Posted on April 25, 2011

Rebuilding Japan: Special Scorn for ‘Flyjin’ Foreigners Who Fled Country

Julian Ryall and Malcolm Moore, Telegraph (London), April 21, 2011

“You are the first foreigners I have seen in my bar in a month,” said Hidetsugo Ueno, the bartender at High Five Bar in Ginza. “Are you sure you should be staying here in Japan?” he added, with a smile.

Skittish members of the financial community were the first to empty out and Hong Kong has issued around 300 long-term visas to bankers and traders who wanted to continue working in Asia, but not to live in Tokyo.

“Around 80pc of the visas are to employees at international financial institutions earning at least HK$100,000 (£7,775) a month,” said Chan Kwok-ki, Hong Kong’s immigration director. Five of those went to employees of ICAP, who sent traders to the island as a temporary measure.

In addition, almost all Chinese and Korean residents in Japan have now left the country, despite no advice to do so from their home governments.

The sudden flight has dismayed the Japanese.

“It’s not good that they all left so suddenly,” said Mutsuko Izawa, a housewife who lives in the town of Ujie, 85 miles the damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant. “Of course this means that in the future, when a company has a choice between hiring a Japanese and a foreigner they will not hire the foreigner because they will be worried if they are going to stay.

“For senior people in big companies, I think they had a responsibility to their Japanese staff to stay. I can perhaps understand if they wanted their families to leave, but a company operating here needs people who will be here when times are more difficult,” she added.

“I think this has reinforced the impression amongst Japanese that a lot of foreigners only look at Japan as a place to work for a few years, earn a lot of money and then they go again,” she said. “They’re not really interested in the society or the country. This isn’t their real home. These disasters have really just shown how true that is.”

The managing director of one British firm in Tokyo said he had evacuated only one of his staff because he had a wife and a young child.

“We thought it was only the right thing to do in the circumstances, but only because they had a small baby,” he said.

“No-one else left our company and I think that was the right thing to do as if four or five senior executives had suddenly decided to jump ship then it would of course caused great resentment. There are a lot of executives and companies in Japan today who are facing a backlash against them. The feeling is they have lost credibility with their local employees because they left and I think that will cause longer-term problems.”