In a previous post I’d mentioned the book How to Wrap 5 More Eggs: Traditional Japanese Packaging by Hideyuki Oka. And I’d promised to post more images of Japanese packaging in an upcoming post. So here I’ve picked out several of my favorite images from Oka’s book. Images that are nostalgic because I remember seeing packages just like many of these and eating the treats inside when I was a small child.
Not everything in these packages was suitable for a little kid’s palette, however. For one thing, I remember my mother keeping a large pottery jar similar to the one pictured above. Inside, she was fermenting pickles and used to keep the jar on the steps that led down to the basement of our Queens Village house. The jar was innocuous enough when just sitting there in the dark doing its thing. But when the lid was lifted off the top? Whoa! The aroma could simultaneously make your eyes tear and prompt a gag reflex. I only remember her making the pickles once or twice. That was enough for me!
My sisters and I did love having the sembei. The rice paper packaging with beautifully and simply illustrated images made unwrapping and savoring these crackers even more pleasurable. A little salty, a little sweet and definitely very crunchy. The sweet bean jelly was another favorite. And the mochi with sweet bean paste inside is something I still treat myself to occasionally.
I have such strong memories of these items. And these memories have sometimes guided purchase decisions I make today. Packaging design can be the determining factor in what makes or breaks a product. I mean, haven’t you ever purchased an item strictly for the way it’s packaged? I know I have. Wine bottles with beautifully illustrated labels, anyone?
Yes, packaging is so important (and fun!), but I suppose these days less (or none) is more, given our heightened environmental awareness.