No jacket required for Japan’s post-nuclear etiquette of cool

The country’s government encourages ‘office casual’ but workers are reluctant to dress down, despite soaring temperatures

Post-nuclear etiquette of cool

Koji Sasahara/AP

Japan, this week, became nuclear-free for the first time in four decades; the last of the country’s 50 nuclear reactors was closed for repairs. Crippling public distrust is keeping reactors offline.

Environmentalists rejoiced, but for government, the timing couldn’t be worse. Temperatures soared in Tokyo as summer began. And across the chaotic city of 10 million, energy-sucking air conditioning units sputtered to life—so the government is urging office workers to go casual to keep energy use down.

Kiyo Uzawa, a Tokyo journalist, is doing his part, ditching his tie and business suit for the next four months. Etiquette, however, is a national obsession, making Japan’s so-called “Cool Biz” campaign a tough sell. Government is “trying to change our custom,” Takahiro Ishiwaka complains. The casual “kariyushi,” Japan’s take on the Hawaiian shirt, which the government is encouraging men to wear, is simply “too much,” complains Nobuhiro Isono. Only in Japan would men complain about being forced to remove their jackets. Here, says Uzawa, many would rather stay suited up through the hot, humid summer.

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