Warm Biz campaign gets under way in Japan

TOKYO —

After months of being told to wear less to keep cool for summer, workers are now being urged to wrap up for winter as the energy-saving Warm Biz campaign gets into gear.

The campaign unofficially began on Oct 1—one month earlier than last year—but the weather didn’t cooperate with the first two weeks of October bringing unseasonably warm temperatures in much of Japan.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has already forecast that there is unlikely to be any power shortages this winter. It said projected supply capacity to exceed demand by 3%, which is the minimum level for maintaining a stable electricity supply.

However, the Environment Ministry is still promoting the Warm Biz campaign. It is calling on offices and homes to set heaters and air conditioners no higher than 20 degrees C. and keep warm the “old-fashioned way.”

Average temperatures in Tokyo fall to around 6 degrees C in January and February and the government is advising people to wear extra layers of clothes and eat hot meals to keep out the cold.

The ministry suggests putting on scarves, gloves and leg warmers during the day and an extra layer after the evening bath.

For dinner, it recommends a traditional Japanese hotpot. “You can lower the heat if you enjoy ‘nabe’ with your family and friends, making both bodies and the room warm. The temperature will feel higher than it actually is thanks to steam from the pot,” the ministry website says.

Eating root vegetables and ginger will help to “warm the body up,” it says, adding that getting off the train a stop earlier and walking the rest of the way to work will boost circulation.

Clothing giant Uniqlo is promoting its Ultra Light Down line of warm and lightweight down jackets and HEATTECH innerwear. Department stores are offering a range of knitwear and other items to stave off the winter chills.

People are also being asked to forgo heated toilet seats.

Warm Biz was first introduced in 2005 as a follow-up to the Cool Biz campaign during the summer. But it didn’t really get much attention until 2011 when the government began promoting it heavily due to fears over a potential electricity shortfall following the March 11 disaster.

Japan Today

  • 2

    some14some

    The ministry suggests putting on scarves, gloves and leg warmers during the day and an extra layer after the evening bath.

    thanks to the ministry for its Motherly Care, this advice might help Uniqlo as well :(

  • 17

    Nessie

    keep warm the “old-fashioned way.”

    The old fashioned way was to live in Africa.

  • 12

    marcelito

    Cool biz, Warm biz, Medium dry biz....it's all called using" common sense" in other parts of the world.

  • 11

    philly1

    People are also being asked to forgo heated toilet seats.

    Oh dear. That's a lot to ask. On a freezing morning when your breath hangs in your room, the toasty toilet seat is such a comfort. Couldn't they encourage installing timers on the toilet seats so that they'll at least be warm in the mornings?

  • 26

    pochan

    How about doing something useful such as giving advice about how to insulate houses and save energy. It is criminal that construction companies are allowed to get away with building such low quality houses. I went to Korea last year and was surprised to find out that basically the whole country had floor heating. The logic of having a house that is freezing with walls made from paper but having a warmed toilet seat baffles me. The priorities always seem to be on the bells and whistles.

  • 2

    Tokiyo

    Phill1 the thing is, they usually are programmable! Seems like a petty thing to be asking to cut down on...

  • 2

    Baibaikin

    @philly Couldn't agree more on the toilet seat. It's the only comfort when the paper-thin walls of my house offer no insulation. Mornings would be quite the trial without it.

  • 2

    Gobshite

    Do the sheeple really need to be told this? Does the Ministry of Nanny have to remind everyone to eat their "5 a day"? Take care on the roads? Beware of ice in winter because it's slippery?

  • 7

    moomoochoo

    The sad thing is, they really do need to be told.

  • 7

    rickyvee

    gotta agree with several of the posters here; heated toilet seats are a huge comfort in the morning. i usually turn on the seat when i wake up in the morning, do some other things; use it and then turn it off when i leave for work.

  • 8

    inakaRob

    "Cool biz, Warm biz, Medium dry biz....it's all called using" common sense" in other parts of the world." Its called "I am an adult and I can dress to the climate of the moment and what is comfortable for me"
    But its Japan, zero personal accountability and everyone has to be told what to do. Not dissing Japan. Its differnt from the west. and it works in many ways. but yeah.... to western people, the fact that we need to be told how to dress is a little silly.

