In every age, packaging has been devised, made, and used to enhance life and make it more convenient. The Museum of Package Culture reveals the various secrets behind packaging. From the connection between the birth of civilization and containers to the latest packaging technology, the museum provides a look at their history, technology and ingenuity. The Museum of Package Culture is a museum that showcases the fascinating world of packaging culture.
Why is the museum located here?
This building is the head-office building of the Toyo Seikan Group, a group that manufactures a wide range of packages including cans, glass bottles, PET bottles, paper cups and cardboard boxes. The museum was opened in the building for the purpose of introducing visitors to the world of packaging technology. It exhibits various types of products, including but not limited to the products of the Toyo Seikan Group, and introduces the history and ideas behind various types of products.
About the logo
Our group’s mission is to wrap, enclose and protect content. But the theme of this museum is the opposite：to open. In light of this theme, the museum’s logo is of an unfolded square box. The exhibits here open up and reveal the secrets of packaging.
Until automatic can-making machines were introduced to Japan, workers at canning companies engaged not only in packing and sealing but also in can making. Because they made the cans by hand, even the most skilled workers were only able to produce about 150 cans per day. Tatsunosuke Takasaki, Toyo Seikan’s founder, visited the US to see how the canning industry was operated, and learned of machines capable of producing 75 cans per minute. Tatsunosuke Takasaki felt that, to advance the canning industry in Japan, the process needed to be covered by two different companies - a packing and sealing company, and a can-making company - and to be automated. In 1917, he established Toyo Seikan, Japan’s first dedicated packaging company, and brought in automatic can-making machines from the US.
Can manufacturing process
The machine on display was used to make can bodies. A tin sheet cut to size was set into the machine. Each sheet was then sent to the right. Looking into the machine from the right, you’ll see the wing-like part that created the round shape. The junction at the base was soldered by a separate machine.
The exhibit on the wall presents a chronological timeline of package-related events. Learn about how packaging evolved over the years, and the ways in which it made life easier, with the timeline and exhibits. You can watch animations of major events in the packaging history on monitors placed throughout the timeline. Choose your language and click the start button to watch them.
Confit is a cooking method in which the food is cooked and preserved in liquid, making long-term storage possible. The reproductions on display contain meat and other ingredients that were cooked in oil and stored in corked jars sealed with plaster. This food preservation method was invented by Nicolas Appert and is called the principle of canning. The method of killing bacteria with heat and creating an airtight environment is still applied to the modern-day cans, bottles, and retort pouches.
Cucumber bottle (Hamilton bottle) (1800’s)
A bottle invented by Englishman William Hamilton. Used in Japan to package soda pop. Its shape led to the name cucumber bottle. Because the bottles were sealed with corks, they were stored on their sides to keep the cork damp and prevent the gas from escaping. The bottles came with special stands for serving the bottles upright.
Factory ship cans (1900’s)
From the 1900’s, factory ships that engaged in canning of seafood onboard began to emerge. The factory ships left the harbor with empty cans and a can sealer. Fishermen cooked freshly-caught fish and filled them in cans, and sealed and labeled the cans onboard, and then went directly to foreign countries to sell them. The canned food business was done to earn foreign currencies. The cans on display were made between 1966 and 1970.
Dakenbo (Tap test rod) (1920’s)
An inspection method called daken (tap test) was previously used and was conducted by nationally certified inspectors called dakenshi. The inspectors would tap each can with a tap test rod, and listen to the resulting sound to determine whether the quality was up to par. The inspection process is currently performed by machines. Test your hand at tapping cans at the table to the right of the museum’s entrance.
Powder shampoo (1930’s)
While shampoos currently come in liquid form, Japan’s first shampoo was a powder compressed into cubes, and packed in paper containers. The instructions on the back read: Melt one cube in hot water for Japanese hair, and half a cube for Western hair. It was launched under the name shampoo at a time when traditional Japanese hairstyles were still the norm.
