East Japan Railway Company is the primary rail operator in the most populous part of Japan, with dozens of lines in the Tokyo area alone as well as the Joetsu, Hokuriku, and Tohoku Shinkansen bullet trains. As such, the company, also known as JR East, is one of Japan’s most visible corporations, and this week it announced that its uniforms are going to look different come the spring.
JR’s last major uniform update seems to have been in 2003, and after roughly a decade and a half it’s decided that some changes are in order. For starters, the primary color scheme will move from gray to navy blue, a color that JR East says carries a sense of “traditional dignity,” and works well with the company’s aim to create a style that “Instills a feeling of trust and security in our customers, while being a symbol of pride and comfortable for our employees to wear.”
▼ JR East’s new uniforms
The new designs do still have a bit of gray color with their sleeve accent lines (two lines denoting a stationmaster, and one lower-ranking employees). However, one thing that’s not being carried over from the previous designs is skirts, and they’ve been abolished from the women’s uniforms and replaced by pants.
▼ JR East women’s station staff uniforms introduced in 2003.
Also getting the ax: the women’s uniform ribbons tied at the neck. The new standard uniforms will require women to wear neckties, just as the men’s uniforms traditionally have, with employees allowed to choose between one of three designs. Both men and women will also be able to choose between high-peaked caps (previously only part of the men’s uniform) and high-backed Tyrolean hats (previously only part of the women’s uniform). Special “Cool Biz” uniforms, to be worn during electricity conservation periods and allow for less intensive air conditioning, allow both men and women to go with no neckties and their collars unbuttoned.
▼ The pictures also seem to imply that the new uniforms will allow flats instead of heels for women, perhaps in response to the recent backlash against mandated pumps in the workplace in Japan.
▼ Alternate stationmaster uniforms
JE East says the new uniforms are part of its ongoing Reform 2027 regulation revision project, which was begun last year. In the uniforms’ press release, it says that the update is being carried out “on the occasion of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics,” and JR East president Yuji Fukasawa further explained that “We decided on these uniforms with the intent of eliminating gender differences,” though this has prompted some online commenters to ask why JR East doesn’t instead offer both men and women the choice of wearing skirts, like this Japanese middle school does.
The new uniforms will go into use on May 1.
Sources: JR East via Otakomu, JR East, Mainich Shimbun
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