Posts Tagged ‘environment’

Power saving puts Christmas illuminations in a new light

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

The Winter Sakura lights along Meguro River are powered by used cooking oil

As is the tradition, Christmas lights are twinkling all over Tokyo. When it comes to Christmas decorations the Japanese, who tend to go wild for the glitziest, brightest possible displays, aren’t exactly famed for their self-restraint, so this year poses the problem of how to accomplish the desired amount of dazzle without being seen as an energy hog.

The most obvious answer, and the most popular one, is to swap out normal bulbs for energy-efficient LED lights. Due to LED bulbs’ power-saving qualities, ad agency Dentsu has rated them as the second most popular product in Japan for 2011.

According to Sankei News, Keikyu Railways and the New Otani Hotel have both switched to LED lights. But Ebisu Garden Palace has not only switched over the bulbs of its gigantic Baccarat Crystal chandelier, it’s also reduced the number of bulbs from 60,000 to 40,000. On top of that a solar power panel has been installed to supplement the power supply. The Grand Prince Hotel Takanawa’s, however, have outstripped this effort by installing an entirely solar-powered display of LED lights in its Japanese garden.

Though the hotel’s garden sounds attractive, our favorite eco-friendly display in Tokyo is the “Winter Sakura” illuminations along the Meguro River. Pink LED bulbs are strung on the branches of trees along the river so that it appears as if the cherry blossom trees are blooming out of season. Better yet, the lights are powered from bio diesel made from used cooking oil collected from homes and restaurants in the area.

Some businesses have decided that the best way to do their bit, however, is to dodge the whole issue by not putting up any decorations. SG Holdings, for instance, who run Sagawa Express Ltd. announced that in light of power-saving measures, they decided to cancel any plans for illuminations that might have been put up at their head office or branch offices. This seems a pity especially seeing as Nikken Release Kyogo Ltd has begun renting out eco-friendly LED Christmas trees to meet the demand for a setsuden (power saving) Christmas.

Japan by the numbers (09.02.10)

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

Japan by the numbers (07.16.10)

Friday, July 16th, 2010

Japan by the numbers (03.25.2010)

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

New faces down on the farm

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

Farm bootsCombine rising food prices with rejection of the rat race and you’ll begin to understand why the popularity of farming as a hobby – both in Tokyo and the surrounding hinterlands  – continues to grow. It’s not a bad idea, actually, especially when you consider Japan’s wilting food self-sufficiency rate and the fact that nearly half of Japanese working farmers are in their 70s or older.

Programs like WWOOF have been matching farmers with willing workers for decades, but the recession and subsequent corporate layoffs have inspired both part-timers and nine-to-fivers to trade in the work shoes for muddy boots on the weekends. Some travel to plots of land in the suburbs, while others are taking to the rooftops, even in high-street districts like Omotesando. Matsuya department store even has their own line of honey produced by bees buzzing around their Ginza garden. The vegetables in many of these high-rise sanctuaries aren’t always the idealized size or shape, but that’s OK . . .  because Japanese consumers are finally overcoming their aversion to oddly shaped vegetables.

The question to ask  here may be whether or not this return to the dirt will last when (or if) prosperity arrives again, but there’s no doubt that many city-folk enjoy the nostalgia of a farm life they may or may not have memories of. Just take a trip out to Mother’s Farm, a pastoral theme park centered on livestock. Here, families and dates on a day trip may stand in cues for nearly an hour  to milk a cow. If agriculture has become entertainment, can we grow popcorn?

Bonus links:

Electric bicycles take charge

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

A supercharged ride

As America’s Cash for Clunkers program replaces old cars with new ones, some are discovering electric bicycles as an interesting alternative to gas stations, traffic jams and parking fees.

In Japan, battery-powered bikes sold more than scooters and motorcycles in 2008, with a 24% increase in sales since January. The most common explanation for this spike is environmental awareness – less gas equals more green – but I believe the housewives, senior citizens and businesses buying the lion’s share of these vehicles are doing so for reasons more practical than altruistic.

Continue reading about electric bicycles

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