Monday, July 16, 2012

Setsuden: Saving Electricity Until it Kills You

NHK reports that over 516 people across Japan were sent to the hospital yesterday with heat stoke related ailments. (Sorry, article in Japanese only).

The story related about nine junior high school students suffering from heat stroke after a tennis tournament inside of a blistering hot school gymnasium... Heat stroke inside a building that has little ventilation and is probably 35 degrees Celsius during a tennis tournament? Nah! Can't be. Who'd a thunk it?

Also, coincidentally, three other female junior high school students in Gunma prefecture were sent to the hospital with heat stroke at a tennis tournament there too.

What can once deduce from these two anecdotal stories? Either female junior high school kids make great news stories or playing tennis in the blistering heat isn't a good idea. It's a close call, but , for my own well-being (and because I'm so lazy) I'll go with the later.

All levity aside, the nightly news was talking about so many older folks suffering with the high heat and contributing to the effort to save electricity by not turning on their home air conditioners. 

How we keep cool at my back patio

That's the point of this article; the Japanese group think and the group "guilt complex." The Japanese people have a definite "family" feeling for other Japanese people that's seems different than most other countries' people do. It's a "pride" (for lack of a better word) that "we Japanese are different" and it goes a long way back in a country that is as old as Japan. (I've met Dutch people who seemed to feel just about the same way about their countrymen.)

Yesterday I was talking with some Japanese folks who were discussing Setsuden (power saving) and the Japanese psyche. These folks were in their late 30s to mid-40s and were finding the actions of their countrymen to be quite curious. I found what they said to be curious too!

One lady told me,

"The Japanese have such a group culture mentality that when something bad happens to Japanese people far away, the older folks feel like they have to do their part, pitch in, and suffer too. It's strange in a way. My parents have refused to turn on the cooler and grandmother doesn't complain (she's 88!)"

I asked her why grandmother doesn't complain and she replied, 

"She's from the generation that was brought up in the war. Everyone at that time believed that 'we are all in this together' so they felt that group suffering was normal. Nowadays, even though it's not as strong, my parents think the same way... Things are slowly changing but when they see things like the tsunami disaster, they feel it is their duty to suffer alongside their fellow countrymen."

I asked her if she was running her airconditioner at home and she told me that she was doing so only at night and at the minimum setting. When I asked her why she didn't turn the cooler up higher she replied,

"Because if I did, then I'd feel guilty."



Andrew Joseph said...

I know this may sound hypocritcal coming from a guy who loves his A/C, but really - before the 1980s, A/C was a real luxury in the family home.
Here in Toronto, we didn't get one until 1981. We had fans. We had your son's wading pool. We had public swimming pools. We had the shopping malls, which were A/C'd.
People adapt, and people can adapt again.
I had to borrow my mother-in-law's car last week... No A/C. Temperatures in Toronto were in the mid to high 30s, and with the humidity one day, it was 42C. Factor in rush hour traffic.

Three weeks ago, I once sat in a traffic jam and moved 100m in 11 minutes, a second 100m in 4 minutes, and a third 100m in 1 hour. The temperature was 48C on the outside of my car. Where am I? Calcutta?
Heat stroke? Hydration. Lots of water.
I do think holding a tennis tourney in a gym is stupid, unless its Winter Time. Outside? It should be held until 12PM. Or earlier, with discretion.
Hopefully everyone is okay.

Boo said...

I think it's a bit more nuanced. Japanese people will do their part, pitch in and suffer, if they think their coworkers, neighbors or relatives are watching.

Anonymous said...

My first reaction is that I readily give credit where credit is due: this behavior is commendable. My second reaction upon hearing "we Japanese" are "different than others" is to be reminded of that self-obsession commonly known as narcissism. Too bad a great quality has to be explained as an opposition.