Many Christmas movies have a scene where kids are eagerly tearing off the wrapping paper of their presents. I clearly remember how surprising it was when I saw such a scene for the first time. I learned afterward that it was regarded as a gesture to express a feeling of joy: a good manner in Western culture. On the contrary, it is sometimes thought to be impolite in Japan to open up a gift in front of the gift giver, to say nothing of tearing off wrapping paper. For your information, it’s not a religious taboo, and won’t be impolite if you ask for permission beforehand.
Why is there such a big difference? How was the Japanese rule developed? As I have not yet found any convincing theory, let me share my personal thoughts. I’m guessing there are two reasons for the rule.
1. Kindness for present receivers:
We, human beings, are social animals who can’t always speak our mind. When giving a present, I feel like wanting to see reaction, of course, but I also feel sorry for possibly making him/her pretend to like the present.
2. Kindness for present givers:
Sometimes it’s joked that Japanese gift packaging is more expensive than the content — that could be true, though. Packaging is taken care of so much; present givers select wrapping paper (cloth), ribbons, etc. over time. In order to express appreciation, present receivers keep presents as they are beautifully packaged.
Packaging is sometimes thought to be a part of the content in Japan. I remember this Japanese way of thinking every time seeing the packaging of our products. It’s not fancy like gift wrapping but carefully tuned so that products can be fixed inside and firmly secured. Our products can reach you safe and sound wherever you are. You can check out the movie of our packaging from the button below.
He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.