To reduce AC consumption at the office, Japanese businesspeople are encouraged to wear less.

On a recent trip to Tokyo, I noticed two things.

First, the city was unusually hot. Cafes, stores, and offices just weren’t running the air.

Second, many salarymen were NOT wearing the traditional dark suit, tie, and leather shoes. Instead, they sported Hawaiian shirts and khaki pants.

I thought it was my imagination. But then I heard NPR’s story about ‘Super Cool Biz,’ a campaign launched by the Ministry of Environment. Due to power woes caused by damage at Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, office buildings must reduce energy consumption by at least 15%.

Working in offices with AC set to 82 degrees F (28 degrees C), workers can forego formal dress for clothing socially unacceptable mere months ago. No to jackets, long sleeved oxfords, stockings, and pumps. Yes to crocs, open toed sandals, polos, and breathable cotton.

Thank goodness, right?

Well, what’s funny about ‘Super Cool Biz’ is that it’s an official ministry campaign. Dressing comfortably for work (even in scorching summer temps) must be so culturally bizarre in Japan that it takes a government initiative to validate it.

Or is there a commercial motive? In fact, the government sponsored a fashion show last month to advertise energy friendly clothing, including pedal pushers for men.

In addition to shedding layers, office workers are asked to arrive one hour EARLIER to work (during cooler temps and lower energy grid demands).

I’m all for saving energy. But considering Japanese office workers put in 12 hour days, why don’t officials REDUCE workload by an hour or two instead?