Japan Times: Foreign press pulling out of Japan in favor of China


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Hi Blog.  In a new trend of “Japan Passing” (a play on the old debate-stifling term “Japan Bashing”, except this time it refers to Japan being passed over in importance as the purported “leader of Asia”, in favor of China), we see the ultimate effect of Japan’s closed-door policies towards the outside world (including immigration) — foreign correspondents pulling out and closing up shop, turning fading economic superpower Japan into an international media backwater by degrees.  It’s sad to see the FCCJ (who accepted me as an associate member earlier this year, thanks) dwindling this much.  But after “two lost decades” of Japan’s economic stagnation and the previous decade criminalizing and excluding immigrants, culminating in a policy push to send them “home” despite all their contributions, it’s just one more chicken coming home to roost.  Arudou Debito in Edmonton


Stop the presses — foreign media pulling out of Japan
With China rising and revenues falling, priorities have changed
By MARIKO KATO, Staff writer
The Japan Times Friday, Jan. 22, 2010 (excerpt)


Major foreign media outlets are leaving Japan in droves, a sign of financial difficulties at home as the news industry struggles with falling advertising revenue. But observers note that Japan is also losing its appeal as the most newsworthy country in Asia, with China now the hot spot.

In the latest withdrawal from Japan, the news magazine Time closed its editorial branch in Tokyo earlier this month. Last year, Newsweek shut down its editorial section in Tokyo while the editorial staff of BusinessWeek merged with Bloomberg after the financial news service announced it would buy the magazine last October.

Among newspapers, The New York Times, The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times have been reported to have drastically reduced their forces…

According to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, its foreign members numbered around 250 during the late 1980s and early 1990s when the booming economy provided both interesting news and an attractive home for overseas correspondents. The count was more than 300 if Japanese staff employed by foreign media companies were included.

However, the ranks have since been decreasing steadily, with only 144 foreign members registered as of March 2009.

Rest of the article at


12 comments on “Japan Times: Foreign press pulling out of Japan in favor of China

  • Would anyone else here care to give other examples of “Japan passing”? I work in HR and there does seem to be a small sub-trend of people moving to China, or just not even coming here in the first place, though I m not sure how extensive it is.

    It’s also interesting to note that jobsdb.com, which purports to cover jobvs in Asia, doesn’t include Japan. It is not part of the network.

    A certain bank I know has their HR director based in Shanghai-he was relocated there from Tokyo a couple of years ago and they havent filled the position here, and a certain other foreign company president I know personally recently gave trying to restructure the Japanese line managers to coordinate globally; they basically overturned all he did in a day and reverted to working amongst themselves. He is now leaving in disgust.

    Just people I know, and my two cents, but I’s like to hear more examples as to whether this really is the way it is going for Japan.

    On the other hand, anime geeks still flock here in huge numbers. Well done, Japan.

  • Innocent_Bystander says:

    Ms. Kato might have also mentioned that a good deal of the journalists who have remained in Japan are incompetent buffoons who don’t have the slightest idea about what to report about. The first one who comes to mind is Kyung Lah of CNN, who can’t seem to find anything more relevant about Japan than host clubs, capsule hotels and the Tsukiji fish market.

  • Guess Japan ain’t the place to be anymore: sluggish economy, dinosaur strategies – unable to think out of the box, and an aging population. Not to stuff dynamic news is made of. Sayonara and lets go to fresh pastures, I guess is what such organizations are thinking.

  • If the Japanese government held a press conference announcing another doctored set of GDP numbers, etc. and no one came, would they start getting the message? Probably not.

  • treblekickeresq says:

    Part of the problem is that news organizations are increasingly depending on stringers and freelancers. This doesn’t have to hurt the quality of reporting. Generally, I’d rather read something by a good freelancer who has more than a superficial understanding of the language, history, and culture as opposed to a superficial article written by whoever was just assigned to the Tokyo Bureau for a two year stint.

    But the decline of full-time bureaus will hurt the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan in a big way because their membership fees are so high. You have to pay an initiation fee of 37,500 yen, monthly dues/subscription fee of 11,400 yen, and a 40,000 yen deposit (yes it costs less if you live outside of Kanto). There aren’t many freelancers I know who have bothered to join.

    — Well, there’s me, if I somehow count.

