Wednesday, August 31, 2011

American Indulgences & Japanese Setsuden

I am finally home after my month long indulgences in American life- using the air conditioning day and night, using both a washing machine and a dryer to do the laundry, driving everywhere, and sharing or avoiding completely cooking and grocery shopping duty. I feel relaxed. I am kind of surprised. The kids will start school tomorrow so I will be up to my armpits with schedules and homework to oversee soon enough, but for today, for this moment, it feels like nothing matters too much in a good way- a bend like a willow kind of thing.

Do I need anxiety? Does it serve a purpose besides winding me up so tight that I annoy myself? Perhaps, if only momentarily,  I have quit striving. I have no idea what the next year will bring, but a path beckons: we have a house, plans for retirement, and I feel calm. The calm before the storm, the lull before the hurricane hits, possible, but I like it.

Saving Energy for Japan
We had a gentle but long aftershock tonight. The Mule went under the table. I have noted that here, back in Japan, half of the lights are still off in the shops, most of the lights are off tonight in my neighborhood, and that friends comment on the coolness of our house - I have one dehumidifier on so that my gas stove will light at will and so I can have some no sweat time each day. There have been no black outs since those initial days after the quake.

The Japanese government may have changed prime ministers every year that I have been in Japan, but everyone is following the government's recommendations for reducing energy usage (20% is the target)- so much so that it both practically happened overnight and the usage levels are still down. I am not as confident in the annual leadership rotation plan, but there is wiggle room in this world for conserving energy setsuden 節電.


Ten Conservation Tips from Japan
These are the conserving electricity tips being dissiminated here in Japan that I have found useful, amusing, or somehow noteworthy:

1. Reduce indoor air-conditioning to 82ºF (28ºC).

2. Hair cuts "The Tokyo-based construction firm Maeda Corporation has requested that men have a short back-and-sides and women have a 'cute' bob with a longer fringe that can be swept to one side. Company spokeswoman Chizuru Inoue explained: 'Our company is very keen on protecting the environment and we encourage our staff to adopt many environment-friendly actions.' She added: 'We are not sure of the data yet, but we believe if people have short hair, they do not need to use their hair driers for so long and they will use less water.'"

3. Use LED lamps instead of overhead lights.

4. Turn of lights in unoccupied rooms and turn off computers not in use.

5. Energy Usage Meters "Tokyo, a bustling capital famous for its neon lights, has now turned into a city of darkened buildings and slower running trains. Billboards at major crossings flash daily rates of power consumption that tell whether the city has conserved sufficient energy to avoid a blackout."

6. Spend time with your family- instead of gallivanting around I think is the idea.

7. "Spend as much time as possible outside" such as the park or a movie theater.

8. Relaxed clothing- Patagonia anyone? Ok, Uniqlo is good too and cheaper.

9. Cool, quick showers? In the land of bathing! Just go to the onsen or try a public bath- those old fashioned communal ways have their merits.

10. "A near empty fridge is just wasting power keeping a few things cool, but a well-stocked fridge has a mass that’s easier to cool. Just be sure you don’t overload it and restrict air circulation. Letting leftovers cool to room temperature before putting them in the fridge also helps keep the icebox icy and cleaning the dust off the coils in the back will up efficiency. Cooks should also refrain from using the oven, which gobbles up electricity and heats the house. Microwave and stovetop cooking are far more eco-friendly."