Fukubukuro Hunting Season
It's going to be another warm, sunny day here in Hiroshima. Tomorrow and Friday are looking ok too, but they'll be a bit cooler with temps getting up to around 11C or 12C. Clouds will roll in on Saturday and it looks like we may get some rain on Saturday in the evening and on Sunday as well.
Fukubukuro Season in Japan is basically the equivalent of Black Friday in the United States. Starting from the day after New Years and usually lasting until January 5, stores try to get rid of products left over from the previous year, by packaging them into bags called fukubukuro and selling them at ridiculously discounted prices. Usually, the fukubukuro is sealed to prevent you from looking inside, basically making it a mystery shopping event; however, recently some stores in an effort to draw more customers have gone away from the surprise aspect and now post fliers showing what’s inside. That way, the customers don’t feel like they got a raw deal. Interestingly, it seems to be working for the stores as fukubukuro are still as popular as ever before. But I think it takes the fun out of it...don't you?
People expect to get at least a 30–50% discount though sometimes the discount is even higher. Depending on your tastes what can be found inside a bag runs the gamut: clothes for men, women or children, sporting goods, cosmetics, jewelry, and food are all popular items. These days the average price for adult clothing runs between Y5,000–Y20,000 while the average price for children and sporting goods bags is somewhere between Y3,000–Y10,000. Cosmetics typically start at Y2,000 and jewelry and snacks as low as Y1,000. Of course, even at heavily discounted prices you get what you pay for.
7 Tips for Buying a Japanese Lucky Bag
- Don’t open the bag! When a fukubukuro doesn’t list what’s inside, it may be tempting to take even the smallest peek. While the store’s staff would probably do no more than scold you for peeking, it’s still not considered a very polite.
- Consider pricing. Each fukubukuro usually has at least five items inside with at least one prize item, or what makes the bag such a great deal. The more expensive the fukubukuro you buy, the higher the chance that you will get more than one expensive item.
- For snacks, search basements of department stores. While department stores make for a great shopping spree no matter what type of fukubukuro you’re looking to buy, the basement is the best location to get your hands on high-end okashi.
- High budget = Brand-name clothing. If you need to shop for business suits, this is the time of year you can buy cheap attire from Hugo Boss, Armani and the likes at deep discounted prices ranging from Y10,000–Y50,000 a bag.
- Watch for sizing. You can't do returns or exchanges on these bags, so make sure you get the size you're looking for. Clothing fukubukuro should have the size somewhere on the outside of the bag. If you're like me and 'S' for tops and 'M' or 'L' for bottoms...well, you're screwed! Ha ha!
- Go early. Fukubukuro really is a big event in Japan and once people learn what’s inside the bags they sell out quickly. If you have a special brand or product in mind, and you know where you can get the lucky bag, don’t procrastinate.
- Look around the store. This event usually includes deep discount sales between 30–70% on other items hanging around the stores so if you like what’s in the bag, take a look around to see what other big savings you can find.
Another thing you can look for is the Unlucky Bag.
Yes, that’s right, unlucky bags exist! While you might wonder why it’s called the “unlucky bag,” you might also be curious about why anyone would actually buy one. These unlucky bags are a trend that started due to the stigma about fukubukuro containing more useless and unwanted items than genuine bargains. As for this unlucky bag, it's full of luck! Among the loot was merchandise from Shirokuma Café, Tiger & Bunny, Noragami, Evangelion, Prince of Tennis, and many other similar Japanese brands.
Have You Heard of the Apple Lucky Bag?
The Apple Lucky Bag is probably the most talked about fukubukuro in Japan—period. With the possibility of a MacBook Air being contained in only one pack, it’s no wonder why people form long lines and camp out each year just to get their hands on one. For example, all of the 2015 Apple Lucky Bags contained Dr. Dre PowerBeats2.
I don't know about you, but I feel that Unlucky Bag is a better name for them. I've bought a few of the bags in my time here and not once was I satisfied with what I got. I probably haven't bought one for around 10 years. How about you? Do you still buy them? Do you ever feel lucky about what you get inside?
Have a great day!