JIN-283 -- Daylight Savings in Japan?

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T H E J @ P A N I N C N E W S L E T T E R

Commentary on the Week's Business, Technology and Cultural News
Issue No. 283
Thursday, July 29, 2004

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@@ VIEWPOINT: Daylight Savings in Japan?

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@@ VIEWPOINT: Daylight Savings in Japan?

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 sunrise later so my hot and
crowded morning commute would be 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
earlier this month, according to The Daily Yomiuri.

Daylight savings time is used in over 70 countries -- essentially, in
every developed nation other than Japan. In fact, the system was
introduced to Japan by the US occupational government 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痴 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 no longer the rationale for opposing daylight
savings time. "Amazingly, one of the first reasons I was given for
not instituting daylight savings time wasn't because of salarymen
staying at the office longer, or the need for morning light by
farmers or for children walking to school," says King.
"But rather it was opposition by Ginza nightclub owners,
who were worried that more evening daylight would reduce
their business hours."

According to the government's House of Councillors, the impetus for
the current legislation to institute daylight savings time is to
combat global warning -- not the lifestyle matters that have
motivated King.

King is convinced that daylight savings time will be beneficial for
both social and economic reasons, just as it is elsewhere in the world.
"I think daylight savings time will lead to salarymen spending more
time outdoors with their families, savings on electricity costs
because of decreased business and household illumination, and a
general economic stimulation as Japanese spend more time and
money on summer leisure activities."

Despite all these arguments, King is not overly confident about
winning what has been a long, quixotic battle: "Most of my Japanese
colleagues are completely baffled when I bring up the issue. This
is an issue where gaitsu (foreign pressure) is essential for

King remains unconvinced by the explanation he received that shifting
the clocks twice a year would prove difficult and confusing.

"This notion of Japan being thrown into utter confusion and turmoil
twice a year is totally ridiculous. In addition, there is the argument
that getting up an hour earlier, eating an hour earlier and going to
bed an hour earlier would be hard on everyone's internal clock. But
millions of Japanese travel every year between different time zones
and seem to cope just fine. So what is an hour twice a year?"

-- Jay Johannesen

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Written and edited by Roland Kelts and
Leo Lewis (editors@japaninc.com)


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