  • Jonholmes Says: ” On the other hand, anime geeks still flock here in huge numbers. Well done, Japan. ”

    If the chinese would show more cartoons and TV shows (made in China) around the world, then that too could change. The only problem is, they too are welcoming foreigners with closed doors (like Japan).

    The only difference is, that China is a lot bigger than Japan and Japan has already reached it’s limits while China is on it’s way up. Soooo….everybody would want a piece of cake…. soooo…. China… here we come ^.^

  • Arin said China “too are welcoming foreigners with closed doors (like Japan).”

    I wonder about that. With at least tax and economic incentives, the Chinese are making it attractive for foreign businesses. That, and the fact that the rent is a lot cheaper than Japan. Rents in Japan have not really come down all that much since the bubble, at least from a consumer point of view.An 80 000 yen one room mansion apartment in Tokyo in 1991 is still about the same price now, and you ve got all that key money etc.

    Meanwhile in Japan, we were being asked until very recently to pay into the ailing Japanese national health insurance scheme just for the privilege of staying here and working.

    For the ordinary gaijin in the street, it is only really China’s communist dictatorship and poor human rights record vis a vis Japan’s claim to be a nice democracy. However recent police urine tests of Caucasians who happen to be in Roppongi, and the growing opposition to giving PM’s a vote in how their tax is spent, do Japan no favors in this respect.

  • Jon,

    Japan also gave incentives for foreign business, especially in the Meiji period but also in the post-war period. When it didn’t need foreign business and educators any more, it spat them out, and I have no doubt China will do the same.

    Let’s not pretend that China’s apparent welcome is based on anything other than capitalistic motives. China is a rapidly growing superpower, and hence the moves there by foreign businesses and media. China’s no more internationally minded or pluralistic than Japan.

    Japan has reached a plateau, and in the last two decades stagnation. Maybe (in fact probably) in the next half century, China will collapse, and opportunists will pass by China as well.

    [counterargument to a point never made deleted]

  • While the conclusion that China is “hot” is correct, the data this article used to get to that conclusion is not. All the media examples listed above are in serious financial trouble. The primary reason they’re leaving Japan (and many, many other countries in the world that are not “closed” like Japan) is because a foreign news post is a luxury that even the largest media outlets can’t afford these days.

    And leaving Japan because it’s closed door policies and its attitudes towards foreigners is behind the times FOR CHINA?!

    Ha! Good luck with that!

    — Not what I said.

  • After four years in China doing business I’d say “stay in Japan” unless you want to be ripped off in China. May be an interesting place for journalists but for business, I recommend staying out of China.

    — People, people, reading comprehension please. The point of this blog is not that China is better than Japan. The point is that Japan is losing out to China, and it needn’t be that way if Japan would only wise up.

  • “And leaving Japan because it’s closed door policies and its attitudes towards foreigners is behind the times FOR CHINA?!”

    Having lived and worked in both places, I still say that China is a much better place for foreigners than Japan. Japan may have more creature comforts and be more Westernized, but Chinese for the most part go out of their way to make foreign residents feel welcome. The Internet nationalists and racist loud-mouths are a very small minority of a minority.

  • Problem with this line of thought is that its difficult to provide a response for which there could not be an alternate cause.

    But still, annecdotally, this ones for you Jon Holmes:

    I’ve seen evidence of a dwindling number of young short-mid term “gap-year travellers” coming into the country. Japan’s Association for Working Holiday Makers has closed offices and stated that the place doesn’t see as many foreign visitors as before. Looking at reasons why travellers may no longer patronise such a place, internet job markets are obvious, yet some online HR companies have started removing English teaching in Japan links off the front page in favour of other Asian nations. Finally, in my own personal experience as a said “gap-year traveller”, the “gaijinhouse” I reside in has seen people leave as their visas expire and few come in to replace them (the extra floorspace per person in communial areas is absolutely glorious).

    Sure, all tiny little annecdotes, and the relative lack of “mystery” surrounding a year in Japan vs mainland Asia could be a valid alternate reason, as could the currency conversion rates but regardless, a lack of international interest in a country (the actual country, not its cartoons) at a youth level can potentially have far reaching consequences down the line.

    — I think this sounds like an interesting Japan Times Community Page column for you to write. May I suggest this to my editor at the email address you’ve provided? Write me offlist at debito@debito.org.


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