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

    Turkey, US Splits Deepen Over Support for Kurdish Militants

    Ankara summons American ambassador to protest remarks by State Department spokesman who said Washington does not consider Syria's Kurdish Democracy Union Party (PYD) a terrorist organization

    Obama Seeking $19 Billion for National Cybersecurity

    Move, touted as attempt to build broad, cohesive federal response to cyberthreats, calls for increase in cybersecurity spending across all government agencies

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire, who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen

    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.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.