One of the special and fun New Year’s activities in Japan is the bargain sale called Hatsuuri or the first sale. The highlight of Hatsuuri is the sale of “Fukubukuro” or lucky bags, which is a very popular custom in Japan. The idea behind Fukubukuro originates from a bag that God carries which is filled with luck. Fukubukuros are limited in number, but the assortment of items in the bags is always worth several times more than the price of the bag and they are mainly sold from January 1st to 3rd, during Hatsuuri.
Fukubukuro used to be sold mainly by department stores and fashion stores, but has become more diverse these days to include food, cosmetics and electronic appliances. In 2004, the Apple store in Ginza also sold Fukubukuro, which generated some buzz in the news. There are also unique Fukubukurou, such as the one which will be sold for 20,150,000 yen to match the year 2015 and contains expensive items including a diamond and a round-the-world trip ticket. There are also Fukubukuro that contains tickets for a limousine tour and hotel stay and ones filled with rare selections from famous beef brands.
At popular stores, you will sometimes see people lining up outside the store for several days before the sale and these Fukubukuro are often sold out within minutes. If you have a brand you want to get, you will need to confirm the date, time, and place of the sale in advance.
Traditionally, the contents of a Fukubukuro are a mystery, and it is fun to choose something unknown and enjoy the thrill of peeking inside the bag. These days, however, they also sell Fukubukuros that you can see inside to show you what a bargain they are. How you enjoy this experience is up to you; you can enjoy buying a Fukubukuro as if it is a lottery or go for one that is a clear bargain. Why not buy one as part of the New Year event?