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Asia Minute: Cool Biz Heats Up in Japan

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

We’re about five weeks from the official start of summer, but government officials in Japan have already begun to get ready for warmer weather. An annual campaign to cut down on the use of air conditioning is underway, but this year there’s a bit of controversy. HPR’s Bill Dorman explains in today’s Asia Minute.


You may have heard about Japan’s annual “cool biz” campaign.

It’s been around for a dozen years now, designed to conserve energy by cutting down on the use of air conditioning.

The government encourages homes and businesses to set thermostats at 28 degrees Celsius…a little more than 82 degrees Fahrenheit.

Part of the deal is that workers are allowed to dress more comfortably in the sartorially conservative country.

Mostly this affects men—no ties; in theory, no suits.

Even aloha shirts are okay—although that really depends on the individual workplace…and not everyone takes part.

But Cool Biz has proven to be a popular practice—the government says it saves on electricity use, and it has spread to countries like South Korea and the United Kingdom.

But according to a leaked story, this year there’s a bit of trouble with Cool Biz at the Justice Ministry.

Kyodo News quotes sources from a closed cabinet meeting late last week as saying the Justice Minister had a question: could the temperature be made just a little bit cooler?

Apparently the answer is no…at least for now.

Reporters following up on the leak asked about any possible flexibility at a Friday news conference.

The current Environment Minister told reporters that the current guideline is “reasonable.”

He added “we ask you to change your lifestyles.”

The Cool Biz campaign lasts through the end of September.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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