What is Fukubukuro? (The Japanese Custom)

fukubukuro

Fukubukuro (aka happy grab bag, lucky bag) is one of many traditions that have been adopted in Hawaii.  In this post, I’ll be sharing a brief background of what fukubukuro is, and some of my tips and tricks if you happen to participate in this exciting event!

If you love to shop and you love surprises, then you’ll love to hear about this Japanese custom called fukubukuro!

There are many generations of Japanese who are locals living in Hawaii, and there are many Japanese tourist who visit the islands at all times of the year.  With this frequent blending of cultures, it’s only natural that there would be a heavy influence of Japanese culture and lifestyle that is a part of living in Hawaii.

Fukubukuro takes place on January 1st!  Yes, that’s New Years Day!  And as far as I’m aware, there are two major shopping malls that participate in fukubukuro in Honolulu, the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center and Ala Moana Shopping Center.

Basically, fukubukuro is like Black Friday on a smaller scale – select stores participate, and people line up and wait for the store to open!  Simple, right?!  😉

WAIT!  There’s a catch…you knew it was coming!

You don’t know what’s inside the bag you’re buying!  It’s a surprise!

The price of the contents of the bag, is around 50% of what the contents are worth.  For example, you might pay $25 for a bag that has a $50+ value.  And yes, it’s still a surprise and you don’t know what’s going to be in the bag!  That’s why it’s so exciting!

Let me describe my experience!

I can’t remember exactly how I came upon this event.  I must have been walking around the mall a few years ago doing some post holiday shopping, when I happened to walk by a sign.  I got REALLY curious about what this event was, and did some research on the mall’s website to see if they had a listing with the participating stores.  Honestly, quite a few of the participating stores that I was interested in back then were of the high end, luxury variety.  But, there were also a list of more affordable stores that probably had items of reasonable prices.  Gotta have something for everyone!

After looking through the list and thoroughly weighing my options, I decided that I wanted to try my luck with the Salvatore Ferragamo store.  I’m not much of a risk taker…especially when I could be putting money into something I could potentially be completely unhappy with.  Because of their classic, timeless pieces, I thought this would be a relatively safe bet on getting something I liked.  Plus, I thought that if I really didn’t like what I ended up with, I could try to list it online to see if someone else might buy it from me.

I arrived at the store about half an hour before the stores opened and found several people waiting outside.  On my walk over to Ferragamo, I saw people lining up outside the other participating stores.  Some lines were LONG!  (Gucci, Victoria’s Secret, Lego)  And luckily, since there are only a number of prepackaged fukubukuro bags for purchase, the store associates informed the people in line.  For example, some stores might package 25 bags for the event – so if there were 25+ people in line, they were informed that the store may sell out of the bags before everyone had a chance to pick one up.  People were able to make their way to other stores they were interested in, where they might have a better chance at getting a bag!

Once the doors opened, there was a quick walk over to a small area where the store put all of their fukubukuro bags together.  If I recall correctly there were maybe 15-20 bags that were set aside.

This is where the guessing part comes in!  You can’t look inside!  Basically, you pick your bag based on how heavy the bag feels.

And I was right!  Ferragamo was a great choice, and I absolutely love the purse that I ended up with and still use it today!  It also came with a small card holder, which I ended up listing on eBay.  For transparency, I’ll admit that I coughed up a good $500 for my selection.  But, if this bag sells for around 50% of the value of the contents AND I got a card case, I’m thinking it was probably worth at least $1100-$1200.

On my way out, I decided to stop by a few other stores just to check out the price of their fukubukuro bags.  I picked up another bag from a hair salon for $20 that had Kerastase and Shu Uemura hair products!  I felt like that was a great deal!

Anyway, the truth of fukubukuro is – you may not get as lucky, and pick up a surprise bag with contents you’ll like, just by chance!  To be honest, this happened the second time I went to fukubukuro (the following year), but I made back what I spent on the items by selling them online – so I didn’t feel so bad!

Would I do it again?  FOR SURE!  Not sure I’ll check out a designer store again, but there are a lot of other great stores that I would be willing to pay $20 for some goodies!  🙂

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2 thoughts on “What is Fukubukuro? (The Japanese Custom)

  1. A River Lily says:

    I’ve gotten the Kate Spade fukubukuro for the past two, and although it’s been worth it for me, I think I’ve spent enough. Haha! Did you see their line at Ala Moana this year? Insanity…

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    • the.nitta.notes says:

      I know! It definitely adds up with the higher end stores – 50% off is still pricey! I didn’t participate this year, and by the time I went to the mall it was in the afternoon. Some of the stores still had bags left! Saw some at T&C and I think somewhere else, but I didn’t pick anything up. Good luck if you decide to go next year!

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