My viral video: gift wrapping in Japan

Last year around Christmas time, something very exciting happened: one of the videos on The Japans went viral. The video I am talking about is ‘gift wrapping in Japan’.

It was a big surprise when the video went viral. The article on my blog ‘Japanese gift wrapping‘ had already been published since October 2013 so I was by no means expecting anything to happen with it anymore. If anything, the video I might expect to go viral was ‘moving fish head on a sashimi plate’. But the internet is an unpredictable thing and while ‘moving fish head’ currently has a mere 6000 views, ‘gift wrapping in Japan’ went viral.

It all started when ‘gift wrapping in Japan’ was picked up by Digg around the holidays. They posted the video on their homepage and the link generated lots of traffic to my YouTube channel. In two days’ time, the video got over a million views. Currently the views have stabilized at about 3 million views.

viral video gift wrapping in japan

A link on Digg. Hurray!

viral video gift wrapping in japan

3 million views, I can hardly believe it!

It was a super exciting time. I never expected something like this to happen when I started this blog. It was really validating to reach such a wide audience and to see my content alive on the internet on such a large scale.

But we all know that the viral phenomenon is short-lived and both the excitement and the large visitor numbers have died down since late January. Today, however, I felt a new rush of excitement when I saw ‘gift wrapping in Japan’ on 9GAG. Although there is no mention of The Japans and therefore no traffic to my blog, it is still really exciting to see my content pop up unexpectedly on the internet.

I reminds me of how much I love blogging and how great it is to connect with people from all over the world through the internet. I think this is the perfect time to send out a big thank you to all my readers. No blog without an audience. Thank you!

video gift wrapping in japan on 9gag

Here it is, in the 9GAG feed

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Japanese gift wrapping

Japan has an elaborate gift culture. Therefore it should come as no surprise that the Japanese are masters of gift wrapping. Their attention to detail, combined with their ancient tradition of beautiful paper makes for some of the most gorgeous gift wrapping I have ever seen.

japanese gift wrapping

An example of Japanese gift wrapping, as seen from the front and the back

You might notice that the Japanese wrapping paper is held in place with a single piece of tape. This style of wrapping is different from the common Western way of gift wrapping, in which at least three pieces of tape are necessary: one for the bottom and one for each side.

western gift wrapping

western gift wrapping – image from beyondcovers.com/how-to-wrap-a-present

The trick to only using one piece of tape is in the way you fold the paper. Not only do you need less tape, the Japanese way of folding the wrapping paper is also very beautiful. The only downside is that you need to use more paper than with Western gift wrapping.

I have often stood watching in fascination as a Japanese store clerk was wrapping a gift. For several months I worked up the courage to ask one of them if I could film their gift wrapping technique. Finally I managed to secure the following footage. Unfortunately the man in the video is not the most skilled gift wrapper that I have ever seen, nor the most speedy one. He even uses a few extra pieces of tape! But it might still prove useful in case you want to have a go at Japanese gift wrapping yourself.

Japanese gift wrapping diagram

In case you’re really serious about trying it yourself, this diagram might also be useful

At the end of the video, the store clerk asks ‘yoroshii desu ka (is this ok?)’ before putting the bow on the package. That is because in many department stores, the customer gets to choose which paper and which kind of bow or decoration is used. The store clerk in the video is confirming that we want, in fact, the blue bow.

In Matsuzakaya, where this video was taken, they have convenient sample cards with all the available options. The customer can choose any combination of these bows and papers. The fact that a choice is offered and the cute little sample card are so Japanese! It’s things like these that I really miss from Japan.

japanese gift wrapping sample

Japanese gift wrapping options card from Matsuzakaya