Monday, September 10, 2012

What if you're a person who came back after the 3/11 disaster?

Every so often my little Japan Times email asks me to read a story about "flyjin" or "stayjin."  Flyjin is a pejorative portmanteau coined somewhere by somebody and referring to all the ex-pats or foreigners who spent years (or months, I suppose) living on the largesse of the EFL industry, then bugged out immediately following the Tohoku earthquake, tsunami and the Fukushima meltdowns.  From what I gather from the stories on Japan Times Online, this was one of those media-flogged myths and the actual exodus amounted to about 2.6 percent more than the previous, pre-disaster year.

Well, that there were more is probably a disaster-related effect, but the numbers hardly deserve a derisive term.  If someone's using it as if it were an actual phenomenon, they're not really aware of the situation, or else they're a dishonest debater.  Most people stayed.  So stayjin is the antonym for flyjin.

But what about people like me who came back to Japan in the aftermath of all the upheaval?  I know some people have plenty of names to call me, but I left almost a year before March 11, 2011, and I returned to Japan the following November.  I ended up living in Asahi, Chiba, a coastal city where the quake and tsunami both took a toll that day.  I have no idea if I saw any of the ruins.  Probably not.  Many of my students there had been personally affected and one of them lost his house and was living with his parents.  The foreign employees of the company certainly had a lot of thrilling stories to tell.  What's tragedy for some becomes just another anecdote for others.

Another teacher trained with me, more came later.  Just before I relocated, we added two more newcomers-- although one had been in Japan at least since the previous summer-- and I helped train my own replacement.  Just this past weekend my mom told me of a friend's daughter who absolutely loves Japan and plans to relocate here to study and find a job.  I'm supposed to email her sometime and give her advice, which I'm happy to do; many helped me when I first came to Japan and I feel an obligation to do the same.

So how about a positive name for people like this, people who want to live and work in this amazing country, full of wonderful people?  People who deserve better than to think the ex-pats they come to know and love take flight at the first sign of trouble.

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