Something many new arrivals comment on is the amount of useless packaging in Japan.
- A box of chocolates sealed in cellophane contains a plastic tray. The tray holds 12 individually wrapped candies.
-Your newly purchased boutique sweaters are individually wrapped in tissue and sealed before being wrapped in paper with the store's logo and slipped into a shopping bag, which on a rainy day might be covered in a protective plastic bag.
What's up with all the packaging? It's cultural.
Japan is full of layers--from the layers of kimono that cover the body to the layers of politeness that wrap the language. Contemporary packaging rises from gift giving traditions.
Ages ago, gifts to the shogun and emperor were elaborately and beautifully presented. Wrapping symbolic stated, "I have covered this object from my sight. I no longer own it; I give it to you."
The act of unwrapping the package made it the receiver's property. Each layer could be savored for its shape, color and texture. And the more layers, the more beauty to enjoy and anticipation of the gift inside.
Therefore, overpackaged chocolates evoke luxury.
A very scholarly paper explains it in detail: Wrapped gifts: Ritual prestations and social obligations in contemporary Japan