Thousands have been sent to hospital over Japan’s blistering heat wave: NPR

Japan is sweltering amid a blistering heat wave not seen in decades. As the country faces an energy crisis, Japanese companies are trying to conserve energy by turning down the lights and turning up the thermostats.



ARI SHAPIRO, GUEST:

Japan is hot right now. It is the worst heat wave in the country in decades, and there is an energy crisis. Anthony Kuhn of NPR reports from Kyoto on what the government and residents are doing to keep their cool.

ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: As Japan slowly reopens its borders, tourists have been trickling back to Japan’s former capital for more than a thousand years. But with temperatures in the mid-90s, few tourists were seen in the downtown area on Thursday. Minoru Ikuta, who works at a machine shop, ducked into a shop to buy a manually operated refrigeration appliance.

MINORU IKUTA: (By interpreter) I was on my way to dinner, but it was too hot. So I stopped here to buy a fan.

KUHN: A quick flick of his new purchase unleashes a cool, perfumed breeze.

IKUTA: (By interpreter) I like the smell, and you can control the wind speed yourself.

KUHN: The mercury soared above 104 degrees in some parts of the country this week. Such temperatures are not unheard of in Japan, but usually only at the end of the rainy season in mid-July. The government says more than 4,500 people were sent to hospitals last week due to heatstroke and heat exhaustion. Japanese companies have tried to save energy by turning down the lights and turning up the thermostats. During a press conference, energy official Kaname Ogawa gave residents some advice.

(SOUNDBITE FROM ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KANAME OGAWA: (Japanese speaking).

KUHN: “Please save electricity,” he said, “while using the air conditioning properly to avoid heat stroke and turn off all unnecessary lights.” Since Japan closed its nuclear power plants in the wake of the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, the country has been heavily dependent on imported energy. But with the Japanese currency, the yen, at a low of more than two decades against the dollar, imported energy prices have skyrocketed. Minoru Ikuta lets out a resigned tone.

IKUTA: (via interpreter) Many citizens are against nuclear power plants. But this is an island nation and it is difficult to get oil and gas. So maybe in the future we should just operate nuclear power plants.

KUHN: Near the fan shop, student Ayana Uno comes out of an ice cream parlor and complains that her face mask is too hot.

AYANA UNO: (Japanese speaking).

KUHN: “I’ve heard you don’t have to wear them outside,” she notes, “but a lot of people just keep wearing them, so it’s hard to take it off, and I keep mine on.” Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Kyoto.

Copyright © 2022 NPR. All rights reserved. For more information, please visit our Terms of Use and Consent Pages website at www.npr.org.

NPR transcripts are made on an urgent deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not yet be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.