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“.