London and Mifed were dealt a blow this week when Japanese buyers and sellers voted to stay at home en masse due to travel fears

Companies cancelling their trips completely include Shochiku and Asmik Ace, while companies cancelling as buyers include Toho Towa. Nippon Herald will send two buyers to London but none to Mifed, while others cancelling or scaling back include Amuse, Pony Canyon, Pioneer, Little Magic and Daiei. Only the heavyweight Gaga Communications is bringing an unchanged contingent of no less than 29 executives.

Sellers expect their absence to impact particularly on companies aiming to pre-sell larger films. Capitol Films co-chief Jane Barclay, who is closing three deals for Japan, pointed out that the move is a blow because the Japanese market is recovering. She highlights Robert Altman's buzz period piece Gosford Park, which is screening for the first time in London, as a film that would have particularly benefited from being seen by Japanese buyers.

"It is disappointing," she said. "The Japanese are very selective about period films, although that doesn't mean never."

Most Japanese companies cited security rather than economic factors. Pony Canyon, which is sending no buyers to either London or Milan, but will have a stand at Mifed, said: "It is company policy to reduce business travel during these troubled times." An Asmik Ace spokesman said: "If there is an incident, we cannot afford to be stuck in an airport in London waiting for an airplane back to Tokyo."

Patrick Frater, Mark Schilling and Adam Minns contributed to this report.