It’s the season of the fukubukuro— the mystery shopping bags filled with random, unknown stuffers sold by shops and department stores at New Year. When this time of year rolls around, you might think, ‘Not again…,’ but the attraction of the fukubukuro is difficult to resist. The idea that fukubukuro are just a way to get rid of unwanted and unsold merchandise is fading away, and with more and more stores displaying what is in the bag before you buy it, shops are thinking of new and interesting ways to attract the customer’s attention.
When we looked at how the big department stores are doing things this year, we found a lot of them were offering a web pre-purchase service, which will ship your fukubukuro starting on January 2. It’s an approach which pleases both the shops who want definite sales in these economically depressive times, and customers who don’t like the hassle of braving the crowds to buy and carry home the fukubukuro. The only is problem is that most of the online fukubukuro have already sold out: an anticlimax before the sales have even begun.
But however far online sales have spread— even into world of fukubukuro —purely web-based selling means less custom turning up to the stores at sale time. This year, as always, stores are producing shop front fukubukuro with the same resourcefulness and ingenuity as ever. We are going to give you a rundown on what fukubukuro you can expect to find, for purchase or to order, if you take yourself along to the New Year sales. Naturally, special offers are only available in extremely limited numbers. If you see a fukubukuro that you like, it’s definitely worth getting up early to beat the crowds.
Konkatsu-kei (marriage-hunting) women, be ready to be judged
Ginza Mitsukoshi ‘The next star will be me!!’ Konkatsu make-over fukubukuro
This is a fukubukuro for the girl who wants to outshine everyone else at wedding parties, and find new love with one of the groom’s friends in the process. In addition to a gorgeous dress, wrap and other accessories, the bags include tickets to two etiquette classes at the Ecole de Protocole Monaco.
Limited to five bags, all M sizes. 21,000 yen
When: Sat Jan 2, 10am-9pm
Where: Ginza Mitsukoshi, 3rd floor Ladies department
Printemps Ginza Konkatsu-kei fukubukuro
‘Salad set for capturing soshoku-kei (herbivorous) men’
‘Getting close to your man yaki-niku party set, for capturing nikushoku-kei (carnivorous) men’
Printemps Ginza’s konkatsu approach is for women aiming to get to a man through his stomach. Cooking utensils for preparing the perfect salad or yaki-niku meal have been carefully selected to suit each girl’s target type. For those who have achieved their konkatsu goal of marriage, there is the ‘New Life Pair Set’ (5250 yen, limit of 20) or the ‘I Can Become a Bride Anytime Set’ (10,500 yen, limit of 5)
Limited to 10 bags each, 3150 yen
When: Sat Jan 2, 8:30am-7pm
Where: Printemps Ginza 6th Floor, Le Plaisir
Boys, be prepared for the white-hot konkatsu festivities
Matsuya Ginza ‘Stylish Men Fukubukuro: Formalwear’
A fukubukuro to turn any man into an impressive figure through dressing him up in a tuxedo. There aren’t many opportunities to wear a tuxedo in daily life in Japan. All the more reason to set yourself apart by dressing up when the occasion presents itself.
Limit of 8 sets, 30,000 yen
When: Sat Jan 2, 9:30am-7:30pm
Where: Matsuya Ginza 5th floor, Men's formal
Ginza Mitsukoshi ‘Feel like a Sengoku Period military general with a kamon family crest fukubukuro’
This fukubukuro is a must for those who want to feel like a brave son of Japan. Mitsukoshi will put a traditional kamon— or family crest —on a 100% silk tie and tie pin for 15,750 yen. Not only providing some historical Japanese spirit, it also is an opportunity to retrace the roots of Japanese family crests.
Limited to 15, 15,750 yen
When: Sat Jan 2, 10am–9pm
Where: Ginza Mitsukoshi 6th Floor, Men’s Floor
What’s popular every year will be popular this year too
Apple ‘Lucky Bag’ 35,000 yen
The 35,000 yen fukubukuro is the extremely popular and sells out every year. Some people have said that last year’s even had a MacBook pro in it. They will go on sale from January 2 at seven Apple stores nationwide, with no online sales. If you want one, they only way to get it is to go to the store and get in line with everybody else.
Number yet undecided, 35,000 yen
When: Sat Jan 2, 8am-9pm
Where: Apple Store Ginza, Apple Store Shibuya
Mister Donuts ‘Misudo fukubukuro’
Each bag has 10, 15, or 20 doughnuts (or a coupon for the equivalent number), so it’s a good buy. They also contain other goods related to popular characters like the Pon de Lion mascot. It’s a safe way even for beginners to try out the fukubukuro experience.
Number yet undecided, 1000 yen, 1500 yen, 2000 yen
When: Currently on sale
Where: any Mister Donuts store
Low priced, practical experiences, offering fun for the whole family
Tobu Department Store Ikebukuro ‘Tokyo Sky Tree and Sumida: Enjoying shitamachi dowtown culture fukubukuro’
With tours of the construction site, views of it from a rickshaw in Asakusa, and views of it from a hotel room, this is a fukubukuro with three absorbing experiences of the Tokyo Sky Tree, which is expected to be completed in 2012. You can also enjoy making a karakuri byobu (trick screen) and take a tour of a sumo stable. It’s a fantastic opportunity for those with primary school aged children in grades 4, 5 or 6.
