Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Will Miss #263 - the shopping bag deal

Japanese people have a curious relationship with shopping bags. I'm talking about the fancy paper kind with fabric or string handles, not the cheap plastic ones in which you carry groceries. In fact, one of the things you'll notice when you first arrive in Japan is that the majority of people appear to have shopping bags with them at all times. While it may seem that this is due to their heavy consumerism, the truth is that people carefully keep attractive shopping bags and those that came from prestigious shops on hand for various uses. They carry personal effects in them like a change of clothes or shoes. This is not so strange, except that they seem to think it looks better to walk around the a shopping bag than a backpack or cloth carrying bag. They also switch cheap gifts from their original bags and put them in bags they got at an earlier date with other purchases from tonier shops. This is to make the recipient believe the goods came from a nicer place, though the practice is so common that I don't know that anyone is really fooled. They probably just smile, say thank you, and save the bag for the next cheap gift they give someone.

I'll miss the way in which Japanese people make the most of something as trivial as paper shopping bags.