TsukuBlog

A Local Perspective on Life in Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan.

To Buy a LUCKY BAG – Or Not To Buy ? – That is the FUKUBUKURO (福袋) question during the first week of the new year!

 

Fukubukuro

Fukubukuro (Lucky Bags) for sale during the first few days of the year.

By Avi Landau

Its always the same quandary, every New Year`s Holiday I`ve spent in Japan. From January 2nd and on for the next few days, as I drift through the shopping malls and department stores (where else can you go when it`s so bitter cold), carried along as if I had no will of my own by the frenetic crowds out for HATSU URI (初売り)- The First Days of Business of the New Year – I find my eye drawn to the prominently displayed cases full of colorful shopping bags. In bold, usually red letters, things such as – KAIUN (開運ー Brings Good Fortune), OTANOSHIMI (お楽しみ – Looking Forward to What`s Inside) and most commonly just FUKUBUKURO (福袋- Lucky Bag), which is what these bags are known as.

Should I buy one?

They say that there are good bargains to be found inside them- sometimes great finds- but I can`t see what`s inside them

And he prices are there- also prominently displayed – 5,000 Yen, 10,000 Yen and sometimes more…. much more!

Should I?

But I can`t see what`s inside- and I`m not a gambling man!

Fukubukuro

Fukubukuro at tsukuba`s old Seibu Department Store

Apparently during the Edo Period, there was one kimono shop (Daimaru- the fore-runner of the Daimaru Department Store) which would fill bags with items which had gone unsold during the previous year and sold them at highly discounted prices (though the customers did not know exactly what she was getting till she got home and opened the bag.

The idea however, did not catch on at the time.

Fukubukuro

Fukubukuro- in recent years the custom has spread to the USA and Taiwan where they are called Lucky Bags or Mystery Bags

Later in 1907, the Matsuya Kimono Shop (now a department store) began selling FUKUBUKURO (Lucky Bags) at New Year`s and the Mtsuzakaya Department Store joined in on the action in 1911 calling their promotions TAKARABUKURO (Treasure Bags).

After that the concept really took off and the buying of FUKUBUKURO has become an important New Year`s tradition for many Japanese- some wait outside their favorite shops for HOURS on January 2nd or 3rd just to get one,

There is one shop in Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture which has gotten a lot of publicity for being the earliest to start selling FUKUBUKURO- they begin at midnight of January first.

Before 20th century merchants made created what we today call FUKUBUKURO the same word was associated with the bag carried by DAIKOKU - one of the SHICHIFUKUJIN (Seven Deities of Good Fortune) - also associated with the beginning of the New Year. This magnificent carving of DAIKOKU SAMA is usually at the To-dai Ji Temple in Nara, but today it was at the National Museum in Ueno (for New Year`s)

The original LUCKY BAGS- or BAGS of FORTUNE. Before 20th century merchants created what we know as today`s FUKUBUKURO seen at department stores and commercial districts, the word FUKUBUKURO was associated with the bag carried by DAIKOKUTEN (often referred to as DAIKOKU SAMA)- one of the SHICHIFUKUJIN (Seven Deities of Good Fortune) – who is also associated with the beginning of the New Year. This magnificent carving of DAIKOKU SAMA is usually at the To-dai Ji Temple in Nara, but today it was at the National Museum in Ueno (for New Year`s)

Fukubukuro that say OTANOSHIMI on them

Fukubukuro that say OTANOSHIMI on them

The sheer variety of FUKUBUKURO contents is amazing- with so many different types of shops and businesses offering them- even expensive jewelry stores (one bag can cost millions of Yen) and travel agencies sell them!

FUKUBUKURO

FUKUBUKURO at a traditional sweets shop

Another HATSU URI season has come and I still can`t make up my mind !

This year I will probably pass on FUKUBUKURO once again- and I will probably all the more FORTUNATE for having done so.

Fukubukuro that say KAIUN

Fukubukuro that say KAIUN- Bringing Good Fortune

But if YOU happen to give in to temptation- let me know what you got and how you felt about the experience!

Ethnic goods store FUKUBUKURO

Ethnic goods store has FUKUBUKURO with exotic bags

 

A closer look at what for centuries the Japanese most closely associated with the word FUKUBUKURO - the Lucky Deity Daikoku-Sama`s lucky bag ! This is a Japanese Important Cultural Property on loan for New Year`s at the National Museum in Ueno

A closer look at what for centuries the Japanese most closely associated with the word FUKUBUKURO – the Lucky Deity Daikoku-Sama`s lucky bag ! This is a Japanese Important Cultural Property on loan for New Year`s at the National Museum in Ueno

FUKUBUKURO

Ten thousand Yen was too much for me- despite the chance of finding my real style and real life inside!

 

 



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