Government bureaucrats adopt ‘Cool Biz’ hues

by Reiji Yoshida

The commuter color scheme of Tokyo’s Kasumigaseki district underwent a dramatic transformation Wednesday as thousands of bureaucrats took off their dark gray jackets as recommended by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi ahead of the hot, humid summer.

The officials traded their jackets and neckties for white or other lightly colored dress shirts, a style that has been coined “Cool Biz” in the government’s campaign to fight global warming.

The new dress code, which is not mandatory, is being pushed so thermostats in government offices can be set at 28 degrees, even in summer. This will reduce electricity use and help reduce carbon dioxide emissions to meet Japan’s obligations for the Kyoto Protocol on global warming.

“In terms of saving electricity, (the move) will have a considerable effect,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda, who appeared in a light-blue shirt for the regular televised news conference at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence in the morning.

Hosoda said the casual look would also benefit women, many of whom complain about air conditioning being too cold because they are usually set to meet the needs of men wrapped in suits.

“I hope this custom of wearing casual clothes (in summer) will take root,” Hosoda said.

But some officials and reporters covering the ministries had gripes, saying they felt too hot or were unable to do without their jacket pockets. “It’s OK to cooperate (with the policy), but you can’t put things in pockets,” said one top government official who asked not to be named.

Koizumi stressed that the code is not mandatory.

“Don’t take it too seriously. I’m just saying you should relax with no tie,” Koizumi told reporters Tuesday night. “I’d like everyone to think for themselves what they ought to wear, because (the rule) is not obligatory.”

Lawmakers also agreed Tuesday to accept the new summer dress code. This will exempt them from wearing jackets and ties in the Diet except during plenary sessions.