Former Olympics minister Toshiaki Endo said Thursday it would be difficult to introduce daylight saving time ahead of the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo, a move that has been discussed as a way to mitigate the problem of scorching heat during the sporting event.
“A part of me still wants to do this, but the reality is it’s a difficult timeline — especially when you think about issues around computer systems,” Endo, a senior Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker, told reporters after the party’s first meeting on the measure at its headquarters in Tokyo. Endo also currently serves as a vice president of the Tokyo Organising Committee for the games.
The ruling party’s lawmakers gathered for a study session on the possibility of introducing daylight savings time after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe gave instructions last month to examine its pros and cons. Fast-forwarding the clock has been seen by some as a way for Japan to combat its sultry midsummer weather.
The lawmakers will periodically hold meetings and conduct hearings with experts to deepen their understanding of daylight savings, and aim to compile an interim report by the end of this fiscal year, said senior LDP lawmaker Takeo Kawamura, who chaired Thursday’s meeting.
Endo said he has not entirely given up on the idea of applying daylight savings for 2020, and that he understands the need to address Tokyo’s heat problems.
But at the same time, as the nation’s IT engineers busy themselves adjusting computer programs in the run-up to Emperor Akihito’s abdication and the ensuing arrival of a new era next year, he said it would be “extremely difficult” to make the additional systemic changes needed to prepare for daylight savings anytime soon.
“So introducing daylight saving time doesn’t necessarily have to be for the 2020 Olympics. … I think there is still room for us to discuss adopting the system as a way to achieve a low-carbon society, for example,” Endo said.
As for countermeasures against Tokyo’s heat issues, Endo said he will discuss with the International Olympics Committee and the International Association of Athletics Federations the possibility of further moving up the starting time for marathons and competitive walking.
Lawmaker Hirofumi Nakasone, a longtime advocate of daylight savings, was also invited to Thursday’s meeting.
Nakasone said ushering in daylight savings would finally bring Tokyo in line with global standards, noting that Japan — along with South Korea, Iceland and Turkey — is one of the few member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development that do not have the system in place.
Having evening daylight last to a later time is also believed to go a long way toward saving electricity, reducing traffic accidents and curbing street crimes such as mugging, he said.
But Nakasone’s pitch was soon followed by skepticism.
Junior lawmaker Takaki Shirasuka said introducing daylight saving time would substantially increase the workload of IT engineers.
“Not only that, but in this age of IoT and AI, Japan is already in need of more engineers. Dedicating their already overstretched manpower to changes necessitated by daylight saving time risks reducing the nation’s overall strength,” Shirasuka said.