With its power stations still crippled by the recent earthquake, and a looming power shortage this summer, Japan is stepping up efforts to save energy.
Already many escalators at train stations in Tokyo are at a standstill, and some elevators are shut down.
Many buildings are also keeping their lights off, and their hallways dark.
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Japanese households have been asked by the government to make sacrifices as well.
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano explains:
“Our objectives for the months between July and September will be to cut electricity usage 15 percent year-on-year regardless of whether it is a large lot user, small lot user, or a household user.”
Electronic billboards dotting the city constantly remind Tokyo residents how much capacity is left on the grid.
Some people are optimistic that the objective can be met, and Tokyo will avoid major blackouts.
48-year old mechanical engineer Masaya Kato says:
“Although Time Square is bright at night, most of the back streets in New York are dark. Compared to that, Tokyo is still much brighter, so I think it will be possible to save up to 15 or even 20 percent of power, for sure.”
Others remain worried, saying they don’t know where to begin to save power.
Like 73-year old housewife, Emiko Sasaki:
“When someone tells you that you can save energy by doing this or that, you’d probably manage and want to save 15 percent of electricity. But if left to your own devices and forced to figure by yourself, you just wouldn’t know where to start.”
For Takahiro Tsukakoshi, the efforts are a tragic vindication of his 12-year effort to reduce his power consumption.
Tsukakoshi says the power crisis is a chance for many who had never thought of saving energy before, to give it a try.
He uses simple, low-tech methods, like fans instead of air-conditioning, insulation, and wrapping his lamp shade with aluminum foil so a low-wattage light bulb can provide twice as much illumination.
“Japan has recovered from the hardships of the war, saved energy during the oil crisis, and was capable of doing such things in the past. So these incidents are all opportunities, and people are thinking, how are we going to survive the summer without energy? And if we do survive this summer, the energy-saving trend will probably stay longer in Japan.”
Tsukakoshi constantly monitors his home’s electricity usage, and says all these power-saving tricks help reduce his power bill by 30%.
Bottom line: The Japanese look for ways to conserve electricity as Tokyo asks for a 15% cut in electricity use during the summer months to prevent a power shortage.