How much junk is the right amount of junk?

Now that Christmas is over and done with, it’s the season of the Lucky Bag. Anyone familiar with Japan will be aware of the lucky bag tradition — at the beginning of the year, stores offer shoppers bags filled with miscellaneous goods at a greatly reduced price. The only catch? You often can’t see what’s inside the bag, so lucky bags can be something of a fun little gamble. Sometimes you can end up with something unexpectedly awesome, but equally you could end up with a bag of crap.

Village Vanguard lucky bags in particular are always a huge gamble, as the store tends to specialise in unconventional goods and novelty items, so there’s really no telling what you might end up with. Our reporter P.K. Sanjun actually bought seven lucky bags last year but unfortunately they contained mostly useless gag items that were pretty disappointing.

▼ Last year’s Village Vanguard lucky bag contents. On the left, decent products. On the right, junk.

But last year’s heartache won’t stop P.K. from trying again — that’s the fun of lucky bags, after all! This year, there were ten different lucky bag tiers to choose from, and P.K. decided to get the Black 10,000 yen (US$76.27) Bag, which was actually 11,000 yen after tax.

Unlike some other stores that advertise what will be going into their lucky bags beforehand, Village Vanguard leaves customers completely in the dark, so P.K. was feeling a little excited. What would be waiting for him in the bag?

P.K.’s 2023 Village Vanguard lucky bag included a karaoke microphone, a balancing toy, a backpack chair, a cushion, some Pop Tubes and some sort of grilled sandwich maker. A pretty eclectic mix of products, as expected of Village Vanguard, but how much of it was actually worth anything?

First off, the grilled sandwich maker. This was definitely the highlight of the lucky bag, as by itself it would have cost 3,980 yen — almost half of the total P.K. paid for the bag. The full title of the product is the “Anyway, I just crushed it and grilled it” toaster, and it’s allegedly “the final evolution in grilled sandwich makers”. It got two thumbs up from P.K.

Next up, the backpack chair and cushion. While they’re perfectly functional, P.K. can’t really think of any situation where he’d need to use either of them. Still, at least they work, so maybe he can flog them on eBay or something. They’re junk items, but just barely.

On the other hand, the karaoke microphone and the balancing block game fall very firmly in the ‘junk’ category. Maybe some people would be excited to get a microphone, but P.K. reckons more people would follow the “when would I ever use this?’ train of thought.

Finally, the Pop Tubes. Unequivocally, irrevocably, absolute junk. The packaging says you can “bend it, stretch it, connect it!” and that there are “endless ways to play!” but all P.K. could think was “…so what?”

It might be a hit with kids, but we aren’t sure what kind of kids are going around dropping 10,000 yen on a Village Vanguard lucky bag, so who knows.

So, like last year, the 2023 Village Vanguard bag contained mostly useless junk. But that’s not what P.K was most disappointed about — after all, he had been burned by Village Vanguard lucky bags in the past, so he knew what he was signing up for.

No, what P.K. was the most disappointed about was the lack of a huge stuffed animal toy.

P.K. bought the Village Vanguard 10,000 yen lucky bags in 2018, 2019 and 2020, and every year without fail there was a comically large stuffed animal toy included amongst the other junk products.

And don’t get him wrong — P.K. puts these stuffed toy animals very firmly in the junk category, but there’s no denying it’s kind of hilarious to open up a bag to see a huge stuffed animal looking back at you. Macho kangaroos, eagles in flight…

▼ … and cows.

So even if the rest of the lucky bag contents are junk, just having a random stuffed animal toy kind of makes it all okay. After all, if there’s one thing we know how to do here at SoraNews24, it’s how to have fun with a giant stuffed animal toy.

There are nine other kinds of Village Vanguard lucky bags left for P.K. to grab, so fingers crossed there’s an oversized stuffed toy or two amongst them, or next year P.K will be forced to blow his money on something else, like a huge meal with 80 mussels.

Photos: ©SoraNews24
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