Sunday, April 3, 2011

Flyjin and Right to Vote in Japan?

"Flyjin made poor decisions, and in the process shirked responsibilities, upended their lives, cooled relationships, wasted money (however insignificant it may have been to them given their circumstances), contributed to an unnecessary panic, and set themselves up for a well-deserved ribbing." -

My attention has been drawn to a wonderful blog called "LetsJapan". The subtitle reads: Travel to Japan and discover its people, history, cuisine, scenery, culture & arts.


I think it is an excellent blog and if filled with insightful commentary complete with photos and videos. In a recent post,  The Flyjin Phenomenon and Some People Not Like Them the blogger writes:

I can’t think of when I’ve posted anything “controversial” on this blog.  I keep politics out and emphasize culture, the arts, food, sights to see, personal reminiscences and the lighter side of things.  For the most part.  This isn’t like those.  The Tohoku Earthquake & Tsunami has altered some things.  See more, below the happy photograph of me, back in the day, living the Expat life.

The writer then goes on to explain what the Flyjin word means and the phenomenon as well as his astute observations and opinion: 

I dare say that soon, if not already, many Japanese will certainly be familiar with this term.  But, yes, it’s not a term that Japanese have been using to scold skedaddling foreigners with; it’s a term Gaijin have been using towards and about their fellow countrymen and countrywomen.  I’m not ambivalent about the issue.  As said, I find the Flyjins’ actions somewhere between disgusting and loathsome.

Then there are These People
Of course not every foreigner has fled Japan.  To those who stayed, who remain in Japan here and now, Japan is home and their neighbors are their neighbors and the thought of running out on them is just, well, it’s not even a consideration.  I have many foreign friends and colleagues in the Tokyo area who are not only staying put, but are going about with their lives and work.
+  Example 1: “Uptick in Business.”
The substantive part of an email I received one week ago from a colleague who works in downtown Tokyo (note:  “GW” is Golden Week):
Happy to have people come to Japan, we need the uptick in business.  Mid to late April should be fine for everyone.  I am already getting busy again and things are getting back to normal.  Just need to avoid GW and you will be all set.

The writer then goes on to list up English teachers who actually live in the earthquake and tsunami hit areas who didn't leave. People who were so dedicated to their lives, jobs and communities that they stayed on.

If any foreigner had an excuse to leave Japan during this crisis, no one would be criticizing those who lived in the worst hit zones... But there they remained. One English teacher remarked:

”It is overwhelming, mentally and physically to stay here but I want to stay,” said Katherine Sheu, 25, from Los Angeles, who has taught English at five elementary and junior high schools in the devastated city of Ishinomaki for the past three years. . .
”I love it here. I have many connections with my students, the teachers and the neighbors. I wouldn’t just leave,” Sheu said.
. . . Sheu had been touched by the way her neighbors in Ishinomaki welcomed her.  At a time when she was sick, they had checked on her and come to her aid.
”Just the way people cared about me and worried about me made me feel good. It changed everything.” Some gave her strawberries and tomatoes from their farms. ”You will never get that in Los Angeles.”
There are many more wonderful examples like the one above at LetsJapan. Please take a moment to look at it. While doing so, compare the leadership and dedication that these people - English teachers (who are often slated for derision by the foreigner community in Japan)! Compare the leadership and dedication show by these young people - who live near the disaster zone - with that of the foreign community - specifically foreign business executives - who ran from Tokyo and even as far away as Nagoya in Kansai while leaving their Japanese staff holding the bag.
The writer then goes on to point out another interesting repercussion that this entire Flyjin episode has probably caused. He writes:

Update.  1 April 2011.  One of many possible upshots.
I paraphrase what one British friend and colleague, living in Tokyo, married to a Japanese woman, related to me by email after he read this.  According to my friend’s wife, a recent topic of conversation that has been circulating among the Japanese involves the prospects of Gaijin getting the vote.  Whereas before the crisis most people appeared broadly in favor of permanent residents getting a vote, many now appear to have completely changed their mind as a result of the widespread exodus of foreigners, arguing (as my friend says, “convincingly, in my book”) that their actions have revealed that the depth of their commitment to society is perhaps not all it should be to warrant full emancipation.

My own wife is a former TV news announcer and is well-connected in those circles as well as being a fairly well-known writer. I asked her last night to investigate this amongst her Japanese friends and let me know what everyone thought. She did that for me last night. Basically, she said,
"Japanese people are quite forgiving and many have a "foreigner complex" whereby we don't expect the foreigners to do simple things like learn the Japanese language. We easily forgive them when they do not understand or fit in so well. It's even because many Japanese people themselves think that Japan has so many customs and rules that it is difficult for even us to know what to do in many cases. But, in our case, when we don't know, as japanese it is common sense that we consult each other and, in Japan, team work is what matters. A Japanese person would never flee when others in their family are in danger. Take, for example the Fukushima 50. That the foreigners fled instantly, before any consultations or warnings from the government, show us that they don't care about the group so they do not intend to be a part of Japanese society...  That's okay. Hence, all the people I talked to were of the opinion that foreigners are just that; We can't expect them to be responsible to anyone except themselves. Most of them certainly do not understand what the responsibility to us (Japanese) means so they shouldn't be allowed to vote. That isn't to say that all foreigners shouldn't be allowed to vote... But how can we separate the responsible ones from the ones we can't depend on?"
I understand. There will be more repercussions coming concerning those who fled. Now, I think, the worst thing they can do is to continue making excuses and attacking the messenger. The smart foreigners who fled unnecessarily will come back and - when in Rome do as the Romans do - quietly apologize to those they hurt; keep their heads down; be extremely humble; and try to remain silent for a long while (meaning that they refrain from boisterous behavior).
Take this advice from a half-Japanese who has lived with Japanese people all his life and lived here continuously since 1984... First coming here over 32 years ago. Call me a know-it-all but this is the way it is. If you wish to return smoothly take my advice and be humble, you'll help greatly in the healing process... The first thing anyone needs to do here in this country when there is a problem - whether they caused it or not - is to humbly apologize profusely and sincerely.
Japanese people will listen to your heart more than your words.
If you want to read more well-written commentary about this subject and just some wonderful things "Japan", I highly recommend "LetsJapan". 


Anonymous said...

Wow. Thanks for passing on the word, Mike! Not matter what country or culture, none of us like to see neighbors who just show us their backs when "the going gets tough." And, of course, at least from Tokyo southwards much of the "toughness" is so much self-fulfilling prophesy and panicmongering (and acting in accord with it) that *creates* much of the (economic) problem.


A *former* Expat and Frequent Business
Traveler to Japan

F. said...

the funny thing is.. I know very few "flyjin", and many many "flynihonjin". My Japanese neighbours were all gone. So what's the point in all this self-flagging?

Anonymous said...

BiJ is right. The hypocrisy here and in the Japanese media in general, stinks like a plate of natto left in the sun all day.

mike in tokyo rogers said...

Guys, don't be so dumb. This blog is in English. I report in English what the Japanese are saying. You can lie and justify all you want. I'm just reporting the facts. "Disapportionate number of Japanese left?" Talk about pulling figures out of your ass.... Where is your proof of that? Blame me all you want for reporting, what the Japanese are saying you fools.
Thanks for actually thinking that my blog can influence Japanese society on what and how to think. Get a life!

Anonymous said...

Don't think you can actually influence Japanese society at all, just making polite chit chat. Forgive me if your feelings were hurt.

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