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Social media takes a dim view of the daylight saving proposal for the 2020 Olympics

by Patrick ST. Michel

Contributing Writer

People in Japan have been complaining about the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics since Japan’s capital was awarded the games. Netizens have railed against everything from the apparent insensitivity of hosting the two-week competition while the Tohoku region continues to recover from the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake to the mascots that look like cartoons characters.

With just under two years to go before the opening ceremony, the online gripes are only picking up. They are aided by the government’s decision to weigh solutions to the country’s hot summers that come across as verging on the ridiculous.

Last week, the government said it would consider introducing daylight saving time ahead of the Olympics to mitigate the effects of the expected high temperatures. Early thinking would see clocks nationwide moved forward two hours.

When this news broke last Monday morning, the Japanese phrase for daylight saving time, samā taimu (サマータイム, or “summer time”), almost instantly jumped to the top of Twitter’s trending list. The general consensus from netizens could best be summed up by the top comment on a matome site about the topic — “stupid.”

An immediate concern from those online was the sheer logistics of pulling this off. University professor Tetsutaro Uehara expressed surprise at the announcement, primarily because a decision would have to be made this year and then implemented starting in 2019 (“I hope it’s fake,” one person replied). Twitter user @ginlime poked fun at the idea of such a radical change to the system for all of Japan when only Tokyo was getting the games, and wondered why the government didn’t just move the games to October.

In the days that followed, an increasing number of people took to social media to express why they thought daylight saving time was a bad idea. The hashtag “summer time hantai” (“summer time opposition”) attracted myriad comments, with users bringing up slightly corny arguments such as children being unable to look up at the night sky to far more substantial arguments such as the negative impact it would have on people’s sleep schedules, health issues and the increased burden it would place on nurseries. And, naturally, some noted that people might even be forced to work longer hours than they already do.

Online media outlets generally agreed with popular opinion.

Yahoo Japan shared a list of 10 reasons why daylight saving time wouldn’t work. Beyond News also looked at the disadvantages of a time change while also highlighting opposition to the idea as recently as 2007.

Buzzfeed, meanwhile, highlighted two very different sides of the argument, running a detailed history of the first time Japan tried out daylight saving time following World War II before posting a “summer time playlist” hosted on Spotify just 15 minutes later.  

Yet nobody lambasted daylight saving time more than social media users working in the IT industry. They argued that the government had no idea how computers worked, and said this would impact systems beyond just Japan. Others pointed out that daylight saving time is the hardest time of the year for IT workers in Europe and the United States. One of the most popular tweets came from user @integra, who declared that all of this daylight saving time discussion was in fact the act of an “IT terrorist.” And that’s just scratching the surface.

A majority of social media users expressed reservation about the government’s proposal. Yet step outside of the digital realm for a second and reaction appears a little different. An NHK poll found 51 percent of respondents were in favor of daylight saving time, while the Asahi Shimbun put that figure at 53 percent. Maybe it’s a case of the internet not reflecting reality in the outside world?

Not quite. A Yahoo poll found 61 percent against the move, while plenty on Twitter pointed out that the NHK poll had asked if people approved of daylight saving time as a measure against the heat and, well, ignoring the other things it would impact.

The introduction of daylight saving time might not even be an Olympic-only measure. The Hochi Shimbun said Wednesday the government might be eyeing this as a permanent change (although the report was based largely on hearsay). People reacted to the this news about as well as you’d expect, with some even claiming that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ran a trial of this in the Diet a few years back.

Even if this debate doesn’t last beyond the games, expect to see plenty more opposition to the introduction of daylight saving time online over the next couple of years.