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Fan-Equipped Jackets Keep Workers Cool (August 10, 2005)

An air-conditioned blouson (Kuchofuku Inc.)
Cool Biz, a combination of the English words cool and business, is the catchword in Japan this summer. It is the title of a government campaign to persuade office workers to dispense with their ties and jackets as an environmentally friendly way of staying cool without lowering the air conditioner thermostat. And now an innovation called kuchofuku (air-conditioned clothing) is taking the Cool Biz concept one step further. This new type of garb lets people stay cool even in long sleeves.

Clothing with Built-In Fans
In the Cool Biz campaign, company employees have been called upon to help in the fight against global warming by getting out of their ties and jackets and into clothes that are cooler, not to mention more fashionable. Many men, however, are accustomed to wearing suits and ties and have had a hard time letting go.

Help for these men may be on the way in the form of air-conditioned clothing, an idea that was unveiled by Kuchofuku Inc. and first went into full-fledged production in April 2005.

Air-conditioned clothes have two small fans about 10 centimeters in diameter attached to the right and left sides of the back of the clothing, just above the waist. The fans draw in a large amount of air and help to vaporize sweat. As the perspiration evaporates, heat is dissipated, bringing down the wearer's body temperature. Sweating is the human body's natural air conditioner, and air-conditioned clothes are designed to give this mechanism a boost, ensuring that it functions properly even on the hottest, most humid days.

Two types of air-conditioned clothing are now on sale: a work jacket, which comes in short- and long-sleeved versions, and a long-sleeved blouson. Though both appear oppressively hot at first glance, they have won rave reviews for being extraordinarily comfortable and capable of keeping even the hardest worker cool.

Cost-Saving and Environmentally Friendly
The work jackets are available in either 100% polyester or 100% cotton, while the blouson is 100% polyester. The fans run on four rechargeable AA-size nickel-hydrogen batteries that can be used again and again, thereby minimizing the impact on the environment. The fans are light and do not weigh the wearer down.

According to Kuchofuku Inc., it is far cheaper to purchase this clothing than a large-scale air conditioning system. The running costs are also minimal, meaning that companies can save on their usually high electricity bills during the summer months. The clothes are not just economical, but they also help boost worker productivity and aid in the fight against global warming.

In comments to the media, the founder of Kuchofuku Inc., Ichigaya Hiroshi, who used to work as an engineer for Sony Corporation, said that he had been working on his design for air conditioned clothing since 1999, when he experimented with a prototype using water to achieve the cooling effect.

Ichigaya is now turning his attention to overseas markets. He has already signed a contract with a South Korean clothing and accessories manufacturer for the fans and plans to open a manufacturing plant in China this fall, which will start full-scale production in 2006.

Ichigaya says he would like to design a vest equipped with fans that could be worn under regular clothing, so that the market for his products could spread to encompass men and women working in offices. He is also developing air-conditioned suits and raincoats. Ichigaya has his heart set on creating air-conditioned clothes that can be worn by anyone, anywhere.

The air-conditioned long-sleeved jackets are priced at ¥12,600 ($115 at ¥110 to the dollar), and the clothing can be purchased online or by catalogue. Right now the clothes are mainly used by workers in factories, tunnels, and underground construction sites, where air conditioners cannot be installed. With their environmental and cost advantages, as well as their comfort, however, air-conditioned clothes could soon catch on in other workplaces and in other countries, too.

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Copyright (c) 2005 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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