Mainichi: “Industries left short-handed after NJ workers flee Japan following nuke accident”


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Hi Blog.  Here’s another article tying together more pinpoint data of NJ leaving Japan, with a focus on Chinese.  Spare a tear for those poor, poor Japanese industries who took advantage of so many cheap temporary NJ workers, and are now crying because the NJ aren’t sticking around to be potentially irradiated as well as exploited.  Arudou Debito


Industries left short-handed after foreign workers flee Japan following nuke accident
(Mainichi Japan) April 25, 2011, courtesy of MS

Tens of thousands of worried foreign workers left Japan shortly after a crisis at the nuclear power plant that was crippled by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, causing serious labor shortages in some industries.

After foreign governments lifted their temporary evacuation advisories issued in the wake of the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, many Americans and Europeans started coming back to Japan, albeit gradually. But workers from neighboring countries such as China have yet to do so.

Chinese people in particular — mostly students and trainees — had occupied key parts of the workforce in many Japanese industries, and therefore if they continue to stay out of Japan for an extended period of time, they could have a grave impact on the industries and force firms to review their business strategies or cut production.

“We are closed for a while,” said a notice written in rather awkward Japanese pasted on the shutter door of a Chinese restaurant slightly away form the main street of Yokohama Chinatown, the biggest Chinese quarter in Japan.

According to the cooperative association of shop owners in Chinatown, of the total of 2,500 people working there, about 300 of them, mainly part-time workers and students from China, returned to their country. As a result, about 10 out of some 320 stores, including souvenir shops, had to suspend their business operations.

The number of visitors to Chinatown at present accounts for about 80 percent of figures before the disaster, according to Kensei Hayashi, head of the cooperative association. There are shops that have enough labor to conduct business now, but they are stretched. While Chinatown hopes to see more people visiting the quarter the way they used to, there are growing concerns that an acute labor shortage could hit the town hard.

At Yoshinoya, a major beef bowl restaurant chain in Japan, about 200 foreign part-time workers including Chinese students, or about one-fourth of the total number of such workers in the Tokyo metropolitan area, quit their jobs in the first week after the March 11 disaster. The restaurant chain has managed to continue to operate by sending its employees to the shops from stores in other areas and hiring new workers.

Lawson, a major convenience store chain in Japan, also saw a number of foreign students quitting their part-time jobs at its stores in central Tokyo, but it has managed to keep its stores open by dispatching employees from headquarters. One Chinese person who had been set to work for Lawson from spring turned down the job offer.

A large number of foreign companies operating in Japan urged their employees to evacuate to areas outside Tokyo or abroad in the wake of the nuclear disaster. But some signs are emerging now that the situation is subsiding. Those companies that moved their offices to the Kansai region or elsewhere temporarily have started moving their offices back to Tokyo.

At Berlitz, a major English conversation school in Japan, the number of foreign instructors dropped by 30 to 40 percent immediately after the earthquake, but it has come back to about 90 percent of the total workforce it had before the disaster.

In the case of Chinese workers, many of them are students or trainees, and therefore it is often difficult for them to secure enough money to return to Japan. There are cases of “worrisome parents not letting them return to the country,” said a Chinese resident of Japan. Such being the case, it is unlikely that they will return to their workplaces in Japan anytime soon.

Japan’s sewing industry, which had accepted more than 40,000 trainees from China, saw them returning to their country in droves in the wake of the nuclear crisis. The Japan Textile Federation says about 30,000 Chinese trainees remain in their home country. Each company in the industry is required to keep the number of Chinese trainees below about 20 percent of its total workforce, but if the current situation were to continue, the industry as a whole would likely be forced to cut production drastically.

If the sewing industry were to fall into stagnation, the entire textile industry, including clothing, yarn and dyeing sectors, would suffer serious damage. “While production is being shifted abroad, the domestic industry in Japan has been able to survive by making high-quality and high-value-added products. But the industry could fall apart due to the earthquake disaster and the nuclear accident,” says the Japan Textile Federation.


Original Japanese story
原発事故:戻らぬ中国人労働者 縫製業は減産も









17 comments on “Mainichi: “Industries left short-handed after NJ workers flee Japan following nuke accident”

  • So Lawson had one employee due to start that didn’t? What a disaster! And of 2500 Chinese working in China town a mere 300 left? The truth is many were probably being exploited in those kinds of positions and this was just the push they needed to leave. The rest of the story suggests that the majority of NJ in hight quality jobs either didn’t leave or returned with little delay. Talk about a non story!

  • Japanese companies will return to hiring Japanese citizens to work, and the high unemployment in the Tohoku region will provide enough labor to fill any shortages that exist. Those 3K jobs the “Japanese will not do” will likely be filled with Japanese once again. The problem for the NJs when this happens is that they will be effectively shut out of manual labor work. Skilled and highly educated foreigners will still find jobs, but the low-end and middle-area jobs are going to be non-existent for foreigners at this rate.

