'Exodus' of disaster-panicked foreigners from post-3.11 Japan doesn't add up
Mainichi -- May 09
One year ago -- less than two months after the Great East Japan Earthquake and with the Fukushima nuclear crisis in flux -- anyone walking the streets of Tokyo might very well have asked that question. With Japan in the teeth of disaster, it seemed as though the country's foreign population had evaporated, an image reinforced by news footage of gargantuan queues at Narita International Airport check-in counters.
Some 531,000 foreigners left Japan in the four weeks after the March 11, 2011 disaster, according to a Ministry of Justice announcement of April 15 that year. It was mass panic, a rush for the last lifeboats on the Titanic. The expatriate community had left Japan for dead.
Or had they?
Of those 531,000 people who left in the first month, about 302,000 had obtained re-entry permits, suggesting most were at least considering coming back. Furthermore, a look at foreign resident numbers and the job market for foreign talent months after the disaster show that the exodus was in the end more a trickle than a flood, and perhaps only an acceleration of pre-existing trends.
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