people would give anything to have a foreign passport. If you have one, use it!”

      So I take it that your advice is that all foreigners should leave? It would be interesting to hear further elaboration.

      Lately there seems to be an exponentially increasing polarization on many of these issues (“Flyjin”, the nuclear issue, etc.) and the attitude lately seems to be “if you do not agree with me you are (insert your own insult here)”. I made a long post on this blog right after 3/11 about reactor cooling (which for the most part turned out to be correct) and felt the wrath of that polarization – from both sides!!!

      I know the readers and posters on these blogs (Debito, Tepido, etc, etc) probably represent a small fraction of NJ in Japan….so…hopefully this polarization is not representative of the NJ population in Japan as a whole.

      Many people here call the Tepido website a “hate site”. But there also seems to be alot of “hateful” statements here making broad and sweeping generalizations about a race of people, which I think most would define as “hateful” as well.

      As a reader of this blog I do not always agree with Debito-san….however on this issue I agree with his statement, “Moreover, what if, as I argued in my May 2011 JT column, people did leave Japan anyway? It’s their life and their decision. Why should you care anyway?)”.

      Cheers

    34. Flyjin Says:

      Doug, thanks for reading. You said “Finally, I do not think anyone mentioned you should find and train a replacement, nor was a set time frame for giving notice mentioned. ”

      Aha. There is a thing in Japan called “giri’ or sense of obligation which builds up over time and is a very real pressure on you to indeed give a lot of notice and also to find a replacement even if the job conditions are poor.

      This is why people like me are so angry. We did not have golden ex pat deals. Certain elements in Japan berated, e.g. Chinese convenience store workers for their “lack of loyalty” (to what? Their Japanese emperor, I mean employer?)for doing a runner after 3/11. As I was berated too for my “desertion”. (Actually I took a couple of sick days at first which they refused to pay despite me faxing a doctor’s note).

      It is laughable considering the poor pay and conditions. It is all down to length of service in Japan- the longer you stay, the more they expected of me and came to take me for granted, but I was not rewarded or even given real employee terms and conditions. Shakei hoken was offered grudgingly, but with hints that “kokumin henko hoken would be cheaper for you”.

      I am sure Debito knows what it feels like about being taken for granted and even bullied by a Japanese employer.

      – I sure do.

    35. DeBourca Says:

      @Doug

      I don’t have (and never had) items 1 to 5 on Flyjin’s list. Virtually none of the foreigners whom I know have, either. TBH, I think you move in rarified circles if you believe this is the exception rather than the rule.

    36. DeBourca Says:

      Edit: I recieved a bonus for two years (in one company) until it was summarily stopped without any explanation or notice. Typical behaviour in Japan.

    37. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @ Doug #33

      Sure, I have positive things to say about Japan, but highlighting those things is not the purpose of debito.org, is it?
      By all means, start a site that applauds all the ‘good’ things, maybe I will post a comment.

    38. Doug Says:

      @Flyjin

      Oh yes I do understand “giri” but I think it should have limits. If your employer is not offering benefits (because you are not Japanese or for whatever reason) then there should be no reciprocal expectation of “giri” in my opinion. I never received any “golden expat deal” but I know many with large corporations that did and those with a fat expat package do tend to see things differently. Finally given your circumstances you should certainly have not been berated for leaving.

      For those that have been around long enough, Robert Collins had a humorous chapter in one of his Max Danger books about expats and “The Package”.

      @DeBourca

      First, I would have to share that with my friends. I do not think myself or friends are in “rarified circles”. Some are entrepeneurs, international school teachers, expats, and some work for Japanese companies. I guess alot of it has to do with where you live and who you end up meeting when you get to Japan.

      Personally it would be a very interesting to have a factual survey to find out what types of benefits non Japanese in Japan are getting. I am not sure if this exists or not (I have never seen it or given it much thought). Maybe for some it would be an eye opener (looks like it would be for me). Also I think such a survey, if conducted properly (just the facts – no comments) would be useful and informative for all NJ in Japan, regardless of what they do or what their feelings are on Japan.

      I think any ethical business would offer at least items 1, 2, 3, and 5.

      I know this is getting off topic but it is informative and I think one’s personal situation and how you are treated in your job situation could be quite a factor in the decision whether to stay or leave.