  • Here’s an idea: How about the very large contingent of Japanese unemployed – along with “NEET”s and Freeters – take up the slack and work to help their country? Oh, that’s right, working is too troublesome. Blame the Chinese then…

  • subash@

    i dont believe this could happen,at least not so soon,the factory where i work have being trying to contract japanese citizens to change us(40 NJ workers)for 3 years ininterrupted,they just dont fit,they lack intelligence,strenght,good will,avidity…well basicly they lack everthing and dont stay for more then 1 year,even with the factory giving then all the special treatment a vagabond forced to work could have they just quit.
    like DM@ said above its easier to blame the NJs and just keep leaving off of the government help.

  • Again, look at how their official English translations. The headline in the English Mainichi says, “Industries left short-handed after *foreign* workers flee Japan following nuke accident” (as cited by Debito with the only change “foreign”>”NJ”).

    The original Japanese title, however, says, “Nuke station accident: *Chinese* workers won’t return; sewing industry cuts production” (原発事故:戻らぬ中国人労働者 縫製業は減産も).

    I can’t even comment on this…

  • If anywhere there would be these supposed “flyjin”, I could see it being non-Japanese in work-a-day jobs that many younger Japanese would not want to do anymore. Plus, jobs where the working conditions are illegal and the employers look for employees who won’t complain.

  • Ive always felt that us NJ were to put up and shut up or leave because “koko wa Nihon!”. We are interested in your culture, just make sure you squash any residue of it while you reside here because you are at the bottom of our caste system and below us- pretty much sums up how Ive been treated in Japan and everybody I know. So I agree, why the big fuss about NJ leaving? I think its because we can and they cant. Ive even had Japanese tell me I cant leave, Im stuck here because Im married. I think the control issue is very strong here. Its one more reason I never want to be a Japanese, I like being a NJ, I can get the hell out when its time.

  • Agree with Michelle, as gaijin we have less rights.
    But as “gaijin”, we retain one important right;the right to leave.
    As we are often reminded of.

    My boss angrily asked me why I left. I said (in a roundabout way) “of course I did, I am a gaijin”.

    Thats an interesting new angle Michelle brings up though, the “jealousy factor”. To what extent is this whole flyjin thing generated by the fact that gaikokujin can leave and Japanese who want to leave, feel they cannot.

    Just from my experience working in an all Japanese office, there has been growing resentment over the last 3-4 years (less evident in my previous stay here in the 90s) from not a few J workers about the fact I come in at a later time to them (but work later) and have a different work contract. Nothing new about this of course, but the latest in a long line of Japanese secretaries was extremely annoyed that her superior (ie. me) left Japan after Fukushima, while she “had to stay in order to work to live in Tokyo”. Having said that she has now quit too to pursue another career.

  • james grey says:

    With respect to Michelle, and Jonholmes, I think the pair of you have hit the nail on the head. I think that the Japanese generally view Japan as the most perfect, harmonious, cultured, and beautiful country on earth. As Debito said in a different thread, the attitude towards foreigners is that being allowed to work in Japan is it’s own reward (what do you want rights for anyway? we’re doing you a favor), so I think they are envious of the fact that we can leave anytime we want. Because of the employment system, they stand to be socially disenfranchised (for gods sake, think of your bonus and annual pay rise man!) if they quit on the spur of the moment, whereas many NJ don’t have those things to lose- we are largely disenfranchised from the outset.
    From a different perspective, how many of you have been surprised when asked by long-standing Japanese friend or colleague ‘how do you like Japan?’, and you reply positively (in general), but mention one negative aspect (‘it would be nice if I could get a pension/vote’, or ‘I don’t like Japanese men spitting off the train station platform’) to be told huffily ‘why don’t you just go home then!’ You see my point? The Japanese standard response to even the most trivial of NJ criticisms is ‘go home’. When Fukushima happened, and many NJ did just that, the Japanese must have been completely wrong-footed.
    I think this maybe why we some some of the bitchiness towards NJ that left, from the NJ that didn’t. Some of the NJ that stayed are maybe jealous too. Stuck in a dead end job, trying hard to fit in, married with children (so can’t leave), too old and with no relevant work experience to get a job back home. Or maybe they think that by staying, they will be somehow instantly recognizable to the Japanese as being somehow ‘less gaijin’?

  • “Stuck in a dead end job, trying hard to fit in, married with children (so can’t leave), too old and with no relevant work experience to get a job back home”

    So true, and its truly scary- trying so hard to make it work you burn yourself up from both ends only to wake up and realize your 40+. You got to look out for yourself and gambaru for you, if Japan benefits from that, good, if it dont, who cares. Most people I know here jump from company to company to stack experience, your just wasting your time unless your a GM or PM for a company longterm here. The jokes on you.

