Aug 29, 2013

Blowing Hot and Cold in Japan !

This is part 2 of my “Japan and I” Series. To read Part 1, Please click here.

In many ways, Japan still remains a mystery to the rest of the world. 
For here, the ancient and the modern not only coexist but seem to do so in great harmony. The land of the rising Sun is as comfortable with its bullet trains and cutting edge technology as it is with Zen and Geishas.Japan has a unique culture, with its own peculiarities and quirks that seem natural to the Japanese but intrigue and surprise all foreigners. 
Through this series, I attempt to talk about the Japan I saw and experienced! 

Today we talk about the Japanese and their love for formal wear !

The first thing I do whenever I am about to visit Japan is stock up on my formal clothes! 

Formals are an accepted wear in any work environment across the globe but the Japanese take the formal wear fetish to new heights. Not only are they particular about being dressed in formals but also about the color. Every working person in japan or “Salary-Man” as they are called will be dressed in a conservative black or dark blue suit, tie and a sparkling white shirt all five days of the week. Yes, even on Fridays, when the rest of the world, a little saner in aspects of allowing people freedom, lets its employees come to work in informal clothes, Japan still sticks to full formal attire.

I guess men don’t have much of a color choice any ways, but even the women stick to black and white or dull light colors. During the morning rush hours, the Japanese scuttling out of the train station reminded me irresistibly of penguins!

Wearing formals is fine in winter, but in summer wearing a full suit in Japan can be sheer hell. From June to September, Japan gets extremely hot and humid and the severe jackets and tailored shirts just add to the discomfort. 

I used trains to commute to work and my office was a good 10 minutes’ of sweltering walk from the station. In spite of carrying my Jacket in my hand, I used to reach work all sweaty and already in need of another bath.

To add to our woes, a few years back, the Japan Government in a crazy bid to conserve energy came up with the brainwave that the A/C in all offices will not be more than 28 degrees. At 28 degrees the cooling is non-existent and there is no concept of ceiling fans in japan. People resorted to buying small fans and clipping them on their desks but that did nothing but throw ineffectual gusts of air your way. So you slowly and steadily melted in the stifling heat as the day progressed.

We foreigners muttered and complained darkly about this new regulation but the Japanese “salary-man” bravely soldiered on – while their crisp white shirts turned grey and sodden in the heat and their ties hung loosely and lifelessly around their neck. But they still wore their formals! The Japanese are nothing if not conformists!

Then a few years back Ministry of environment decided to come out with the  “Cool – Biz” Campaign.

The formal wear was relaxed a bit in the summer. People were now allowed to wear short sleeved shirts and jacket and ties were not required from the months of June till September. Women could wear loose cotton tops and do without jackets as well. 
A special advisory was passed to wear starched collars so that they don’t become limp with sweat and also to wear light cotton shirts and trousers as this material was most comfortable in summer.

This sent shock waves throughout the working world in Japan. Most of the Japanese, trained for years on wearing full formal clothes found the whole idea sacrilegious! I suppose coming to work without ties and jackets was for them equivalent to coming to work in shorts and Hawaiian shirts. For a logn time, most of them still came to work with their ties in their pockets and their jackets in their hands lest they were the odd ones out.

But clothes retailers caught on fast and started manufacturing thin cotton clothes suitable only for the Cool Biz period. It’s now quiet common to go to department stores in Japan in the beginning of summer and see advertisements for “Cool Biz” attire.

Japanese Clothes Retailer Uniqlo showcasing its "Cool Biz" range ! 

Japan still follows its rule of formals throughout the week but now the number of people coming to work tie less and wearing light colored trousers and half sleeved shirts in summer is slowly increasing. 

I suppose the Japanese “Salary-man” has finally given in to comfort over conformity! 

Aug 8, 2013

Age No Bar - 55 Fiction !

I love you so. He said earnestly. Just give me one chance.
Look at our age difference !
Loves knows no age, and you’re an adult at 23.
And you are too .....
She stopped. Unwilling to hurt his feelings.
Dejected he walked away.
He’s got loads of spunk for a 12 year old. She thought amused. 


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