One of the Japanese New Year’s traditions you may have heard of is Lucky Bags, or Fukubukuro (福袋). Basically around the start of the year, stores will take stock they want to get rid of, put it in bags, and sell it.
Of course, they can’t just call them “Bags of junk we can’t sell” so the retailers sweeten the deal a bit to get people interested. Usually the total retail value of the goods inside will be quite a lot more than the cost of the bag, and sometimes they’ll put something really fancy in randomly selected bags. You can get really great stuff for a really great deal this way, or you can spend a ton of money on a bag full of crap. The element of surprise is a big part of the fun!
Tons of different stores have them, and some are really expensive. A lot go for around 100 bucks, and the sign usually declares that the value of the goods inside is 3-5 times that. The general understanding is that the over-all value will well exceed the asking price, though you might not get the particular items you were hoping for. The highest price tag I saw was ￥50,000 (roughly $5-600) at the electronics store, and I’ve even heard of high-end jewelry stores charging into the millions!
It may seem a bit strange to buy electronics you know nothing about, or a bag full of clothes that may or may not fit, but again, the element of surprise is a big part of the fun. Some stores will leave one open for peeking, or even list the goods that are guaranteed to be inside, and some clothing stores will put the size on the bag. Many, however, leave it completely to chance.
Lots of people line up for ages for them–it’s like a cross between Black Friday in the States and Boxing Day in Canada. We weren’t quite so dedicated, and just found a couple that caught our fancy in the new mall section of Takasaki Station.
I chose my bag from Mary’s, a chain of chocolate shops. You can see on the left there’s a little display of what’s included, very open of them. I didn’t even have to resort to peeking! This one was ￥1000 (~$12 US), so on the fairly inexpensive side as far as these things go. The average seems to be about ￥5,000-10,000 (~$60-120 US).
And here are the contents of my lucky bag! One large box of plain chocolate, one small box of fancy chocolates, and two tubes of specialty chocolates. Almond chocolates in one, crisp rice chocolates in the other. I was a bit bummed because I misinterpreted the display and thought the BIG box was the fancy chocolates, but for ￥1000 it’s still a good deal!
Sean chose the Wine bag at Kaldi, the International food shop. It cost ￥2500 to pick one out, and none of the bottles in the offering had a retail value of less than ￥2800, so you were sure to get a better value than what you paid for. There were even a few bottles that were well over ￥10,000 (over $100 US), so of course we were hoping for one of those. We weren’t that lucky, but our bottle was worth about ￥3000. Not too shabby!
One of our good friends even camped outside the Apple store for his lucky bag, which contained a nice pair of headphones, iHome, a laptop bag, an extra iPhone battery, and an 8 G iPod touch. Pretty good for ￥30,000! (A bit more than $300)
Our friend Grant picked up a lucky bag from Yodobashi Camera that set him back ￥10,000 and was guaranteed to have a camera worth at least that much, as well as a 4 gig memory card. He ended up with a camera worth more than twice that, an 8 gig card, and a handful of camera accessories to boot!
Do you have anything like this where you’re from? Would you buy a bag of random stuff if it might have something awesome in it? Moreover, would you pay good money if you had no idea what you were getting? What do you think?