Tag Archives: earthquake

Why the FlyJin phenomenon

The term flyjin has been created in the twitter world of foreigners and expats living in Japan.
It’s a kind of a derivative joke from the word “gaijin” which in some context is a pejorative term of the formal “gaikokujin” meaning “foreigner”. Basically “flyjin” means, the man/woman that flies away.

This term was born due to the huge number of foreigners leaving Japan and flying away after the great Tohoku Earthquake/Tsunami/Nuclear Crisis

Everyone has his/her own reasons to take that decision, specially people with kids fearing a possible nuclear contamination or strong aftershocks. Anyway, all this “flyjin phenomenon” has been also criticized, mainly by some Japanese individuals and companies. For some people, this behavior was considered as a betrayal to Japan by many foreigners.

I didn’t leave the country, I didn’t get in panic so I’m not a flyjin, but I want to explain the reasons that justified the behavior of so many people. It’s perfectly understandable and human considering the information and the reality of foreigners in Japan.

Many Japanese don’t know how was this crisis from a foreigner perspective. So, if you are a Japanese reader or not, this is what a “gaikokujin” experienced:

  1. Earthquakes are not a common thing! Japan is maybe the most ready and better informed country in the world about earthquakes. Japanese learn since primary school how to protect themselves, what an earthquake is, and what it could feel like. It’s something you learn since you are a kid. I’m not saying that Japanese are used to earthquakes, but they have a better understanding of them. This is not the same for other countries. Even countries which historically suffered earthquakes, are not ready as Japan is. So the normal and natural reaction is fear, doubt and for some people, panic.
  2. Many embassies called directly to their nationals saying “would you like to come back? we have a free-ticket flight for you!”. Some embassies even told to their nationals: “You should consider to leave the country!”. So what is the common reaction, when you live in a foreign country and your embassy calls you telling that you should leave and that they have free-flights for you? It’s quite normal and human, specially for people with kids, to leave! Personally I don’t believe in any government or embassy or media, but the common behavior is to believe in your own government.
  3. Foreign media over reacted and manipulated the information, providing sensationalistic news of what was going on here. Families living abroad, started to believe what media said and called their relatives in Japan saying to please leave, go away, radiations will kill you! That’s also natural and human. People tend to believe in TV and they don’t think. That’s a problem of Media Literacy, and it happens everywhere.
    Of course we cannot deny that the situation was critical, thousands of people died due to the tsunami and the danger and fear of the evolution of the nuclear crisis, which kept everyone of us, Japanese and foreigners, in constant tension. But that’s not a justification for the manipulation and sensationalism made by many foreign media.

As an example of what foreign media said about this crisis, here you have some images of Spanish newspapers. This kind of news were almost a clone of all other newspapers around Europe. So just imagine, if you are in a foreign country and you see your own newspapers saying this, and your family read this, what are you going to do?

Translating from the left:

“Japan a country of phantoms…”, “Exodus in Tokyo”, “Nuclear Leak in Japan”

“Fukushima is out of control”, “Leak without control”

“Nuclear Panic”, “Japan looses control and UE says: Nuclear Apocalypse”, “Apocalypse Now?”

This is the reality from the (gaikokujin) foreigner perspective. Embassies recommending to evacuate and alerting of an imminent nuclear disaster or destructive aftershocks. News going crazy spreading out the panic and running in sensationalism. Families begging to come back home. Under those circumstances, it’s normal and human to take the decision to leave and protect your own family.

Why I didn’t become a flyjin? Well, basically I don’t believe in any government. Neither the Japanese, neither Europeans, Americans or whatever other country. I didn’t believe the media in this crisis. I just tried to apply common sense, reading as many different sources as possible, reading articles from physics and scientists. Remember what is going on now in the reactor is science, it’s physics and those laws cannot be changed by politicians, journalists or any ecologist group.

Sources: The pictures of the Spanish newspapers are from “los ojos de ella“.

Coming back to a normal life

Tohoku Earthquake It was about 3 weeks of silence due to the great Tohoku earthquake. I have a lot to say and little time for blogging so let’s start. However, what you will find here are not breaking news, but thoughts and conclusions from the point of view of a foreigner living in Tokyo.

It was 14:46, I was working in my office at Tameikesanno st., just the next building close to the American Embassy. As you can imagine it just started shaking, then stronger and stronger… and then really badly!
It’s hard to explain what was in my mind at that moment. The first thing I thought was “Is this the great Kanto earthquake?” Fortunately or unfortunately it wasn’t.

I was thinking about my girlfriend, friends and everybody else around. Where are them? I faced the possibility that in that very moment they could die. In such situation, I wasn’t able to understand if that was a really big quake of just a bigger one. I had never felt something similar, so for me, and everybody else in the office, it was just insanely big! The building I’m working in is new, well built, strong but… what about other ones? One thought came to my mind just straight away: “If you get out the building now or 5 or 10 minutes later, nothing is going to change. If something really bad happened to somebody you care, it has already happened and you cannot do anything now to stop it!” So I waited until the first quake ended, then took my stuff, checked with my coworkers and run away from the building, looking for a taxi to reach home and see how she was (my gf) !! I couldn’t contact using the mobile network but fortunately data network was almost OK. Twitter was the main source of information and the faster way to contact with her and friends. I could see from the taxi people in the streets with their helmets, people looking up to the buildings to see if some of them were damaged.

Then the second quake came, when I was still in the taxi. The driver turned the radio on just before the second quake came and at a certain moment the radio sent out an alert for the next coming quake. The driver stopped the car, and we waited for a few seconds. That moment into the taxi was like being in a boat… The taxi driver was pretty old and he told me he had never experienced such a big quake before in his whole life. The traffic was jammed and it would take a really long time to reach home if I kept inside the car. So I just paid the driver and came back home by walk. Fortunately I was quite close already so it took me about 1.5hours to reach home. Other people didn’t have the same luck. Many of them spent 6 to 8 hours or more to reach home and some other people had to spend the night at stations or in their offices until the next day. Trains collapsed and the entire transportation infrastructure was almost frozen.

Finally I reached home, everything was quite fine. A lot of stuff around, some stuff broken but she was OK and also friends were OK. At Tokyo we were really lucky, infrastructures resisted pretty well and not a single one building had collapsed.

For the next days we stayed at home feeling an aftershock after another. It was like a never ending dance of the earth. The feeling at some point, experienced by many other people as well, was like being dizzy, like being in a boat! Always worrying about the next quake, worrying about the next alert, worrying about almost everything. Those were a really paranoid days I won’t forget.

Here you can see a map showing the sequence of quakes in Japan since March 11th 2011. http://www.japanquakemap.com/

This was basically my story. It was the first time I felt an earthquake of such magnitude and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one. Unfortunately for people in the north of Japan, affected by the tsunami, things weren’t so smooth. Thousands of fatalities and missing lives, families destroyed, broken, no food and water during the first days. The psychological impact that such a cataclysm will have in their minds will last for decades.

They need help. Japanese National Guard, Japan Red Cross, US military forces and many other organizations and volunteers are doing a great job but help is always needed and not just right now but during years. Money and support will help those people during a short period of time. They not only need to feed their stomachs right now but they need to rebuild their lives. That takes time and, especially, that takes constant economic support.

So please don’t forget victims after few months.

More information about the earthquake in the wikipedia.

Here you have some links for donations and help.
Japanese Red Cross information here.
The Peace Boat information here.
Save the Children information here.