The world has seen the devastation caused by the 9.0 magnitude March 11th earthquake and subsequent tsunami. Now that the story has slipped from the headlines, what’s really going on in Japan at the moment? Well, I can’t speak directly to the situation in the Tohoku region impacted directly by the tsunami but I can talk about what is going on in Tokyo.
According to a recent FT article, only 19 of 54 nuclear plants were in operation after the Fukushima accident. This is a combination of accidents/damage from the earthquake, plants taken off line for repairs, and a few closed out of political and public concerns.
To conserve power, therefore, 節電 (setsu den or saving power) is in full effect. Every third fluorescent light bulb has been taken out of the ceilings of the trains, some escalators are turned off, many stores (even pachinko parlors) have signs letting you know that they’re open but taking measures to conserve electricity. The halls outside the elevators in my company headquarters are dark and a few rows of lightbulbs on each floor have been taken out as well.I haven’t yet been to Shinjuku or Shibuya yet – places known for their neon – but word is they are darker, too. Other than the reduced power consumption it seems that life is pretty normal.And how’s this for perfect timing? Today, there was an announcement on our company e-bulletin board about “Light Down” Day http://coolearthday.jp/ (Japanese). From 8pm everyone in the country (at least those participating in this program sponsored by the Ministry of the Environment) was urged to leave work, turn off lights, and use less power. This is meant to be part of CO2 reduction awareness and keep the theme of energy consumption on everyone’s mind.