Having lived in both incredibly dry heat and super wet heat, I can say with certainty that life in these places without air conditioning is quite the challenge. Having a fan makes it manageable, but for how long? In Japan, there is an effort that started back in 2005 in order to help cut energy consumption during the summer by the name of Cool Biz. The Ministry of the Environment set forth some guidelines that many practice, but not without griping or outright detraction.
While not the next hot boy band, 28 degrees Celcius (abound 86 degrees Fahrenheit) is the recommended temperature for thermostats during the summer. The Mrs. and I set our AC to 80 F in Arizona, sometimes 81, to combat the 110-degree weather, but even we raise an eyebrow at 86, particularly when it’s so muggy in Japan. Not everyone is onboard with this, however. Just as recently as May 2017, there were meetings about the matter of adjusting the recommended temperature. Those who defended the 28-degree limit cited the Industrial Health and Safety act, which sets the safe limits for workplace temperatures between 17 degrees (64 degrees F) and, you guessed it, 28 degrees, which Cool Biz pushes to the limit.
Cool Biz Fashion
Since the suit is the standard workplace uniform in Japan, you might imagine it wouldn’t work in a hot room. And you would be correct! As such, many clothing retailers have designed clothes and professional wear specifically to combat the heat brought on by Cool Biz. You’ll see clothing boutiques and chain stores alike promoting cooler summer designs for the savvy salaryman (and woman!). The items usually use lighter, natural materials or special cool wicking fabrics. Having these seasonal clothes is a game changer, particularly if you’re roasting in your office!
So if you’re coming to Japan to work in summer, be prepared! Your workplace might just be on the Cool Biz model. I would recommend the Air undershirts from UNIQLO; they feel light and cool and have served me well in the hotter air. Also, lighter Cool Biz fashion items, such as cotton, linen, or seersucker outer garments are a safe route as well. Thankfully, my workplace keeps the AC at slightly lower temperatures, so I don’t feel the full force of Cool Biz.
What do you think? Would you want to work in an office that’s following the Cool Biz guidelines?