  • 0

    FizzBit

    Agree pochan

    I refuse to buy a new house here. It's gonna be a cheap old fixer upper with room for some chickens. Do the remodling and insulating myself as much as possible. If a new house is only going to last 30 years, why not insulate it?

  • 9

    sighclops

    It'll be so freakin' hot on the trains that none of this will be necessary, anyway! Already sweating...

  • 6

    timtak

    to western people, the fact that we need to be told how to dress is a little silly.

    Most British businessmen wear their ties even when it is hot, and do not wear down jackets even when it is cold. Being a dyed in the wool Briton, I find myself wanting to wear a tie in Summer and not wanting to wear anything other than a waistcoat in winter, but my colleagues are more inventive.

  • 1

    Disillusioned

    Timtak - Hot in Britain? Ha ha! 28' is a heat wave!

    All talk and little action! Remember after the 3/11 quake everybody went power conservation 'bakari', but it only lasted a couple of months. Only around 25% of electricity is used domestically. Most of it is used for industry. They ask people to sweat in summer and shiver in winter. Meanwhile, the power companies increase their tariffs to increase their profits. Stuff 'em! I won't be turning off my heated dunny seat!

  • 13

    warewarenihonjin

    It will never be 20 degrees in my office. The women have been wearing scarves all summer because they say is cold below 28 degrees. Now they will have heater to 28 degrees.

    They say we Japanese live in harmony with nature. That is exactly bollocks. We Japanese have heaters all winter and are afraid for cooler in summer. We use umbrella if cloudy but not rain.

    My office is sweat zone all year. Why do we pretend we care a nature? Too hot in a office all day, all year. It is sweaty BOLLOCKS.

  • 2

    Dennis Bauer

    @inakaRob next campaign "Common sense biz!"

  • 0

    Lilic

    When people in this country will start to think outside the box and not check their manual of life for everything?

  • 1

    ambrosia

    Electrical toilet seats account for about 4% of the total energy consumption in an average Japanese house. It's hard to say what that would be in a typical office building but I've no problem with them being turned off. They've always kind of grossed me out anyway, reminding me of a seat that's warm because the user before me sat on it too long. Anyway..... most buildings could stand to turn off some lights and unplug a few vending machines too. Of course there is the issue of insulation but since that's not going to change overnight why not make a few simple changes? I'd gladly sacrifice heated toilets and rows of vending machines for a little air conditioning in the summer. And sorry, but setting the temperature to 28 doesn't qualify as air conditioning.

  • 1

    Debucho

    no warm toilet seats?? lets just get rid of everything comfortable and pleasurable and be happy we are alive! i hate this crap

  • 9

    Saxon Salute

    I've never known the temperature in my office to fall below 26 degrees celsius, which is apparently absolutely freezing and requires the OLs to wear sweaters, coats and scarves.

    I came up with some definitions to help non-Japanese people understand warm and cool biz here:

    • Saving energy: Spending all summer at 28 degrees Celsius or above to save energy, then heating the building to 28 degrees in the other seasons, wasting huge amounts of energy.

    • Air-con: An electric device invented in America, but revamped by the Japanese to make sure that no one ever feels too comfortable in the work place unless they like being too hot.

    • Air-conditioning: A system of increasing the temperature of a room to either too hot or much too hot, as determined by General Affairs.

    • Cold (adj): Between 27.9 - 27.1 degrees Celsius.

    • Very cold: 27 degrees Celsius or lower.

  • 4

    pochan

    The only reason they need to heat toilet seats is because houses are so cold. Heat and insulate the house rather than toilet seat. First tip is that paper isn't a very good material for making walls with.

  • 9

    Saxon Salute

    pochan, absolutely true. I looked on (largely in horror I admit) as my own 3-bedroom house here was constructed. The main materials used were wet timber, old packing cases, staples and a wrap-around plastic sheet. There is insulation (plus alpha) but if a building is made of wood and plastic, the insulation is fairly useless. They have designed houses to be baking hot in the summer and freezing cold in the winter, then have a hoard of overpaid bureaucrats issue silly advisories about use of air-con, eating nabe and wearing leg warmers. TIJ.