      Cheers

    39. Anonymous Says:

      Doug, most foreigners working for Japanese companies do NOT receive what they are lawfully mandated to receive. Your rare case (a foreigner-owned company, and having foreigner friends who work for other foreigner-owned companies) has nothing to do with what most JAPANESE companies do to foreign employees.

      The Law states that ALL full-time employees MUST be enrolled in Shakai Hōken (in which the company must pay 50% of health insurance and 50% of pension) but the reality is that most Japanese companies DON’T enroll “Gaijin-san” (translation: “Mr.N*gger”) in Shakai Hōken.

      Complaining to the Rōdōshō results in absolutely zero penalties to the employer for having disobeyed and continuing to disobey the law. The Rōdōshō merely calls the illegally operating company and tells the name of the “gaijin-san” who made the complaint, and meekly requests the illegally operating company to consider following the law. The only result is that the illegally operating company ignores the request and a few months later fires (“doesn’t renew the one year contract of”) the uppity n*gger who dared to try to get his company to obey the law about enrolling all full-time employees in Shakai Hōken.

      Qualified Japanese full-time workers are also given Shain Status (permanent employment status, which means no yearly fear of being non-renewed, which means no fear of being fired-without-cause) as well as bi-annual bonus which boost a 6-million yen annual salary up to a grand total of 8 million yen annual income.

      Qualified n*gger full-time workers are not given Shain Status, and they are not given bi-annual bonuses.

      Same qualifications, same abilities, same work, different pay, different benefits, different status.

      Again Doug, you must know your rare situation (a foreigner-owned company, and having foreigner friends who work for other foreigner-owned companies) is the exception, and not the rule, to what foreigners experience here in Japan.

      Most Japanese companies don’t give Shain status, or bonuses, or even legally mandated Shakai Hōken, to gaijin.

      Thus it is undeniable: most Japanese companies do not treat gaijin employees the same as Japanese employees. Period.

    40. Flyjin Says:

      Japanese employees we work alongside with get bonuses and shakai hoken (a legal requirement for full time employees), and respect and acceptance. Why dont we?

      Its discrimination and using foreigners as cheap, disposable labor, pure and simple. Been going on since the Meiji era.

      So why stay?

      I think it comes down to love. Love of a Japanese spouse, a child, or a misguided belief that you “love” Japan in the hope that it will love you.

      I cannot think of any other reason nowadays to stay here long-term. Masochism? Enduring hardship? Each to his/her own.

    41. giantpanda Says:

      The rank hypocrisy of my employer was the main thing that struck me about the whole debacle. Every day they sent out self-serving e-mails to the lower ranked staff instructing them to report to the office if public transport was working. And if not, they were expected to work from home. Meanwhile, nearly all of the managers (both Japanese and foreign) had either left for overseas, or sent their wives and children South to Osaka, Kumamoto or wherever they could. At the same time, we were fielding advice to clients who had picked up their entire operation and relocated to Osaka, or overseas. But the justification for forcing everyone to stay was that “our clients are still here, so we cannot be seen to desert”.

    42. Becky Says:

      @Flyjin#32, please do not think for a minute that I was criticising or judging you, because I wasn’t. In fact I admire you. The Japanese government behaved in a typically evasive and dishonest manner, and many people paid the price (most of them Japanese, such as your former boss, who really has nobody to blame but his government’s policies). I personally have always had a mild distrust of the J-government, but it never really bothered me until 3/11, when I realised that we really cannot trust a word they say, and we certainly cannot rely on them to look out for us. Most of the Japanese people around me (admittedly mainly upper-middle-class academics and professionals) are filled with disgust. Many of them would leave Japan in a heartbeat, if it weren’t for the lack of a passport, funds, and connections.

      @Doug#33, I wasn’t suggesting that all foreign passport holders should leave. I was trying to make the point that they have options, unlike most of the hapless Japanese people I know. And who can blame them for making use of those options? Stay or go, it’s your choice … but at least you have a choice.

    43. Curious Says:

      Doug – I only know of one teacher who gets the ‘Japanese bonus.’ And he is a tenured professor at a university (however non-permanent that tenure actually is.) Everyone else I know does not get a bonus.

