Power for all the people
By WINIFRED BIRD, Japan Times
The all-electric home craze sweeping Japan with its typhoon of talking bathtubs, full-service toilets and flameless
kitchens may finally have met its match. His name is Yasuyuki Fujimura, and he is the founder of Atelier Non-
Electric, an inventors' workshop in Tochigi Prefecture. Since 2000, the 65-year-old doctor of engineering has been
cooking up designs for water purifiers, dehumidifiers and lighting systems that don't require electricity to run on. He's
also been zealously propounding the idea that it's time for people in Japan — and the rest of the world — to rethink
their fondness for appliances that offer convenience and comfort at the cost of environmental health and, he says, true
On a crisp morning recently, Fujimura sat in front of a wall of glass windows in his airy living room, gazed out at the
one-hectare property where he's lived and worked since 2007, and elaborated on his plans for a "Non-Electric Park"
on his grounds. This, he hopes, will include an electricity-free cafe, a bathhouse fueled by sunlight and firewood, and
a passive- solar house. The latter, instead of using active heating and cooling systems, will be designed and sited to let
in lots of sunlight in winter but not in summer.
"I want people to realize that this other option also exists. I want them to see a new culture and a new lifestyle. That's
why I came here," says the soft-spoken Fujimura, who is dressed in an earth-tone polo shirt, old work pants and
pointy-toed slippers brought back from a trip to take non-electric refrigerators to the vast grasslands of Mongolia.
Japan is the world's fourth-largest electricity consumer, generating 29 percent of that power from nuclear plants and
60 percent from oil, natural gas and coal — the last three all major contributors to global warming. Appliances
account for more than a third of home electricity consumption and, despite recent improvements in efficiency, home
energy use has risen by more than 50 percent since 1973, according to data from the Energy Conservation Center of
But Fujimura insists that's not his primary concern. "We should choose what's enjoyable for us. I chose non-electric