  • 2

    Ian Duncan

    I want to know how many hours of overtime the government officials spent burning electricity in meeting rooms before they came up with the strategy of advising Japanese people to eat Japanese food.

    Basing it on the assumption that anyone will leave their overheated office in time to get home early enough to eat at the same time as their family. I bet they all got taxis home after coming up with this brilliant stratagem. Which we paid for.

  • -2

    Onniyama

    Saxon Salute. Your last post so wonderfully summed up Japan.

  • 1

    ambrosia

    My dad built houses for a living and absolutely refused to believe me when I told him that the majority of them aren't insulated here. He would sputter incredulously every time the subject came up. The of idea paper walls and doors disturbed him a lot too.

  • 15

    warewarenihonjin

    We have a four season in Japan:

    Too cold outside, too hot inside;

    Nice outside, too hot inside;

    Too hot, both inside and outside;

    Rain and too hot inside.

    All season, office lady must wear blanket inside.

    This is famous harmony seasons.

  • 5

    Stacy Kurokawa Cooke

    My kid's silly youchien uniform is shorts, all winter long. Secondly, I don't get that there is a special date to change over clothes. Dress according to the weather people!

  • 3

    budgie

    It won't stop every office building in Hokkaido blasting the furnace to 30 degrees or more. Seriiously you have to wear ski gear to get to work then practically strip down to beach shorts.

  • 1

    ifd66

    with Japan rebuilding all its houses after an average lifespan of only 25 years - just redesign buildings to be naturally cooled and warmed - job done.

  • 8

    John Occupythemoon Daly

    My office is sweat zone all year.

    You, too, huh? I told my boss I couldn't wear nice clothes to work because I was tired of sweating through $75 shirts. I went to a recycle shop and bought the cheapest, ugliest shirts I could find and I wear those every day because I ruin them constantly due to sweat stains. It's usually never below 29-30 degrees in my office, and if it is, the "sweater ladies" CRY and MOAN about how it's cold. I love how we have to "setsuden" and conserve energy in the summer (while I sweat my everything off) but then in the winter the heaters are CRANKED to 30 degrees plus (once again, leaving me sweating buckets and usually feeling physically sick). I'm already tired of everyone gawking at my short sleeve shirts, and getting asked if I'm cold 50+ times a day. Oh, it's only October? Greeaaattt....

  • -1

    MADCOWS

    I found that tha ther was great deal of energy wastage going in Japan, lights are on unneccessarly, there was hardly any double glazing, the helet I stayed in had the mirror herter go on when you switched teh bathroom light on!, it is about time that Japanese socity as a whole start tinking ahead

  • 3

    KnowBetter

    The 'hens' at work didn't suffer much during the summer since they usually keep the IT floor at 28c while we IT guys sweat like overweight otaku queuing up to get a signed AKB48 poster while running around fixing things. At least this winter it will be nice at 20c which is what I would have it set to in summer but only dream of...

  • 3

    Sofa_king

    I propose 'hard-biz' year round: stop fiddling with the air con remote and fussing with your lap blankets and get some bloody work done!

  • 2

    Thunderbird2

    When I spent my first New Year in Japan I rented a flat in Chiba Prefecture for a week - it was bloody freezing! I come from Scotland so I can cope with the cold, but to try and sleep in a tiny flat without double-glazing and walls that sounded hollow in cold temperatures wasn't a lot of fun. No kotatsu, just plain wooden floor and a thin duvet. It was only on my last day that I found out it could blow out warm air.

    I only had to put up with for a week, but if all Japanese mansions are like that... I can see why my ex dreads winter (and summer for that matter, but that's another story). At least she has a carpet in her living room and a space heater so she won't freeze.

    Japanese homes really do need to be better insulated... but with the summer comes a lot of heat...

  • 1

    pochan

    Japanese homes really do need to be better insulated... but with the summer comes a lot of heat...

    Insulation can work for both hot and cold

  • 2

    ThonTaddeo

    This is a great thread -- so happy to be among friends here who see that not only does energy conservation in this society work in just one direction, but that even in the winter things are kept far too hot for a reasonable person's comfort!

