The summer has felt upon us for some time now, with the thermostat rising as quickly as the humidity, and although officially the season does not begin until June 22, for many businesses summer started from the end of the Golden Week holiday. That is because the first day of May marked the beginning of Cool Biz, a time when company dress codes are relaxed up and down the country, something you may have noticed in your office.
The Cool Biz campaign is a Japanese initiative begun by the Japanese Ministry of the Environment in the summer of 2005 as a means to help reduce Japanese electricity consumption by limiting the use of air conditioning to 28 °C (82 °F) by introducing a liberal summer dress code in the Japanese public sector to enable staff to work in the warmer temperature.
After the initiative proved a success – with an estimated 460,000-ton reduction in CO2 emission in its first year and 1.14 million-ton reduction in 2006 – it then spread to the private sector, with many companies following suit. Today, from May to October, Cool Biz continues to be a regular addition to the working calendar
Firstly, Cool Biz regulations may differ depending on your company, so you should check with them before you turn up in shorts and flip-flops.
On the whole, the basic rule is that men are not required to wear ties, while neither sex needs a jacket. For the most part, short-sleeved, button-down shirts are acceptable for men, while for women short-sleeved blouses or even business appropriate t-shirts may be permitted.
In some incidences – particularly in government jobs – a ‘Super Cool Biz’ program is implemented, with the wearing of polo shirts and Aloha shirts acceptable. However, in practice, while the former are relatively common, very few people go full Ace Ventura.
But, in spite of the regulations, many companies still expect staff to be fully suited-and-booted, while a fair number of salarymen feel uncomfortable and unprofessional in anything less than a suit and tie combo, no matter how hot it gets. For them, many stores stock a range of especially-light summer suits and shirts, and there is also a wide selection of ‘cool tech’ underwear goods that claim to cool down the body and be fast drying, handy for when that morning commute becomes uncomfortably stuffy.
Pretty much all business wear providers will have a cool biz range, so your options are not limited. However, if you are in Japan on a short term basis, you may not want to splash out massive amounts on a new wardrobe that you will wear for one summer and never put on again. As such, you may want to pick up some cheap, though decent-quality, Cool Biz wear. There are many places at which you can find it, but below are a couple of suggestions to get you started.
With everything from light jackets to polo shirts, from undershirts to short-sleeves, from underpants to casual skirts and trousers, UNIQLO is your one-stop Cool Biz shop. As well as having pretty much any form of Cool Biz attire you may require, many of the products, the underwear, in particular, are of the cool-tech variety, so you should be able to either stay dry or dry off quickly (well, that’s the cool-tech claim, anyway). Besides, being a company with an international outlook, much of UNIQLO’s range will comfortably fit Westerners.
You can find UNIQLO all around Nagoya, but the primary stores are in Gate Tower near Nagoya Station or Sakae’s Skyle Building.
While UNIQLO is great for cool-tech underwear and casual business attire, it doesn’t cater to those of us who may be required to dress-to-impress throughout the summer months.
Orihica, on the other hand, not only does a decent line of light shirts, but their summer suits are so light that it’ll feel like you’re wearing nothing at all. Okay, they may not be the of the most stylish cuts, and many of the suits are a little jazzy, but they’ll keep you cool in summer well enough.
Again, Orihica is a chain all over the city, but there is a pretty good one in Sakae.
Another low-cost business attire emporium is AOKI. Unlike Orihica that targets a younger clientele with more adventurous designs, AOKI is a little more sober. In addition, not only can AOKI be pretty cheap for suits and shirts for both sexes (it is the primary provider for the ‘fresher’ workers that you see around April) it is also a tax-free store, so if you need a light summer suit or two, it shouldn’t break the bank, particularly if your visa permits it.
You can find AOKI outlets in all major shopping districts, but the primary one in Kamimaezu.
Images: Mark Guthrie – Own Work