On what looks to be the hottest day of the year so far, it's not much fun being in the office. Japan (as ever) has a novel solution. Men in pedal-pushers. Don’t panic, Steps aren’t back. It’s just the latest scheme to be unveiled by the Japanese government in a bid to save electricity following the Fukushima power-plant crisis.
With nuclear power currently accounting for around 30% of Japan’s electricity, the shut down of the plant has contributed to power- shortages across the country. In a bid to reduce electricity consumption nationally by 15%, Environmental Minister Masahiro Sato has called for Japan’s businessmen and women to adopt a rather unconventional dress code this summer and switch off energy-sapping air conditioning.
The programme entitled ‘Super Cool Biz’, was unveiled last month by the government and asks for Japan’s office workers to go in dressed in Hawaiian shirts, open-toed sandals and polo shirts. Ties have been binned, dress-shirt collars thrown asunder. But they aren’t the only fashion victims; men are being encouraged to wear tight-fitting (polyester) pedal-pushers in an attempt to help save 10% of office energy whilst traditional 'salaryman' suits have been banished to the closet.
But workers might be working up more of a sweat than anticipated; in addition to air-con units, office corridors are being left unlit and lifts are being shut down, forcing workers to take the stairs to save extra units of electricity.
These measures fly in the face of a Japanese business etiquette with its Tokyo business suit poster-children and paternal hospitality, and has been met with some scepticism by the public. Reactions on Japan Today’s website were a mixture of amusement and disbelief with one reader named Kuroyama predicting “it’s gonna take a televised rash of heat stroke victims before people start embracing this stuff. The first reaction of course will be to crank the AC back up. That will last until the brownouts and blackouts begin. 2011 summer will be a challenge.”
But it shouldn’t come as a massive surprise to the Japanese public that such measures are being introduced. The programme’s precursor ‘Cool Biz’ was launched by (then) Environmental Minister Yuriko Kuike back in 2005. At the time it was implemented by less than 33% of Japan’s office workers although uptake increased to 50% by 2009. However, with the situation at Fukushima still unclear and the plant out of operation for the foreseeable future, it is certain Japan needs to reduce its energy consumption to avoid further crisis. Whether ‘Super Cool Biz’ is the way to do it only time will tell.
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