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Dublin: 9 °C Saturday 7 December, 2019
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Japan asks office workers to shed their suits and save energy

Facing an energy crisis following the Fukushima disaster, the Japanese government are trying to encourage business people to dress more causally – and have kicked off a new campaign called “Super Cool Biz”…

Will it catch on...?
Will it catch on...?
Image: (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye

THE JAPANESE GOVERNMENT wants the country’s suit-loving salarymen to be bold this summer. They are encouraging them to ditch the stuffy jacket and tie and – for the good of a country facing a power crunch – go light and casual.

Japan’s ‘Super Cool Biz’ campaign kicked off today with a government-sponsored fashion show featuring outfits appropriate for the office yet cool enough to endure the sweltering heat.

This summer may be especially brutal. The loss of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, which was crippled by the March 11 tsunami, means electricity could be in short supply around the nation’s capital, Tokyo, during especially hot days.

To prevent blackouts, the government is asking companies and government offices to cut electricity usage by 15 percent. It wants companies to limit air conditioning and set room temperatures at a warm 28 degrees Celsius.

The idea isn’t new – ‘Cool Biz’ was introduced in 2005 by the environment minister at the time, Yuriko Koike. The campaign was part of efforts to fight global warming.

But with Japan dealing with an ongoing nuclear crisis and the aftermath of a magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami, officials decided they needed to take Cool Biz one step further this year.

“When we started Cool Biz in 2005, people said it was undignified and sloppy,” Koike said at the fashion show held at a Tokyo department store. “But this is now the sixth year, and people have grown accustomed to it.”

Surveys by the Cabinet Office indicate that companies are gradually jumping on board. In a 2009 nationwide poll, 57 percent of about 2,000 respondents reported that Cool Biz had been implemented in their workplaces. The figure stood at 47 percent two years earlier and at less than a third in 2005.

So what’s different with Super Cool Biz?

First, the dress code. Polo shirts, Aloha shirts and sneakers are now deemed acceptable under the environment ministry’s relaxed guidelines. Jeans and sandals are OK too under certain circumstances.

Men might even think of carrying a fan or trying a pair of tight pedal pushers like one model (pictured) wore, though whether such fashion extremes would actually catch on is another matter…

- AP

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