Friday, January 7, 2011

Variety Friday: A Tale of 3 Fukubukuro

Those who have been reading this blog for awhile may recall that "fukubukuro" are bags full of surprise items (in most cases) that are sold in Japan around the New Year. The total value of the items in the bag are supposed to be exceed what you paid for them. The translation of "fukubukuro" is "lucky bag" or "happy bag". In past years, I've purchased these from Mr. Donut and Starbucks.

This year, we weren't sure where we were going to get our fukubukuro, but we decided to investigate some places further afield on January 1 in order to find something new. Unfortunately, we found that it was a dry run through Shinjuku for the most part. Electronics shops (Bic Camera and Yodobashi) were open and loudly selling fukubukuro, but they didn't offer much of appeal. Most of theirs were accessories for digital cameras, video cameras, iPods, and iPads. The contents were surprises but fit a theme.

It turned out that January 3rd was the best day for finding fukubukuro as shops had opened that had been closed, and our local options were pretty good. In fact, they were so good that we ended up with three of them. The first was from Baskin Robbins ice cream. The two young women pictured above were trekking up and down the local shopping street carrying a basket full of them. Each was 1000 yen ($12.20) and quite small. The girls were almost peculiarly delighted when we bought one. I wonder if they were sent out into the cold and told to sell the whole basket or die trying.

We didn't expect actual ice cream, but we did expect coupons to purchase ice cream.As you can see from the picture above (click any picture to see a bigger version), we got a couple of 500-yen coupons so we get back the entire value of the "lucky bag" in ice cream. We also got a snoopy mug, a couple of ice cream magnets, and an ice cream cone cell phone strap. The other items are a list of shops and brochures for Baskin Robbins products. All in all, this is a decent investment in a Fukubukuro provided that you were going to buy some ice cream anyway. The little bag is cloth and can be reused as a tote.

The second bag that we bought was from a supermarket called Peacock. It's part of a chain of shops, but it's not especially common. This one cost 2000 yen ($24.40). If you bought all of these items separately in the shop, undoubtedly they would cost more than 2000 yen.

The items it contained (from left) are: reduced salt soy sauce, roasted seaweed, shrimp snacks, squid- and sweet-sake-flavored rice crackers, Chinese soup mix, green tea, hot pepper and garlic paste (for cooking), tea bags, drip coffee with paper filter system, ground coffee, animal crackers, seaweed rice crackers, and chocolate cookies.

Mainly, the shrimp and squid snacks, and roasted seaweed are not very good for either of us since we're not fans of seafood flavors. The coffee, tea, and cookies are all of use, and I expect we can use the garlic/hot pepper paste, soy sauce, and Chinese soup mixes (though we've never tried them before). I'm going to be giving away the extra items to someone who I know likes them.

The final bag from the snack shop was probably the smallest gamble as it was from Okashi no Machioka snack shop. Even stuff which I might not normally buy would be blogging fodder from this bag. However, a lot of this is stuff I wouldn't buy of my own volition. I guess that either makes it good or bad as it'll push me to try new snacks, or make me sample food I wouldn't really want to eat. All I know is that it's going to take a very, very long time to eat all of this. I'm actually grateful that many of these are very small packages of a half ounce (14 grams, or less). This one also cost 1000 yen ($12.20) and also probably represented the smallest overall value. Certainly all of these items would cost more than 1000 yen if purchased separately, but not that much more. A lot of the items in the front are kid's snacks which would cost between 20-40 yen each.

The contents are (from left):
back "row": Mayonnaise and cheese Pringles, Toppo pretzels filled with chestnut cream, maple pie cookies, Shrimp rice crackers, Toy Story 3 chocolate-covered crunchy snacks
2nd "row": Heart chocolate-covered peanuts, "cheese fondue" Cratz pretzels with almonds, Milky petit (salty milk?) candies
3rd "row": vacuum-packed chestnuts, "fried potato" snack (more like a weird chip), fluffy brown sugar "stick" called "fu-bo-san taro", Chip Chop crispy chocolate snacks with chocolate filling
front "row": cabbage Taro salted snacks, "Big Katsu" fried snack, "new mochi" Taro snack, and "corn Taro".

I've already reviewed some of these things, but most are new to me.

I reviewed the Big Katsu here:

I reviewed the corn taro (as part of a big pack) here:

And I talked about the cabbage taro and fu-bo san taro here (as part of another big pack):

In terms of "value", the supermarket bag easily represents the best value overall, but it is still a gamble. For snackers, I'd definitely say grab the Okashi no Machioka bag next year if you can. There's enough in it to make the value worthwhile and unless you've very picky, you'll get your money's worth out of the bag.


Uniflame said...

I wish I lived in Japan! All these snacks! And this tradition sounds great. I have never heard of it that they do that here in the Netherlands.

bingata744 said...

These are fun aren't they? Wish I could be there at the beginning of the new year to get one or a couple of these. Always enjoy your postings.

bmgsrave said...

I usually order one online every couple of years (mainly posters and magazines or little toys etc). Currently I awaiting one for Hobby Link Japan and it will be my 'biggest' lucky bag so far (and probably my biggest gamble as well!!!

Thanks for this post!!!

Orchid64 said...

Thanks to all of you for taking the time to read and comment! I really appreciate it!

I enjoyed these bags a lot, but am currently a little overwhelmed with all of the food! I did try the garlic/hot pepper "paste" on a baked potato (one of the recommended uses on the manufacturer's site) and it was delicious. The bits of garlic and pepper are suspended in the same sort of hot sesame oil that is served with gyoza (potstickers). So, I tried something new that was good as a result of these bags, if nothing else!

Sherry said...

I cant see it clearly since I'm using my phone, but I think that garlic hot pepper paste stuff is really popular right now and sells for about 700-800 yen depending on where you find it. My co-op recently had it for 700 and limited the amount you could order because it is in such demand. To get it in the bag really was lucky, although I personally won't buy any of those bags.

Orchid64 said...

I read recently that it is very popular and is called taberu rayu. I didn't know it was in short supply (though I did know it was in high demand). It's good, but not so great that I'd pay 700 yen for it!

I thought I'd never buy those bags either, but I'm glad I did. The whole mystery aspect is fun, and with food fukubukuro, you're pretty certain to get something useful.

The Magical World of Jacqueline said...

Neat blog! I got my first lucky bag a few years ago off the strap ya website. I would love to try those may pringles lol. How were they?

The Magical World of Jacqueline said...

Neat blog! I got my first lucky bag a few years ago off the strap ya website. I would love to try those may pringles lol. How were they?

sam said...

FUCK yeah, will be in japan another consecutive year for the greatest country to celebrate the new year