Sunday, July 3, 2011


July 3, 2011
The Yomiuri Shimbun

The following is a translation of the Henshu Techo column from The Yomiuri Shimbun's July 3 issue.

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It seems some staff members at Tokyo Customs are remarkably sharp observers.

One month ago, I passed on to readers of this column an announcement made by Tokyo Customs that said, "Due to the recent twin disasters, imports of mineral water and cigarettes have been rising rapidly."

Now the customs house has announced, "The number of electric fans imported in May was 60 percent more than in the same month last year."

Needless to say, the increase in imports of electric fans also stems from the massive March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Electric fans, which consume less electricity than air conditioners, have been in great demand. In May, the nation's electric fan imports totaled 3.21 million units, a monthly record. It is gratifying to see people becoming ever more energy-conscious.

The theme of The Yomiuri Shimbun's Kiryu column--the readers' letters section--last Sunday (June 26) was "electric fan."

Particularly impressive among the letters sent to the Tokyo edition of The Yomiuri Shimbun was one written by an 80-year-old man from Saitama Prefecture. In his letter, he recalled his father, who was born in the Meiji era (1868-1912) and was absolutely committed to frugality and perseverance.

The letter told of how in 1961, amid a scorching heat wave, the man bought an electric fan for his bedridden father. To the man's delight, his father was pleased with the device. But what left the greatest impression was his father's diligence in turning off the fan as often as possible, saying, "It's simply a waste to run up the electricity bill by leaving it on."

From handheld paper fans to electric fans and then on to air conditioners. We have come to take it for granted that from one generation to the next, we can enjoy more benefits of electricity and other conveniences that allow us to lead a luxurious life.

Let us go back, at least, to the more conservative style of electricity use we had during the Showa era (1926-1989). Needless to say, elderly people and those fighting illness should not stress themselves by making extreme efforts to save electricity. It would also not be good to return to viewing the extreme frugality associated with the Meiji era as a virtue.

(Jul. 7, 2011)

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