Japanese cities are dotted with Seven-Eleven stores, which typically are open 24 hours. They are wonderfully convenient. In September I attended a Mont Pelerin Society conference in Tokyo, and the nearby seven-eleven allowed me to satisfy my Diet Coke and chocolate (drinking the first allowed me to eat the second, at least so I rationalized!) cravings at all hours.
But now pressure is growing to close the stores down to … stop global warming!
“Hey, this is no joke!” exclaims Weekly Playboy (July 14). No indeed. The city of Kyoto is playing with fire. In June, in a bid to reduce greenhouse gases and perhaps become a nationally designated “model environmental city,” the municipal government indicated it would request convenience stores to “voluntarily refrain” from staying open all night.
It’s not just Kyoto. Saitama Prefecture, Kanagawa Prefecture, and other local governments are mulling similar measures. What would this mean for the by now firmly entrenched non-stop 24-hour lifestyle? Nothing good, Weekly Playboy fears. “A â€˜conbini’ that’s not open 24 hours is meaningless!!” it fumes—adding, with a single exclamation mark this time, “Leave our oases alone!”
“There is no question of this being mandatory,” says a Kyoto municipal environment official. “It’s purely voluntary.” Yes, retorts Weekly Playboy, but national Environment Minister Ichiro Kamoshita has given the idea his blessing and expressed the hope that it will spread nationwide—which sounds to the magazine ominously like a prelude to legislation. Besides, without the force of law, the measure has almost no chance of impressing the convenience stores.
“Suppose we open at 7 a.m. and close at 11 p.m.—16 hours instead of 24,” says a spokesperson for the Japan Franchise Association, an umbrella group representing 42,246 stores affiliated with 12 chains. “A store couldn’t shut down its refrigerators and freezers for just the 8 hours, and they’d have to have staff on hand an hour before and after closing.” All things considered, “It would mean losing 20% of our business for an energy saving of 4%.”
At least one Kyoto municipal environmental official more or less concedes the point. “Our medium- and long-term goal,” this official says, “is to change night-life to day-life”—for the sake of the environment, presumably. Which makes Weekly Playboy wonder: “Is it the government’s business to regulate our lifestyle?”
Aside from the fact that global warming has in fact stopped, at least for the last ten years, shutting a few stores for a few hours ain’t going to achieve anything other than inconvenience people. If climate change proves to be a serious problem, it will be far cheaper to adapt to the problems than to limit temperature increases by cutting energy usage. Such as by browbeating stores to arbitrarily cut their hours, inconveniencing everyone around them.