When I left Japan a little over a month ago, people warned me about what it would be like when I returned. Summertime in Japan means not only warm temperatures, but high humidity that saps your energy and leaves everything feeling damp and soggy, from rice crackers to towels that never seem to dry.
This year the summer weather was of particular concern — the disaster at the nuclear power plant and the nationwide concern over the safety of remaining power plants has left Japan with a reduced supply of electricity, heading into the season where demand typically reaches its highest. As suppliers scramble to find new resources, in the short term the only way out is for the nation to reduce its consumption.
With the very real threat of brownouts, the Japanese are powering down where they can. Hopping on a train or walking into a store in the summer used to mean a blast of icy air, a welcome respite from the sweltering temperatures. Not this year.
With air conditioning held to the warmest possible settings, entering a building may mean a barely discernable relief. Offices start the morning out warm and temperatures continue to climb through the day, leaving staff fighting to stay awake in stuffy rooms reaching 80 degrees or more. At Peace Winds, more than one staff has pulled out a paper fan, and can be seen madly moving air to try to cool off in between dabbing beads of sweat.
As I write this in my hotel room, the air conditioning has cooled my hotel room to 84 degrees, down from the 94 degrees outside.
Despite everyone’s efforts to do their part, with more hot days ahead, it remains to be seen if energy production can keep up with consumption. It is a long road to recovery from this disaster, and one that the entire nation is sharing.