With sustainability as its focus, Panasonic has built an entire town, the Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town (SST), which will be home to 3,000 people in 600 houses and 400 apartments at a cost of ¥60bn (roughly SGD$8bn). What sets this town apart from an ordinary town, so touted by Panasonic, is its reliance on smart technology, meaning solar panels in every house, a community solar power generation system, and self-distributing energy management systems. The result? A dent in energy consumption through the use of sustainable energy, which is said to be the key to the success of Fujisawa SST.
This article represents Japan not only as a frontrunner of smart technology but also as environmentally-conscious. In Fujisawa SST, both these representations come together where technological advancements do not come at the price of the environment but instead aim to sustain the environment. It seems as though the key to reducing the damage done to the environment is to be found in smart living, where human and nature are able to co-exist harmoniously with technology as its mediator.
Fujisawa SST runs on renewable energy, where solar panels are fitted into houses, placed along streets, and make up an entire solar farm. Residents are encouraged to be eco-conscious by accessing digital reports called “Portals” to view how much electricity is being used overall as a community or by individual appliances in their home (Channel Panasonic – Official). As such, not only does Fujisawa SST make use of green energy to power its town but it also aims to instil a way of thinking in its residents which would allow them to consume this energy consciously. Ultimately, Panasonic engineers anticipate a 70% reduction in CO2, a 30% drop in water consumption, and a predicted 30% of energy used to come from on-site renewable resources.
In this article, as well as elsewhere, Fujisawa SST is repeatedly described as “green” and “smart” interchangeably. The new green is smart technology, but the definitions of both terms are infinitely broad. Looking back at ideas discussed in class, being green is a concept tied up with nostalgia such as in Knight’s article on satoyama (436). It seems that being green is thus a looking back to the past, a longing for a harmonious relationship between human and nature now long gone. However, in this article, being green is a looking forward, where technological advancements seek to preserve what we have, precisely by making use of these very natural resources and labelling it as renewable, green technology. The relationship between human and nature is continuously being redefined as we figure out new ways to use nature to our benefit while maintaining it, but what remains is that being green is not simply about nature. Rather, in cases such as this, the term “green” has been appropriated by big corporations like Panasonic as a marketing tool to sell their products by promoting a way of life that allows consumers to conveniently envision themselves as green just by using these products.
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Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town. Dir. Channel Panasonic Official. 2014. Youtube.
Haslam, Chris. “Welcome to Fujisawa, the self-sufficient Japanese smart town.” Wired 1 May, 2015. Digital.
Knight, Catherine. “The Discourse of ‘‘Encultured Nature’’ in Japan: The Concept of Satoyama and its Role in 21st-Century Nature Conservation.” Asian Studies Review (2010): 421-441.
(Here’s a video link in case anyone interested in finding out more about Fujisawa SST: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EtkONvhW6O4)