Hi, otaku readers of MANGA.TOKYO. How did you spend Christmas and New Year’s Day? I assume otaku living in Japan had an extremely busy 3 days with Comiket.
In Japan, there’s a New Year’s custom called fukubukuro. Recently, the anime, manga, and game industries are joining in with their own versions of fukubukuro! We sometimes see the English text ‘Lucky Bag’ written on them too!
I’m sure that many of you have no idea what I’m talking about, and that’s why I decided to write an article about these lucky bags. What are fukubukuro?
What are Fukubukuro?
Fukubukuro (福袋):Fukubukuro is a bag filled with various items. The customer chooses the bag, but they are sealed to prevent the customer from knowing what is inside. They are sold at events and at stores during New Year’s. (Definition: Digital Daijisen)
The catch with fukubukuro is that you don’t know what’s inside; that, at least, was how fukubukuro originally used to be. However, recently more and more shops have started selling fukubukuro with visible contents. Nowadays, shops tend to sell two kinds, ‘gamble-like’ fukubukuro where you don’t know the contents, and the so-called ‘fukubukuro bundle sales’. The bags are priced between ¥5000 to ¥10000. ‘Fukubukuro bundle sales’ usually have samples on display.
Since it’s New Year’s, everyone has the chance to enjoy their fukubukuro in their own way, either knowing what’s inside or taking the risk and surprise themselves.
What’s Actually Inside?
There are many types of fukubukuro: apparel, food, electronics, anime goods, games, and plastic models. For 2017, I bought a Yowamushi Pedal one! I knew what was inside it though.
The contents were a can badge and a cute tote bag which seemed like I could use regularly (I later turned it into an itabag). I could see the contents, so I bought it without worrying.
Stores that sell official anime goods, such as Animate, sell bags with fixed contents. Nowadays, sealed fukubukuro are mostly sold by toy shops and otaku goods shops, and are used to dispose of extra stock. In other words, if you want a gamble fukubukuro in Tokyo, you can go to goods shops in Akihabara and Nakano, and in Osaka, you can go to goods shops in Nipponbashi. Volks and Sofmap have fukubukuro every year!
The contents of the gamble fukubukuro are completely random!! There might be something you really really wanted, or something you didn’t want and makes you want to scream… it could be the first annoyance of the year. This type of bag is probably more suited to people who can forgive and laugh at everything. Sometimes the bags have items that are amazing and totally worth the risk, but if you want to be sure that you are getting something nice for ¥5000, get a bag with visible contents. Trust me.
What are Utsubukuro?
Fukubukuro that end up with useless items are often called utsubukuro (lit. depression bag) on the Internet. The degree of disappointment varies from things you don’t use but could sell, to things that no one would want, are useless and less than garbage and are even annoying to throw away!
Fukubukuro is a way for shops to dispose of stock, so if you get something bad, it really sucks. If it’s too much, you can tweet it and you’ll be retweeted a lot as a consolation prize.
As you can see it’s risky, so fukubukuro is for people who can forgive everything. You should especially never buy fukubukuro for anime goods with unknown contents if your intention is making money or buying things you want as cheap as possible. I experienced buying one at a certain shop, and in 10 minutes I sold everything at Mandarake. (Of course it was a rip-off. I made back only half the money I spent.)
Why Do Japanese Seek Fukubukuro All Night
Maybe you’ve seen this on the internet. A lot of Japanese line up all night for fukubukuro at Apple Stores, Yodobashi Camera, even at Shibuya 109 and toy shops… One of the reasons is because the total value of the bag is more that you pay for it. Even if it doesn’t contain what you want, they’re still worth 3 or 4 times the amount you paid for it. Plus you’re in the fun atmosphere of the New Year; that’s why people want to buy it.
However, getting a fukubukuro with unknown contents doesn’t guarantee that you’ll like the contents. It’s a gamble. If you’re really lucky, for example, you might get Apple’s Macbook or a super rare figure for less than half the price, but this doesn’t usually happen.
People still line up on New Year’s Eve without even watching the famous New Year’s Eve TV shows that are such a big part of Japanese NYE culture… why is that? I think the answer is sharing excitement, the expectation of the items, and the emotions you feel after you open it. Whether you feel happy or disappointed, fukubukuro is an exciting moment.
Nowadays, you can share things on social media easil and even if you get an utsubukuro, you can get a laugh out of it by sharing the contents. Of course, the best thing is getting what you want or saving a lot of money, but that’s not the only way to enjoy it. Whether you are lucky or unlucky, sharing the moment is probably what fukubukuro is all about!
Try your own fukubukuro!
Now it’s your turn! Have you ever picked a fukubukuro? Do you have something similar in your country? Let me know in the comments below. Now let’s make 2017 a great anime year with MANGA.TOKYO ♪
I'm a good-for-nothing otaku who works as a freelance web writer.
I live in Kyoto, Japan, but I am so often in Tokyo for anime-related cafes and products that people frequently misunderstood that I live there. Yowamushi Pedal helps me overcome all difficulties. I'm also a huge fan of Touken Ranbu! In order to deliver to you the latest otaku info and trends, I'll keep dwelling in the 2-D world. Thank you very much!