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Japan’s incompatible power grids via The Japan Times online

Dear Alice,
As Japan sweats through this summer of inadequate power, many more people now know that there are different electrical supply systems in eastern and western Japan, and that the two systems are incompatible. This is such a crazy situation that I’d really be interested to know the history behind it. Can you find out how the heck it came about?
Scott H., Tokyo

Dear Scott,
You’re absolutely correct that the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, and the resulting power shortage, have raised awareness of this … er … shocking peculiarity in Japan’s infrastructure: Japan is the only advanced nation in the world with two separate power grids — one for the northeastern half of the country, which includes Tokyo and disaster-struck Tohoku, and another for Nagoya, Osaka and the rest of the southwest. The two grids operate on different frequencies, making it almost impossible to share electricity if one half suffers a supply problem.

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