I have finally started to go through the So-Matome N1 Listening Comprehension book. So far the first couple chapters are incredibly difficult. I was surprised actually. I felt like there was a lot of really challenging stuff to get you ready for the real thing. To top it off the speakers aren’t exactly the clearest speakers in the world, so I think it represents some good listening practice for advanced learners which is often very hard to find.
I’m still rolling through Harry Potter. I’m starting to really pick up speed with the book. I generally get through around 6 pages a day in the 25 or so minutes I have, to read on the train ride home. It is starting to get pretty motivating to read because I’m picking up a ton of vocabulary and just seeing my overall reading speed increase as well.
Memrise, my current go to favorite for vocabulary practice went down for a few days, which almost got me off track with vocabulary. I didn’t realize how addicted I was to learning vocabulary. I guess my overuse of memrise shows in the fact that I’m now in the top 100 of all users. But, I think it is a pretty good use of time and helps to seal in new vocabulary.
The Realities of Setsuden
I’m going to shift gears a little bit this week and give you a look into the current situation of what it is like in Japan at the moment. For those of you inside the country, this is probably going to be old news, but it is a story that hasn’t quite made it out of the country and that is the now annual event called setsuden (節電).
As you probably know, a little over a year ago Japan saw one of the worst earthquakes in modern history hit northern Japan. It devastated much of the Tohoku region and leveled a lot of the coastal towns, doing a tremendous amount of damage to the area. Although they’ve managed to clean up a large part of the damage, rebuilding is still underway in the area and will probably continue for at least the immediate future.
One mess that they still can’t seem to get under control is the crippled Fukushima plant. They are still doing all sorts of desperate work to try to contain the issue, but problems still keep coming up. The latest issue is a problem with reactor 4. For further information about that crisis, I encourage you to check out the Fukushima Update or Fukushima Diary, which are two pretty good blogs that have some ‘inside’ information.
All Nuclear Reactors shutdown (almost)
Although people in Japan have never really been too excited about atomic energy for obvious reasons, they have recently become a lot more outspoken against it. There was a huge protest in Tokyo just recently where the police actually started clamping down and stopped protesters from joining the protest.
As a consequence of this backlash against atomic energy, nuclear reactors were not being restarted. Basically in Japan, a nuclear reactor runs for about 15 months and then is shutdown for 3 months for routine maintenance. In order to start back up again, the prefectural governor has to give approval and these approvals have not been given recently.
So, on May 5th of this year the last nuclear reactor was shutdown and Japan became nuclear free for the first time since 1970. They have since restarted two reactors in Oi in the Kansai region here, but that has been meet with strong protests.
That’s All Fine and Good, but…
I’m not really going to go into the controversy of whether atomic energy is good or bad; that’s for you to decide. However, the fact of the matter is that around 30% of Japan’s power used to come from reactors. In Kansai, I believe the percentage was higher, but I can’t seem to find the number anymore.
So here in Kansai, we face the moderate chance of scheduled blackouts. Most people believe that they will never happen, but just in case they are giving us a warning about what might be coming. As part of this, we were sent codes in the mail a few weeks ago that tell us what group we are a member of, if our number comes up then they will flip the switch on us.
Of course black outs are generally considered a bad thing, so a lot of folks are doing what they can to reduce their power consumption, which seems to be a pretty good thing to me. It is actually pretty incredible how much electricity we use on a day to day basis and how much we take it for granted.
Currently, a lot of businesses only have half their lights on. This makes the supermarket a little darker, but not really the end of the world. A lot of the hallways in office buildings only have 1 out of 3 lights on, which makes it seem like you are going to work after hours, but again not a real big sacrifice in my opinion.
Another thing that is being encouraged is Super Cool Biz, which is a spin off of Cool Biz that came out about 5 years ago. These two programs are basically designed to encourage office workers to dress more casually in order to reduce the bill for air conditioning. This is a government initiative that I can really get behind.
If a company adopts Super Cool Biz employees are allowed to go so far as to wear Aloha shirts to work. No ties, no jackets, slacks are replaced with chinos in most cases. Pretty nice in my opinion. You are not going to hear any complaints for me.
At home, we are all encouraged to put up 簾 or sudare, which are reed screens over the window to block out the heat. Of course heavy use of air conditioning is also generally discouraged, but with a 3 month old at home, I’m not sure how long I can follow that suggestion.
Instead of air conditioning, we are encouraged to use fans. Actually last year, fans completely sold out and were selling for almost 3 times the normal price because of setsuden.
What’s your Take?
Personally, I’m all for saving electricity. I think we use a lot more than we think we do on a daily basis. And generally speaking it is better to use less. I also like not having to wear a suit to work. I wish we didn’t have to have a Chernobyl-level nuclear disaster to make it happen though.
What do you think? Do you save electricity? If you are outside of Japan, what electric device could you not live without? Let me know in the comments.
In this article, I tried to do my best to give a snapshot of the reality of the situation now in Japan. I’m not a news source, and so I encourage you to do further research if you’d like to know more. Also, if you find any inaccuracies please respectfully let me know in the comments and I’ll correct it in the article.