With every Yin, there is a Yang. When I first got here, I found out about Cool Biz, the incredibly hot trend of keeping your office cooled to a balmy 83 degrees in order to reduce energy consumption and help keep emissions under control. But did you know there is a winter equivalent? Well, there is! So get your long johns ready for Warm Biz!
Warm Biz Origins
This all started back in 2005, the same time the fable Cool Biz campaign began, as a push to conserve energy and reduce emissions produced by energy production and consumption. The recommended temperature for your thermostat from November 1st through March 31st is 20 degrees Celsius, or 68 degree Farenheit. The government offers some interesting tidbits for staying warm, the main one being a sacred list of techniques of “the old fashioned-way:” wearing layers, such as two pairs of socks, and eating hot pot, since that not only warms your belly, but the steam from the soup will help make it feel warmer than it actually is.
This year has been very late for each of the seasons here in Japan, so until just a week ago, temperatures were very pleasant (70s F), but that didn’t stop government officials from wearing sweaters to the office to help kick the annual event into high gear. That’s one thing I’ve always found strange about people: Some cultures and some people dress for the season, not for the weather. They take a look at the calendar, and as soon as a certain date passes, it’s onto a certain set of clothing regardless of how it actually feels. With climate change messing up our weather, I’m particularly puzzled by this behavior. That could just be me, though.
Warm Biz in Practice
Warm Biz seems to be wildly less-popular than its Cool Biz brother, despite the face that heating consumes more energy than cooling (but that could change, again, due to climate change). You don’t see signs in stores advertising special Warm Biz clothing with thermal technology, mainly because people already struggle to keep warm and warm clothing options have been a priority for a lot longer than clothes that wick away sweat, I would imagine. In this way, I think Warm Biz doesn’t grab the imagination quite so much: You don’t have to imagine how to stay warmer and you don’t suffer like you do in the hotter temperatures.
Thankfully for us, we don’t have to worry too much about heating our apartment until it gets truly cold in the end of December/January. We get plenty of sunshine from our glass doors of our balcony, which warms up our living room nicely at no additional cost to us. On the flip side, we have to keep out curtains closed tightly to keep that same heat out in the summer, so it’s a bit of a give and take.
Japan has its heart in the right place, but it might be worth pointing out that there are many problems with Japanese homes: Lack of proper insulation, no central air or heat, and poor design leaves many foreigners scratching their heads when they hear things like Cool Biz and Warm Biz. Part of this has to do with the history of Japanese homes. They were built intentionally to be breezy so that in the summer, it would discourage mold growth, and leaving it vulnerable, however, to evil winter draftiness. To those on the outside, however, they don’t understand why this hasn’t updated with the times. Regardless, Warm Biz is a thing, and the sweater-clad politicians will continue their annual argyle parade every November 1st for the foreseeable future.