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Try your Luck at this Japanese New Year Tradition!


Photo: Bic Camera Lucky Bags | Image Courtesy of Danny Choo | Flickr

Everyone looks forward to new year as it calls for fresh start and new beginnings. If you are going to spend the first day of the year in Tokyo, you are in for a treat!


Start your year with luck by grabbing a fukubukuro – a Japanese New Year customs where merchants fill a bag with random and unknown goodies that you can get at a ridiculously discounted price!

Aside from the surprise element, the scarcity of the bags makes this tradition an exciting activity for the locals and tourists alike!



Photo: Fukubukuro line | Image Courtesy of Adriel Hampton | Flickr

Why is Fukubukuro popular in Japan?

Both businesses and customers have reasons for the existence and popularity of fukubukuro. For businesses, it is a creative and efficient way of discarding unsold and excessive stocks. According to Japanese superstition, trash from previous year brings bad fortune. For the Japanese customers, aside from the low cost and chance of getting a great item, they also believe in the concept of “fuku.” This word comes from the Japanese saying, “there is fortune in leftovers.”



Photo: Green Tea Fukubukuro | Image Courtesy of Danny Choo | Flickr

When and where can you buy them?

Originally, only traditional retailers sell lucky bags on January 1. With the increasing demand and popularity generated by this tradition, the date and merchants expanded. Some fancy restaurants fills their bags with frozen, dried or vacuum-packed food while the experience shops sells concert tickets and other experiential activities. Recently, some shops make the bags available online and as early as December. So if you want to avoid lining up for hours and can’t wait for the new year surprise, you can search for your favorite shops Fukubukuro mechanics!


There are many options you can choose from depending on your preference. Large departments stores such as Shibuya 109, Matsuya Ginza, Seibu, Hankyu and Takashimaya and electronic gadgets giants Bic camera and Yodobashi are crowd favorites. Each store has their own theme per year which gives clues on the inside of their lucky bags. But if you are not as aggressive and determined as the locals who have waited whole year for this day to arrive, you can go to local malls Ario, Aeon, or Ito Yokado.


Visit outlet stores like Mitsui Premium outlet store, this one is usually part of Mt. Fuji Itinerary and Lalaport malls where many outlet stores are also located. Japanese brands like Uniqlo, MUJI and Tokyu Hands are also great options for getting your first lucky bag of the year!



Photo: Japanese Friends | Image Courtesy of xiquinhosilva | Flickr

Bonus tip!

So if you luckily snatched a fukubukuro after lining up for hours --- but only to find out that your lucky bag turned out to be less than what you dreamed of. Don’t feel down and bad! Fukubukuro swapping can save your new year tradition!


You could exchange your unwanted goodies with your friends. If you are a tourist in Tokyo, you might have a hard time finding people to swap with. You can turn to online auction sites such as Yahoo auction or shopping app Mercari where you can sell those surplus items!


This frustrating customer experience is being avoided from some shops through revealing the content of their fukubukuro bags. Make-up brands are particularly notorious for this practice during Christmas season.


Whether you are in for the surprise or for the goodies, snatching a fukubukuro bag on New Year’s Day should definitely be in your must-try activity in Tokyo! One of the most anticipated fukubukuro is from the iconic brand, Apple! If you are one of the lucky ones you can easily get a Macbook, an iPad or iPhone.


If you want to snatch a rare luck, your best resource are the locals who gained expertise and experience in this yearly tradition in Tokyo! Aside from their tips, you will surely enjoy more fascinating stories on how fukubukuro shopping craze evolved in Tokyo in the past years. Where do you get to meet friendly locals?


Even if it’s not New Year yet, you are already lucky because Tokyo Localized offers free walking day tours organized by an English-speaking and well-knowledgeable Tokyo local! Join one of their tours and be amazed on how to experience New Year in a Japanese way!


Tokyo Localized provides visitors and travellers to Tokyo with a unique perspective of this great city, what makes us unique is that our tour guides live and work in Tokyo, have a passion for this city and love meeting and welcoming new faces. Find out more about our Unique Day and Night Tours of Tokyo - we can't wait to meet you!


About the writer

Rocel is a believer of living life to the fullest through creating memories with her loved ones – family, friends and self. One of the things she enjoys doing with them is travelling where they get to experience new cultures, new cuisines, new stories to share and memories to look back. In 2018 alone, she travelled to 5 continents which exposed her to the world’s wonders. After all those trips, Japan is still one of her favorite countries because of its unique and rich culture and natural resources. She lived and studied in Tokyo, Japan for one year where she developed deeper love and appreciation towards the country.



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