I think that one of the best things about being in Japan over the new year is fukubukuro! Fukubukuro (福袋) means “lucky bag” and they’re basically surprise bags that almost every store sells. (I even got a fukubukuro of snacks from 7-11!) Usually the value of the fukubukuro is at least twice what it costs, so they’re often a really good deal if you like what you get. Last year, I went to Shibuya and Harajuku for fukubukuro, but this year I was lazy and just went to the nearby mall, Sunshine City in Ikebukuro. (To see some SERIOUS Shibuya fukubukuro craziness from this year, check out this post from Tokyo Fashion.)
Even the Apple Store in Japan sells fukubukuro. They sell for about $350 and some people are lucky enough to get a MacBook Air. (But the less lucky get an iPad or iPod. A bad fukubukuro is called a fukobukuro, or unlucky bag.)
The above photo is from Sunshine City before the stores opened at 10am. There were some pretty long (but orderly, as always — this is Japan, after all) lines outside most of the stores.
The stores opened and girls descended on the fukubukuro. You can’t open them to see what’s inside, but you can poke at them and pick them up to gauge the weight. Most stores have a limited number of fukubukuro.
So many people!
This store (which sells mostly Studio Ghibli merchandise) had a lineup that went down this hallway and up a flight of stairs until it disappeared somewhere into eternity (farther than I could see, anyway).
I went for the Hello Kitty fukubukuro, of course. The lineup at the Sanrio store was long but moved quickly.
I was conservative with my fukubukuro purchases. I feel like the clothing fukubukuro are too much of a gamble — I don’t want to get a fur coat (fur is big here right now) or weird fringed tshirt or something. Each of these three fukubukuro were ¥3000 (around $35). Not pictured: the 7-11 fukubukuro of snacks (¥500!) or bag of Hello Kitty socks (¥1000).
I knew the Lush fukubukuro was a good deal — I got one last year, too. It came with eight bath bombs/bubble bars.
Japanese Lush is fun. This bubble bar is called “guruguru blanket.” Guruguru means “spinning” in Japanese. It kind of makes sense, since the North American version of this is called “The Comforter” and it’s (I guess) like wrapping yourself in a blanket..
Some of the stuff that came in the Sanrio bag. I pretty much loved everything. Yes, I am this old and I love Hello Kitty. (But guess what? In Japan it’s TOTALLY NORMAL! EVEN OLD LADIES LOVE HELLO KITTY. HA!)
I especially love this ruffled My Melody zipper case thing. KAWAII DESHO?
Another favourite: this Hello Kitty keychain.
I put this Hello Kitty sticker that came in the bag on the notebook I use for Japanese class. Now it matches my iPhone case!
Speaking of Hello Kitty, here’s the newest addition to my UFO catcher toy collection. A pink panda Hello Kitty! Mike won this for less than $5 because he is the UFO CATCHER MASTER. Although really, UFO catchers are more about opportunity than talent*.
Here is me looking like a weirdo and clutching it with joy inside Taito Station**.
In the end, I was just a whole lot less ambitious on my January 2nd than I was last year. I mean, last year I went to see the Emperor! But the fukubukuro shopping was fun. Even if you don’t buy anything, the phenomenon is interesting to watch (well, until the crowds become too much to bear).
EDIT: I realized I never posted what was in the Starbucks fukubukuro. It included: a travel mug, a stainless steel Starbucks logo cup, two free drink coupons (which I will redeem for the most expensive fluffiest soy latte whipped thing on the menu), an insulated Starbucks tote, a package of Breakfast Blend, and a package of Starbucks Via coffee.
* Just like life!
** Is it just me, or do Taito Stations have the best UFO catchers? They’re my favourite and I think they’re better than the Sega ones.