      I also don’t buy into the, “If you don’t like it, leave” line. Do you say that to Japanese citizens? I know of several who are not happy with the social, political and economic state of affairs here. Shall I ask them to leave?

      I’m from Canada. Should I ask my Canadian friends who are frustrated with the Canadian government to leave Canada because they complain?

    44. Mark in Yayoi Says:

      @Anonymous 39 – FWIW, my company employs numerous foreign employees and we receive the exact same treatment Japanese employees receive.

      Whether this treatment is fair or not is another matter — I don’t enjoy recalling the miserable 14-hour days that I put in during my early 20s — but it’s the same for everyone.

    45. Anonymous Says:

      @Mark 44 – Thanks for sharing your “same exact treatment” experience. Still, readers need to remember that for the majority of foreigners in Japan (who work in Japanese owned factories and Japanese owned schools) shain status is not given to gaijin, bonuses are not given to gaijin, and shakai hoken is not given to gaijin.

      Sorry to sound like a broken record, but the incorrect idea implied above and elsewhere that “most gaijin receive shain status, most gaijin receive bonuses, most gaijin receive shakai hoken, because hey, I’m a programmer or I’m an investment banker and my company treats me right” needs to be shut down.

      The majority of foreigners in Japan work in Japanese owned factories and Japanese owned schools, and thus the majority of foreigners in Japan are treated illegally.

      Imagine someone posting on a board in America implying that the illegal below-minimum-wage paid to mexican-immigrants is a rarity, because “Hey, I’m a mexican-immigrant, and I managed to find a fair company.”

      Let’s focus on which experience is most common for most foreigners living in Japan please.

    46. flyjin Says:

      @ Becky, no need to defend or feel any sympathy my former boss for “paying the price”. He did not provide the mandatory earthquake/first aid kits, he would limit people’s hours so they did not qualify for shakei hoken etc as full time employees as they were one hour short of the minmium required hours-that old trick. He refused to honor sick leave with doctor’s notes.

      So he should not be surprised that when workers’ safety is threatened, they seek safety elsewhere. He did the bare minimum or less, so it is “shoganai” if people leave suddenly!

    47. DeBourca Says:

      @post#45

      That is an important point. This treatment applies to NJ workers across the board. As English language teachers (which I assume most posters to this blog work as?) those of us who came here in the 80s/90s could afford to ignore this double standard due to the money it was possible to make (honorable exceptions include people such as Debito, who were agitating for foreigners’ rights long ago). Now that the economy is tanking however, the mask is coming off and we find that we are treated exactly the same as other NJ employees before the law. This extends not just to the shenanigans that employers such as Flyjin’s ex is guilty of.IMO This will increasingly include the slashing/withholding of wages and forced unpaid labor. Unscrupulous employers in Japan will do this because they feel they will be able to get away with it.

    48. Anonymous Says:

      And let’s remember 1 thing about these gaijin whose companies refuse to enroll them in shakai hōken: these gaijin are thus forced to enroll themselves in kokumin kenko hōken and kokumin nenkin and pay 100% of both by themselves.

      And let’s remember that all gaijin recently received a “fake juminhyō” which clearly states whether or not these gaijin have enrolled in both kokumin kenko hōken and kokumin nenkin.

      Thus the next time these gaijin try to renew their visas, immigration will have the ability to state “Gaijin-san, your ‘fake juminhyō’ clearly shows us you haven’t enrolled in both kokumin kenko hōken and kokumin nenkin, so you must immediately down to your local city hall and enroll in both, which means also paying about a grand total of 100万円(almost $10,000) for the last 2 years of unpaid amounts for both, and unless you go do that immediately we are not going to process your visa renewal paperwork. Good Luck.”

      So, thanks to this “fake juminhyō” document, all gaijin who currently are not enrolled in shakai hōken will have to suddenly give the government 100万円(almost $10,000) or be forced to leave Japan.

      And no, immigration will not care about the fact that the Japanese employers were legally required to have enrolled these gaijin in shakai hōken.

      The Japanese companies are breaking the law, but the gaijin victims are the ones who are going to have to pay 100%. Pay 100万円 or receive no visa.

