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

TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

36 people are confirmed dead, but some 270 remain trapped on board More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

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.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid