Record sales for air-conditioned clothes in Japan
In Japan this summer, sales of air-conditioned jackets reached peaked amid power shortages after the earthquake and tsunami.
The idea of "personal air–conditioning" struck Ichigaya, a Sony engineer, in the early 1990s while trying to invent a low-electricity use air conditioner. It occurred to him that it wasn’t necessary to cool the whole room as long as people felt cool. He set up Kuchofuku Co. Ltd (literally "air-conditioned clothing") in 2004, and has mostly been selling air-conditioned clothing to nearly 1000 companies in Japan, including automobile giants, steelmakers, food companies and construction firms, but the company doubled last year's sales figures with 40 000 items sold this year and potential sales figures of 80 000 if the company had been able to manufacture enough. A standard jacket sells for around 11 000 yen (USD 140), with others priced higher.
Two electric fans in a Kuchofuku jacket can be controlled to draw air in at different speeds, giving the garment a puffed-up look as up to 20 litres of air per second circulate through the jacket and escape through the collar and cuffs. According to the company founder, the fans are connected to a lithium-ion battery pack that lasts for 11 hours on a single charge, consuming only a fraction of the power used by conventional air conditioning.
Initiatives such as “Super Cool Biz” encouraging employees to wear less formal clothing (i.e. less ties and jackets) at work and turn down the air conditioning, and the power-saving drive has generally led to an increase in the demand for cooling gadgets. According to Tokyo's custom’s office, imports of electrical fans through Tokyo port have increased by 70% since last year, reaching 1.24 million units.