30. November 2003: Apple expands its retail chain outside the US, and opens its 73th Apple Store in Tokyo's trendy Ginza shopping area.
On the opening day, thousands of Apple fans – possibly the largest queue in Apple history – stand around the block in the rain to get early access to the store, offering five full floors of Apple product goodness.
Steve Jobs does not appear for opening. But buyers hear an inviting speech from Eiko Harada, president of Apple Japan.
Apple's International Expansion
The location of the Japanese store showed that Apple was not only a technology company but also a fashion company. While it seems to be obvious now, it certainly did not last in 2003.
In order to cement this perception, Apple jumped over Tokyo's famous Akihabara electronics district in favor of sparkling Ginza. It put Apple in the immediate vicinity of fashion brands like Dior, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Prada and Cartier.
A person who bought up for the opening of the Ginza Apple Store was similar to the opening of Tokyo Disneyland: a fascinating mix of Japanese culture and pure Americana.
"Usually when a new store opens in Japan, the clerk will welcome customers by bending. This is especially true in Ginza, wrote Tokyo-based consultant Nobuyuki Hayashi on his blog." But this was not the case at the Apple Store . The shops [sic] were welcoming customers with applause, bowl and high fives. I have seen some big openings of new stores … but no other opening showed this kind of excitement. "
As usual for an Apple Store opening in the US, the first visitors to the Apple Store Ginza received a T-shirt to celebrate the event. In this case, it meant greater than the normal queue to leave the giveaway from the typical first 1000 visitors to the first 2500.
Apple Store Ginza also offered a Grand Opening Sweepstakes. A lucky winner took home a 15-inch iMac with Combo Drive, a Canon DV camcorder, a digital camera and a printer.
Apple Japanese Relations
Both Steve Jobs and Jony Ive admired Japan very much, especially when it came to Japanese designers minimalist aesthetics.
Jobs were also taken by the country's focus on Zen, which greatly influenced him from the day of studenthood. Even his decision about wearing a "uniform" consisting of a black turtleneck and jeans running from Japanese roots. (He started dressing that way after an inspiring conversation with Sony manager Akio Morita.)
Jobs once even considered implementing an official uniform for all Apple employees. "I came back with some samples and told everyone that it would be great if we all wanted to wear these creatures," he will pick up later. "Oh, I was bowed by the scene. Everybody hated the idea."
Still, Apple had a mixed story when it came to Japan. Reported, the US Department of Commerce once published a handbook using Apple's early attempt to crack the Japanese market as a case study of how did not do business in the country.
When Apple opened its Ginza store, things had changed. PCs became more widespread in the country (something that happened later than in the United States). Meanwhile, generational shift has made Apple cool with younger customers drawn to the company's "Designed in California" aura.
Apple: Big in Japan
Today Japan continues to be a stronghold for Apple. Despite early predictions that iPhone would not succeed in the country, Japan embraced the handset. Apple opened several stores there, including another Tokyo location (in the Shibuya region) and others in Aichi, Fukuoka, Hokkaido, Miyagi and Osaka.
Perhaps the most unique thing about Japanese Apple stores is a mystery bag. Going out to Japanese New Year to people waiting in line.
Apple Store Ginza in the News
Since the opening, the Apple Store Ginza has been in the news a few times. In 2011, it was heavily featured after Steve Jobs, when it became a focal point for Japanese Apple fans to thank Apple's late founder and CEO.
Have you been to the Apple Store Ginza? Have you ever participated in opening an Apple Store? Leave your comments below.