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and the “Flyjin”phenomenon
Affiliate Scholar, East-West Center, Honolulu, Hawaii
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3/11/12 Great East Japan EQ
Ca.16K dead, 27K injured,
3K missing from tsunami
Fukushima nuclear power
plant disasters
NJ wags coin “Flyjin” on Twitter
(Also“Bye-jin”) a corruption of gaijin (the more
racist epithet for “foreigner”) (Hoofin blog 4/2).
 also set up to depict NJ as
panicky, overreacting to flawed overseas
media depictions of disaster.
Self-deprecating humor soon escalates
beyond sarcasm and irony into media epithet.
Flyjin Fallout hits J media
Wall Street Journal 3/23 reports in E and J of
“fly-jin exodus”, blames NJ culture of
“allegiance” of NJ to family 1st, company 2nd.
Although not called “Flyjin” in vernacular (e.g.,
Nikkei 4/9: nihon o saru gaikoku rōdōsha), NJ
reported as fleeing Japan.
NJ portrayed as deserting their work stations
(Zakzak 4/15: affecting fast-food restaurant
chain Yoshinoya’s profitability?, conjectured)
Media frenzy builds
Asahi’s influential Tensei Jingo column 3/20
has tone of betrayal: NJ (tourists, business
travelers, students, diplomats) “scrambled”
abroad, concludes “rebuilding our country is
ultimately the task of none but Japanese”.
Nikkan Gendai headline 4/11: “All NJ have
fled Japan”. SPA! 4/12: “Bad NJ” (Asians,
Arabs, Africans) massing in Ueno where
NPA, Yakuza “order-keeping ability” is weak.
Open season on NJ begins
Mainichi Shimbun 4/25: Factories crippled
by shortage of NJ workers, conjectures that
Yokohama Chinatown and entire J textile
industry could suffer “serious damage”, if not
“fall apart”.
Tokyo Sports Shimbun 4/14 blames closure
of Tokyo Disneyland not on power outages,
but on NJ; says can’t run the facility without
NJ dancers in parades (TDL reopens 4/15).
The media wave crests
Asahi 3/26: Rumors swirl about “NJ criminal
gangs” carrying out muggings, lootings,
rapes. Yet Sankei 4/1 reports no cases.
 4/7: GOJ unusually intervenes
to quash internet rumors, avoid debacle of
1923 Kantō earthquake’s mass murder of
100s of Koreans/Chinese etc. due to rumors
of well poisonings, rebellion, sabotage.
Restoring sanity
Shingetsu News Agency 4/13: NPA,
ministries establish task force, notify media
(including net providers) to erase, inter alia:
Descriptions of EQ as man-made (3/17)
Claims of EQ caused by NJ terrorism (3/28)
(Critics decry this as censorship, as means to
keep information on TEPCO and GOJ from
public, avoiding responsibility for disaster.)
What was drowned out by the
NJ blame game
More domestic reportage on what NJ were
doing to help out in disaster areas.
Figures on/critique of J “flyjin”, who were also
fleeing potential disaster areas (Sankei 3/19).
Other issues of discrimination, such as J
fleeing from disaster areas being refused at
hotels (Yomiuri 3/18, 4/9).
More accurate info re facts on the ground.
3/14 Tokyo Gov. Ishihara calls tsunami
“divine punishment” (tenbatsu) to wash away
Japan’s identity as “greed”, then retracts; still
gets reelected to 4th term on 4/10.
Unexamined was Ishihara’s claim on 4/9/00
(the “sangokujin speech”) that “bad NJ”
committing “heinous crimes” would riot in the
event of a natural disaster, proposes JSDF
round them up. Clearly didn’t happen.
Also running in Ishihara’s 4/10/11 election
was overt xenophobic candidate Furukawa
Keigo, whose policy stump included:
“Safeguard the capital, safeguard Japan.
Japan belongs to the Japanese people.”
“Expel the foreign barbarians” (i.e., Chinese
and Koreans) from Tokyo, etc.
Furukawa still garners 6000 votes.
The unexamined life:
NJ population drop in Flyjins’ wake
Source: Ministry of Justice, at
The unexamined life (2)
Raw stats for NJ population
Source: Ministry of Justice, at
The unexamined life (3):
NJ crime keeps falling
Source: National Police Agency,
The unexamined life (4):
Every NJ crime significantly down
Source: National Police Agency,
The unexamined life (5)
Irony: J workers, companies fleeing during
Bangkok’s October 2011 floods, even bringing
6-month Thai workers to Japan.
Why blame NJ for a crisis created by domestic
negligence? Because disenfranchised NJ are
easy distraction, or as “Flyjin”, a scapegoat.
Still little to no J media or official acknowledgement of the good things that NJ do and
have done for Japan’s economy and society.
Conclusion: Beware dodgy
journalism misleading public
Cherry-picking data (e.g., Small-size or narrow-
sample sources).
Using aggregate numbers that are inapplicable
to regional/local numbers.
Not comparing with J in same position.
Using linguistic hedgers like “…to mirareru”,
“…sō da”, “there are cases of…” etc.
Falling for hegemonic discourse of J as victims
and NJ as disloyal, criminals, unreliable etc.17
More on this and other issues:
ISBN 4 7503 9018 6 English version, Japanese version ISBN 4 7503 9001 9
More on this and other issues:
English and Japanese ISBN 4 7503 2741 9
ISBN 978 1 257 02640 1
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