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Turtlenecks Are Tokyo’s Latest Tool to Save Energy This Winter

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(Bloomberg) — Tokyo is promoting a 1960s fashion staple in a bid to avoid blackouts this winter. 

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A turtleneck or scarf “will make you feel warmer and prevent you from catching a cold, and it will also help save electricity,” Governor Yuriko Koike said Friday in a news conference, wearing a white sweater and suit jacket combo. 

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The appeal to don turtlenecks, which reached their heyday in the 1960s after being embraced by celebrities from Ted Kennedy to Elvis Presley, is another energy-savings shakeup to Japan’s rigid corporate culture. Officials have been quick to answer the challenge, with local reports this week showing employees at Tokyo Metropolitan Government wearing the tops and knitted sweaters. 

It is part of larger strategies called “Warm Biz” and “Warm Home,” which urge residents across the nation to huddle in a single room when watching television or refrain from using toilet warmers in order to cut power use.

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Governments around the world are appealing to citizens to conserve energy to help avoid fuel shortages or rationing as global natural gas and coal supplies tighten after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine upended markets. Japan is slated to be the world’s biggest buyer of liquefied natural gas this year, putting it in direct competition with rivals in Europe for the heating fuel.

The Asian nation, which imports most of its energy needs, narrowly avoided blackouts in Tokyo earlier this year and is preparing for a renewed squeeze on supply as the weather cools in the coming months.

Among developed nations, Japan’s policymakers have been some of the loudest in terms of urging households and businesses to use less energy. Conserving electricity in Japan is known as “setsuden,” and the word became a rallying cry in the last decade after the 2011 Fukushima disaster shut the nation’s nuclear reactors and hobbled the grid.


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