Japanese stock up on gadgets to ease life without electricity

The Japanese government has asked the Japanese to scale back their energy use in anticipation of several more months of energy shortages.

• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

Parts of Japan expect an energy shortage to continue for many more months, given the power plants knocked offline by the March earthquake and tsunami. The Japanese government has been asking businesses and households in Japan’s northern and eastern regions to cut back their energy use by 15 percent during the summer months.

Mass retailer Yodobashi Camera has seen a sales spike for LED lights and electric fans, which customers plan to use to lessen air-conditioning usage. “LED lights have been selling twice to three times the norm compared to before March 11,” says Akihabara chain manager Nozumu Sekine. Fans have been selling about five times faster than in previous years.

The retailer is also selling more electronic timers that turn lights on and off automatically. “We probably sold five or six timers a week before the earthquake, and now we are selling 30 a week,” says Mr. Sekine.

Special jackets with small electric fans built in have also seen a sales increase. “We are selling three to five times more compared with previous years, and we would top that if we had the production capacity,” says manager Toru Ichigaya of Kuchofuku. Many orders for the $130 jackets are coming from factories planning to curb air-conditioning use by providing them to their workers.

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