... get that jacket and tie off! This intriguing article in The New York Times (registration required) about efforts in Japan, sponsored by the Government, to cut down on its energy import bill (it is the number two oil importer worldwide) by encouraging business-men (aka 'salarymen') not to wear a jacket and tie when coming to the office, or when visiting or receiving visitors, and not just on a Friday either! This is to be backed-up by plans for companies and organisations, private and public, to set their air-conditioning thermostats to a sweltering 28 degrees Celsius (82.4 degrees Fahrenheit). (Of course the title of the NYT article glosses over the fact that sushi without the rice if of course sashimi.)
Of course, your average salaryman would not dream of leaving home without the usual charcoal grey suit, white shirt and dark tie, when going to work, for fear of what the boss might think - this is, after all, one of the most hierarchical countries on the planet. So senior business-people, including Toyota and Keidanren Chairman, Hiroshi Okuda (in other words, Japan's top businessman) and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, launched the new drive in April. Environment minister, Yuriko Koike, even went so far as to tell her employees: "This summer I will not allow anybody with tie or jacket into my office". The good lady (and there's another novel thing in Japan) announced that Kuuru Bizu (the clothing brand 'Cool Biz') had been chosen as an appropriate model for the casual look for summer. We used to think ourselves really lucky in Hong Kong to be allowed to wear a sports jacket or blazer with casual slacks (and tie, of course) on the one or two Saturday-mornings a month we had to appear at the office, and the catering staff ('mess servants' in the vernacular) would come around at midday to take our drinks orders, before we knocked-off at 12.30 for the weekend (make mine a G&T!), but not before signing the mess 'chit' of course.