The last quarter of the year is the most exciting time for shopaholics who have spent the year prepping their reflexes and wallets for annual shopping events like Black Friday, Cyber Monday and 11.11 Single's Day Sales. But in Japan, shoppers hang on to their cash till the dawn of a new year which marks the start of Winter Sales and a unique Japanese shopping tradition: Fukubukuro.
Fukubukuro translates to ‘Lucky Bag’ and succinctly describes what this tradition entails: stores around Japan typically sell these lucky bags on New Year’s festive period, usually for a discounted price. Each bag contains different items from the store’s catalogue, but the bags are sealed, so the fun is in not knowing what you pick up and hoping that you’ll pick up a coveted item that costs far more than what you paid for the Fukubukuro.
The specific origins of Fukubukuro are not clear, but most agree that it originated from department stores in Japan that hit upon a goldmine of a marketing stunt: not only is it one way to clear out unused stocks from shelves quickly, but the buzz generated by the chance of getting a rare item or two in the Fukubukuro often results in snaking queues out the door on 2nd of January. (This year is a bit of an exception due to the current COVID situation.)