Japan’s Ministry of Environment recently announced it will be making big changes to the country’s colour-coding system. Ministry members hope these changes will help people suffering from colourblindness distinguish temperature readings across the nation.
This announcement comes as Japan is experiencing a serious heat wave that has already claimed the lives of 30 residents and sent 10,000 more to hospitals. Temperatures in some cities have soared to as high as 105°F in certain cities.
To warn the public about these dangerous temps, Japanese officials release a colour-coded map every day with hot areas coloured red and cooler areas in blue or green. Unfortunately, most people who are colourblind have difficulty distinguishing between red and green, hence the need for a new colour scheme.
The Ministry of Environment is planning to present its new colour patterns next March. Once everyone is acclimated to the new colour schema, the Ministry will put the new system into effect on the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature index in April of 2019.
Japanese officials are working hard to improve public safety for colourblind citizens and visitors ahead of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Besides the Ministry of Environment, Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry just released a revised list of Industrial Standards to help people suffering from colourblindness.
It may surprise foreigners to learn that the Japanese have not always been so accommodating to colourblind people. In fact, colourblind patients in Japan faced extreme discrimination in the not too distant past.
This negative attitude towards colourblindness was mainly due to an incident in 1920 when Yamagata Aritomo, a former leader in the Japanese army, rejected the crown prince Hirohito’s marriage to Kuninomiya Nagako. Aritomo’s argument against this match was that Nagako’s family had a history of colourblindness.
Even though Hirohito eventually married Nagako, the stigma against colourblind people persisted. Throughout the 20th century, many marriages were called off and hundreds of Japanese students were denied entrance to university courses just because of colourblindness.
Colourblindness is a relatively common genetic disorder that often adversely affects a person’s ability to distinguish between red and green. Although women can be colourblind, it’s far more common for men to suffer from this disorder because it is passed along the X-chromosome.
While there’s no cure for colourblindness, there are special glasses on the market that can help patients better distinguish colours. Many scientists are also working on innovative ways to incorporate colourblind-correcting technologies into contact lenses.
It’s now estimated that 1 in 12 men are colourblind versus 1 in 200 women. In Japan, about 3 million citizens (5 percent male; 2 percent female) have some form of colourblindness.