Time for a change that Kan should believe in

Dear Prime Minister Naoto Kan:

Japan has been in an economic rut for going on two decades now. Various fiscal stimuli and quantitative easing have been tried with minimal or no success.

I’d like to suggest a new approach — one which is rather easy to implement, costs almost nothing and is supported by 60 percent of the public: the reintroduction of daylight saving time (DST).

According to an October 2010 story in The Economist, adopting DST and providing an extra hour of evening sunlight for seven months a year “would boost domestic consumption, as people leave work for bars, restaurants, shopping and golf.” Further, it “would increase Japan’s GDP (gross domestic product) by more than ¥1.2 trillion annually” and “could generate 100,000 jobs.”

In mid-April in Tokyo, sunrise/sunset is at 5:10 a.m./6:15 p.m. (I use Tokyo as an example because about one-third of Japan’s population is in Kanto; sunrise/sunset times for areas west of Tokyo are slightly later.) Would not 6:10 a.m. to 7:15 p.m. be a better use of sunlight?

By mid-June the sun is rising 45 minutes earlier (4:25 a.m.) and setting at 7 p.m. Except for the dwindling number of farmers in Japan, who needs or wants sunrise at 4:25? This seems to me a terrible waste of daylight.

I know many seniors in Japan complain of waking up at 4:30; perhaps an extra hour of darkness would help them get their coveted sleep. And wouldn’t it be wonderful to have daylight until 8 p.m.?

Perhaps the 40 percent of the public who do not support the use of DST feel it would be troublesome and confusing to change their clocks twice a year. (It really isn’t so difficult, and your body adjusts very quickly.) For these naysayers I have a simpler, if more radical solution: I think that even better than using DST, Japan should permanently move one time zone ahead.

Guam is almost directly south of Tokyo, yet it is one hour ahead. Vladivostok is the same longitude as Hiroshima, yet it too is one hour ahead of Tokyo. And Seoul, a two-hour flight west of Tokyo, remarkably uses the same time as Tokyo. It seems that Japan is alone in its stubborn and inexplicable refusal to make optimal use of daylight hours.

In addition to economic stimulus, an extra hour of evening sunlight is also likely to improve Japan’s mental health as people’s moods and spirits are lifted.

For these reasons, I urge you to consider moving Japan into Guam’s time zone (where geographically, it belongs) or at least reintroducing DST. How about from spring 2011?


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