Fukubukuro (‘Lucky Bags’). You know them, you love them, you want them. Or maybe you just want to get out of the house after days of Japan’s notorious New Year’s TV programming.
While Western retail calendars center around the holiday shopping season, Japanese businesses focus intently on March and April when students change grades (or schools) and another crop of fresh graduates start their “new lives” in the workplace.
But then there is hatsu-uri (初売り), the first business of the new year for retailers. For over a century, stores large and small have used fukubukuro to bring in customers seeking bargains – and get rid of models they couldn’t get off the shelves in the previous year.
Lucky bags aren’t the surprise they used to be – many stores more or less hint at what you’ll get to help you avoid spending ¥10,000s on electronics you can’t use or clothing you don’t want. Other chains have switched to online reservations in order to avoid chaotic crowds.
We’ve found a few upcoming sales that should appeal to the geeky amongst us:
Akihabara-based comic shop Blister Comics will be selling American comic lucky bags on January 6th from 10am, with ticket distribution starting around 9am. Details to be announced, but the shop is worth visiting if you’re jonesing for the latest English-language releases or Japanese-language translations!
Audiophiles will want to head over to the Shibuya Tsutaya or Akihabara to visit e-earphone, the personal audio specialty store who are bringing back their Fukumimi-bukuro (‘lucky earlobe bag‘, a play on ‘fukumimi’ or plump earlobes which are said to bring good luck). Lottery tickets will be distributed from 9am on New Year’s Day for bags featuring earphones from Skullcandy, Westone, and Dita, at costs ranging from ¥11,180 to a stunning ¥300,000.
The store’s Akihabara location is also offering a ¥1,000,000 bag containing a high-end digital audio player, amp, and in-ear monitors.
Board game hangout Jelly Jelly Cafe will have lucky bags at their Shibuya, Ikebukuro, Suidobashi, Shimokitazawa, and Yokohama locations:
Date of Sale: January 2nd through exhaustion of stock
Price: ¥5,000 or ¥10,000 (tax included)
Contents: four to six (4-6) games in each bag, with total saving as much as 50% off the original price!
Note: You do not need to pay for table space if you are only purchasing a lucky bag
Beer nerds can check out Belgian Beer Japan’s online lucky packs – the cheapest ¥3,500 (plus tax) set is sold out, but the mid-tier (¥4,999 plus tax) and upper tier (¥9,999 plus tax) sets are still available and feature up to 17 bottles of beer which you can put on the wall, take down, and pass around. Oh and they’ve included promotional items such as keychains, tote bags, glasses, coasters, and stickers!
Electronics retailers such as Bic Camera have moved the bulk of their “lucky box” sales online in order to discourage resellers from causing havoc on New Year’s Day. Bic in particular are conducting their January 1st sales by lottery, with registrations allowed through 9am.
If you’re interested in dealing with what we would generously describe as some bullshit, Bic are offering sets featuring iPads (¥19,800 plus tax), SIM-free smartphones (¥7,980 plus tax), wireless headphones (¥9,980 plus tax), and other stuff that they couldn’t sell in 2017.
What great deals did you find in Tokyo? Share in the comments or let us know on Twitter @NerdyTokyo.
Fukubukuro photo: Danny Choo (CC BY-SA 2.0)