Apple Watch debuts in Japan with little fanfare


Staff Writer

The much-hyped Apple Watch went on sale to a muted fanfare Friday as shoppers came to terms with limited availability of the tech giant’s first wearable gadget.

Global demand for the smartwatch has been so high that Apple decided to restrict initial sales to online orders, preventing shoppers from buying the device at the company’s stores on the day of its release.

The policy meant there was no repeat of the snaking lines and party mood of previous Apple launches, with the Apple Store in Tokyo’s Omotesando shopping district standing eerily quiet 30 minutes before doors opened on Friday morning.

Shoppers did manage to get their hands on the device at a select number of shops around the capital, however, with the SoftBank store in Omotesando supplying pre-ordered watches as well as selling to a handful of customers who lined up before the store opened.

“I’m very happy. I lined up for 12 hours,” said the store’s first customer, 39-year-old iPad app-maker Yuichiro Masui, as he tried on his ¥83,800 stainless steel model.

“I don’t usually wear a watch so it feels a little strange. I like the iPhone and I always line up to get the new one. Every time Apple brings out a product, I line up to buy one.”

Fewer than 10 watches were available for walk-in shoppers at the SoftBank store, with a line of around 20 customers waiting outside when doors opened.

Selected upscale boutiques and electronics stores around Tokyo also had watches in stock, but the low-key nature of the launch left some shoppers pining for the carnival atmosphere of previous occasions.

“There are fewer people lining up, and that has taken the fun out of it a little bit,” said 23-year-old office worker Makoto Saito, wearing a cardboard Apple Watch around her head.

“There are some places selling them, like Dover Street Market (in Ginza). It makes it interesting, like a game,” said fellow shopper Kazumi Oda. “We are well tuned in to the information, so for us it’s actually quite good.”

Apple began taking orders on April 10 for the watch, which retails from ¥42,800 for the sport model to around ¥2.2 million for the luxury gold edition, with prospective customers given a “trial fitting.”

The device combines with Apple’s iPhone to handle phone calls and emails, monitor health, and connect to social media.

“My job involves making apps, so I want to try out various things to know what kind of apps I can make for this,” said Masui as he faced a throng of reporters at the SoftBank store.

“You can choose various watch faces, and I’m looking forward to trying out different ones. Recently I’ve been a little concerned about my weight, so I’d also like to try out the fitness function.”

Apple’s departure from its usual launch procedure has provoked a wave of criticism over the past week, but some customers on Friday were unfazed.

“As long as I get a hold of the watch on the day it comes out, I don’t care how they sell it,” said a 36-year-old freelance engineer who gave his name as Tsutsumi and had been waiting in line since 6 a.m.

  • Meghan Macklin Anderson

    So are they going to the store and buying them or are they picking them up?