Aug 8, 2011

The Laws of "Salaryman" (1) "Cool Biz"

When I wrote about "Salaryman" ("English Words" Made in Japan ), I got a comment "I do hope you'll survive!" I've survived as an ordinary "Salaryman" in Japan for twenty years.

I have to keep many laws, which seem to be quite ridiculous for the people who aren't in the Japanese companies' culture, to survive as a "Salaryman".

Today I'll write about "Cool Biz".

It's quite hot in the summer season of Tokyo, but, as I wrote in the previous journal, a typical "Salaryman" always wears a dark business suit and tie, no matter how hot it is.

The ministry of Environment started a campaign called "Cool Biz". They insisted that "Salaryman" should take off their jackets and ties in order to save the environment. Do you understand the relationship between "Salaryman's" suits and the environment? They said that companies should raise the temperature in their offices to save electricity and "Salaryman" should take off their jackets and ties to stand high temperature. Poor "Salaryman"!

Anyway "Cool Biz" has spread over "Salaryman" and they have taken off their jackets and ties in the summer season. And of course it has been hotter in their office.

Japanese government has been worried about shortage of electricity because of the accident of Fukushima dai-ichi nuclear plants, so they started the campaign "Super Cool Biz". They are recommending that "Salaryman" should dress down more.

My company is very Japanese, so they obey the policy of the government. In my company's website I found an announcement as below.

Announcement: Light Closing in the Summer Season

We will relax the dress code in the summer season in order to meet the request power saving by the government.

1. Light Closing in the Summer Season
1) Implementation period: June 20th (the date of closing period will depend on the supply of electricity)
2) Dress code:
Both of men and women basically should wear "clean and moderate" clothing.

The purpose of the light clothing is to promote ease comfort to work in the office, but we show the example of "inappropriate clothing" in order to keep the minimum manner and working environment. Please keep the dress code.

This dress code is applied to only in the office. Please consider and wear appropriate clothing with your common sense when you visit your clients and keep confidence of them.

For male
The present dress code
tops & bottoms

Basically wear a business suit and tie, or clothing corresponding to them, and be allowed to take off a jacket and tie in the working time.

The new dress code

Be allowed to wear a polo shirt and an open-necked shirt.
Be allowed to wear chinos and cotton pants

The inappropriate clothing

Flamboyant shirts
Putting a shirt out of pants
Half pants, cropped pants, pants without press, gym pants, jeans and so on

For female
The present dress code
tops & bottoms

Wear clean and moderate clothing corresponding to a suit or a jacket

The new dress code
tops & bottoms

We don't show a concrete guide, but don't wear inappropriate clothing as below

The inappropriate clothing

A sleeveless dress without a jacket, a T-shirt, scanty clothing (a camisole, halter-neck and so on) and clothing with a slogan or logo
A too short or too long skirt, a skirt with long slit, casual pants (short pants, jeans and so on), jersey pants and skirt, leggings and gym pants

When I read it, I literary laughed out loudly.

Why did they prohibit "putting a shirt out of pants" or "clothing with a slogan"? Women in the office are prohibited to wear shirts with the slogan "save the earth" in order to save the earth. That's the low of "Salaryman".

I tried to break this ridiculous low and put my polo shirt out of my chinos in the office.

Three days after I started a tiny revolt against the low of "Salaryman", the person in charge of risk management said to me in whispers that the president didn't like "putting a shirts out of pants".

Our president might think that "putting a shirt out of pants" would be a huge risk of our company. I'm living in such a ridiculous world.


  1. You know, after reading your post, I could not help but think that all of this has to do with the boss that you have and the sort of "trend" that exists.
    I got back to Portugal from Japan when I was invited to be part of a Portuguese government and work at a ministry. When I arrived, everyone was using ties, suits and formal clothes (I would say very traditional salaryman sort of dress code). However, I asked my boss if I could come to work without wearing a tie (I was never a too much of a formal person) and he agreed. During the time I was working at the government, I was the only male worker in the ministry building not wearing a tie, even security personnel and the drivers wore a tie. And some people actually receive this dress code with a mixed amusement/astonishment/even displeased feeling. The funny thing is that after I left the government and a new government was formed, the first rule that they put in place was that everyone had to quit using their ties for environmental purposes. Apparently, it was trendy and environmental friendly and as such, politically correct. However, at the same time they had to quit using the air conditioner to save on the electricity bill. I am doubtful about the real impact of loosing the tie for getting some savings on electricity. Actually, I would prefer using a tie and be in a cool environment rather than not wearing a tie and feel the brunt of the summer here, it would be impossible to develop a good work with 30ºc plus temperatures.
    I think some formality is needed for some jobs, but one should work as one feels comfortable (well, with some formality, if one goes to work with sandals and swimming suit would be a bit awkward). In my opinion, the critical thing in the workplace is that the worker feels good to develop a good work and outcomes (that was the reason my boss allowed me not to use a tie). After all this story my point is: do not do things because they seem to have a linear impact or because they are politically correct, but implement things to make people feel better and contribute even more to the common good.

  2. Thank you for your comment. I don't know that there is "cool biz" in Portugal. I want to get centered on my job.