Are there two different Japan?

For observers to Japan, some might have noticed that where you stand on an escalator in Tokyo (Kanto area) or in Osaka (Kansai area) is not the same. While in Kanto the left side on an escalator is reserved to stand and the right is for busy travelers. In Kansai the situation is the other way round. Although whole Japan seems closely connected, a divide exists in Japan. If you are really detail oriented apart from the difference in dialect, you might notice as well some cultural differences. In business I perceive Kansai area more straight forward and direct, more demanding in price negotiation and generally less patient than business partners from Kanto area. As well in everyday used products a difference can be found. Would you have expected a different preference in toilet paper? According to Nikkei Shimbun 70% of people living in Kanto area prefer double toilet paper, contrasting Kansai with 60% focus on single toilet paper.
On the other hand, a much bigger concern now for the Eastern part of Japan is the present lack of electricity. Japan’s electric infrastructure comprises of two main power grids: One system in the west of the country (including Kansai area) operates at 60 hertz (like power in the US). In contrast the Eastern part, where Tokyo and Fukushima are located, run on a 50-hertz system (like power in Germany). So far this had not been an issue, because there are enough power plants in each of the grids so that electricity can be shifted, if there are spikes in power demand or outages at a plant. Further there are ways to pass on some power across the 50-hertz/60-hertz divide, but this is only available for a limited amount of electricity. Now with the lack of power from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant the idea of creating new linkages between both systems pops up, but the realisation is incredibly expensive and I would not expect it for years.
Saving energy is now not just a great gesture towards nature, but much more a daily must for Eastern Japan. In order to create revenue for the recovery of Japan business has to run as usual, which consequently demands energy. These days rolling blackouts are gone, but with the increasing heat of the summer I am wondering about the effect on daily life, effectiveness of Japanese business and as a consequence the Japanese economy. In order to rebuild, there is a huge demand for money that has to be created from within. I truly hope the coming weeks will allow Japan to pull together as a team, no matter what dialect or toilet preference we might have.

Brought to you by Sibylle Ito (シビル伊藤)

4 thoughts on “Are there two different Japan?

  1. I saw a video from a Japanese news show that pointed out that the dimmed lights in Tokyo make it about the same brightness as other major world cities. It might be time for Japan to think about permanently turning down the lights a bit. I’m not mentioning that as someone who doesn’t have any experience and is just talking… California had massive power shortages and rolling blackouts when we moved here. People were trying to conserve, so you’d go into a place and every other light would be off. A few years later, many lights are still down, just not to that extreme. You know what? It’s totally fine. Most of those lights weren’t needed to begin with. (And now that LEDs are more available, motion-activated LEDs are being put in grocery-store freezers, etc. It’s not like the frozen spinach is scared of the dark! ;)) I still see a lot of wasted lighting, but I’m glad that a lot of the excess has been toned down despite the crisis passing.

    • Dear Clarissa,

      thank you so much for taking time to comment.
      I fully agree with you that there are different levels of brightness and it is not always necessary to have every spot lightened up. From personal observations I feel more comfortable in many places now with dimmed light than the previous stage lights. For sure I am curious for the coming summer and the long term effects on energy consumption.

      All the best from the dimmed, but still sparkling Tokyo,

      Sibylle Ito

  2. I was just talking this over with Sebastian last night, summer heat, esp the end of July till the beginning of October is not only hot, but disgustingly humid. I can’t imagine working in the offices with no way to open windows.. not only can you not wear your suit, but it would be an uncomfortable environment to work in.

    • Dear Elle Marie,

      thinking of the coming summer, yes, I feel already hot and I am wondering how I will keep cool. On the other hand I have to say my personal temperature when my brain gets really slow might be rather high with 26C in Japanese humidity.
      One thing I know for sure, two goods will be sold like crazy this summer: Underwear that feels cold on your skin and special bedcover that allows to move the heat away from your body. So maybe it is now the time to buy Uniqlo stocks.

      All the best from the still springcold Tokyo,


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