Why I Say No to Fukubukuro, Japanese “Lucky Bags”

The end of December brings the announcement of lots of retail shop’s Fukubukuro 「福袋」, often called Lucky Bags or Happy Bags. If you are not familiar with the concept, these are bags of goodies that have a set price to them and most of the time you don’t know what you are going to get inside but the price is a LOT cheaper than you would normally pay for items at that store which is an incentive for people who like that particular store. People wake up early on January 1st or January 2nd depending on what the shops open and rush to get these discounted bags of goodies, kind of like Black Friday in the west. Nowadays though, a lot of brands let you pre-order the bags from the comfort of your home and allow you to reserve at the store to reduce the rush of shoppers at the beginning of the year.

I focus on clothes in this post, but stores like Starbucks and Lush also do these types of things as well. Each store has a different type of lucky bag; some stores only tell you how many items are in the bag, some tell you the types of items (like a sweater, dress, top, etc.), some will tell you 1 of the items (like a coat) that you can pick the color but the other items are a secret, and some stores will only tell you the equivalent of what the content would cost at normal price. And the best ones, in my opinion, are the ones that tell you most everything in the bag like a discounted set.

When I first came to Japan I was fascinated with these bags and I bought a bunch the first few years I lived here. I was all about those discounted clothes! But… as the years rolled on I began to notice I wouldn’t even use half of the clothes I got in those bags; I would pick out a few good pieces and the rest would be sitting in packaging over the years. I can’t even remember how many cheap winter coats I got and wore about 1 time before stuffing it into the back of my closet.

Why did this happen? I really did like those brands! Well, the downside to these lucky bags is this is many retailers’ way of getting rid of dead stock and things that didn’t sell through the year or even years previous. One year in particular, this was made VERY clear to me through my favorite brand Noela. In January 2016 I ordered a happy bag from there and when it arrived I opened it only to be disappointed that it was basically ALL clothes that I wouldn’t have worn. I had the epiphany I had spent about ¥11,000 yen (about $110 USD) and not 1 piece was really wearable and I could have used that money to buy just 1 piece from the same brand that I loved and would have used a lot. That was the beginning of not buying happy bags anymore (especially clothes) and I haven’t since then from what I can remember.

Now, if happy bags are in your budget and you like bargain hunting then its a great opportunity! BUT if you are more like me and like to invest in just a few good pieces than happy bags are not the thing for you. So, my recommendation before you buy happy bags is to consider if you want to gamble that money (because its essentially what it is) or make sure to pick happy bags that explain the contents more so that you are sure what you are spending your money on.

Have you bought a happy bag before? Did you get anything good in it? Let me know in the comments below!


2 thoughts on “Why I Say No to Fukubukuro, Japanese “Lucky Bags”

  1. I totally agree with you. I also bought lucky bags for the first few years when I first came to Japan but everytime I got poorly made very ugly and plain clothes despite the brand usually having more interesting clothes but not for the lucky bags. Also the coat from a lucky bag started pilling like crazy after only wearing it once! Which was very shocking. So after that I stopped buying lucky bags. Another reason to avoid lucky bags is you cannot know what material the clothes are made of, and these days I have stopped buying polyester and synthetic fiber clothing, its bad for both the health and environment as plastic ends up piled in landfills! Lucky bags are a waste of money and a waste environmentally. Japan has great sales during January at clothing stores so it is better to get sales and pick out clothes you actually like and that way one can check to see what the material is made out of too to pick natural fiber stuff. I got some 100 percent cotton, linen and hemp clothes from sales this January to replace polyester stuff after I became aware about polyester and fast fashion a few months ago.


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