Setsuden

As far as I am concerned, the word “setsuden” is to be associated with negative feelings that one might have towards other words like “kechi”. I can’t say the idea behind setsuden is stinginess necessarily, but it certainly isn’t well-founded. And also, I am not necessarily talking about the idea behind setsuden.

Basically, there is not enough electric power in Japan-specifically the Kansai region-and people should aim to cut about 15% of their current usage. This is an optional ‘mandate’ that perhaps should be called a “strong encouragement” to people to voluntarily use less electricity this summer. I am kind of okay with this idea. I mean, it seems that people very easily turn to A/Cs as their personal saviors from the heat (likewise, in the winter, heaters of all sorts are turned on at even a hint of cold). It’s probably fair to say that we can struggle a little bit through some amount of heat and then use appropriate cooling devices when the time calls for it. It seems that the current execution of setsuden in my situation is far from ideal.

But before I get into that, or even setsuden itself, it’s worth noting not only the definition of setsuden, but of another word-“eco” (pronounced like echo). Setsuden basically means “saving electricity”, but eco also effectively means that. There is a big difference between the two. I have talked about eco previously on this blog. Eco is basically what one might call “going green” in the states, though it seems to refer mostly to electricity here. You know: buying Energy Star computer monitors and the like. That’s all that eco is. I don’t see anything wrong in turning down your computer or TV’s brightness setting a little bit to save electricity (and save money on your bill).

Setsuden seems to be taking things one step too far. Again, it is not necessarily the idea of setsuden itself. It’s when people take setsuden to its fullest extent does it become a word associated with deep negative feelings. Remember the term, “saving electricity”? My dad always said that when it comes to saving money, “You have to spend money to save money”. It’s kind of true, when we clarify what “save” means. Obviously, the act of not spending money is “saving” money, perhaps in a “savings” account. This is a collecting kind of saving that is for assurance and safety, I suppose. Certainly not going to get on anyone’s case for saving money in this manner. But the other kind of “saving” is when stores say you are saving 67% (let’s say the savings is $30) on a particular item. You are only saving that $30 if you actually buy the item. You can’t save $30 in this manner if you spend $0. Of course, in the former definition of “saving”, you are indeed saving, or holding onto, all of the money you never spend.

Well, this argument (and/or rant) might break apart a little bit, but I believe that in order to save electricity and still effectively beat the summer heat, you have to use some electricity. It’s one thing to save electricity. It’s another to not use any altogether. Essentially, that is the situation I am dealing with. The recommendation for setsuden is to do your best to push through until the room is above 28 degrees and then to turn on the a/c at that point.

Apparently my school missed the memo. It has been no less than 32 degrees as the high temperature in the last three days at my office, and it has been up to 38 degrees. For the uninitiated, that’s about 90-100 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s insane, is it not? Perhaps 32 degrees with the occasional cool breeze would be somewhat manageable. But 38 degrees? Who are we kidding? I shouldn’t be sweating from sitting still at my desk.

I know, I know-“first world problems”. That’s true, but we didn’t have to be in this position in the first place. If Japan was doing a better job of creating electricity in the first place, perhaps we wouldn’t have to suffer. This is excluding the nuclear reactors-I am told the very reason that we are this strict about not using the a/c, even in 100-degree Fahrenheit weather, is because we don’t want the nuclear reactors to be running.

Great. I agree. I don’t want those to exist either. Neither do I want murderers or bullies to exist (not that I want them to be killed, but rather just exist with a different attitude that doesn’t involve killing or bullying). But the fact is they do exist. Not using electricity doesn’t make the nuclear reactors go away. Adapting alternate sources of energy would show the government that we don’t need to rely on nuclear reactors. Take the town of Sanno in Hyogo, who has depended entirely on solar energy.

But if nuclear reactors are all we have right now, I think we have to just deal with it. Why? Because it’s totally irresponsible to act like not using electricity right now when we need to be using it the most is the best solution. Why did we not deal with nuclear reactor problem before the heat came? That’s a whole different article for another day. Why should I have to suffer now for the poor choices that people have made to get us to this position? I certainly won’t have any of it.

So, I hate to say it, but I will not be doing anything differently for the sake of “saving electricity”. They say the average household uses 7000 yen worth of electricity every month. That is three times my average monthly bill. The fact is, I have been saving electricity my entire first year here. But I am not saving it by torturing myself and not using it. It is as simple as turning off lights where you really don’t need it, and setting things like my computer to a “green” mode. Do you know why I was doing it all of this time? It’s because I wanted to save money every month in the first place.

Honestly, there is the issue of raising electricity costs. I would be in favor of that if it meant a lift on this “setsuden” crap. Let’s be honest-electricity is not terribly expensive. But, I understand why it isn’t being done. Businesses would pass on the extra cost to the consumer. With the looming 5% tax increase, I already fear the day when McDonald’s doesn’t offer a 100 yen menu. Actually, not really. The worst that will happen to me is that the 100 yen store’s prices goes from 105 yen to 110 yen. That is not a dent that will hurt me. Raising electric costs regionwide or nationwide, however, may cause businesses to raise prices a little bit.

But I think the ideal reason for raising electric costs is the hope that some people will use less electricity. Businesses can only cut corners so much when it comes to electric usage. But, there’s probably a lot that the average household can do, including replacing a/c usage with regular fans until it is above 28 degrees. That is reasonable.

Perhaps setsuden has it all wrong. Let’s be honest-the human condition is not going to change overnight. If one restaurant isn’t using a/c on a 30-degree-and-above day, I am likely to eat at the restaurant that is using some amount of a/c. I’m not making myself so uncomfortable, especially when I am giving money to that business. If anything, it should be the government workers who have to suffer before everyone else. I guess what goes around comes around, though. If I am paid by my local Board of Education, at that money comes from taxpayers, which is mandated by the government, I might as well see myself as a government worker. In that sense, I am being paid by the government, and I have to be the one to ‘do my best’ through this time.

I guess I learned something, today. In the meantime, though, I will keep this post up. Maybe somebody else could learn something, too.