More on the “fly-jin”. I don’t think this is a clear-cut, black-or-white matter, that those who “flew” were irrational cowards while those who stayed were hard-headed realists loyal to Japan, their families and their jobs. Comments below the quotes.

With so much information available and even governments disagreeing on the best course of action, many residents of the affected areas understandably became worried about the safety of staying in their homes as the nuclear crisis unfolded. Though their Sendai home is technically just outside the official evacuation area, British-born Dominic Jones chose to evacuate with his Japanese wife and two young children as soon as the British government recommended leaving the already shaken area. “They were saying that the situation on the ground was much more serious, in fact, on par with Three Mile Island. They also said its ongoing, so it might even get worse.”

It is, however, clear that because of discrepancies in the way that information is being interpreted, foreign nationals living in Japan are under a lot of pressure from family and friends overseas to leave the country.

“I found news reports conflicting,” explains one Nagano Prefecture resident, who will be called Emma for this story. She extended a holiday in Australia because of radiation worries.

U.S.-based channels like CNN were screaming ‘meltdown’ and Japanese stations remained calm and collected. Some of our friends, particularly those who have lived in Japan a long time, stopped watching CNN and sensationalized foreign news and reverted to Japanese and English updates and embassy reports due to the drama and fear-mongering of foreign channels. But for non-Japanese speakers, one problem was that Japanese channels only had limited news in English so most foreigners had to rely on overseas channels. If I had not already booked flights home, I am sure I would have experienced a lot of stress with pressure from my family and friends from home, to come home.”

via Evacuation turns into chance to help victims | The Japan Times Online.

There seem to be several factors in play here:

  1. the “shock-horror” tone of English media
  2. the restrained tone of Japanese media, which ironically caused some to panic, the very thing it was intended to avoid
  3. the tone and/or the lack of information from the Japanese media and authorities(probably simply due to delays in the various official communication channels, as well as chaos on the ground)
  4. a fundamental mistrust of authorities and government officials (not exactly unwarranted); this factor will be excacerbated if the foreign nationals have limited or no Japanese-language skills
  5. pressure from family abroad
  6. in some cases recommendations from the foreign governments/embassies to leave the area, Tokyo, the country.

Japanese might respond, why did they not consult with neighbours and/or Japanese colleagues at work? Obviously they “can’t be expected to be responsible to anyone except themselves.”

To which the non-Japanese might respond, “Why should we consult with neighbours/colleagues? Are they nuclear engineers? Experts in radiology? What’s the point? I need facts and informed opinion and I need it now! My first priority is the safety of my family. My Japanese colleagues and bosses will dither until there is a clear signal from the authorities, and the chances of that being timely or truthful are less than zero!” 

Clearly, there are different cultural values involved here.


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