• Life & Culture

What is Cool Biz in Japan?

a skyline of Tokyo during the day

What is the Cool Biz initiative?

Japanese summers are very humid, this may surprise you if you have never lived in Japan and have only seen photos of cherry blossomsThe only way to describe it is to imagine swimming with your clothes on, immediately as you exit your apartment.
So how do the Japanese people stand living in such a tropical climate?
The answer to that question is what we at Interac are going to talk about today.
The Cool Biz Initiative was a concept that the Japanese Government would bring to the Japanese people a response to meeting the nation’s target set by the Kyoto Protocol and to reduce electricity consumption. This was particularly the case after the 2011 Great Tohoku earthquake – in order to reduce the reliance on air-conditioning.
As a result, the Japanese people would engage in behavior and activities that would reduce the summer heat while staying cool at the same time.


A key part of this concept is the Cool Biz dress code

The majority of Japanese people follow this dress code while at work during the summer monthsIn fact, it even has had its own fashion show and many retail stores and clothing chains have created clothing apparel for the occasion. Cool Biz in Japan was so successful, that it now has its own Annual Cool Biz season from May through to September.

Wearing Cool Biz

What does one wear during the Cool Biz season? In general, men will wear short sleeve dress shirts and chinos, without wearing a tie. Men can also choose not to wear a business jacket for most occasions. For ladies, the change is not so noticeable, but a switch to shorter sleeve tops and also forgoing the business jacket.


What is Super Cool Biz?

Super Cool Biz is wearing polo shirtsKariyushi wear or aloha shirts while at the office.
While this sounds like a fun idea, and polo shirts are becoming more mainstream in the private sector, we would caution you against going full Aloha, unless you are working for a company that has a more open policy with your Cool Biz dress code.

Cool Biz in Offices

Besides not wearing a suit or tie, what are some of the actions that someone takes during the Cool Biz season at the office?
  1. Using hand fans while sitting in the office. Whether you use an Uchiwa type fan or a sensu (folding fan), using a fan can help cool the office and reduce reliance on air-conditioning.
  2. Shutting blinds or curtains.
  3. If you have long hair, consider tying it up.
  4. Use products that will keep you cool. Uniqlo has a variety of clothing and accessories available for cool biz under its AIRism series. You can also buy facial tissues that have cooling agents in them at most convenience stores.
  5. Trying to arrive at work earlier and leaving earlier during times of the day that are not so hot.


Cool Biz at home

 A number of actions you can take while at home are:
  1. If you have a family or others living with you, try to have everyone gather in one room and use the air conditioner rather than using multiple air conditioners in multiple rooms.
  2. When you use an air conditioner close doors and windows to cool the room faster.
  3. Try to make a green curtain. A green curtain is a set of climbing plants that are used to cover the window in a curtain of green.
  4. Try eating cool food and food that won’t put your metabolism into over drive. (We would recommend Hiyashi Chuka.)
  5. Turn off all electronic goods at the power point when you are not using them.
In summary, Cool Biz in Japan is not only another interesting cultural aspect to experience in Japan, it is also a successful environmental campaign that helps the environment and you to stay Cool. If you’re coming to work with Interac, take a look at the ALT dress code.

About the Author

Brian McDonough is a consultant at Interac, Japan’s largest provider of ALTs (Assistant Language Teachers). Originally from the US, Brian has lived in Japan for over 25 years, giving him a unique perspective on the cultural differences and challenges people face when moving to Japan. He has first-hand experience of working in Japan as an American.