The first few days of the year are always sale time in Japan. Which I guess is the same in many of the world's big cities. What makes Japan a little different is the tradition stores have of selling "Fukubukuro" or "Lucky Bags". These are like a lucky dip because their contents are hidden until you've bought them, but the promise is they will always contain goods worth about double the price paid.

All kind of places, from department stores through to the big brand-name stores have them, and their price can reach exorbitant levels - resulting in some big savings. While the Ginza area attracts much of the attention during the Fukubukuro season the best place to see the modern nature of this tradition is in Tokyo's heart of girl's fashion - the 109 building in Shibuya.As thousands of girls flock to the store, eager to grab bags from their favourite boutiques, they are heldin check by rows of neatly dressed security guards, whose blue uniforms stand in drab contrast to the glitz of J-girl fashion. These men resemble somewhat bemused fathers as they control the crowds of girls young enough to be their daughters.

Eventually the girls re-emerge from the building clutching their booty, and many soon stop to open the bags on the street in front of the store, where the second stage of this Fukubukuro spectacle takes place. Within and around this seven storey cylinder of style the Fukubukuro sale has become much more than an annual sales event, and has evolved into a free-market trading ground resembling the stock exchanges of old. The proper thing to do during Fukubukuro season, is to accept what is inside the bag and take it home, but for the past few years, girls have set up an impromptu market on the sidewalk in front of 109 and swap or sell the unwanted items of clothing they find inside the bags. The frenzied action is fascinating to watch and probably one few places in Tokyo where you can actually haggle on the price of goods. These girls are going against the accepted norm by doing this and some Japanese people I have spoken to think the management of 109 may try to shut down the market next year. But personally I feel the entrepreneurial spirit shown by the girls who started this trend proves the 109 building in Shibuya continues to be the epicentre of change for Japanese women.

My photos can't really capture the mood so please watch the video below.

No comments: