Monday, May 24, 2010

Banned Beards

I see that the town of Isesaki in Gunma has decided to ban facial hair on their workers, due to complaints from some people who apparently found dealing with bearded men "unpleasant".

The ban coincides with the start of this season's "Cool Biz" campaign, when employees are allowed--encouraged, in fact--not to wear jackets and neckties. This makes it easier to set air conditioner temperatures higher, or turn them off entirely, to save energy costs and maybe have some effect on climate change and such phenomena as the "heat island effect" (Isesaki's not sufficiently urban to worry about that effect, though, I'd think).

I don't really see any logical connection between the beard ban and the Cool Biz campaign, but I had to laugh at the irony in the statement from the Isesaki City authorities: "public servants should look like public servants". Evidently coatless and tieless public servants are OK, but beards and mustaches don't fit the acceptable image.

I presume this means that a dozen or so of Japan's prime ministers, including Itō Hirobumi, who was Prime Minister four times, didn't look like public servants. Nor, say,  Saigō Tsugumichi (the younger brother of Saigō Takamori), who was an admiral and served as Navy Minister and Minister of Internal Affairs. Nor Ōkubo Toshimichi who is regarded as one of the founders of modern Japan, and who served as Minister of Finance.

Perhaps they, and the many other bearded and mustached politicians and civil servants and military men who have served Japan over the years, didn't fit the image of public servants held by whatever petty bureaucrat(s) came up with the idea of banning facial hair in Isesaki. I'd be willing to bet that any one of them did a great deal more for the citizens of Japan, though.

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