News & events > Exhibition: "Too Pretty to Throw Away: Packaging Design from Japan"
31 May 2017 - 17 Sep 2017

Exhibition: "Too Pretty to Throw Away: Packaging Design from Japan"

  The Asia and Pacific Museum in Warsaw, Poland, an ASEMUS member, presents an exhibition entitled "Too Pretty to Throw Away: Packaging Design from Japan", which can be visited until 17 September 2017.

Background and themes

Japanese design is well-placed in terms of global recognition. Today it is not only a thriving industry, but also an export that serves the role of ambassador for Japanese culture abroad. In this context Japanese design is interpreted as both the epitome of pre-modern traditions and, at the same time, a vanguard of contemporary global design. The exhibition "Too Pretty to Throw Away: Packaging Design from Japan" explores today’s packaging industry and asks: How can the two ideas co-exist? The exhibition is structured around three themes:
  • “Artistic Japan” shows the objects accumulated by the nineteenth-century collectors of Japanese material culture, which provided an inspiration for the rise of the phenomenon of Japonism, a fascination with things Japanese. These objects continue to play a pivotal role in the global perception of Japan’s material culture today. However, this perception overlooks significant socio-historical and technological transformations that the packaging conventions underwent in Japan during the last hundred years.
  • The introduction of foreign technologies and materials has resulted in dazzling diversity of designs presented in the following theme of “The Alchemy of the Everyday”. The objects on display are selected from the award-winning entries to the biennial packaging design competition held by the Japan Package Design Association.
  • Finally, visitors can enter the world of “Embellished Intentions” represented by the gift-packaging practices of the Mitsukoshi Department Store, one of the most exclusive establishments in the country. Gifts function as one of the major forms of consumption in Japan and are of particular importance for the revenues of the department stores. Their main purpose is to embellish the commodity they contain, to bring to the surface the intention behind the gift, while mystifying the commercial implications of the market in which they are embedded.
The exhibition "Too Pretty to Throw Away: Packaging Design from Japan" explores the transformations that packaging technologies and conventions have undergone during the last century. These modern developments, rather than pre-modern heritage, have made the design of packaging from Japan so compelling that it is simply too pretty to throw away. Ironically, these designs are indeed destined for the trash.

Credits and further information

The exhibition has been curated by Ewa Machotka, Lecturer in the Art and Visual Culture of Japan at Leiden University, the Netherlands; and Dr. Katarzyna J. Cwiertka, Professor of Modern Japan Studies at Leiden University. It has been coordinated by Dr. Joanna Wasilewska, Director of the Asia and Pacific Museum. The design of the exhibition was undertaken by Masakazu Miyanaga, and graphic design and layout of printed matter by Rafał Sosin. "Too Pretty to Throw Away: Packaging Design from Japan" can be visited at the Asia and Pacific Museum, Warsaw, until 17 September 2017. For further information, please visit