Omiyage and the Art of Presentation

One of the best things I remember as a kid growing up in Japan was the tradition of gift-giving. Called omiyage, it is the presenting of special gifts to friends, coworkers, and family upon returning from a trip, as well as when one is invited into a friend's home for a party or dinner: the presenting of a special gift is considered proper etiquette.

Besides the gift being special, and often expensive, the object was often wrapped in elegant washi—paper printed in beautiful colors and patterns, which was folded around the gift box, similar to the complex folding of an origami bird. Even before the gift was opened, one knew that the object being given was of significance.

In designing the ‘Ohana Nui packaging, I wanted the boxes to be something more than a sales message about what was inside: instead, for them to be special in their own right. Something a visitor walking by a shop would be enticed to pick up and appreciate, regardless of what was contained in them. And something they might want to save, long after the cookies were gone.


The inspiration for the graphics came from vintage Hawaiian posters, luggage tags, Matson Line cruise ship menus, and Hawaiian fruit boxes from the 1920s and ‘30s that I remembered from my childhood. I was also inspired by an oversized gift box my dad had gotten in Hawaii, where he kept all of his travel photos and 35-mm slides of his trips to the Islands and places across Asia. For a kid, that box was magical. Covered in a traditional Hawaiian kapa pattern, with abstract shapes of flowers and animals in brown and white, it was a gateway to adventure, as I pored over his travel photos. These objects shaped my vision of Hawaii as a place of exquisite beauty, and hopefully the ‘Ohana Nui gift boxes will elicit the same emotional response for both visitors and  my neighbors in Hawaii.

Sunset at Kaimana Beach, Waikiki.

To enhance the shared story, I added images of places in the Islands that are special to me. The Ginger Paniolo box illustrates the view of Kaimana Beach where I swim with my turtle friends daily; Li Hing Pineapple Paniolos show a surfer under Diamond Head near where I live. The Mocha Chocolate Paniolo box highlights sacred Mauna Kea on the Big Island, as well as a paniolo (Hawaiian for cowboy)—a reference to both the early Hawaiian cowboys, and to the cowboy cookie, one of the inspirations for the first  ‘Ohana Nui recipe. Hopefully these images will evoke the visceral appeal of the beauty of Hawaii, to be a catalyst of the imagination, and to evoke memories of time spent in this special place.

Written by Tom Walker


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