Tokyo Unplugged

In compliance with the country’s energy consumption hold back, businesses from Tokyo Tower down to the ubiquitous vending machines have turned off their unnecessary lights.

Lots of store fronts in our neighborhood sport these little black and white signs in their windows, identifying them as setsu den chu or energy-saving entities. We walked by Food Magazine the other day and almost all of their window lights were off. Was the store open or closed? It was hard to tell. I wonder whether or not shops that cut their electricity use have more customers than their brightly lit competitors.

Despite their subterranean locations, subway stations have cut back as well. Dimmed lighting, darkened signs and dormant escalators are spooky. It seems like things are broken and that never happens in Japan. Especially where subways — the city’s circulation system — are concerned.

Overall, the city seems to function perfectly well with less artificial illumination. In fact, I am amazed at the waste we lived with before. Yet the lowered light level contributes to the already somber atmosphere. It makes the city seem darker. Even during the day.

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