Today in Apple’s history: Fans stand in line as Apple opens store in Tokyo, its first outside the US

November 30, 2003 Apple is expanding its retail chain outside the United States, opening its 73rd Apple Store in the trendy Ginza shopping district of Tokyo.

On opening day, thousands of Apple fans – arguably the largest order in Apple history – line up around the block in the rain to get early access to the store, which offers five full floors of Apple products.

Steve Jobs does not appear at the opening. However, customers hear a welcome speech by Eiko Harade, President of Apple Japan.

Apple’s international expansion

The location of the Japanese store clearly showed that Apple is not only a technology company, but also a fashion company. While that seems obvious now, 2003 certainly isn’t. To solidify this idea, Apple skipped Tokyo’s famous electronic district of Akihabara in favor of the dazzling Ginza. That put Apple in close proximity to fashion brands such as Dior, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Prada and Cartier.

One person standing in line to open the Ginza Apple Store likened it to the opening of Tokyo Disneyland: a fascinating blend of Japanese culture and pure Americans.

“Usually, when a new store opens in Japan, officials would greet customers with a bow. This is especially true in Ginza, ”wrote Tokyo-based consultant Nobuyuki Hayashi on his blog. “But that was not the case in the Apple Store. The store is filling up [sic] they greeted customers with applause, applause and heels. I’ve seen some grand opening of new stores… but no other opening has shown such excitement. ”

As it became common for the opening of an Apple store in the United States, the first visitors to the Apple Store Ginza received a T-shirt in memory of the event. In this case, a larger order than usual meant expanding the donation from the typical first 1,000 visitors to the first 2,500.

The Apple Store Ginza also offered a sweepstakes at the grand opening. One lucky winner took home a 15-inch iMac with Combo Drive, Canon DV camcorder, digital camera and printer.

Apple’s Japanese connection

Both Steve Jobs and Jony Ive admired Japan very much, especially when it comes to the minimalist aesthetics of Japanese designers.

Jobs was also preoccupied with the country’s focus on Zen, which strongly influenced him from his student days onwards. Even his decision to wear a “uniform” consisting of black dolceva and jeans originated from Japanese roots. (That’s how he started dressing after an inspiring conversation with Sony President Akio Morita.)

Jobs once even considered introducing an official uniform for all Apple employees. “I came back with some patterns and told everyone it would be great if we all wore these vests,” he recalled later. “Oh, man, did they boo me off stage? Everyone hated the idea. ”

Still, Apple has had a mixed history when it comes to Japan. Reportedly, the U.S. Department of Commerce once published a manual using Apple’s early attempts to break into the Japanese market as a case study of how no to do business in the country.

However, when Apple opened its Ginza store, things changed. Computers have become far more widespread in the country (something that happened later than in the United States). Meanwhile, generational shifts have made Apple cool with younger customers who are attracted to the company’s “Designed in California” aura.

Apple: Great in Japan

Today, Japan is still a stronghold for Apple. Despite early predictions that the iPhone would fail in the country, Japan has embraced this phone. Apple has opened several more retail outlets there, including another location in Tokyo (in the Shibuya metropolitan area) and others in Aichi, Fukuoka, Hokkaido, Miyagi and Osaka.

Perhaps the most unique thing in Japanese Apple stores is the “mystery bag” that is distributed on the Japanese New Year to people waiting in line.

Apple Store Ginza in the news

Since its opening, the Apple Store Ginza has been in the news several more times. In 2011, it was widely featured in the news after the death of Steve Jobs, when it became a gathering place for Japanese Apple fans to pay tribute to the late Apple co-founder and CEO.

Have you been to Apple Store Ginza? Have you ever been to the opening of an Apple store? Leave your comments below.

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Naveen Kumar

Friendly communicator. Music maven. Explorer. Pop culture trailblazer. Social media practitioner.

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