Cool Biz

by Kensatsukan Gaijin

With seemingly never-ending rain soaking Virginia, Japan is suffering completely different weather trouble - a crippling heat wave.  The rainy season has been marked throughout Japan by temperatures of up to 100 degrees, very unusual for many cities.  In Yamanashi Prefecture, temperatures reached 103 degrees this week.  Sadly, 12 people have died and about 2,500 people have been hospitalized.

While coping with the heat, the Japanese Government is still trying to cope with a chronic shortage of energy and promote energy efficiency with its "Super Cool Biz" campaign.  The campaign encourages business employees to dress lightly and casually and set their air conditioning thermostats at 82 degrees.  The season runs from June to September and the campaign has entered its third year.  Prime Minister Shinzo Abe even wore a Hawaiian-style shirt (actually a colorful Okinawan "Kariyushi" shirt) to a Cabinet meeting a few weeks ago.  The campaign includes recommended fashion, makeup and odor-fighting laundry detergents for use during the summer.  

The campaign began simply as "Cool Biz" in 2005 but after the Fukushima disaster in 2011, the government ramped-up the program into the "Super Cool Biz" campaign.  Even in its first year, however, the campaign produced significant savings, sparing 1.14 million tons of CO2 emissions.  Since it began, the "Cool Biz" campaign has been recognized as a simple, effective tool to promote energy efficiency and has been adopted by South Korea and others.  It has even sparked interest at the United Nations, who are considering promoting the campaign world-wide.  

For men, the typical "Cool Biz" business dress is a short-sleeed shirt without a jacket or tie.  At first, the trend started slowly, but then-Prime Minister Koizumi appeared frequently in interviews without a tie or jacket, helping to expand the trend.  Department Stores have even gotten into the trend, marketing Cool Biz items to women such as satin shirts, capri pants and machine-washable jackets.  "Super Cool Biz" added polo shirts and trainers as well as jeans and sandals to the list of acceptable clothing.  Not everyone is a fan, however - Japanese necktie retailers have reported a 36% drop in sales since 2005 and are publicly calling for an end to the campaign.