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

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    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.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora