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Japan: Turn off the lights

Since their introduction in the 1970s, convenience stores, popularly called konbini, have developed into a prominent feature of the Japanese landscape. Now the number has grown to about 45,000 stores, 94 per cent of which are running 24-7, offering everything from food, to beverages, to snacks, to ATMs, to ticketing and utility bill payments, you name it.

Recently however, an accusing finger has been pointed at these stores for their wasteful use of energy. At a meeting in November held by the Central Environment and Industrial Structure councils, there arose a debate over whether the 24-hour business schedule of convenience stores should be reviewed in order to cut down energy consumption. The Japan Franchise Association came up with its own analysis that cutting the business hours from 24 down to 16 hours will only reduce CO2 emissions by 3-4 per cent, and that sales will drop by 20 per cent. Some committee members, on the other hand, argued that the change in business time will help people change their nocturnal lifestyle which may lead to positive changes. Although the meeting was concluded without any further progress, some bloggers actively carried on the discussion.

Kino opposes the Association's claim and argues:

…わたしはコンビニとかファーストフード店の24時間営業とかには反対。
夜中に活動するなよーって思うのです。
前にもここで書いたけど。
何時間か照明消すだけで、何パーセントもの電力が節約できます。
たった何パーセント?でも、日本で消費されてる電力って物凄い量だから、その何パーセントが大きいんだぞ。

I am against running convenience stores and fast food restaurants on a 24-hour [schedule].
I just think: “Don't work at night”.
Just by turning the lights off for a few hours, we can cut electricity consumption by a few per cent.
Only a few per cent? But because the amount of electricity that is consumed in Japan is enormous, these few per cent are big.

On the other hand, the blogger from Momemome3 thinks that forcing convenience stores to shorten their business hours is infeasible.

こんな24時間営業の店ができたのはそんな昔のことではない。以前は24時間営業の店などなかったが、さほど不自由した覚えはない。それが、一度慣れてしまうとなかなか後戻りはできない。コンビニの営業時間短縮でさえ一筋縄ではいかない。はたして90年比で6%削減は可能なのだろうか。
よほどの強制力を働かせない限り、実現困難と思っている。

It's not too long ago that these 24-hour stores were first created. Before that, we didn't have any 24-hour stores, but I don't remember feeling particularly inconvenienced. However, once you get used to them, you can't go back. Even shortening the business hours of convenience stores will not be easy. I wonder if a 6% reduction from the 1990 level is really possible at all.

Unless it is enforced, I don't think it will be feasible.


Glowing in the dark: A typical Japanese convenience store.

syokunn shares her thoughts:

日本は本当に自販機・コンビニの多い国です。
一度ドイツに旅行した事があるのですが、あの国ではそういうものは無かったような記憶があります。
それでも、普通に人々は暮らしているんですよね。
なので、きっと、日本人だって大丈夫の筈!
…と、かなり以前から私自身はいつも思っていて、出来るだけ自販機やコンビニの買い物(緊急以外は)を避けていました。
家庭の電力消費量なんて、全電力量の約2割にしかすぎません。
でも、自販機一台で家数軒分、コンビニだと数十軒分の電力を使っているんだそうです。
なのに、もう街中自販機・コンビニだらけ…。
ちょっとゾッとする光景だと思います。

Japan really has so many vending machines and convenience stores.
I once traveled to Germany, and I don't remember seeing anything like that there.
But people are living a normal life.
Therefore, I am sure that Japanese people should be ok too!
…that's what I have been thinking for a while and I have been trying to avoid vending machines and buying things from convenience stores (except in case of emergency).
Household electricity consumption accounts for only twenty per cent of the total.
However, one vending machine consumes as much electricity as one household uses, and in the case of a convenience store it's more than a dozen households.
The town is full of vending machines and convenience stores.
It's a horrifying sight.

24 hour sign

hisikayo writes:

コンビニだけをターゲットにしなくても、みんなが早寝早起きをして、電気を使わないようにすればいいんじゃないかと思ってしまった。
これはみんなの問題だから。かく言う私も、こんな時間まで起きてパソコンをいじっているのだから、そう言えたものではないが。

Instead of targeting convenience stores, I was thinking that it would be OK if everyone went to bed early and got up early.
This is everyone's problem. Having said that, I am not really in a position to say this since I am up this late playing around with my PC.

Blogger K is sarcastic about the whole debate, and thinks that convincing people to change their lifestyle by curtailing such a popular service is unrealistic.

仕事、遊び、生活全てに結びついている深夜という時間帯。
もちろん法人側としても、利益を生む時間帯だからこそ24時間営業、深夜営業の店舗、サービスが生まれています。
利益が生まれているということは、国民が当たり前に必要としている事。
現実的な話ではない。

This period of time, late night, is connected to work, to play, to our entire life.
Of course for corporations as well, it's a period of time when they can make profits, and that's why 24-hour and all-night stores and services were born.
That profits are made means that people naturally need the service.
This is not realistic.

[…]
そもそもにして、こういう節約活動に国民が協力する第一条件を誰もわかっていない。
それは、「楽しめる」ということ。
地球規模の責任感を国民ひとりひとりに求めるのは難しい話。
「私が夜中にちゃんと寝ればCO2削減になる」
現実的じゃないでしょ?
どうせ考えるなら、
「ビリヤードやりながらCO2削減」
とか
「運転免許試験に落ちたら寄付」
とかの実現を一所懸命考えたらどうです?

さ、コンビニにおでん買いに行こう。

[…]

From the start, nobody understands the primary condition for people to cooperate in conservation efforts.
It's “enjoyability”.
Imposing global responsibility on each citizen is difficult.
“If I go to bed, I can cut down CO2″.
It's not realistic, is it?
If you really do it at all, why not think hard about realizing something like:
“cut down on CO2 while playing billiards” or
“donate if you fail a driving test”

OK, I'm off to a convenience store to get some oden.

3 comments

  • Kyle

    It surprises me people are so willing to surrender their rights to the governments will. I don’t need the government telling me how to live but I do think it’s always wise to take into consideration what impact you’re having on others, the environment, and your self. 20% drop in profit is a lot and the Japanese government should find someone else to pick on then these convenience stores. If they really want to help give the stores solar panels for one and the government should continue working towards renewable energy even if it’s nuclear power.

    This is what’s wrong with the environmental movement for going green:

    1.Ruin production and development and so destroying lives across the world
    2.Risking food production for millions if not billions of people
    3.The Kyoto protocol is not only flawed but anti-American/Capitalism
    4.Very unrealistic ideas

    Etc….

  • TenSigh

    Notice how the movement to change the hours implies that it would just “be better” to do it. If you don’t like 24 hour stores, don’t go there! But don’t ruin it for everybody else.

    More and more people in Japan are working late hours, studying, etc. Konbini are open 24 hours because there’s a market for them (no pun intended).

    The so-called ‘green movement’ (red would be a more appropriate color) is infesting Japan slower than the US. Let’s hope it stops altogether.

  • Homeboy

    The town is full
    of vending machines and convenience stores
    It’s a horrifying sight.

    Somewhat like a Haiku but listen, its not the store hours but the lights, the energy used. So keep the store open but replace the lights. Mandatory LED’s would be a good start.
    Also,energy consumption ceilings allotting a certain set amount of power per store past which rates become astronomical.Ditto the vending machines.

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