Living Efficiently in Japan


In Japan, people take energy efficiency seriously. In architect Kiminobu Kimura's house, according to the New York Times: Energy-efficient appliances abound in the many corners of his cramped home. There is the refrigerator that beeps when left open and the dishwasher that is compact enough to sit on the kitchen counter. In some homes, room heaters have a sensor that directs heat only toward occupants; there are "energy navigators" that track a home's energy use. "It's not just technology, it's a whole mind-set," said Hitoshi Ikuma, a specialist in energy issues at the Japan Research Institute. "Energy conservation is almost an obsession here among government, companies, regular citizens, everyone." The focus of the article, Mr. Kimura, has a fuel cell in front of his house that converts natural gas to hydrogen and then to a kilowatt of electricity, but that is a bit of a red herring in the story, given that the fuel cell costs $ 51,000 and they import their natural gas.


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The real story is about how in Japan people live in smaller spaces and really think about how they use energy and resources: Mr. Kimura says he, his wife, and two teenage children all take turns bathing in the same water, a common practice here. Afterward, the still-warm water is sucked through a rubber tube into the nearby washing machine to clean clothes. Wet laundry is hung outside to dry or under a heat lamp in the bathroom.

"In Japan, it's natural to think about saving energy," Mr. Kimura explains. "We learned not to waste from our parents, who had learned it from the hardship of the war and after," he said.

The different approach is also apparent in the layout of Mr. Kimura's home, which at 1,188 square feet is about the average size of a house in Japan but only about half as big as the average American one. The rooms are also small, making them easier to heat or cool. The largest is the living room, which is about the size of an American bedroom. "

::New York Times

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