Dressing down in Tokyo
Three examples of Uniqlo's Super Cool Biz light summer clothes.
Travel to Japan is creeping back since March’s earthquake.
According to the Japan National Tourism Organization, the country welcomed 433,100 visitors in June, up from just 295,826 in April. If you happen to be headed there on business, you may want to adjust your wardrobe accordingly. There has been a big change in the way local executives dress this summer.
As Japan’s earthquake-damaged power grid strains to keep office buildings cool in Tokyo, the government is encouraging office workers to shed their standard (and sweaty) “salaryman” suits and adopt business casual outfits to help endure the higher indoor temperatures. The recently launched “Super Cool Biz” campaign is more aggressive than the 2005 Cool Biz program, which sought to soften Japan’s strict business dress codes after the government asked office buildings to set their air conditioning to a stuffy 28C (82F) to help conserve electricity during summer months.
In conjunction, the popular Japan-based clothing retailer Uniqlo launched a new line of Super Cool Biz light summer clothes to replace the standard dark wool suit and tie frequently seen in central Tokyo.
“Cool Biz attire for men used to mean a suit without tie, or jackets which are made of a lighter material (ie linen or cotton),” said Stanley Tan, Director of Sales and Marketing at Tokyo’s Shangri-La Hotel. “For ladies, it would be a lighter material -- blouse and skirt or blouse and pants. [Now] the jacket for both genders is optional, but without it perspiration may permeate through the shirt/blouse, causing it to look wet and not presentable.”
Acceptance of the new, more casual dress code has been mixed, so business travellers should consult with their counterparts in Japan prior to their visit to determine the appropriate dress for meetings or events. “Business travellers visiting Japan are usually easily forgiven for whatever they do, including dressing down for Cool Biz,” said Tan. “When in doubt, they can always say sumimasen (or “excuse me”) at the beginning of the meeting, should they find themselves underdressed for the occasion.”
Chris McGinnis is the business travel columnist for BBC Travel