  • jonholmes says:

    I m probably too old to find a decent job but I still took a chance and left! But actually, even if you leave, “you can never leave”. Michelle mentioned the control aspect ~”you cannot leave”~ and even though I dont live in Japan anymore I am still being told that I have to go back in person to cancel the apartment (I just said they could keep the deposit, thats what it is for) and various other things. I did go back for a week to close things up but did not have time to go thru the whole rigmarole of paying next month’s rent and then getting it back after they ve inspected it, etc.
    From the housing association to AU, from the bank to the credit card company, they have all been completely wrong footed by the novel concept that someone might just up and leave in an emergency. There has been absolutely no flexibilty, and this goes for all the work visas cancelled for people who were unable to get a re entry permit in time. No excuses, no exceptions, just business as usual and if you want a visa you ll have to start all over again from scratch!

    I ve had more than one old codger try to tell me that “earthquakes and radiation do not matter”, well he tried to order that to my young Japanese secretary, but then he had to deal with an forceful gaijin old codger (me) telling him otherwise in Japanese.

    All of these industries need a complete overhaul, I was shocked how “Japan only” they all were, and so slow and plodding compared to other Asian centers of commerce.

    I ve tried to be the nice guy and close things up, but the old folks running things make it so hard for me to even pay, or refuse to consider eg. the apartment vacant unless I com back to Japan, turn up in person and sign on the dotted line, that is just encourages people to do a complete disappearing act and not bother to try to pay for anything at all.

    To a large extent, the bureaucrats complaining about the “gaijins” leaving are the reason why they re not coming back.

  • @Jonholmes

    You can dress up your story however you like, and I have a lot of sympathy for your situation, but the hard facts are that you signed a contract and then went back on it when it became inconvenient for you to keep to it. So that’s another real estate company who are going to be hesistant about dealing with foreigners in future.

    — I don’t think this attitude of tarring all members of a group for the behaviors of one should be something one condones, or even acquiesces to, especially in this forum here on Criticize Jonholmes as an individual, please.

  • jonholmes says:

    thanks for the sympathy Joe. An alternate take from this particular individual though might also be “here is another foreigner who is now reluctant to enter into an agreement with a Japanese real estate company because they are completely inflexible, lack common sense, and endanger their occupants for the sake of their cherished “rules”.
    The building has a crack down the side of it down 8 stories. I am prepared to honor the contract, I didnt just disappear, I called again and again on my dime from overseas just to pay them (I m the customer here)-my point is they insist I come back to Japan to sign a piece of paper. My point was their and other organization’s “Japan only” mentality- they will not send the document overseas, they offered to call back but when they found out it was a nearby Asian country, they declined.

    This particular real estate company has a lot of non Japanese clients, particularly Chinese and Koreans. they ve all now left the building, and left a lot of Sodai Gomi in their wake.
    I try to do the right thing by paying what I should, but get penalized. Go figure.

  • james grey says:


    Oh! Youre hitting another nail on the head! YOU ARE THE CUSTOMER! As in ‘the customer is god’! (which, incidently was a misquote of an enka singer from years ago). But it does seem that ‘the customer is god (with exception to non-japanese customers)’.

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    Jon, it sounds like the real estate company (or perhaps the landlord, indirectly) was using your location as an excuse to create a violation of your contract when you had no intention of violating it.

    Contracts are sent from one place to another by registered mail (and by regular mail) all the time. You don’t have to be physically present to sign it, unless there’s language saying so in the actual contract.

    Could you try contacting city hall and getting someone there to mediate your dispute?

  • jonholmes says:

    thanks Mark in yayoi, I ll try again. the last time a Japanese friend got involved though the ojisan just thought he could bully her into paying full whack for me; never mind that I told his colleague of the situation on March 16th.

    It just seems like business as usual, never mind the megaquake and the radiation in the town (higher levels than tokyo and still showing up in April).

    Not a good indicator of any change in attitude (lets pretend it never happened and stick to the rules lke before) or planning for a future crisis.
    I really do hope though the powers that be will now realize it is foolish to have all their j eggs in one Tokyo basket and will relocate at least part of the capital elsewhere, as they have been waffling about since at least 1990.

  • @Debito. I’m not condoning anything. I’m just trying to point out how Jon’s actions are going to be perceived by those with an interest in avoiding renting to foreigners, for whatever reason, where possible.
    @Jon. Sorry if I came across as harsh. I do sympathise with you. It’s just that however much common sense or logic you have on your side, you’ll still be seen by your real estate company as having reneged on your contract, and, however unfairly, that will affect other foreigners in the future. Absolutely not your fault, but a fact nonetheless. Good luck, anyway 🙂

    — No more posts accepting or promoting the logic that the behavior of an individual tars the rest of the group will be approved here on Take that racism-promoting shit elsewhere.


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