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Japan: How to Unplug Your Life and Save Electricity

This page is part of our special coverage Japan Earthquake 2011.

People in Japan have been unplugging their lives as electricity saving measures have been implemented to cope with power shortages.

At present only 19 out of 54 nuclear reactors at power plants are operating and the government has been urging citizens – particularly those living in Eastern Japan – to reduce energy consumption in order to avoid power shortages resulting from the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

According to a survey by research company Macromill [ja], 70 percent of the Japanese interviewed have changed their lifestyle in the last few months. The respondents were young people in their 20s from eight different prefectures and most of them said they had begun to spend more time at home, turn off the lights and unplug their electrical appliances when not in use.

Save Electricity, Switch Off, by Bevelle. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The effectiveness of the power saving measures is still a subject of hot debate in the country but many have taken this opportunity to change their power consuming life style.

Roco lives in Kobe, in Western Japan, and said her family had changed their habits [jp] even though that part of Japan hasn’t been directly affected by the Fukushima nuclear accident:

我が家は、もう常識になってしまったエアコンの設定温度28℃に!
家族はできるだけ1部屋にかたまって動かすエアコンは1台に!
を心がける事と、就寝時間を1時間早めて朝の時間を有効利用しています。
電力消費需要のピーク時午後2時くらい〜はPCやTVなど
電気製品の使用を控えるのも有効な対策になるんですよね。

In my family now it’s become normal to set the aircon temperature at 28℃!
We have also been trying to gather together in one room as much as we can so as to use only one cooler!
These are some of the things we've been paying attention to, besides going to bed one hour earlier and using the morning more effectively.
It is also good to avoid the use of electrical appliances such as PC or TV around 2 p.m. when the power demand reaches its peak.

“Setsuden” (an abbreviation for ‘saving electricity') has become an everyday word and in some cases also a trend.
Setsuden recipes, for instance, have become popular on the internet as people have been spreading the word on what’s the best way to eat well without using too much energy.

Shirousagi posted some suggestions [jp] on her blog:

節電レシピとしては冷ややっこや納豆、佃煮、
梅干し、海苔、漬物、缶づめ、ハム、かまぼこなど
電気だけでなくガスも使わずささっと手早く
食べられるものを多く使うようにしています。

加熱するものがあるとどうしても室温が上がり
暑くなるので火を加えず美味しく頂けるものが
あると節電だけでなく涼しく過ごせ良いなと
思います。

お刺身などもそのままお料理せずに食べられて
節電メニューの代表的なものかもしれません。

For my setsuden recipes, I have been using a lot of ingredients such as tofu, food boiled in soy, pickled umeboshi (preserved plums), seaweeds, pickles, canned foods, ham, minced fish etc., because there is no need to use electricity or gas and they can be eaten quickly.
If you use food that has to be cooked, the room temperature will rise inevitably and you'll feel hot so eating fresh food helps save electricity and remain cool.
One perfect example of setsuden menu is sashimi because you can eat [the raw fish] as it is without cooking it.

Power saving trends started before summer, when home centers and electrical appliance shops put on sale a variety of goods with the aim of facilitating a low power consuming life.

Blogger Bota started changing his lifestyle in May [jp] when he first acquired his first setsuden devices:

1)電気契約量を40A⇒30Aに変更して、電気使用量の上限を強制的に下げた。
2)電気消費量の多いダウンライトとクリプトン球を使用した照明器具の使用をやめて、使用頻度の高いリビングは蛍光灯に切り替えた。(LEDはまだ高いのであきらめた)

1) I changed the contract with the electric company to a lower limit of 30 Amperes instead of 40, in effect lowering the amount of electricity I can use.
2) I stopped using lights that use high electrical consumption bulbs such as down lights and krypton bulbs. (LED lights are still too expensive so I gave up on them)

[...]

③東京電力「電気のシェイプアップカルテ」に申し込んで、月次で電気使用量を点検
④真夏に備えて緑のカーテンを準備
今年は節電対策としてゴーヤやアサガオを栽培する家庭が多いようで、どこのホームセンターでも売り切れだ。

3) I applied for the Tokyo Electric Company's “electricity shape up chart” so I can check the electricity consumption month by month.
4) As I prepared for summer heat, I set up a curtain made of greens.
This year many families have started to grow bitter melon or the flower of Morning Glory as a measure [to provide shade], so now there are none left in the shopping centers.

Goya (bitter melon) curtain, by Hidetsugu Tonomura. CC BY-NC 2.0

①7月度の節電の取り組み LED化以外はほとんど節電の余地がなくなってきたが、7月9日の梅雨明け以来、急に日差しが強まってきたため、窓に断熱シートを貼って室温の上昇を抑えることにした。ただしこのシートによる断熱効果がいかほどのものかは分からない。

1) In July I was able to replace the light bulbs with LED but after the rainy season was over and the sun has become stronger I decided to use the heat insulating sheet because of the rising temperatures. However I am still not sure about the sheet’s effectiveness.

Heat insulating sheet, by YTO. CC BY 2.0

Whilst doubt remains whether these small changes in power consuming habits may actually make a real difference, people like @coachsuki are proud that their efforts have proved successful.

@coachsuki 電気使用量のお知らせがきた~!今月分は昨年と比べ31%減少してますって\(^o^)/ 家中の電球を変えたのと冷風機使用と冷蔵庫カーテンの結果だな♩ちゃんと節電出来てるわ(o^^o)

I got the report on my electricity consumption! This month I have used 31% less than the same period last year \(^o^)/ Probably it depends on the fact that I've changed the light bulbs at home, also that I now use fans and a ‘fridge curtain‘ ♩ so I have really been able to save electricity! (o^^o)

This page is part of our special coverage Japan Earthquake 2011.

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