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Let me first say that I have mispronounced and misspelled this word so many times and so many ways that I have to apologize to friends and family who have had to endure this since I first learned the word a few weeks ago. I think now I have finally got it right. But I certainly won’t promise that I will remember for next year’s Fukubukuro 2015.

Fukubukuro is a Japanese New Years custom where merchants stuff grab bags, called “Lucky Bags” with merchandise worth more than the cost of the contents of the bag. On New Year’s Day, people flock to the malls and stores and many times stand in long lines to get these “Lucky Bags.” Two days before New Year’s Day I went with a friend to “shop” the Lucky Bags, finding out what was to be inside them so we would know which store(s) had bags with merchandise we wanted. Depending on the store and the contents, Lucky Bags could be purchased for (the Japanese equivalent of approximately) $10, $20, $30 and up with the most expensive bag I saw (at a watch store) sold for $1000 which is about 100000 yen.

Since we couldn’t read the Japanese description of what was in each bag, we asked the store clerk. Between his limited understanding of English, our limited understanding of Japanese and a great deal of gesturing and pointing we learned that the $100 bag would contain either 2 men’s watches or 1 men’s and 1 women’s watch worth a minimum of $315. We thought that sounded like a good deal until he gestured that the lines would be very long…from the way his finger moved back and forth, forward and back, I immediately had an image of the lines for the Space Mountain ride at Disney World! Ugh…don’t want the watches that badly.

We checked out a kitchen/bath store, enjoyed looking around, but did not get any information about their Lucky Bags. But we did get lucky. We found a kiosk in the middle of the mall with all sorts of yummy goods from a bakery in Nagano. We each bought a stuffed pastry moose (stuffed with chocolate) and rabbit (stuffed with crème) and a loaf of chocolate “book” bread – very delicious.

I did finally find the Lucky Bag I wanted the next day at a different mall with my husband. The store specializes in authentic Japanese items from chopsticks and bento boxes to Furoshiki (gift-wrapping clothes) to kitchen items and more. I have purchased several gifts from the store and could spend a fortune there easily. My good friends who are from Hawaii, but speak and can read Japanese pretty impressively knew I was interested in that store’s Lucky Bags so they read the contents of the bag and shared the information with me. My Fukubukuro destination was set!

Luckily, I woke up New Year’s Day rather early although I refused to set my alarm clock to get up in time to make the 9:00 mall opening. Mixed emotions of excitement and dread (I picture the Black Friday chaos in the U.S.) kept me a little on edge and a little reluctant to hurry. But we did arrive at the mall before 10 a.m. The parking lots were full, but now and then you could see people leaving and a parking spot would open up. My husband dropped me off (he wasn’t as excited about the Lucky Bag as me). I cut through the grocery store and made my way to the entrance of the mall. The first thing I saw was a line, winding back and forth guided by those line divider ropes. However, the people were very quiet, waiting patiently for the line to move. Lucky again – the line wasn’t for “my” store! Yay – I kept on walking.

My store wasn’t far and when it came into view, I almost jumped for joy – there was NO line! The beautiful Lucky Bags were wrapped in pastel colored Furoshiki (a gift by itself) and you could choose between 3 different sets of contents. I selected my Lucky Bag, paid for my purchase and was back outside within 10 minutes. I think it took longer than that for my husband and I to find each other in the parking lot! My bag consisted of a matching set of rice bowls and tea cups, 2 large Furoshiki, candy commemorating 2014 as the year of the horse, a quilted Japanese apron, coin purse, tote bag, cell phone charm, 2 matching serving (rice?) bowls and serving plate, green tea, handkerchief/towel, and place mat (see picture).
I love Fukubukuro!

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