Japan looking to sell it’s ‘smart’ cities to the world

October 8th, 2010By Category: Events

We covered the opening of Ceatec, Japan’s consumer electronics show, where there were gadgets and robots galore on display (some brilliant coverage here by Akihabara News).  But one of the biggest attractions wasn’t anything you could touch — an energy efficient city of the future.

For the first time, the Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies (Ceatec) devoted one area of the show floor to selling a vision of urban life in 2020 and beyond.

The Japanese version of the so-called “smart city” exists in a post-fossil fuel world. Alternative sources like the sun, wind and nuclear power are harnessed in mass quantities. That power is then distributed to buildings, homes and electric cars connected to each other through “smart grids,” which monitor usage throughout the network to maximize efficiency.

The goal is to drastically cut carbon emissions, the cause of global warming — ideally to zero. The bigger dream is for the smart city to become Japan’s next big export, fueling new growth and ambition at a time when the country finds itself in an economic rut and eclipsed by China as the world’s second-biggest economy.

The city of Yokohama is the site of a social and infrastructure experiment to create a smart city for the rest of the world to emulate. Launched this year, the “Yokohama Smart City Project” is a five-year pilot program with a consortium of seven Japanese companies — Nissan, Panasonic, Toshiba, Tokyo Electric Power, Tokyo Gas, Accenture’s Japan unit and Meidensha.

Together their aim is to build a social model to take overseas. During a keynote event at Ceatec the head of the project put out the idea that “Yokohama is a place where foreign cultures entered Japan 150 years ago and then spread to the rest of the country.”

Now, he said, it’s where the best of Japan is converging, preparing for launch to the wider world.

Japan certainly isn’t the only country working on smart grids, however, even at its local show.

Australia has committed $100 million and is developing its first commercial-scale smart grid in Newcastle, a city in New South Wales state. South Korea is embarking on a $200 billion smart grid project on Jeju Island as part of efforts to cut national energy consumption by 3% by the year 2030. China is expected to invest a world leading $7.3 billion toward smart grids and related technologies in 2010, ahead of Washington’s $7.1 billion in Department of Energy grants.

Toyota Motor Corp has announced the launch of its own home smart grid system in Japan to coincide with its plug-in hybrid cars going on sale in early 2012. The model here is not too dissimilar to something we featured recently by NTT.

Called the Toyota Smart Center, it calculates the most efficient way of using energy, eliminating waste by shutting off gadgets when they aren’t being used and maximizing the recharging benefits of hybrids, which recharge as they run. Utilities can also be used when rates are cheapest such as overnight to heat stored water.

With competition heating up and so much business at stake, Japan is hoping to aggressively court customers overseas, especially in emerging economies, with not only its vision but also its long-standing reputation for reliability and quality.

If it’s all a little hard to imagine, Nissan was offering a peek into the future at Ceatec. The centerpiece of the automaker’s pavilion was a 3D theater with a 275-inch screen giving viewers a virtual reality drive through a “near future” Yokohama. The virtual city tour will be replicated for leaders from around Asia when they gather in Yokohama next month for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings.


Author of this article


GaijinPot is an online community for foreigners living in Japan, providing information on everything you need to know about enjoying life here, from finding a job and accommodation to having fun.

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  • South Korea is embarking on a $200 billion smart grid project on Jeju Island as part of efforts to cut national energy consumption by 3% by the year 2030.

  • Interesting.I hope every country can make a smart city like on Japan concerning of energy saving.Most importantly preventing global warming,becomes a big problem every year.

  • The bigger dream is for the smart city to become Japan’s next big export, fueling new growth and ambition at a time when the country finds itself in an economic rut and eclipsed by China as the world’s second-biggest economy.

  • Tourists have frequented this country because it is a place full of beautiful sceneries and tourist spots. Moreover, travel Japan is a great adventure where you get to meet the nice and wonderful people there. If you decide to travel Japan, you are sure to have an experience you will never forget.

  • Double glazing glass benefits your home by creating an insulation barrier for heat and noise. And getting hold of the best double glazing price quotes is beneficial as it will be helpful in having an idea in managing your budget.

  • Its really useful…good site…..looking forward to get more information…

  • Jeffrey says:

    JeffLee is on to most of it.

    The primary problem (vis-a-vis energy savings) is that there is no universal residential building code in Japan. Therefore, not just dual glazed windows remain a choice, but those using Low-E and requiring in wall, ceiling and under floor insulation, as we do in the U.S. based on temperature zones, are not things required from one end of the country to the other.

    Japan was initially a leader in earthquake design for multistory and high rise buildings. Much of what failed in Kobe was prior to or built early on before full implementation to them.

    The Japanese have various building codes with regard to residential glass that are pretty much universal. For years wired glass was required when houses were built within X meters of one another. However, it is really heavy and actually more expensive than tempered glass, which serves the same purpose, only more so.

  • JeffLee says:

    Wee-wwe, you’ve been listening to too many Japanese apologist myths.

    The Kobe earthquake showed that Japanese-style “flexible” construction was the problem. The typical death was of residents pinned under the rubble of their badly constructed buildings and killed by fire. The surivivors tended to be in squat rigid buildings of concrete construction.

    Anyway, saying fiberglass wool insulation is “dangerous” in a quake is absurd. As for glass, safety glass produced overseas, designed to shatter into harmless pellets, is effectively banned in Japan because regulators won’t certify it unless it’s certified here, which is impossible because they refuse to adopt the needed testing equipment. Instead Japanese companies put chicken wire through window glass, a nice 1930s technology, which is utterly eco-unfriendly. There are plenty more examples to show Japanese govt and industry are just not interested in eco housing technology.

    The systemic culling of greenery takes place throughout spring and summer, espeically right after rainy season. My neighbors complain about having too much shade, even in the peak of summer. I remind them that greenery provides cool and oxygen, but they just don’t care. One told me she prefers concrete to grass because concrete is “clean.”

  • WeeWeeTime says:

    The insulation and double glazing are no no in Japan for good reason. They both reduce flexibility and when the earthquakes rock around building with go with it or fall down.

    As for the tree branches it is an old tradition in Winters as the Japanese autumn and winter are super dry and fires are pretty common so the cutting of tree is to prevent fires from spreading.

    I do agree that just because they can’t use double glazing doesn’t mean that that is a reason to not use or discover other things.I work in a trading company and they are always banging on about being green but no doors have insulation. So in those hot hot summers they heat pours in.

  • BlahBlahBlah says:

    First “repor”, then “it’s”? How many monkeys at exactly how many typewriters is GaijinPot…?

  • linkslondon says:

    very beautifil!!It is useful for me . Many of my friends all need the help

  • JeffLee says:

    Japanese cities are a model to avoid. Its buildings and houses leak energy like sieves. Construction standards don’t require eco materials, unlike in Western countries, such as double-glazing, thick insulation and energy-reflecting coatings. Europe has embraced these technologies, Japan refuses to.
    In addition, green space is limited, grass and tree branches are routinely cut and removed from dense urban areas, adding to the immense heat island effect.
    These people need their heads examine if they think they can sell Japanese cities abroad.


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