Unveiling the Cultural Impacts: Japanese Design in Everyday Life (Part 1)

Carol Huang
4 min readJun 17, 2023

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Having lived in Japan for several years, transitioning from a tourist to a ‘junior resident’, I have had the opportunity to explore and immerse myself in the local culture. Throughout my time here, I have observed how daily objects and experiences reflect the influence of Japanese culture, particularly in advertising, service design, and user experience. In this article, I will share some of my intriguing observations.

An Overflow Instructed Society

As you stroll along the streets of Tokyo, you’ll immediately notice an abundance of rules and directional signs. From a young age, Japanese people are taught the value of not inconveniencing others, and adhering to these rules is a way of avoiding trouble and maintaining harmony.

After living in Tokyo for a while, I’ve become so accustomed to following the arrow indicators that I feel a bit lost without them.

Mascot for Everything

In Japan, mascots are ubiquitous. Almost every brand, prefecture, and local government entity has its own mascot, promoting a wide range of products and services. The use of mascots draws inspiration from the nation’s love for anime and storytelling through characters. Storytelling holds immense importance in Japanese culture as it allows for the creation of engaging narratives and emotional connections.

Tokyo Sky Tree mascot

By incorporating mascots into their promotional efforts, companies, and organizations tap into the power of storytelling to captivate audiences, convey messages effectively, and forge lasting relationships with consumers. These mascots become living embodiments of narratives, enabling a deeper connection with the brand or entity they represent. Through storytelling, mascots become more than just symbols; they become relatable characters that evoke emotions, convey values, and enhance the overall brand experience.

A Life Connected to Smartphone Screens

In Tokyo’s metro, it is common to see people engrossed in their smartphones, even during crowded rush hours.

The prevalence of smartphone usage has significantly increased across all generations in recent years. Data shows a substantial growth in smartphone usage from 2013 to 2019, with even the older generation embracing this trend.

引用: メディア定点調査:博報堂DYメディアパートナーズ メディア環境研究所 (Source: Hakuhodo DY Media Partners)
  • The 10s~20s grow from 70% to 90%
  • The 40s~50s also grow to 80%
  • The 60s even grow from very low as 17.9% to 70%

Localized Franchise Collaborations

Many franchises in Japan leverage the country’s rich culture and popular comic characters to localize their products and make them more relatable to the local audience. A noteworthy example is KFC Japan’s ‘KFC Original New Year’s Postcard with Gifts’ campaign, which allows you to send delicious chicken and warm wishes on New Year’s cards.

The postcard includes a 1-piece free coupon for their original chicken, which recipients can redeem at any KFC store. By tailoring their offerings to align with local customs and preferences, businesses can forge stronger connections with their target market, fostering customer loyalty and elevating brand recognition.

The “KFC Original New Year’s Postcard with Gift” postcard

Designs for Singles

With a rising number of single individuals due to bachelorism and a low birthrate, Japan has adapted its designs to cater to this demographic. Restaurants offer seating options specifically designed for solo dining, grocery stores sell vegetables by piece, and products such as eggs and milk are available in smaller quantities to prevent food waste.

“the flavor concentration booth” at Ichiran Ramen | A small package of rice.

Living in Japan has given me valuable insights into how Japanese culture influences design. From a society shaped by rules to the pervasive presence of mascots, the deep connection to smartphones, localized franchise collaborations, and the consideration for single individuals, Japanese design reflects the unique values and needs of society. By understanding these influences, we can gain a deeper appreciation for the thoughtfulness and ingenuity that goes into everyday experiences in Japan.

😎 If you enjoyed this post, please give me some claps 👏 Curious about anything in Japan, design or otherwise? Let me know in the comments section! 🖍

I share design inspirations you won’t find anywhere else on Instagram and YouTube. Have a beautiful day! ❤️

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Carol Huang

Senior UX designer @Indeed / Corgi lover — Here to Inspire, Motivate and Excite