TOKYO (Reuters) - A Japanese city in the limelight after forbidding local government employees to grow beards defended its ban on Thursday, saying it fit in with energy-saving campaigns.

A spokesman for Isesaki, a city in northeastern Japan with a population of about 200,000, said there had been no complaints from employees since the ban was introduced last month.


"The ban on beards is just one part of the 'Cool Biz' campaign," Mamoru Hasegawa said, referring to a government initiative that aims to cut use of air-conditioning use by encouraging civil servants to forego jackets and ties in summer.

A human rights lawyer in Gunma prefecture, where Isesaki is located, has criticised the ban as violating personal freedom.

"People who do not shave out of laziness are one thing, but I question whether it's right to make regulations about facial hair," Kyodo news agency quoted Fumio Haruyama, chairman of the human rights committee of the prefecture's Bar Association.


(Reporting by Benjamin Shatil)