Fukubukuro: Why Japan goes crazy for ‘lucky bags’

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They’re called Fukubukuro – and at the start of each New Year, thousands of people in Japan queue up for hours to get their hands on them.

Fukubukuro – or lucky bags – are essentially mystery goodie bags that contain anything from clothes to food, depending on the store selling them.

They started out as a way for Japanese department stores to get rid of old stock at the start of the year, but now have become an annual craze nationwide.

‘The excitement of not knowing’

Sales for Fukubukuro open every year on 1 January, and they’re typically sold across the entire first week of January, or until they run out.

For many, it isn’t the New Year without a Fukubukuro.

It’s unclear how exactly the Fukubukuro originated – there are multiple stories told – but one version says they were sold as early the 1900s when department stores started cropping up in Japan.

The department stores, it is said, wanted to get rid of their stock before the start of the New Year and so decided to sell mystery bags filled with random leftover goods at a sizeable discount.

Today, department stores around Japan and even global chains like Starbucks and Armani have jumped on the trend.

Skip Facebook post by スターバックス コーヒー ジャパン Starbucks

今年も福袋は全てオンライン抽選。ただ今エントリー受付中です。福袋販売日に『当選eTicket』との引き換えで、店舗でご購入いただけます。締切はもうすぐ(12/6まで)。 エントリーはこちら。https://sbux.jp/2zy52fP

Posted by スターバックス コーヒー ジャパン Starbucks on Monday, 3 December 2018

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End of Facebook post by スターバックス コーヒー ジャパン Starbucks

Bags are now no longer filled with random leftovers, but are usually stacked with premium objects that would be significantly more expensive if bought separately.

The costs range from a few dollars to a few hundred dollars.

Many queue up for hours in front of their favourite stores just to get their hands on a Fukubukuro, as they are usually sold only in limited amounts.

“[Buying a Fukubukuro] is a bit like gambling,” Clark Lawton from Japan told the BBC.

“I’ve bought Fukuburos myself… it’s the excitement of not knowing what’s inside them, and also the chance at getting something cheaper than its actual cost.”

Luck of the draw

Every year, people take to social media to post pictures of their Fukubukuro “haul”.

Skip Twitter post by @gasugasu_you

届いたTITO福袋開封。
ネックウォーマー2つは笑う←#ダーツ#福袋#TITO pic.twitter.com/8OAttgjqNV

— がーすー@VAG (@gasugasu_you) January 9, 2019

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“I’m so satisfied with this year’s Fukubukuro!” says this Twitter user. “Best of all, the size is perfect.”

Skip Twitter post by @noco0

#ミネトンカ #福袋 #ZOZOTOWN 22㎝(サイズ5) 12,900円 ネタバレ
・85509 スエードショートブーツ VISTA ANKLE BOOT チャコールグレー 17,280円
・40770 ファーモカシンKAY VENETIAN 黒 10,800円

大満足!!ブーツ&モカシンの組み合わせ、黒系!何よりサイズがピッタリ(TдT)v pic.twitter.com/83UEbdLdwS

— のこ。 (@noco0) January 9, 2019

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Skip Twitter post by @AikigirlTokyo

Studio Ghibli fukubukuro lucky bag.? I like how all items are cute but practical!? And I like Totoro the most! ????? #kawaii #totoro #ghibli #fukubukuro #かわいい #トトロ #福袋 #japan pic.twitter.com/bT1dgWdvUx

— Sasha Ivanova (@AikigirlTokyo) January 1, 2019

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Even restaurants and cafes are now selling Fukubukuro bags.

Skip Twitter post by @IndieDevM

? I got soooo much stuff in this lucky bag!!!

Matcha mochi
Chestnut in bean jelly
Strawberry kuzu jelly
Packs of crackers
Matcha cookies
Bean cake
Pear jelly
And a layered ring sponge cake!#福袋#福袋2019 pic.twitter.com/ZnHlxzqQoY

— Matt Barber (@IndieDevM) January 2, 2019

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End of Twitter post by @IndieDevM

But some who might not be as lucky with their Fukuburo haul have taken to selling it online, or swapping it amongst friends.

And if that’s you – well, there’s always next year.

 

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