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Japanese unite against nuclear power

Tens of thousands of people marched through central Tokyo on Saturday to press the government to ditch nuclear power in light of the Fukushima Dai-ichi disaster.

Protesters marched in orderly rows banging drums and shouting anti-nuclear slogans while walking toward the Economy Ministry and the head offices of Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco), the privateer which owns and operates the stricken atomic facility.

Demonstrations were also staged in Osaka, Hiroshima and Fukushima, where Tepco bosses have failed to stem radiation leaks from their reactors since the March 11 magnitude-9 earthquake and tsunami that knocked out power and cooling systems.

Tokyo grows green curtains

The odd looking goya has long been a popular ingredient in Japanese cuisine, but Tokyoites are now growing the courgette-shaped bitter melon for reasons of energy conservation, not food.

Skylark, a restaurant chain, is cultivating the goya to create "green curtains" outside the windows of several hundred of its Tokyo eateries. The plants, it says, should form a natural shade to cool the interiors, reducing its reliance on air conditioners.


Some are taking more extreme steps in the hot muggy summer. Famista, a small website developer, has vowed to keep its air conditioners switched off and is paying employees Y2,000 ($25) a month to buy vest tops to wear.

Along with other companies, Skylark intends to set its air conditioners two degrees higher than normal - to 27C at the restaurant operator - this summer. The chain hopes the goya green curtains, combined with a special film it will apply to windows, will lower the temperature of a 330 square metre restaurant by two degrees.

Skylark favours goya because it is robust, has broad leaves, does not attract bugs, is easy to look after and fast growing. By the middle of the summer, each plant should be 2.5 metres high.

Japanese told to beat the heat with Hawaiian shirts"

At Japan's Environment Ministry, the atmosphere is almost preppy; it's full of fresh-faced young people in polo shirts, Crocs and even the odd Hawaiian shirt. This is the birthplace of Super Cool Biz, an energy-saving dress code designed to help ease power shortages following Japan's nuclear crisis, which could just lead to a revolution in Japanese office wear.

Elsewhere in the building, only half of the elevators are working. The corridors are murkily dark, with overhead lights switched off to save electricity. The air conditioning is off and the windows are open -- both unusual in Japanese offices.

Japan is struggling with power shortages following the nuclear crisis that has crippled the Fukushima nuclear plant and led to another nuclear plant also being closed down. To save electricity, several measures are being put in place, including making government employees in Tokyo start work an hour earlier.

Masahiro Sato, the father of Super Cool Biz, goes through the rules of this sartorial revolution intended to lighten up traditional office wear for the summer months: no neckties, no jackets, yes to polo shirts, yes to Hawaiian shirts, yes to sandals -- but no flip-flops. This, it's hoped, will be the new summer dress code of Japan's salarymen, designed to help the country through this year's power crunch.

"We're limiting air conditioners to 82 degrees to save energy," Sato says. "So we have to loosen up clothing guidelines, so people can be more comfy. As a target, we're looking at saving 10 percent of office electricity expenditure."

And from my own anecdotal evidence, my school is removing a third of the lights from classrooms (already well-enough lit by windows, anyway) changed the teacher dress code a bit, and mandated that A/C be set to no lower than 28.  Many stores have permenantly dimmed their main signs, and have also removed banks of lighting.  Lots of escalators have been de-activated as well, especially down escalators.  

by Zwackus on Sun Jun 12th, 2011 at 07:27:33 PM EST

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