As the Japanese summer turns to cooler weather and the peak energy use months of June, July and August pass, Japanese can congratulate themselves on one success — saving energy.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. reported consistent reductions in usage of electricity, averaging 20 percent from the summer of 2010, spurred by government and industry’s initiatives but accomplished by many people’s hard work.

Certainly, the government, industry and Tepco deserve credit for informing the public and encouraging savings, but the real work of cutting back was handled by individuals and business enterprises, big and small.

Major shifts in the way of living and working throughout the country helped bring down the amount of power consumed. Motivated by fear of rolling blackouts and serious power cuts, people pulled together to reduce energy usage.

People throughout the country reset their thermostats, made “green curtains” of “goya” to form natural shade, and turned off computers. Companies rescheduled workdays earlier, allowed looser, cooler clothing, and found myriad practical ways to save.

More than following government policy, this cutting back was an expression of compassion for all those who lost so much because of the earthquake, tsunami and radiation. Over-indulging on electricity when others had lost so much seemed unacceptable. In no other summer has sweating been so meaningful.

Self-sacrifice was not the only motivation, however. This summer, the “Ganbare Nihon!” movement gave everyone a focus on pulling together in a spirit of hard work.

Ironically, perhaps, Japanese understood they are connected to each other perhaps more through energy resources than any other way, but still, very connected.

At the same time, as things got switched off, most people became aware that their electricity use in the past was excessive. With less time spent plugged in, people could recognize that the millions of electronic gadgets flooding Japan have not really made everyone happier, and that blessings can be counted on fingers as easily as on a computer.

The startling reduction of one-fifth of the country’s electric activities was also a kind of silent protest. Even while protest marches and rallies against nuclear power took place in Shinjuku, Meiji Park and other venues over the summer, the quieter protest in the form of electricity conservation shows that people understand that maybe they do not really need so much electricity if it means that a nuclear power plant accident can end up radiating people’s farmland, pushing them out of their homes and upending children’s schools.

What they need is a better energy policy for the future.

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