I got an email at work just before Golden Week to say that the annual “Cool Biz” campaign would start a month early this year. Cool Biz is a way of reducing electricity demand by using less air conditioning in the office.
During the Cool Biz period, office air conditioning must be set to 28 °C (82°F) and office workers are not allowed to wear ties. Normally this lasts from June to September, but this year it has been extended, to run from May to the end of October.
The electricity supply situation is still critical this summer because of the temporary shut-down of the nuclear generating stations. The Kansai area is highly dependent on nuclear power, with (in normal times) 50% of the region’s electricity requirement coming from nuclear stations. If the units at Ooi power station (4 GW) in Fukui prefecture can be approved for restart before the start of the summer it should be okay; otherwise we are told there will be an 18% shortfall. (Summer is the peak demand period in Japan because of air-conditioning load).
It’s strange to see all the salarymen commuting and walking around in their shirtsleeves with no tie. On the first day back after Golden Week, one of my colleagues arrived wearing a tie, then looked around at all his tie-less colleagues and said, “Ah, Cool Biz” and taking off his tie. Even the Prime Minister doesn’t wear a tie during Cool Biz.
It’s not yet uncomfortably warm here, but I have been repeatedly warned that the heat and humidity will be intolerable at the height of summer. I have been advised to get “summer suits” – business suits made of a single layer of light, unlined fabric – as my normal wool suits will be too warm.