Several years ago, I had one of my first bits of “culture shock” when I bought a box of cookies at a grocery store in Shinjuku, only to find out that each of the cookies was individually wrapped. All those extra layers of plastic, separating me from my beloved chocolate cookies made it a bit difficult to finish the entire box in one sitting (but don’t worry, I did).
Recently I went into a bakery to buy some melon bread, only to watch them put the melon bread in a small plastic bag, put the bag in a bakery box, and put the box in a larger bag. I mean, all I wanted to do was eat the melon bread.
Many foreigners, (myself included) typically fall into one of three camps regarding excessive packaging in Japan. The first group is appalled at the amount of waste produced by the “let’s individually package everything” culture in Japan. The second, much smaller, group loves how fancy even the most mundane products are in Japan. The third group (the one I fall into) just thinks it’s a bit troublesome and silly to have to open up several rounds of packaging every, single time they buy something.
On one hand, it is helpful when convenience stores separate your food and nonfood items (or your hot/cold items), so the food doesn’t get messed up. On the other hand, though, when I buy a box of individually wrapped cookies, I can’t help but wonder how much am I paying for the cookies and how much am I paying for the packaging?