Deja Vu? Actually, we already wrote an article about cigarette packaging in Japan last year. Never read that one? Well, we took it down after we published it because it was written in a kind of end-of-the-year-rush… and we can do better!
So please enjoy our new version of: PingMag’s choice of Japanese cigarette packaging.
written by Uleshka
Due to different license regulations, buying cigarettes seems to be different in every country. Japan and Germany make it equally easy for you by simply having vending machines everywhere (OK – I think Japan beats Germany here) – whereas trying to get hold of cigarettes in France can be a very difficult at certain times…..
Let’s look at these two different vending machines! I chose two which are pretty standard in both countries. The German one (on the left) has very small buttons for each brand and – that is basically it. The white space is left empty except for the logo of the distributor. Tobaccoland, the main tobacco vending machine provider in Germany has some newer models decorated with a sexy woman smoking to attract customers. That is about as much as they are allowed when it comes to marketing cigarettes.
There are plenty of reasons why cigarettes should not look pretty. We all know that. This article, however, is about design only and since there aren’t all that many restrictions in Japan yet – there is much more to look at!
Now back to our Japanese vending machine! Besides offering a huge selection of different brands, it certainly uses all the free space for advertisements. On top of that, I often find special highlights in the cigarette packaging area to market a new product.
Often each machine is “sponsored” by a big brand, e.g. Seven Star, or Kool or Marlboro. What I find quite striking though is that often you come across vending machines in Japan with a huge variety of brands in them.
There is quite an alternative selection to chose from besides Japanese tobacco and the American standards.
What about the packaging design!?
I made out a few main target groups:
Cigarettes for real men:
For elegant women:
This is an advertisement for the “clever DUO pack” which can be separated in two halves for those ladies who only have a little space in their very small bags (that suits most women, I believe
Do you notice the little sparkling, diamond-like stars glittering on the pack? Amazing!
For cool boys:
Now this packaging is quite something. I first thought it was the new re-design for KOOL cigarettes, but then I noticed, that it was simply a package around the package. The original package is left inside. Whow! Does that make sense???
Maybe you noticed that KOOL cigarettes are menthol cigarettes, too. Why are there so many menthol brands to chose from in Japan? I have no idea, to be honest. Flavored cigarettes are very popular over here in general, it seems. Other tastes include the sweet peach taste of peche (see above) or the “subtle vanilla flavor” of Caster cigarettes (I like their re-design!).
One other taste I could find was of “One” placing their cigarettes in the “healthy – corner” by promising a good feeling for your throat while smoking! Notice the little “Herb Blend” written on the pack?
When it comes to good design in the world of cigarettes, Naoki Sato in fact revolutionized Japanese packaging. With his “Alphabet H/R/C side slide box” series he chose easy-to-understand colors for the core smoking classes in the Japanese market: H = red for heavy, R = plain white for regular and C = green for cool mint. With this, the packages have so much more identity than regular brands, even if they have a nice logo or good typography.
In addition to this, he actually changed the whole method of opening the package: instead of flipping the top, one can slide the contents of the cigarette pack sideways and pick a cigarette easily. Very stylish!
When I asked the guys in the store, “what are the most typical Japanese cigarettes?”, they immediately pointed out Hope and Peace.
These old-school Japanese brands are very short cigarettes and very strong.
Their old fashioned design still works perfectly! I like it a lot.
Now that I compare Peace with Hope, it somehow looks, like one is shooting the other, though….
“What about Kanji?” Is what I asked the tobacco shop owner. Aren’t there any Japanese brands with Japanese writing on them? “Well, that’s not what people want!”, is what the tobacco shop owner told me.
Seems like he was slightly wrong here! Kyoko found a website featuring new and limited cigarette designs, some of them only selling to a few rare shops so far. As one can see, they try out some new Kanji-variations. This particular Sakura-brand by JT really goes for the sophisticated traditional Japanese theme: Japanese calligraphy for their title and the paper used for the box is supposed to feel like Japanese-style handmade paper.
There are lots of pretty details to find in the old-school-cigarette packs (look at the beautiful handwritten font for the “cigarettes” on Peace or the little star on hi-lite cigarettes).
There are still plenty of situations in Japan when people will smile at you and blow their smoke right in your face while you are still trying to eat – without noticing anything wrong. This habit, however, is slowly disappearing. There are smoking areas popping up all over Tokyo now. My favorite one is a glass and steel box in Roppongi Hills trying to match the posh atmosphere around it. The funny thing about that one is the opening times and the countless huge ash-trays so close to each other – I have no idea how someone is supposed to reach the one in the middle….
Smoking manners have become a big thing over here. One thing, I still find extremly amazing and just cannot get my head around as a European is, that Japanese actually care about their others and leaving garbage in the streets so much, that most smokers always carry their own “portable ashtray” with them. This is often some kind of padded heat-proof pouch or here is a recent model matching the stylish HRC brand.
And who uses this fancy mini-ashtray? A designer, of course…