Since the earthquake and subsequent tsunami shutdown the Fukushima nuclear plant almost two weeks ago, Eastern Japan has been facing a reduced electricity supply.

In Tokyo, this has meant businesses and individuals trying to cut back on their energy use, a move that so far appears to have held off most of the planned ‘rolling blackouts’ that were announced soon after the quake hit.

And for the most part the effect has been minimal, with life continuing pretty much as normal.

The only conspicuous effect has been to the lighting around town. For a city that shines so bright in the public imagination with images of neon strips and illuminated billboards, Tokyo is looking noticably dimmer than usual.

I started jotting down the idea for the blog post sitting in the half-light at work, where in an attempt to do our bit we’re working most of the lights off. Other businesses and shops around the city are doing the same, with shops even switching off their signage to help.

However, this city-wide toning down is by far the most obvious in Shibuya, one of Tokyo’s most recognisable landmarks, now transformed from an audio-visual assault of commercial messages to just a busy thoroughfare.

It all feels a bit eerie after dark but judging from a series of interviews with passing youth broadcast on NHK, the new state of affairs is not a problem. Some even seemed to be embracing the new state of affairs.

Is this just a reflection of the current sense of solidarity in the city? Or is it a sign of deeper dissatisfaction with the way things have been and the beginnings of a recognition that the status quo is probably not sustainable for much longer anyway?

At the moment it’s hard to tell. But with talk of Japan facing a turning point, there does seem to be a feeling that out of the disaster could come some positive change – and not just a return to business as normal.

Another conspicuous victim of the power cuts have been the flashy vending machines installed at Shibuya station and other points around the city,  perfectly underlining my point about their lack of resilence

The ongoing crisis at Fukushima has highlighted the potential hazard of nuclear power and brought the issue of how we are going to supply our future energy needs to the fore. With the price of oil already volatile and set to rise as we near peak production, the need to use energy more sensibly is only going to increase in the years to come.

Perhaps one way that Japan could move forward positively from the disaster is by turning their reknowned technological prowess towards developing products that take account of this fact.

For a generation of young Japanese, the current power-saving measures could well be a wake-up call to do just that.

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