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Fukubukuro: Why Japan goes crazy for 'lucky bags'

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image copyrightGetty Images
image captionThe words Fukubukuro, or lucky bag, are written on this bright red paper bag

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.

These "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.

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, December 3, 2018
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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.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionThe queues for Fukubukuro can extend far beyond a store
image copyrightGetty Images
image captionAnd once you're in the store itself, it's another battle trying to get hold of a bag

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

"I've bought Fukubukuros 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".

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

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

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

Even restaurants and cafes are now selling Fukubukuro bags.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

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.

image copyrightScreenshot/Yahoo Auction
image captionVarious Fukubukuros have already been put up for sale online

Related Topics

  • Shopping
  • Retailing
  • Japan

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