Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Happy Bags

There are minor phenomenons that I see in daily Japanese life that are odd or unusual or strange to my way of life and/or thinking. And I always mean to expound upon them here. But doing so can be time-consuming, especially when I'm trying to live a life here. So I haven't had much opportunity to write about my experiences all that much. But one thing I saw over the holidays were Happy Bags.

Happy Bags, or Fortune Bags, Lucky Bags, or Pleasure Bags, are basically grab bags put out by Japanese retail shops after the new year. Since there's no big shopping day between Thanksgiving and Christmas as in the US, I guess most of the sales happen over the New Year's holiday, which basically begins after Christmas and runs until about the 4th of January. But these aren't the standard $2 grab bags you see all over the States. Some of these bags can cost you over $150. Clothing stores, boutiques, and even jewelry stores offer Happy Bags. And you never know what's in them. Obviously, most clothing stores post the size of clothing on the outside of the bag and they keep it uniform for gender, so you don't end up buying a bra for a guy or something like that. Well, usually.

These bags are also nice in that the value is usually a minimum of 3 time the price of the bag. Ana, Damien, and I bought Happy Bags from a boutique/hippie shop in downtown Kyoto. The girl there gave us options of various kinds, so Damien and I took the curtains, and Ana took one with a bag or purse thingy in it. When we got home, we were in for quite a surprise. The contents of my "men's clothing and curtains" Happy Bag was this: one tiny ladies' print shirt with leaves and little elephants, a ladies' scarf, an ashtray, a tiny leather purse, a small belt or waist thingy made of string and seashells, and some curtains. Oh, and a funky day-glo Indian sticker. It only cost me about $10, and the curtains alone went for 3 times that price. So I made out ok, but I have all these girl's clothes, and the shirt doesn't even fit me. Damien and Ana both got girls' pants, complete with a flowered skirt sewn onto the outside. Surprisingly enough, they fit Damien, so they dressed up and we went to the convenience store near the hostel for some drinks. The cashiers couldn't help laughing and staring at Dam-o and his flowered skirt/pants.

A friend of Ana and myself came out much better. For about $100, he got roughly $400 worth of clothes, and all of them fit him. I'm debating the purchase of another Happy Bag, but this time from a shop I know and trust not to give me a bra or something this time around.

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