What do you have planned for New Year’s? Eat some osechi ryori—traditional New Year’s dishes—or go to a shrine for hatsumoude—the traditional first visit of the year? How about taking part in the traditional rush for some fukubukuro? What’s fukubukuro you ask?
They are known as “lucky bags” or “mystery bags” in English, and are bags filled with a certain number of products, sold at a cost much lower than the combined retail prices of the products concealed inside. They can be found at certain department stores, clothing stores, and electronics stores from New Year’s Day onward until they sell out. If you like a bargain, it’s the thing for you!
So what’s so traditional about it?! Some people believe that fukubukuro is a recent invention, but the concept actually dates back to the Edo period when Daimaru, now a nationwide chain department store, began selling bags of leftover fabrics for cheap at their first opening of the new year.
Some scoff at fukubukuro as just an opportunity for retail stores to clear out their inventory. This may be true, and it is a bit of a gamble, but often they have a select number of “lucky” bags with an extra extravagant item. In Daimaru’s case, it was a golden obi. For the Japanese Apple Stores, which began lucky bags in Japan in 2004, it could be an iPod or a MacBook Pro!
They vary greatly in prices, the cheapest being a few hundred yen and some being a couple million. The more popular bags sell out on the first day, some within an hour, so you may have to line up or fight some obachans or techies if you want one. Are you feeling lucky?
Taken from vol.39 PDF