Can of assorted foods (1930’s)
A can with an assortment of osechi ryori (New Year foods). It was made during the war so that the soldiers on the front line could enjoy the traditional foods.
Canned sekihan (Rice with Japanese red beans) (1940’s)
During the war, metals were used to make weapons, and cans were mainly reserved for military use. This is a can of sekihan (rice with Japanese red beans) that was delivered to the navy. An inspection of its contents revealed that there was no microbial growth. Although 70 years have passed, the can retains its function.
Anchor cups and bouei-syoku containers (1940’s)
During the war, cans were reserved for military use only. Glass containers, called Anchor cups, and airtight earthenware containers called bouei-shoku, replaced cans during this time.
Herringbone-type can (1950’s)
This is a can of Ajinomoto, which requires a special technique to open. Following the release of Ajinomoto, its great popularity led to the appearance of counterfeits. To counter this problem, the company developed a can that required special techniques to make.
Juice cans and openers (1950’s)
The first juice cans needed to be opened by poking holes in the end with a can opener. Such openers were sold with the cans as a set. Later, cans with tabs that could be opened by hand were introduced, but generated the issue of littering because the tabs came off. Cans nowadays have tabs that remain attached to the end.
The first retort pouches (1960’s)
Retort pouches were originally developed in the US for military use and as space food. The first commercial retort pouches were introduced in Japan containing curry.
Bottled juice (1970’s)
In those days, most beverages were sold in glass bottles as PET bottles were not available yet. Events that affected the Japanese life style, such as Expo1970 held in Osaka and the emergence of convenience stores in Japan, also influenced the development of subsequent containers.
PET bottles with bottle stands (1980’s)
PET bottle beverages were introduced in the 1980’s. The caps were made of aluminum, and the bottom was covered by a bottle stand called "base cup". PET bottles for carbonated beverages had a round shape designed to withstand internal pressure, and the base cup allowed it to stand upright. As you can see, some of the PET bottles were made with colored plastic.
Small PET bottles (1990’s)
When PET bottles first came out, concerns about littering led to restrictions on PET bottles of 500 ml or smaller sizes. In 1996, self-imposed restraints were eased, and led to the release of small PET bottles. To address environmental issues, PET bottles became easier to recycle. The aluminum caps were replaced by plastic caps, and PET bottles that could stand on their own without the base cup were developed. Colored PET bottles were discontinued, and transparent PET bottles became the standard.
Emergency food (2010’s)
Following the Great East Japan Earthquake, canned and other emergency foods drew renewed attention, with an increasing number of households building a stockpile. For emergency food items, the focus of development is on the extension of storage life.
Nursing care food (2010’s)
Nursing care food with information on the food hardness level. With the aging population, there has been an increase in the variety of nursing care food available. The hardness level of food varies, and the level is clearly displayed.
Packaging has three important roles: Protection, usability and communication. This section features the materials, shapes and designs adopted to fulfill these 3 roles, providing a wide range of packaging.
Containers that prevent light
This brown bottle contains a beverage with Vitamin C. The brown glass prevents light from passing through the glass, and protects the Vitamin C that is sensitive to light.
Containers that prevent oxidation
Mayonnaise loses its flavor when it comes in contact with oxygen and oxidizes. By giving the container barrier layers inside and adopting a multi-layer structure, the mayonnaise is protected from oxidation.
Easy to carry, place, and arrange
Removing the upper half of this cardboard box turns it into a display case. Not only are the subdividing containers inside easy to use, but they’re also designed to be easily arranged in stores.
For Alcoholic beverage cans, the letters alcohol are written on the end in Braille. Non-alcoholic beverage cans do not have Braille lettering. This prevents people with visual impairments from accidentally drinking alcohol.
It is surprising to know how much technology, knowledge and ingenuity are used in packaging for beverages and household goods by the manufacturers. See and feel some actual containers, and take a quiz to learn more about the NOW of ever-evolving containers.
Is there such a thing as canned milk? Do carbonated beverages come in paper cartons? Open the cabinet door to learn the answer.
