Japan embraces a new kind of air conditioning, Hawaiian shirts

Japan embraces a new kind of air conditioning, Hawaiian shirts In the humid summer months many of us rely on air conditioning to keep our homes and workplaces cool. However, this luxury may not be a reality in power-starved Japan after the Tohoku earthquake and damage to several power plants like Fukushima. Japan's Ministry of the Environment (MOE) hopes that an old plan that encouraged salarymen to get rid of stuffy suits can lessen the load that air conditioning places on the power grid.

Back in 2005, the MOE launched a plan called “Cool Biz” to aid the country’s efforts to reach their CO2 targets from the Kyoto protocol. Workers were encouraged to loosen up a bit by not wearing suit jackets, tossing out their ties, and wearing short sleeved shirts. A suggested temperature of 82 degrees was pushed for air conditioners and became mandatory in government offices. It wasn’t easy to get a lot of salarymen to buy into the plan and turn off the down the air conditioning, but the plan cut two million tons of greenhouse gases by 2007.

After the earthquake, the MOE revised the program and developed “Super Cool Biz” which sounds like an extreme version of Casual Friday. Office workers are encouraged to adopt clothing that’s more boardwalk than boardroom: Hawaiian shirts, sandals, jeans, polo shirts, tennis shoes. According to reports in the Japanese media, the MOE didn’t throw all decorum out the window; shorts and flip-flops are banned.

The unity of the Japanese people was certainly on display after the earthquake and has now spread to the highest levels of business. The head of auto giant Suzuki is encouraging his employees to follow the MOE’s plan. Osamu Suzuki said,  "When I go playing golf, I wear short pants and socks. It is very cool."

The MOE hopes that “Super Cool Biz” can be a big part of their larger plan to cut total energy consumption by 15% over the summer months. Shoppers will now have to walk up the stairs because of idle escalators and forget about the indulgence of a heated toilet seat in a public bathroom. Energy conscious homeowners are snapping up LED light bulbs as well as smart air conditioners that sense when a room is occupied.

What’s wonderful about the MOE’s plan is that it’s based on a sense of togetherness. The idea of wearing a Hawaiian shirt that looks like a peacock vomited on you may be revolting to some, but if it means someone else in your country can take a hot shower, chances are you won’t be afraid of the fashion police.

If you’d like to help the people of Japan please visit for ways to donate to worthy organizations.