Daylight Savings in Japan?

Back to Contents of Issue: September 2004

by Jay Johannesen

FOR OVER A DECADE, Tokyo resident Mike King has sought to convince the Japanese government to introduce daylight savings time in Japan. Over the past three years he has resorted to directly appealing to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi -- yet the government has failed to respond.

"I just hope to call attention to how skewed the summer daylight hours are relative to the average Japanese citizen's schedule -- and compared to the rest of the world," says King. "I would love to gain a precious extra hour of light in the summer evenings for barbecues and other outdoor activities, as well as make my hot and crowded morning commute a bit cooler and more bearable."

This year, for the first time ever, Mike has seen a response to his petitions. A lawmakers' group on the issue, initiated by former Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Takeo Hiranuma, was slated for formation in July, according to The Daily Yomiuri.

Daylight savings time is used in over 70 countries -- essentially, in every developed nation other than Japan, in spite of the Japanese being dependent on imports for almost all of their energy.

Daylight savings time was introduced in Japan by the Occupation authorities in 1948, but was later abandoned by the Japanese government, who cited confusion created by shifting clocks by one hour each spring and fall.

According to John Dower's prize-winning 1999 study of the US occupation, Embracing Defeat, daylight savings time, called sanma taimu, was opposed on the grounds that it simply extended the difficulty of "daily" life. Dower describes a condition of exhaustion and despondency in Japan immediately after the war, causing people to prefer an earlier darkening so they could escape into sleep or drink.

In today's prosperous and seemingly happier Japan, the pain of enduring a longer day is not a rationale for opposing daylight savings time. According to the government's House of Councillors, the impetus for the current legislation to institute daylight savings time is to combat global warming -- not to improve on the lifestyle matters that have
motivated King.

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