Limit of 4 groups, with two per group, 12,680 yen (must be a parent-child pair)
Where: applications Sat Dec 26–Sat Jan 2, until 5pm
Where: Tobu Department Store Ikebukuro, 2nd floor area number 2
Tobu Department Store Ikebukuro ‘Celebrating the Year of the Tiger! Getting close to the white tiger: Tobu zoo keeper experience fukubukuro’
This is a zoo-keeping experience where you get to spend around two hours with the animals at the Tobu Zoo, and have the opportunity to do things like feed the popular white tigers. It’s only open to primary school aged boys and girls, with one guardian to accompany. This fukubukuro is part of a charity project, with 2,010 yen to be paid upon application. All of the money paid will be donated to the Kew Royal Botanic Gardens and used towards environmental preservation activities such as reforestation.
Limit of 5, 2,010 yen
When: applications Thurs Dec 17–Sat Jan 2, until 5pm
Where: Tobu Department Store Ikebukuro 1st Floor, area 9 information desk
For those looking for the genuine article
Matsuya Ginza ‘Japanese craftwork, artisans techniques fukubukuro’
This fukubukuro is based around magewappa (bent-woodware) from the well known store Kurikyu in Odate, Akita. It combines a magewappa ohitsu (steamed rice container), shamoji (rice server) and bento box with items like a Fujiwara knife to bring together the skilled work of Japan’s top artisans. It’s a taste of sophisticated Japanese style at a very reasonable price. If you are looking to add a touch of class to your kitchenware, this is definitely worth a look.
Limited to 10 sets, 20,000 yen
When: Sat Jan 2, 9am-7:30pm
Where: Matsuya Ginza, ‘Table Joy’ 7th Floor
Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi ‘Becoming a true footwear artisan fukubukuro’
This fukubukuro is a wonderful collaboration between the high-grade brush makers Hirano, who have a long tradition dating back to 1942, and the distinguished British shoe polish brand M. Mowbray. An artisan’s leather apron, gloves, cover and exclusive wooden case are all included. Merely possessing the set lends an air of prestige to the owner. It’s an exquisite set for the mature connoisseur.
Limit of 10 sets. 105,000 yen
When: Sat Jan 2, Sun Jan 3, 10am-7pm
Where: Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi, Main Building 2nd Floor, Men’s Shoe Salon
A must-buy for fans
Takashimaya ‘London and Liverpool seven day tour, Beatles box set dream fukubukuro’
This fukubukuro is not merely a tour of places with strong connections to the Beatles. It offers one group of four the opportunity to feel like they have actually become the Beatles, with amazing experiences like recording at Abbey Road Studios and performing live at the Cavern Club. The complete CD box set of all 14 digitally remastered albums is included.
Available at any Takashimaya but limited to one group alone, 5,534,900 yen
When: Applications from Sat Jan 2 to Tues Jan 5. A ballot will be used in the case of a large number of applicants.
Where: any Takashimaya store
MoMA Design Store ‘Art Fukubukuro’
This is a remarkable fukubukuro with 100,000 yen worth of the most popular items from 2010. A stylish high-pressure humidifier is included, along with items from the MoMA collection like the MoMA Sky Umbrella and the ‘Cup Ring’ mug with a ring for a handle. The ‘Art Fukubukuro’ contains a special selection from the already select items it the store, and is perfect for adding a special accent to any interior.
Limit of 10, 10,000 yen
When: Sat Jan 2, 11am-8pm
Where: MoMA Design Store
And if you have need of these services…
Sogo, Seibu ‘Incredible! It looks just like me! Robot fukubukuro’
Using cutting-edge technology, it’s possible to build your own order-made robot with lifelike skin, expressions and gestures. Note that there are many precautions that need to be carefully considered before purchasing, such as the fact that only a seated figure of the purchaser can be a model, and clothes are not included. Also, an actual sample robot will be displayed at the Sogo Omiya store during the application period.
Limited to two customers, 20,100,000 yen
When: Applications on Sat Jan 2, Sun Jan 3
Where: Sogo, Seibu and Robinson’s stores
Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi ‘3D Stereoscopic Bust with Wooden Pedestal and Granite Base’
Making a commemorative bust is common among those who have founded their own company or have a record of great achievements. In this fukubukuro you can make an exquisite exact-size bronze bust, with a process that uses seven cameras to take images of the face to analyse optically. It’s possible to choose from two colours, and the bronze is of course Japanese made. As it comes with a pedestal, the bust can be put in a place of honour as soon as you receive it.
Limit of 5, 2,010,000 yen
When: Mon Jan 4, 10am-7pm
Where: Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi, Main Building 5th Floor Bridal Salon
Translated by Virginia Okno