Zoom Up World
In processed food containers, various techniques are used to keep food tasty and safe. Zoom in to learn about these techniques. In the Take a Peek section, for example, you can peer through the magnifying glass to study the can seaming process. See how the can’s body and end are sealed together without welding.
Comparative Illustrations! The past and present of packages
Packages for household goods function both as a container and as a tool. Please compare these packages from the past and the present. You will notice that their user-friendliness has improved dramatically, along with their evolution. Previous pesticide containers were unwieldy, making it difficult to target moving pests. Current containers allow the user to quickly and easily aim with one hand.
Containers and packaging incorporate smart ideas that make them easy to use. Use your own hands to examine the results of the developers’ ideas and research. One example is the easily detachable cap and bottle, which was developed in response to user feedback on how the cap was difficult to remove when separating rubbish.
The exhibits here feature environmental measures of containers. Creative ideas adopted in both the product and the manufacturing process are resulting in eco-friendly containers.
Ultra-lightweight returnable bottles
We have reduced necessary materials by making the glass thinner. However, the bottles also become more susceptible to breakage during the washing and reuse process. Coating the glass with resin makes it possible for the thinner bottles to be used repeatedly like conventional bottles.
Recyclable containers and packaging
This section displays the life cycle of various containers; what they are made of, and what they become after they’re recycled. The can exhibit, for example, includes actual iron ore, which is used to make steel cans, and bauxite, which is used to make aluminum cans. Innovative ideas that reduce the amount of water used and the CO2 emissions generated in the process were used to make the cans on display. The used cans are then turned into steel frames, car bodies, or new cans.
Visit the game section and learn about the importance of separating garbage. If separated properly, waste containers are valuable resources. Correctly separate the falling containers within the time limit. Can you clear the level without feeding the garbage monster? Give it a go!
Packages that are made, used, sorted, collected, and then recycled to new products. Do you know how the packages are produced, distributed and recycled, while preserving limited resources? Let’s have a look at the world of packaging recycling.
The videos feature the package manufacturing process. Choose one of the following options; Cans, PET bottles, Caps, Glass bottles and Paper cups, and tap the screen. The dynamic sounds and images will draw you into the center of the manufacturing scene.
Transport and delivery
The manufactured containers are transported to factories to be filled. The screen shows the process of filling PET bottles with beverages. Tap on the screen to proceed to the next scene. Once the bottles have been filled, they’re delivered to stores and made available to consumers.
Collection and…production again
The used packages are sorted, collected, and recycled or used in many new ways. Proper sorting turns used packages into resources.
This section features the evolution of can labels. Labels used to be printed on paper and wrapped around the can, but the predominant method today is to print directly on the can.
Label collection screen
Touch the panel, and you can see some of the most distinctive labels from the Meiji Era to now. During the time when cans were mainly for export, the cans’ paper labels featured women with traditional Japanese hairstyles and Mt. Fuji to advertise their origins. Each label captures the Japan of the day.
Paper labels for cans
Take a look at paper labels from past eras. Before the introduction of photo printing technology, effort was placed into making the designs and colors as appealing as possible.
Printing on cans
Cans that were printed on directly, and the printing plates that were used, are exhibited here. These cans feature seven colors, requiring seven different plates. A video of the production process can be viewed in 05 Recycling Packaging section.
Dream cards are available on the museum logo-shaped table. Write your container ideas or dream container description on a card and place it in the box. Some of the cards will be posted on the wall-mounted Dream Board for visitors to see.
Tap test experience
Visitors can try their hand at the daken (tap test) inspection method. Only one of the cans lined on the table contains water. Tap the cans with the tap test rod and guess which one it is. The key is to hit the same spot on each can with the same amount of force. Machines are currently used for inspection, but this used to be how defective cans were detected. Although the cans contained the same quantity, the difference in sound made it possible to discern between good and defective cans.
Online Tour of the Exhibition
The staff gives explanations of the exhibits on video. You will experience a feeling of visiting the museum site.