We encounter packaging everywhere. We complain about it, but we need it, to some degree. Much of our packaging is designed to be eye catching and exciting to attract the eyes of consumers, but there is an added element to this in Japan.
Japan is notorious for politeness and a rigid sense of formality. This applies to work life, home life, and everyday interactions. Observing the proper rules and customs in a given situation is important.
These two concepts come together in the practice of gift giving. The picture below is a small gift (earrings) I bought for our receptionist as a thank you/goodbye present on her last day of work with us last month.
I would have been content to just use my words to thank her, but she gave me a nice, designer handkerchief, so I was obligated to reciprocate.
I went to the department store and chose the earrings, then told the cashier it was a gift. She had me pick out a ribbon color, and then went to work while I waited.
She removed the earrings from their display and put them in a small plastic bag, which she taped shut. Next, she assembled a small box (the one in the photo) and put the bag in. After that came the addition of the ribbon. She then presented me with the smaller paper bag (to “give the gift in”) and a larger plastic bag to carry everything in. To recap: that’s three bags and a box for a pair of earrings the size of my thumb.
Interestingly, there is no extra charge for gift wrapping. Department store staff may ask you to choose a color or style, and then, voila, it’s done! Many times I’ve purchased sweets for friends and family, and every time the staff automatically adds the wrapping.
While I think this is a neat and aesthetically pleasing service, I could do without the excess. One small box with some ribbon would have been more than sufficient for the gift I purchased.
I suppose there’s always the option of telling the staff you’d like something different, but the confusion that often results from staff being asked to think outside the box (forgive the pun) just isn’t worth it. That topic alone is a post/rant I’ll save for another day!