Q. Why are purchases wrapped so nicely at stores in Japan?


The history of wrapping in Japan goes way back to the primitive age where there is evidence that bark of trees, sheaths of bamboo shoots and fabrics were used as wrapping.

Treasures at the Shosoin Temple include glass manufactured articles that came by way of the Silk Road. They were undoubtedly carefully wrapped to prevent breakage. A large furoshiki (wrapping cloth) used to wrap a gigaku (an ancient masked dance) mask is also kept there.

It is now known from the various ways of wrapping and tying based on etiquette depicted in the book, Hōketsuzusetsu (An Illustrated Guide to Wrapping) printed in 1764 in the Edo period (1600– 1868), that wrapping had grown into the time–honored Japanese sense of the artistic. The basics of wrapping are bending, folding and tying.

Long established stores in Kyoto and Nara have continued to vie with each other in the art of wrapping and this tradition has endured to the present day. The designs on the wrapping paper itself is a type of a unique brand.

Wrapping to fit the shape of the article is a Western style of wrapping that Japanese department stores have adopted as a service to their customers, but there are people who regard this as excessive service because of the amount of time and trouble that go into it. Now, purchases are oftentimes simply put into a bag. The neatness in the way an article is wrapped by a skillful person is truly superb, evidence of the dexterousness of the Japanese.