News / Asia

    Summer Heat Stifles Tokyo as Japan Rebuilds Economy

    Construction work already has begun on the site where Toyota also has announced plans to open a new factory in Tohoku, the region hit by the tsunami, August 2011
    Construction work already has begun on the site where Toyota also has announced plans to open a new factory in Tohoku, the region hit by the tsunami, August 2011

    Multimedia

    Henry Ridgwell

    The Japanese economy was hit hard by the huge earthquake in March, with the twin disasters of the tsunami and the ensuing crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant impacting severely on economic output. Industry bosses are counting on the reconstruction effort to stimulate demand in the coming months.

    The summer commute in Tokyo is even more stifling this year. A power shortage means air conditioners are being switched off. As temperatures build to the mid-30s centigrade, bosses have ordered workers to abandon their normally ubiquitous jackets and ties.

    Companies and households are being asked to slash power consumption by 15 per cent. Latest figures show the Japanese are complying -  electricity demand has so far peaked at only 88 per cent of supply.

    Conservation and sacrifices


    Tokyo’s so-called salarymen say the energy conservation measures are making life tough.

    One man said, "At my company, they're trying to reduce power consumption by 30 percent not 15 percent. The air conditioning has been turned down, the lights are kept low, and at lunchtime everything is turned off altogether."

    A commuter said, "The impact of the earthquake made the Japanese economy fall. But Tohoku is gradually recovering so the economy has got over the worst of it. We are having a tough time because of the strength of the yen, but I believe things will slowly get better."

    Following the meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant, 38 other reactors were taken offline - pending tests on their capability to withstand natural disasters.

    The ongoing nuclear power issues, along with the other damage caused by the tsunami, have hit businesses hard.

    Businesses struggle


    Car-making giant Toyota has just announced losses of $1.4 billion for the financial quarter following the quake. However, company spokesman Paul Nolasco said the outlook is positive.

    "In March we were basically not making cars. So not only have our production facilities gotten back pretty much to pre-quake levels, from next month we aim to be going even above that and to really make that comeback," he said.

    Toyota and other carmakers are closing on Thursdays and Fridays, instead of weekends, to try to help balance power demand. Toyota also has announced plans to open a new factory in Tohoku, the region hit by the tsunami.

    "Eventually that plant will grow much larger so we will have a complete production base in Tohoku from engines to cars, everything in between… Tohoku has been really good to us in terms of the ethic of the workforce, the really ingenious hard-working people, highly-skilled labor - and that's one reason we've been able to get back on our feet," said Nolasco.

    Japan's economy contracted by 3.5 percent in the first quarter of 2011, re-entering recession.

    Hopes of revival


    There are hopes of a revival as the reconstruction effort stimulates demand. Supply chains are recovering. Sendai port - devastated by the tsunami - is again welcoming ships from the Pacific. But some analysts disagree, citing a weak government and a strong yen as negative factors.

    Fears of contamination from the Fukushima nuclear plant also have led to both the Japanese and overseas governments banning some food products from the region.

    Meanwhile, amid the bullet trains and neon signs, Tokyo’s residents and businesses are being forced to survive on rationed power - a situation that utilities warn could last into next year.

    You May Like

    US-Russia Tensions Complicate Syria War

    With a shared enemy and opposing allies, Russia and the US are working to avoid confrontation

    Video Re-opening Old Wounds in Beirut's Bullet-riddled Yellow House

    Built in neo-Ottoman style in 1920s, it is set to be re-opened in Sept. as ‘memory museum’ - bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity

    Cambodian-Americans Lobby for Human Rights Resolution

    Resolution condemns all forms of political violence in Cambodia, urges Cambodian government to end human rights violations, calls for respect of press freedom

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora