If you have been to Japan during the oshogatsu (お正月) i.e. Japanese New Year before, you probably have seen many people queuing outside department stores and shops to buy fukubukuros (福袋) i.e. fortune bags. If you have not witnessed this phenomenon personally, you might have seen footage of the frenzy caused by eager shoppers who want to get the best deals. Ever wondered what fukubukuros are and why they sell like hotcakes during this season? Read on to find out more and grab the fukubukuros from your favorite brands during the upcoming New Year holidays if you are in Japan!
Fukubukuros are typically sold during the oshogatsu holidays or on the first business day of the new year mainly by department stores and retail shops. The contents of each bag are not revealed to customers prior to purchasing, but the appeal of fukubukuros lies in the fact that the total value of the items contained within the bag is definitely more than the selling price of the fukubukuro. As there is a chance that shoppers can get their desired items at a much lower price than they are actually worth and that being able to do so is seen as a sign of good luck in the new year, many retail businesses put in a lot of effort in their annual fukubukuro sales. Some promote their offers well in advance and even allow online pre-orders to be made to avoid customers having to queue outside the shops in the cold winter.
Owing to the fact that some fukubukuros are sold throughout the year during special sales e.g. on Rakuten’s online shopping site (Japanese only), the fukubukuros sold during oshogatsu may sometimes be referred to as “otoshidamabukuro (お年玉袋)” i.e. “New Year’s gift bag.”
However, there is also a nagging concern among consumers that some businesses include past season, unpopular, or leftover items in their fukubukuros in a bid to clear the obsolete stock. As such, fukubukuros of this nature are nicknamed by netizens as “utsubukuro (欝袋)” i.e. “depression bags” since shoppers usually won’t be happy to find such “out-of-fashion” or “useless” items in their fukubukuros. Sometimes, you may also find shops which deliberately sell bags containing such “unwelcome” items and give names such as “fukoubukuro (不幸袋)” i.e. “unhappiness bags” or “fukitsubukuro (不吉袋)” i.e. “inauspicious bags” in a self-mocking manner.
Generally, most fukubukuros are sealed and packaged in an opaque material so that the contents cannot be seen from the outside. However, for expensive items like jewelry, they are usually displayed in showcases before customers make their purchases. As for items which can’t fit into bags or have no physical form such as furniture, electrical appliances, cars, free lessons at schools, renovation packages, travel packages, and real estate, they can also be sold under the name of “fukubukuros” even though they may not be packaged in a typical manner as other fukubukuros.
In the past, it was a given that you had to brave the cold and queue at the stores early on New Year’s Day just to get your fukubukuros. Nowadays, for various reasons such as preventing long snaking queues from forming outside the stores that disrupt human and vehicle traffic, avoiding disputes with customers over their inability to get the limited number of fukubukuros, and reducing the manpower needed to handle the sale of fukubukuros, many brands have resorted to holding pre-order sales of fukubukuros online or even via mobile phone applications instead of doing it at their physical stores.
Some brands like Apple have even gone to the extent of stopping such fukubukuro sales altogether since 2016 due to the controversy over its 2015 fukubukuro sales that garnered fervent interest from its customers. Despite so, there are still brands that conduct both physical and online sales or restrict the buying of fukubukuros at their stores only. As such, if you plan to reserve the fukubukuros of your favorite brands, you should definitely start checking out their websites as early as the end of October since most of their reservation periods usually take place somewhere between November and mid-December.
As the pre-order deadlines for most brands are already over by now, here are 5 irresistible 2017 fukubukuro deals which you can still seize by visiting their shops personally or via their websites. Do plan your schedule accordingly especially if you need to queue at the stores for the limited editions since most of these brands, if not all, are very sought after in Japan!
If you are a fan of home furnishings brand Francfranc, you probably wouldn’t want to give their fukubukuro a miss! This 2017, the brand is selling their HAPPY BOX in their stores from 1 January which costs 5,000 yen (exclusive of tax) each. (Japanese only) However, please note that some of their stores will be closed on New Year’s Day.
There are two versions available i.e. the Healthy Sunny Day HAPPY BOX which consists of items dedicated to promoting healthy eating lifestyles; and the Relaxing Beauty HAPPY BOX which contains goods that are supposed to aid in your relaxation. However, as there are limited stocks for both types of the HAPPY BOX, it is highly recommended that you go to the store as early as possible to avoid disappointment.
Other than the items included in the HAPPY BOX, do keep a look out for the lucky ticket which entitles you to 1,000 yen off your purchase of at least 3,000 yen. This ticket can only be used at the Francfranc stores in Japan until 31 March 2017, so be sure to use it before the end of your trip if you are a tourist. The probability of you finding this ticket in your HAPPY BOX is considered quite high as 1 out of 5 boxes will have it, but you won’t be able to use it to offset against online purchases, gift wrapping, CDs, books, merchandise, and food at the Francfranc cafes.
If you are into Hawaiian food or pancakes, you probably have heard of Eggs ‘n Things which is famous for its full-day Hawaiian breakfast and loco foods, especially its fluffy pancakes topped with a tower of fresh whipped cream and fruits. During my visits to Japan so far, I’ve not managed to enter this place yet due to the long snaking queues outside their stores so this still remains as an elusive-but-must-visit place for me.
