Welcome again to JJNN for Saturday June 7th, 2008. The topic for today is daylight saving times ("summer time" for my readers in Europe...do I have any European readers?).
The Japanese Society of Sleep Research put out a report last Thursday that outlined the 5 reasons why they are against the introduction of daylight savings time in Japan. The report can be found here. Before I get into the reasons, I want to talk a little bit about daylight savings time.
It is popularly thought that Benjamin Franklin was the person to think up daylight savings time, but that is just a myth. DST was actually first thought up in 1905 by William Willett, a sportsman from England. It was first put to use in Europe in 1916 and in America 2 years later. The original reason for implementing DST was to get people outdoors earlier so they can use those extra hours of sunlight in the morning.
At this point there is no DST in Japan. As someone that comes from a country that does have DST, the early sunrise is a killer. For example, the sun rose at 4:21 this morning in my city. 4:21! When I go and take my daily walk at 5:00AM the sun is already over the horizon. I lost count of the times in the summer that I woke up early and thought I was late for work because it was so bright out.
So the report from The Japanese Society of Sleep Research gives 5 reason against introducing DST to Japan. The first reason they give is that if DST were to be put into practice it will throw off people's bio-rhythms. They say it will mess up sleep schedule, so weak people might get sick because of lack of sleep. It goes on to talk about more rhythms being thrown off, but I got to say that is a weak argument. It might be a hard couple of days when the time is moved ahead, but the effect is not more than a couple of days.
The second reason they give is that traffic accidents increase during DST. I guess I can see this one. More of that morning sunlight that can make it hard to see and can lead to accidents. Also, on the first day of DST people are always tired from that lost hour of sleep. But, you know, I can't see this being a huge increase in accidents.
The third reason they give is that DST does not save energy. This is true. In some cases more energy is actually used. For example, in a model for Osaka, the electric usage of the normal household actually raises by .13% during DST. Sure, a person won't be using lights in the morning during DST, but they will be turning on more lights at night.
The forth reason they give is actually connected to the third reason. But, instead of electric lights, it is talking about air conditioners. The theory is that if people get up earlier they will put on their air conditioners earlier. As hot and humid as Japan is during the summer, I know I would do the same thing.
The last reason they give is that other countries have dropped DST so Japan should never start it. Yeah Japan, way to go with the pack. In my opinion this is not a strong argument. It is good to look at the experiences of others and making a decision, but that should not be the only reason for making that decision. There are actually places in Japan that did use DST for a little while, but it was only done nationally after WWII. The Americans pushed it on Japan, and that is probably the biggest reason why we don't have DST in Japan now.
The 5 reasons that the report gives are compelling, but in the end I think DST is just a good idea. It is a good thing to get out there and go around while the sun is up. That is one of the reasons I get up so early in the morning for my walk. It feels good to walk around in the sunlight so early in the morning.
Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is サマータイム(さまあたいむ). It is pronounced samaa taimu and means DST. It looks like the Japanese went with the British English on this word. It is interesting to see when Japanese go for British English over American English or some other language like German. It took me forever to figure out what an アルバイト(arubaito, meaning part time job) was because it is from the German arbeit.
That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.