    49. Doug Says:

      @Anonymous (45) – You are right about the factory workers and I was not even considering that under the scope of this discussion. It happens in Japan, but happens pretty much everywhere else (which does not make it OK). Your point is well taken. Regarding your other post, I am well aware of Shain status. However I have seen a trend over the last 15 years for manufacturing firms to use subcontracting companies, which essentially makes the Japanese employees “disposable” as well. By the way, not all of my friends work for foreign companies. Several work for Japanese companies and they do in fact receive the same benefits. Most are in a technology type position.

      @Curious (43) – Regarding the “If you don’t like it leave” statement. Once again I will repeat my feelings…if someone is constantly complaining, miserable in Japan, and has no family tying them to Japan, then yes why not leave? Would it not be better to go somewhere where you will be happier? I guess now that Anonymous brought up the factory workers I would consider them tied to Japan by means of economic necessity.

      No I do not say that to Japanese citizens and never would. Japanese citizens (Debito-san is one we all know) have the responsibility to try to effect change in their own country. Unlike many western countries, most Japanese are here by birth, most of us non Japanese are here by choice (and no – I do not consider tax paying working visa holders in Japan to be “guests”).

      Also, regarding the teaching profession, I have never taught so I would not know what the labor conditions are. I do know the international schools offer full benefit packages and a fairly decent salary including housing. It is baffling to me why Universities would not offer the same to non Japanese employees.

      Finally on the “flyjin” issue, most Japanese I talk to have no ill feelings against foreigners that left. Most completely understand and say they would do the same if the situation was reversed.

      Interesting discussion and it has made me think of some things I have not given much thought to before.

      Cheers

    50. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @ DeBource #47

      I think there is certainly some mileage in the idea that J-employers abuse NJ workers rights, I suspect along the lines of the ‘if they really feel I am taking advantage of them, why don’t they go home?’ type.

    51. Anonymous Says:

      @Doug

      Your most recent post (49) is getting closer to admitting how your mistaken assumptions came about:

      Most (not all, but MOST) of your gaijin friends work for foreign-owned companies.
      Most (not all, but MOST) of your gaijin friends work in the technology sector, right?

      Only SOME (“several”) of your gaijin friends work for Japanese-owned companies.
      You assumed that those 3 gaijin receive shain status, shakai hoken, and bonuses.

      You assumed that what your technology-sector gaijin friends receive is what MOST gaijin receive.
      You assumed that most English-teaching gaijin receive shain status, shakai hoken, and bonuses.
      You assumed that International Schools give shain status, shakai hoken, and bonuses, to gaijin.
      You assumed that factory-working gaijin “weren’t even in the scope” of a discussion about gaijin.
      Finally, you assumed that most gaijin in Japan “have no family tying them to Japan”. All wrong assumptions.

      And “it is baffling” to you why Japanese Universities usually don’t give shain status, shakai hoken, and bonuses, to gaijin.
      Obviously, if the reason seems baffling, you’re new the whole reality of race-based-discrimination in Japan.

      I’m sincerely glad this interesting discussion has made you think of some things you have not given much thought to before.

    52. DeBourca Says:

      @Doug

      A point about leaving:

      The issues we are discussing are things that full (and possibly part)time employees are entitled to by law. You could say that these are basic human rights afforded to workers in Japan. We are not talking about anything radical here. So, are you suggesting, that if we are unhappy about not being afforded the same rights as Japanese workers, we should just leave, because we can? Do I get the same option regarding having to pay my city tax, national tax, health insurance for my family and pension? Nope.

      FWIW, I and my fellow workers had a meeting with a representative of management regarding behaviour almost the same as Flyjin’s employer (Which in itself hints that such practices are widespread), and that was the answer we were given: No discussion, no explanation of the policies taken, just “well if you don’t like it, you can leave”.

      So we did. I’m leaving this country with my family and my much needed taxes and children. I will NEVER work for a Japanese company again as long as such practice is seen as normal/acceptable.

      As long as such practice is normal, this country will continue its downward slide,and don’t kid yourself: it’ll hit you guys in the IT sectors sooner or later. The only way things MIGHT change is for foreigners to start agitation for their rights in a concerted way. But, given the inertia and resistance in society,I won’t be there, and maybe tens of thousands like me won’t be either.

      Bottom line: If you want to make a life for yourself in this country for you and your family you are going to start taking stands on these issues.

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