Tokyo faces further power crunch

When a boiling summer hits power-starved Tokyo, even Japan’s culture of self-restraint will hit its limit.

The March 11 tsunami that smashed into Japan’s northeast coast, killing as many as 25,000 people and knocking out nuclear power generation, has transformed this usually bright, bustling metropolis into a dark, humbler version of itself.

Running on eco-mode in the cool spring invites few complaints as citizens bundle up, leave work early and even go to bed around sundown. Escalators are still, trains run without air conditioning, and popular night time baseball games have been suspended. Many say any complaints are hollow compared to the deprivation and destruction further north.

"Shikata ga nai," a popular stoic phrase meaning "it can’t be helped," is frequently on people’s lips.

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Rolling blackouts scheduled for nine prefectures

Prime Minister Naoto Kan announced Sunday that he has approved temporary power outages to prevent a massive blackout in the wake of Friday’s deadly earthquake that struck northern Japan.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said the rolling blackouts, the first ever in Japan, will happen between 6:20 a.m. and 10 p.m. Monday. The prefectures affected are Tokyo, Gunma, Tochigi, Ibaraki, Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa, Yamanashi and the eastern half of Shizuoka.

Kan appealed to the public for cooperation.

"If we continue (using electricity at the current level), there is the possibility of an all-out blackout in the area," Kan said. "The impact of a sudden, large-scale blackout would be immense and we must prevent it at all costs."

According to Tepco, the nine prefectures affected will each be divided into five areas. Each district will have the power cut off for about three hours at a time. Companies as well as households will be subject to the blackouts.

Kan acknowledged the blackouts would affect people in many ways and urged the public to be prepared.

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