Shopping + Gambling = Fukubukuro

New Year’s Day is the most important Japanese holiday, where many “firsts” are celebrated. Some of these special firsts include; first prayer, first sunrise, and first …SALE! The Japanese phenomenon known as fukubukuro, (orlucky/happy bag”), entails heading to a store on January 1-3 and buying a bag with unknown contents for a set price. The only guarantee is that the bag will be worth more than you paid, sometimes several times more, but it’s a gamble. Count me in!

We got an early start on New Year’s Day, and headed to the mall about 30 minutes prior to opening. Good thing too, as the parking lot was filling up fast.

The line was already long and getting longer by the minute, I guess you could liken it to Black Friday shopping in the States. And it was COLD!

At least we had a great view of Mt. Fuji!

Finally, at the stroke of 8:00 am, the mall doors opened. Then an orderly line of people were sprinting through the mall, (orderly, of course) to whichever store they wanted to try first. I was laughing out loud, this may have been my favorite part!

The girls and I had already discussed, at length, which stores we wanted to select. We love a certain  store that sells Japanese goods, and we planned to go there first. This is where I made my first rookie mistake. Some stores will show you the contents of the bag, then you can decide if you want it or not. This particular store had a display of what was in the bag, but I was so caught up in the moment and the excitement, I didn’t really study it carefully, I just bought it. More on that later….

Our first lucky bag of the year!

Many stores had a huge line.

Starbucks probably had the longest line. It looked like most people headed there first (blurry picture, but you get the idea).

The next predetermined store was Francfranc, a really cute housewares store that I like. The box itself was so cute, I couldn’t resist. There was a white box titled “Urban Chic”, and a pink box titled “Flourish”. Hmmm, the choice just got more difficult…

Alas, the girl’s made me get the pink box, so my friend Merri chose the white box. Which would have the best contents?

Each store only sells a limited number of bags, adding further pressure to the situation. You can’t think it over too long, or you risk your bag selling out. This really created an atmosphere of urgency! This was the kitchen store, and I just couldn’t decide, until we overheard that there was a frying pan inside. I needed a new one anyway, so, why not?!

The Body Shop had a clear display of the bag contents, and it was a very good deal. Some of the stores did that, but with most, you were definitely rolling the dice. I would love to know which stores sold more, the displayed contents or the surprise bag? I would actually bet on the surprise bag!

Most of the department stores had different brands sponsor a bag, so they had many different tables set up, with many different price points. It is said that fukubukuro may be a way of helping the stores sell through excess merchandise, because another Japanese superstition is “not to start off the new year with last years trash.” (Most Japanese even thoroughly clean and organize their homes this time of year, for the same reason.)

One last purchase for the girls, they got to choose the Y500 ($5) bag at their favorite store, Kiddyland.

Whew! Here is our haul. Even just hearing the name “happy bag” makes me happy. The anticipation  of seeing the contents, was just like Christmas morning!

We found a table in the food court and started opening, along with everyone else! The mood was very festive, with everyone anxious to look over their treasures.

The girls bag contained LOTS of hair accessories. This was definitely worth more than the $5 price. But, poor Ella wasn’t super excited with this pick, because she has a shorter hairstyle. And so it goes, with gambling, I suppose. And on to my bags…

Remember my first, hurried purchase from the Japanese store? Well, I am now the proud owner of a winter kimono jacket! Also, a pocket tissue case, some fancy locally handmade nail polish (in brown and white), polish remover, a very soft hand towel (?, still haven’t figured out it’s use) and the best part was the cute houndstooth canvas bag. I paid Y5000 (about $42 in today’s exchange rate) and it’s definitely worth more than that, but is this stuff I need? That’s the question.

Next, my darling pink box from Francfranc had a very interesting mix of stuff.  Here goes; a French macaroon pillow, a floral apron and matching hot pad, a floral hand towel, a rose fragrance room spray, one tea cup with two plates, and two floral forks and spoons, which the girls actually LOVE! Again, this is not stuff I would actually buy if I walked in to the store with Y5000 ($42) on a regular day. (And, no Merri’s “Urban Chic” box was not much better than my “Flourish” box. Haha!) 

And lastly, my best score of the day was at the kitchen store. It was a Y3000 ($24) bag and I got a nice frying pan, spatula, utensil holder, a small draining/roasting pan, a pig shaped microwave lid, and two fish scrubber sponges. This was the jackpot for me, as I will actually use all of this stuff!

And so it goes with gambling, you win some, you lose some. Did I make some rookie mistakes? Yes. Did I have some buyers remorse? Yes. Would I do it again? Absolutely!!!


  1. Amara
    January 11, 2015 / 5:50 am

    How fun! I think I'd try it once, but waiting outside in the cold might make me think twice about a second go. I bet the girls were excited though. Great memory!

  2. Laura
    January 26, 2015 / 3:06 am

    This is the coolest yet! I want to do this so bad!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Looking for Something?