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Should Japan Adopt Daylight Saving Time?

In much of the West, daylight saving time has long been used as a way to save energy and extend outdoor time for workers. But, while some advocate introducing such a system in Japan, would the benefits really be worth the complications?

TOKYO – After this summer’s intense heat waves, which left at least 110 people dead, some in Japan have become concerned about athletes’ safety during the 2020 Summer Olympic Games, which will be held in Tokyo in late July and early August – the hottest and most humid time of year in the country. One such person is Tokyo 2020 Olympics President Yoshiro Mori, who has proposed a solution: adopt daylight saving time (DST), so that events scheduled for the morning, such as the marathon, can be held during cooler hours. Would Japan benefit from such a change?

In much of the West, DST has long been used as a way to save energy and extend outdoor time for workers during the dark winter months and the hot summer months (though the European Union is now considering the elimination of DST, in the belief that it costs more than it saves, and owing to the effect on the human biorhythm). Given my extensive experience living in New England, I initially viewed the adoption of DST in Japan as a relatively straightforward solution – and not just to the Olympic issue. Japan depends on fossil fuels imported from abroad (especially the Middle East), so it has particularly strong incentive to minimize energy use.

Yet Mori’s proposal has been met with considerable opposition. One particularly convincing argument is that, given today’s technologies, it may not actually bring much in the way of energy savings.

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