lucky bag

We purchase a Starbucks Lucky Bag, makes us look at the big picture

A New Year’s Tradition in Japan is the fukubukuro (lucky bag) sold in most businesses in the country. Basically it’s a bag full of merchandise sold at a fixed price, but the catch is you don’t know what’s inside. For example, last your our reporter waited eight days to get an Apple fukurobuko only to get some measly accessories, while the guy in line behind him scored a MacBook Air (don’t worry the story had a happy ending, and this year turned out a lot better).

This year our food reporter Kuzo got a Starbucks lucky bag in hopes of some high quality coffee and related gear. Did fortune smile on him? Let’s find out.

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This Apple store gave away 15 Macbook Airs, stacks of iPads and accessories in “lucky bags” this morning

It’s January 2 here in Japan, and for most major stores and savvy consumers alike, that can mean only one thing: fukubukuro! Literally meaning “lucky bag”, fukubukuro give stores a chance to bundle items together – some great, some not so great – to sell off at a massively discounted rate and make room for incoming stock. The catch? Customers have no idea what they’re buying until after they’ve handed over their cash. Usually, though, they get far more than what they pay for.

For larger companies like Apple, lucky bags are also a great opportunity to drum up a little additional publicity and get people lining up outside their stores hoping for the chance to buy one. Ever the Mac and iPhone fan, our reporter extraordinaire Mr. Sato was there to grab some swag for himself.

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2013 Lucky Bag Fail Update: A Happy Ending! (Brought to you by Acer)

You might recognize this beaming face standing in front of the Shibuya Apple store, deliriously waving a t-shirt in the air. After standing in line and living on the streets for eight days in a quest for a lucky bag containing a MacBook Air, our hero was disappointed to find that his efforts were fruitless; the best item in the lucky bag he received was an iPod nano and a grey t-shirt.

Disappointed and exhausted, he consoled himself, sighing, “I like the Acer that I already have and I probably wouldn’t have been able to figure out how to use a MacBook Air…” He trudged home, defeated and MacBook Airless.

But this story has a happy ending! Here is our hero’s account of the events that transpired after his epic 2013 Apple lucky bag fail:

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2013 Lucky Bag Fail: “I waited in line for eight days and all I got was a stupid iPod nano…and a T-shirt”

Our reporter, Mr. Tashiro, is a man of great patience. He waited in front of the Shibuya Apple Store from December 25th until January 2nd in order to be the first one in line to purchase the 2013 Apple fukubukoro.  Also known as “lucky bags”, fukubukuro are bags filled with mystery items that are sold at a fixed price at the beginning of each year. It’s a clever way for stores to get rid of excess merchandise, but if you’re one of the lucky ones, you’ll score a great deal on items that far exceed the price you paid. 

Hoping to score a MacBook Air for 33,000 yen (US $377 and the price of this year’s Apple fukubukoro), Mr. Tashiro spent eight freezing days in front of the Apple store and gave up his Christmas and New Year’s for a chance to snag a grand prize lucky bag.

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Unhappy New Year! Unlucky Bags Set to Be Sold This Holiday at Village Vanguard

An annual custom across Japan is the sale of fukubukuro (lucky bags), which are huge bags of assorted products from a store usually hidden from the buyer’s sight until purchase.  Surprises can range from Apple goods to children’s clothing to kitchenware.

Although it’s a really fun idea in theory, many are uncomfortable putting their purchasing power in the hands of lady luck when they can just choose what they want.  Others point out that while the total cost of items is a bargain, much of what you get are things you really don’t want.

Village Vanguard, a chain of stores known in Japan for their counter-culture merchandise such as “Homo” figurines, came up with a novel way of remedying lucky bag blues with their line-up of “unlucky bags” which ensure disappointment. It’s a brilliant idea considering when you buy into an unlucky bag, your luck can only improve from there.

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