Twice a year for the employees of Japanese department stores come especially hot days. In the tenth of July and December, the whole of Japan is embraced by gift madness. Managers of enterprises prepare for these days in advance, paying a special cash allowance “bonas” (bonus) before their occurrence – sometimes quite significant.
Making gifts, the Japanese are trying to combine the two national traits of practicality and the love of beauty. That is why a gift may not be very expensive: food, drinks or anything for the household. The main thing is that it is beautifully packaged.
The art of gift wrapping is highly revered in Japan. People who are engaged in this craft, in large stores are fairly strict selection and serious training. In the process, they undergo a multitude of disciplines, from general aesthetics to traditional crafts related to the packaging and appearance of gifts. Some then become true craftsmen and gain national fame.
Gifts may be of low value, the main thing in them is compliance with traditions and deep symbolism. At the same time, the packaging, which often turns an insignificant, in terms of price, gift into a work of art, which has a high emotional and aesthetic value, is very important.
The Japanese, with rare exceptions, will never pack the gift themselves. In the shops where these gifts are sold, the buyer chooses the packaging material and fills out a questionnaire in which he specifies his wishes regarding how the gift should be packed.
In the packaging of a gift, all components have a deep meaning, well known to lovers of tradition.
First, a gift is put in a box, then a box in a box, then … Well, in general, they are wrapped in special paper in the best origami traditions, and the whole composition is tied with a mizuhiki ribbon. In addition, each fold of the package, each knot of ribbon correspond to the canons verified by centuries and have a deep meaning. Then the gift is put in a special package and delivered to the addressee. The store takes over this service. The Japanese themselves bring gifts in person only in special cases, for example, when they come to visit.
Mizuhiki, which tie up the gift – this is a separate chapter of the Japanese packaging art. It is now, in our time, the tape used as part of the packaging. And in the Middle Ages only young samurai from noble families were taught to tie knots-mizuhiki. Some especially complex and sophisticated nodules were used as signatures or seals on letters.
Mizuhiki – a special ribbon made of silk paper, in which the sides have different colors corresponding to different events. Selection of colors mizuhiki for various events is among the disciplines studied by the masters of packaging.
When they come to visit, the Japanese must bring a gift with them. Handing it, they certainly say that the gift is very modest. The hostess, inviting the guest to the table, always apologizes for the modesty of the treat, even with a very richly served table. In fact, this is just an exquisite form of politeness, in which it is emphasized that the guest or the owner tried very hard, but did not know whether they pleased the tastes of their master or guest.
Origami has traditionally been an essential element of Japanese folk rituals. For example, the technology of folding paper was used in making noshi (gift paper with a slice of dried avabi mollusk attached to it, symbolizing a happy event) and tato (paper purse or box worn in the front fold of a kimono).