Think this heat wave is bad? Pity the Japanese for sweating out the dog days of summer amid power shortages and electricity restrictions. Following the devastating earthquake and tsunami in March—and the Fukushima power plant’s subsequent closure—demand for garments with built-in fans has climbed alongside the mercury. Kuchofuku, whose name literally means “air-conditioned clothing,” can barely keep up with orders for its puffed-air jacket, which features two fans on its sides to draw in your own tropical island breeze.
Kuchofuku counts nearly 1,000 companies among its customers, including automobile factories, steelmakers, and construction firms, according to AFP.
After the Japanese government curtailed power usage by 15 percent to prevent blackouts, large companies in the Tokyo and Tohoku northern regions got creative, not only by turning down the AC but also through initiatives that encourage employees to abandon their jackets and ties.
The fans in the Kuchofuku coat last 11 hours on a single charge and consume a fraction of the power conventional air-conditioning requires.
The fans in the Kuchofuku coat connect to a lithium-ion battery that lasts 11 hours on a single charge, consuming only a fraction of the power conventional air-conditioning requires, says company president Hiroshi Ichigaya. It may sound counterintuitive, but Ichigaya says that wearing more can actually keep you cooler, especially if you’re bathed in 20 liters per second of circulating air that wafts through the collar and cuffs. “It came to me that we don’t need to cool the entire room, just as long as people in it feel cool,” he says.
Selling for 11,000 yen ($140) a pop, the jackets are only part of a range of “air-conditioned” products, which includes cushions and mattresses with Kuchofuku’s patented plastic mesh system. The company expects to sell 40,000 jackets, cushions, and other air-cooled items this year—double last year’s figure.