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)