Summer days will mean setting the alarm clock much earlier for some Tokyo city government employees: They began working an hour earlier today to conserve energy amid shortages caused by the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Workers on the earliest shift will start at 7:30am and be allowed to leave at 4:15pm. By better exploiting the early daylight hours this summer, city officials hope to use less air conditioning and less office lighting at night.
The central government has asked companies and government offices to cut electricity usage by 15% to help prevent blackouts, and wants them to limit air conditioning and set room temperatures at a warm 82 degrees. But in Japan's corporate culture, many workers feel obligated to work until it is dark outside—no matter what their starting time. So this summer at Tokyo's city hall, a team of officials will be dispatched to offices with lights on after 6:30pm to urge employees to leave. "We encourage everyone to work more efficiently and go home on time," a city official said. (Click to read about Japan’s new government dress code in light of the toastier office.)