The brand is launching their first-ever fukubukuro sales on 1 January 2017 which is titled LUCKY BAG and sold at 3,000 yen each (exclusive of tax) in their stores. (Japanese only) All the LUCKY BAGs will contain not-for-sale items such as their tote bags, mugs, tumblers with straws, as well as random free tickets for the brand’s popular dishes such as pancakes, English muffins, eggs benedict, and soft drinks. As there are only 30 sets available at each store, you would really need to get to the store bright and early so as to avoid missing out on this deal. To see the full list of the stores, please visit the brand’s official website. Do note that the Sendai store is not included in this promotion.
Even if you do not manage to get the LUCKY BAG, you can still visit their restaurants to try their Hawaiian New Year plate which is a limited edition dish available between 26 December 2016 and 9 January 2017. At 1,800 yen (exclusive of tax) per plate, you get a Hawaiian New Year spread of garlic shrimp, omelette with uni i.e. sea urchin roe, ahi poke, salmon, and spam musubi which is bound to be an out-of-the-ordinary start to the new year for you!
If you are a fan of Starbucks’ brews and their uniquely designed tumblers and mugs which tend to feature seasonal and local elements, you probably wouldn’t want to give their fukubukuro a miss! This 2017, Starbucks will start selling their fukubukuros priced at 6,000 yen each (inclusive of tax) beginning 1 January. (Japanese only) For a complete list of the branches participating, check here (Japanese only). Although the contents of the fukubukuro are not announced beforehand, what you can expect is a canvas tote bag with an original design containing the brand’s coffee products and original merchandise.
Before you actually proceed to the stores to buy your fukubukuros, you should visit them anytime from 26 December to 31 December 2016 to check on the number of units to be sold at the outlet concerned and the time when the sale begins on New Year’s Day. If it so happens that the outlet you wish to visit is a very popular one and the number of units is comparatively smaller than other stores, you might stand a higher chance of getting the fukubukuro by visiting another outlet with more fukubukuros to spare. However, the stock numbers may be subjected to change without prior notice.
On 1 January, you will need to visit the outlet personally to receive an exchange coupon first in order to purchase the fukubukuro which is limited to one unit per customer. In addition, note that the coupon can only be used on the same day you receive it and at the outlet where you get it from.
L’Occitane is probably one of the few brands that still allows you to purchase your fukubukuro online by this time of the year. Although some of the sets on offer are already sold out, you can still check out their official website to see what’s still available and place your order.
This 2017, the brand is launching their New Year Happy Bag which contains products for hair, body, or skin care. (Japanese only) For a price of 10,800 yen (inclusive of tax) for their hair care and body care Happy Bags, not only will you get the brand’s signature products in each bag, you will also receive additional freebies such as two secret items, travel size sachets of their products which are convenient to be brought along during your trips, and four gifts with varying designs i.e. a tote bag, hand towel, original pouch, and a nail file kit. Their skin care Happy Bags are slightly more expensive starting at 16,200 yen (inclusive of tax).
In addition, if you spend more than 10,000 yen (10,800 yen if the tax is included) on their official website, you can get an additional bottle of rose-scented shower gel or silk body milk by keying in the present code with your online order. As such, if you are planning to spend New Year in Japan, you might want to consider ordering their Happy Bags in advance and having them delivered to your hotel since you can enjoy free shipping to addresses in the country!
KALDI is a company specializing in the import and sale of coffee beans, foodstuff, and alcoholic drinks; and also manages retail shops named KALDI COFFEE FARM, restaurants, and cafes. In 2017, the brand is launching eight types of fukubukuros in four categories, namely shokuhin (食品) i.e. foodstuff, moheji (もへじ) i.e. Japanese-style condiments and snacks, wine (ワイン), and coffee (コーヒー), which will be sold on the first business day of the new year. (Japanese only) Each set will come with hand carry bags of different designs as shown in the photo above.
Details of the contents of each set are listed below and all quoted prices are inclusive of tax:
- Shokuhin Fukubukuro (3,500 yen)
- Moheji Fukubukuro (2,000 yen)
- Coffee Fukubukuro (1,700 yen) – contains New Year blend, Jewelry blend, and Kilimanjaro blend
- Coffee Fukubukuro Kodawari Set i.e. preference set (2,700 yen) – contains Blue Mountain blend, Woman’s Hand Fair Trade Guatemala, premium mocha blend, and New Year blend
- Coffee Fukubukuro Zeitaku Set i.e. luxury set (5,000 yen) – contains Blue Mountain No.1, Mocha Mattari, and Hyakunenki Coffee i.e. hundred-year tree coffee
- Wine Fukubukuro CH.&A. Prieur Grand Prieur Millesime Brut (2,800 yen)
- Wine Fukubukuro Tenuta Oliveto Brunello di Montalcino (3,000 yen)
- Wine Fukubukuro Chateau Malescot Saint-Exupery (5,000 yen)
Although the food and moheji fukubukuros are available at all the KALDI COFFEE FARM shops, the premium coffee and wine fukubukuros are only sold at selected shops so do refer to KALDI’s website before visiting their stores. The first business day and operation hours for the outlets can be found here (Japanese only). Each customer is allowed to purchase only one set of each type of fukubukuro.
As you usher 2017 in Japan, how about trying your luck at these shops and seeing if you can get the special bargain deals which are only available during this time of the year? Although it is likely that you have to wake up early on New Year’s Day to jostle with the crowds, it will be a memorable experience to start the year with some special retail therapy which you probably won’t forget for a long time!