This study investigates the history of the first recommended illuminance level in Japan as proposed by the Meishi Special Committee. The Meishi special committee was organized at the Illuminating Engineering Institute of Japan in 1935. At the time, the Luckiesh “Better Light, Better Sight” movement was popular in the United States. This movement was based on a new doctrine, “The science of seeing”, which was put forward by Luckiesh. The movement soon spread to Japan and the electric utilities used it for self promotion. At that time, Japan had a surplus of electricity and the movement encouraged architecture to be very well-illuminated.
However, as this doctrine was somewhat commercialistic and did not take into account the different sensitivities that to Americans and Japanese have to brightness, a new “science of seeing” was required for Japan. In Japanese, this new theory was named “Meishi-ron”. The Meishi Special Committee was organized for developing the new “science of seeing”.
The activities of the Meishi Special Committee were noteworthy in three ways. Firstly is that this committee was the first in Japan to work on establishing illuminance standards. This committee created the pre-war lighting standards, that have been carried over to the current Japanese Industrial Standards (JIS Z9110-2010).
Secondly, this was an interdisciplinary committee of experts in the fields of physiology, psychology, lighting, and architecture. To ensure the success of its work it held a total of 50 meetings, with sufficient study periods, to ensure terminology and knowledge sharing among the experts.
Thirdly, there were significant social changes during the period when this Committee was active. At the time when it was formed, Japan had a large electricity surplus. However, the year it ended was the year that Japan entered the Pacific War, therefore, the situation changed to one in which there was a strong need to conserve electricity. Thus, the criteria for illuminance were also strongly influenced by the social environment, the committee members were required to strike a balance between the changing social environment and the science.