How Apple is more Japanese than Japan

“Apple and its late co-founder Steve Jobs are American success stories. Yet, there isn’t much that’s baseball and apple pie about them. Instead, there is something very Japanese about both,” Brian Ashcraft writes for Kotaku. “At times, Apple is more Japanese than Japan.”

“Oone of the things that makes Apple more Japanese than Japan is how it packages its products. In Japan, there is a culture of wrapping — and, in turn, presentation. This culture of wrapping started over a thousand years ago, when people began using cloth to wrap valuables,” Ashcraft writes. “During the Edo Period (1603-1868), notions of the ‘correct’ way to wrap and present gifts became solidified. Even today, the wrapping culture can be complex. For example, you might give someone a bag which contains a present; that present could be wrapped in a special way; unwrapping it would reveal a box; inside the box, there is a tray of, let’s say, cookies; and those cookies are individually wrapped. It’s like the Inception equivalent of wrapping.”

Ashcraft writes, “Apple is a master of presentation and electronics wrapping. The way the Apple puts hardware in boxes, but uses the packaging to be part of the experience was revolutionary for consumer electronics. For gifts in Japan, this is normal. For electronics, it wasn’t. Apple’s packaging and design influence on Japanese companies, such as Nintendo, has been noticeable.”

Read more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Edward W.” for the heads up.]

22 Comments

  1. Not sure that I agree with this. Apple wants a simple presentation, not a laborious one. The multi-level Japanese packaging sounds like a hassle for the receiver, no matter how well thought out it is. Apple thinks things through precisely so that complexity is removed from the experience.

    1. Totally missing the point. For the recipient, the present being wrapped in an ornate and decorative fashion increases the anticipation and multiplies the pleasure in opening the present, almost to the extent of being more important than what the gift itself is; it shows how much thought and care was put into giving the gift.
      But you obviously couldn’t give a toss about such subtleties.

      1. I never experienced such emotional bliss from opening a box that I purchased from Apple. Now, if Apple sent me a similar item as a gift (i.e. free of charge) my exuberance and joy would be multiplied a thousand times over. I’m still waiting.

            1. My joy in life comes from within. I can see the simple beauty in a child’s laugh, a birds song or the wonderful efforts of an engineer. I enjoy all aspects of my life.

              I still feel sad for you.

            2. dab2, you are so sad. I have a suggestion. Send me a MacBook Pro (15 inch, 8 gig of RAM, and 750 GB SSD) wrapped in traditional Japanese style. Let’s see if your gift brings me the joy that inhabits your being. Maybe you can rid yourself of your sadness by vicarious enjoyment. You can thank me later.

            3. Paraphrasing the immortal words of SJ:

              MacFreek, you just have no taste. And I don’t mean that in a small way. I mean it in a big way.

              Unless you are a complete imbecile, you understand the point under discussion – that Apple attends to every detail of its product design and marketing down to the packaging, fonts, etc. It is that attention to detail that defines modern Apple products. You don’t have to appreciate the packaging, but it matters to a lot of people.

    2. Packaging in Japan is far far from laborious. It is both beautiful and functional wrapping. As an example of attention to detail, at many grocery stores in Japan they have dry ice shavings machines so that when it melts, it doesn’t get your food wet.

      It is infinitely easier to open most things from Japan.

      Another thing Japan and Apple have in common is the attention to detail. Check out Wagashi. Japanese sweets, with beautiful attention to detail.

  2. Besides the packaging and attention-to-detail aspects, the other thing that reflects Japan (in Apple) is customer-experience. In general, Japanese culture is more focused on the customer’s experience, including taking “preemptive” steps to carefully CONTROL the customer’s experience.

    With Apple, it’s not just about the cool hardware design, or performance “specs”; the customer (user) experience is primarily driven by the software. No one does software design better, and no cares more about user experience than Apple, not even close…

  3. I have a 2011 mbp and recently opened a MBA, the packaging went from sophisticated tight seamed cardboard inlay to now a plastic tray. I hope this is not a trend, I am beginning to wonder if apple is losing its class, it’s just a lot of little things that make me worry. I hope I am just over analyzing, connecting the dots to see a pattern based on my fears of Apple after Steve. Time will tell.

    At least we can open our packaging unlike the morons at Google who devised the packaging for the nexus 7, maybe, however, that was by design, that way, people are just happy to get to the device or Google is just preparing them for a continued subpar experience.

  4. Don’t forget the part where SJ wanted everyone at Apple to start wearing a uniform designed by the Japanese designer who eventually designed his turtle neck tops. Fortunately (or unfortunately), his idea was voted down by the employees.

  5. From what I read the singular characteristic of being Japanese is individually packaging cookies. I had no idea that the entire Japanese culture could be explained and defined by packaging snack food. Professor Ashcraft must be the world’s leader in gustatory anthropology.

  6. I don’t recall any of the early “unboxing” videos that didn’t involve Apple products. Isaacson’s “Steve Jobs” biography does mention Jobs’ obsession with presentation, something he took from Japanese culture.

    I recall unboxing my new iMac in 2008, how everything about it seemed just right, and after examine its lines and quality thinking to myself, “Perfect!” One can’t have a better customer experience.

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