For the most part, the Japanese are very civil. They stand quietly and patiently in neat lines and are excellent to each other. Until this time of year. This is when things get ugly.
Right now, in the right places, all rules are suspended and the older the lady is, the more violent she gets.
This season features New Year’s sales that, in Japan, come in the form of what I like to call Fukubukuro Fighting (That’s Foo Coo Boo Coo Row, not F@#k You Buckaroo, although that latter is more appropriate.) Fukubukuro translates to “Lucky Bag” or “Mystery Bag” and it actually represents a kind of gambling.
Basically, all the major chain stores, and few boutiques, divide all last year’s fashions and random things into sealed bags that are then sold for set prices. The contents are usually close in value (if not a little more) the price, which are typically 10,000 yen. Some stores, however, have special bags that might contain more expensive goods. For example, the Apple Store in Ginza sells it’s bags for 35,000 yen and one might contain a MacBook Air or an iPad.
The most popular stores bring the biggest crowds and the biggest rush. TV news shows groups of women and their pack mules (sons, boyfriends, husbands, etc) planning their shopping attack with military like precision: “First we rush to XYZ on the fifth floor for their bag. If anyone gets in your way, crush, just crush them. After that proceed directly to ZYX Cutie on the second floor for their bag. The pack mule will provide a blocker. SHOW NO MERCY! And, Pack Mule, don’t let those other b#@tches steal anything out of your hands. And don’t forget to give me your cash.”
It’s typical for someone to get knocked down and injured or trampled lightly and for at least one table to devolve into a tug-of-war between women, especially if there’s only a couple bags left. I’m a sixth level black belt in Karate, and I’m afraid to get involved in this level of shopping.
After the violence, there then begins what I call the Great Exchange. People open their bags and either celebrate or sigh. They sort out what they want and then try to trade what they don’t want with others who have unwanted things. (I should note that bags from fashion shops are usually sold by size so almost everything should fit, if the women are honest about their sizes…)
After this brief rest, the pack mules load up and carry the goods home.