Lucky bags give away secrets before purchase

January 8th, 2011 by Felicity Hughes

Wild scenes were witnessed in Shibuya’s 109 on Jan. 2 as the scramble for fukubukuro (lucky draw bags”) got underway. The store opened its doors at 6:45 a.m., to let in long lines of teen shoppers, some of whom had been queuing since midnight to get their hands on a bag of unknown goodies from their favorite brand. Once inside, according to Shibuya Keizai Shimbun, staff struggled to maintain order as the teen hordes waged war to snap up bargain bags.

Taking a gamble on a fukubukuko (Janne Moren photo)

Uptown in Ginza, things were, of course, a little more refined, but competition for some of the choicest department store fukubukuro was fierce. According to Yomiuri Online, hot items like Printemp’s Jyoshi Kai (women’s meet up) bag, sold out in the first day they went on sale.

Swift sales of fukubukuro, coupled with healthy sales figures for the first day’s trading for Tokyo’s department stores, have been taken as good indications that the Japanese economy is recovering. The newly refurbished Mitsukoshi Ginza, which was reopened in September, last year reported an increase in sales of 40 percent for the same day last year. Part of the draw for customers was the lucky bags that stores claim contain items exceeding the bag’s retail price.

These days, fukubukuro buying is a more transparent process. There’s a tendency now to advertise what the bags will contain. What’s now left to chance is whether you happen to land a bag that contains a special extra item. The standard Jyoshi Kai bag, for instance, contained a fondue set and an apro,n among other pre-advertised contents. Three out of 20 bags, however, also contained a bottle of rose champagne. The bags cost ¥15,000 each.

The bags also reflected recent cultural trends. Jyoshi kai is a word to describe the growing trend among women to indulge in female-only activities, especially dinner dates. Mountain climbing was also a hit with young women this year and, appropriately, Seibu brought out the Yama Gaaru (Mountain Girl) fukubukuro. Aimed at beginner female mountain climbers, the bag, which cost ¥10,000, contains climbing gear from famous alpine brands. Out of  10 available in the store three contained tickets for a prize draw giving the holder a chance to win a domestic holiday.

Another trend in fukubukuro is the “experience lucky bag.” Those who pre-order a bag before the New Year are buying into a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Mitsukoshi department store came up with this concept in 2008 and the idea has really caught on. This year one of the most sought-after experience fukubukuro was Tobu department store’s Sky Tree Tower Trip. The lucky few would get to visit the construction site, take photos and get their mitts on some special souvenirs, all for just ¥2,010.

Perhaps one of the weirder experience bags was the mother/daughter department store experience. Those who bought this bag for ¥2,100 will be able to dress up in a shocking pink Seibu department store uniform and then enjoy the experience of manning the store’s reception desk, working in the elevator and making in store announcements. That’s right, Mom. You can set the bar high for your little girl’s future career prospects!

Fukubukuro photo by Janne Moren

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