Around the end of each year’s rainy season in July, it’s common for the media to run articles on the subject of sleep. Hot weather is not the only factor that makes Japan less conducive to sleeping in summer. Since daylight savings is not practiced, the sun rises before 5 a.m., affecting many people’s sleep patterns.
If more sleep were desirable than less, it would seem that Japan does not fare very well in international comparisons. In a survey undertaken in 2009 by OECD, out of 18 member countries, Japanese, with an average of 470 minutes (7.8 hours) per night, ranked 17th, ahead of South Koreans by one minute. The top five countries were France (530 minutes.), the U.S. (518), Spain (514), New Zealand (513) and Turkey (512).
“The short sleeping time of Japanese,” Weekly Diamond (July 1) writes, “cannot be said to be unrelated to long working hours.” The issue devoted 36 pages to sleep, starting with the socio-economic implications.
Makoto Uchiyama, chairman of the Nihon University School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry, estimates that various types of sleep disorders cost the Japanese economy close to ¥3.5 trillion a year, broken down as follows: ¥3.06 trillion in terms of reduced work efficiency; ¥73.1 billion in worker absenteeism; ¥81 billion in tardy arrivals; ¥7.5 billion in early departures and ¥241.3 billion in traffic accidents.
Among age groups, males from age 40 to 49, and females from 50 to 59 are the most dysfunctional, with around half averaging less than six hours sleep a night.
Not surprisingly, a government survey conducted in 2011 found that residents of prefectures on the periphery of either Tokyo or Osaka average the least sleep, almost certainly due to longer commuting times. Japan’s worst five are Kanagawa, Nara, Hyogo, Chiba and Saitama.
On the other hand, Japan’s longest sleepers — who enjoy approximately 30 more minutes than their peers aforementioned, live in Akita, Aomori, Kochi, Yamagata and Fukushima prefectures.
Other factors besides steamy nights can interfere one’s sleep. Sunday Mainichi (July 16) advises against bringing a smart phone or book into bed, because the brain fails to recognize that the bed’s purpose is for sleeping, making it more difficult to fall asleep.
Physiologically speaking, to descend smoothly into a deep sleep involves a rapid drop in the temperature of the internal organs, so taking a hot bath just before hitting the sack is inadvisable, as are activities that stimulate the brain such as listening to music or watching TV.
It’s important, advises Sunday Mainichi, to obtain a grasp of the factors affecting one’s own sleeping rhythm. A number of methods and devices for this purpose are offered on the market. One, a notebook called “neru note,” allows a person to keep a log of periods of sleep and wakefulness, with a space to write in any changes brought on by activities, thus enabling the user to pinpoint factors that may aid or hinder sleep. Specialists are also available for consultation at reasonable costs, since such treatment is covered by health insurance.
J-Cast News (July 14) reports that the nation’s love hotels are changing their business model to fit new types of consumer demand. These are establishments that permit check-in without registration and rent rooms by the hour.
Kotoko Hyuga, a love hotel “critic,” waxes enthusiastic about the appeal of solitary overnight stays in such accommodations, where guests can avail themselves of rooms with wide-screen TVs, karaoke and massage chairs, not to mention Jacuzzi baths and spacious beds — which has earned them the nickname “urban resorts.”
While many establishments adhere to a couples-only rule, Hyuga claims as many as 3,000 such hotels now offer single stay plans.
“First of all, they’re great value for money,” she said. “Part of their appeal is the service: For an inexpensive outlay you can get a big bathtub and plenty of luxurious amenities. They are also located in or near entertainment areas, which makes them convenient for travelers.”
More love hotels, Hyuga added, are taking on the other features and functions of ordinary hostelry; for example, the willingness to store a traveler’s luggage prior to check-in.
As one example of a singles-friendly hotel, the article cites the Hotel Hyper (bit.ly/hotelhyper), located within walking distance of Osaka’s Namba Station. Three years ago it initiated a plan targeting business travelers. Its prime appeal is price: for as little as ¥5,000 per night, it is even cheaper than regular hotels in the area.
“It would be best if all our rooms were occupied by couples,” said a member of Hotel Hyper’s staff. “But business conditions haven’t been that good. We make things easier for travelers by issuing receipts bearing the name of the holding company instead of the hotel itself.”
From April of this year, Hotel Hyper began making more efforts to attract foreign tourists, and presently distributes explanatory pamphlets in English and Chinese to guests.
Travelers who stay at the Hotel Lotus Oriental in Kyoto, meanwhile, can avail themselves of a computer and Wi-Fi, as well as a free newspaper delivered to the room. The least expensive rate is ¥7,500 per night, and the hotel subsidizes taxi fares for arriving guests up to ¥1,000.
Hyuga claims that love hotels have also caught on among entertainers and artists who make the rounds of regional cities, often traveling overnight by bus and who check into love hotels to nap for a few hours before they perform. They are also used by people who engage in what she calls “nomad work,” i.e., those not confined to an office but who move around.
“The rooms give them a place where they can concentrate, and being able to soak in a large tub and lie on a big bed puts them in a better mood,” Hyuga remarked. “I myself also work as a comic illustrator, and I check into one when I’m trying to come up with a good name or title. It really helps.”
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