    It wasn't like this just ten or so years ago. Every office building had ordinary AC that kept things at about 20-21 all year long. Nobody felt too hot or too cold, work could get done, and no one's clothes were ruined from the constant sweat and repeated washings.

    There's a digital thermometer right here in my office. It's 9:30 PM, and it's 27.7 degrees C. In late October. With the outdoor temperature a good 10-15 degrees below that. Seriously, "bundle up"? It's still tropical in here!

  • 1

    Ranger_Miffy2

    So glad I do not work in an office, trapped and at the mercy of silly OLs.

  • 2

    ambrosia

    Below is a link to a very interesting article citing a number of different studies on the ideal working temperature. The highest cited was 25C/77F and that was for the summertime. Though the different studies do disagree on the ideal temperature none of them went so far as to claim that the 28C/82.4F that the Japanese government asks people to set it at was even close to ideal.

    http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865562780/Hot-news-The-best-workplace-temperature-

    And then there's this:

    Takashi Kadokura used to strip down to his underwear when working late because of the heat.

    "We couldn't concentrate on our work," said Kadokura, 37, then an economist for Dai-ichi Life Research Institute in Tokyo. "The air conditioning was set at 28 degrees (82 degrees Fahrenheit) and we weren't allowed to change it."

    The experience led Kadokura to question the Japanese government's "Cool Biz policy, which recommends companies set air conditioners at 28 degrees to reduce carbon emissions. Kadokura says sweaty offices lead to lower productivity, and estimates the policy reduced economic growth in 2008 by 653 billion yen ($6.9 billion) or 0.13 percent of Japan's gross domestic product of 497.4 trillion yen.

    Kadokura, who now runs the Yokohama-based consultancy BRICs Research Institute, says his estimates are based on research by Shinichi Tanabe, a professor of Architecture and Environmental Engineering at Tokyo's Waseda University. Each degree the temperature is raised above 25 degrees cuts worker productivity by 1.9 percent, said Tanabe.

    "The temperature can easily rise above 28 degrees in areas influenced by heat from office equipment," Tanabe said in a telephone interview. "The concept of Cool Biz is great but we need a more scientific approach to decide the temperature."

    "The small reduction in greenhouse gases doesn't justify the effect that uncomfortably hot office temperatures have on workers," he said. "We should focus on raising productivity to boost growth and Cool Biz seems to go against that."

    http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=aPqVjejK.hxU

    The article is four years old and in that time I've shown it to dozens of Japanese people. Almost all of them either insist it's wrong or give the ol' shoganai. Pathetic. Even when they're sweating and falling asleep at their desks they still refuse to believe it might be related to uncomfortably hot offices and if they do, are too scared to insist that the company reconsider the temperature settings. Completely pathetic. Mr. Kodokura is my hero for figuring it out, using science to back up his theory and not being too cowardly to say something about it.

  • 1

    frontandcentre

    ambrosia - that report suggests 25 degrees is the optimum temperature in any season. Matches exactly what I've found in my office, no warmer, no cooler.

  • 0

    ThonTaddeo

    Ambrosia, I remember reading that article a few years ago, and remember being overcome with gratitude that someone was finally standing up to the Cool Biz overlords. Back then carbon emissions were used as the excuse, then it was high oil prices, and now it's the lack of nuclear energy. Supposedly they also enforced high ambient temperatures back during the 1970s energy crisis, but this time it's open-ended and may well go on for decades, even if alternate non-nuclear energy sources are developed -- long past when Japan will have ceased to be an economic heavyweight.

    Each year I look forward to the surge of energy that I feel when temperatures finally start coming down. I'd love to feel that energy at work too. And no, coming to work in a T-shirt does not alleviate the problem. (I confess to also having a preference for traditional office wear and its slight tinge of formality. It makes both sexes look a lot more attractive.)

    Ultimately I don't feel optimistic for Japan ever seeing the light on this issue. The listlessness and sleepiness that accompanies being in a too-warm environment are just too easy to chalk up to a lack of gaman. I think I'll have to find a job that stations me in Australia or New Zealand from April to October. Then I'd never have to deal with summer, anywhere!

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