It just wouldn’t be New Year’s without a bag of junk.

For nearly a decade now, Mr. Sato has made a yearly pilgrimage to the junk shops of Akihabara for a lucky bag, known as a “fukubukuro” in Japanese. These are sold in most stores and restaurants in Japan and contain an assortment of goods and sometimes gift certificates at a discount.

However, nowadays most businesses reveal the contents of the lucky bag to customers, thus eliminating the aspect of “luck.” Akihabara junk shops, on the other hand, make no guarantees not only on what’s inside but on whether or not the contents even work.

▼ And even then there are other factors, like if they’re compatible with modern devices or if you really like Hot Shots Golf 3.

Akihabara has been undergoing some downsizing in recent years and this has become especially apparent in the once vast ecosystem of junk shops that have dwindled year on year. Mr. Sato planned on visiting the same shop as last year only to find that it too had gone extinct.

He still managed to find one, but unlike previous years’ offerings of bags of junk for upwards of 10,000 yen (US$77) the priciest one he could this time find was for 4,000 yen ($31) at a shop called Graffiti that sells rebuilt computers and appliances.

This one gave a description of its contents which was rather vague but promised a portable DVD player that was “confirmed operational” as well as some mobile phone and PC supplies.

Although not quite as grand as years past, Mr. Sato still felt that rush of not knowing what he’d end up with. Junk shops truly are the gambler’s choice when it comes to fukubukuro in that they’re capable of anything.

And like others, this bag was firmly sealed with staples and Scotch tape to preserve the mystery.

After cracking it open, his eyes were immediately drawn to the bright pink USB charger on top but the rest was too chaotic to make out without emptying the bag.

There wasn’t a whole lot of stuff in this bag, but that’s OK since most of the space was taken up by the portable DVD player. Getting a portable DVD player for 4,000 yen wasn’t such a bad deal and the additional items were just the junk cherries on top.

Upon closer inspection, Mr. Sato had gotten a microUSB charger. Thanks to the advent of relatively universal ports, it seems the days of getting an adapter that only works on 2007 model Docomo phones is over. And even though all of Mr. Sato’s devices use Lightning or USB Type-C cables, that can be easily overcome with an adapter.

Next was a pack of reusable fruit-shaped ice cubes. They were certainly stylish and who doesn’t like a cold drink?

It was actually rather nice for something sold at a junk shop but upon closer inspection, there was a note that read “dent” implying that these were damaged goods.

Our writer had to look around quite a bit to find out what it was referring to. He probably never even would have noticed the damage unless the note pointed it out.

There was also a slick-looking smartphone case for a Huawei P40 that was made of 100-percent genuine aramid fiber. It was so nice that Mr. Sato promised himself he’d give it to the next person he met who had that very specific model of phone.

Also included was a Personal Ion Generator that can be worn around the neck. Mr. Sato had no idea why he would need a Personal Ion Generator, but you can never have too many ions so it was nice to be able to generate some on the go.

All in all, it was a pretty good assortment of gear from this year’s junk shop lucky bag. But everything so far paled in comparison to the main event — the portable DVD player!

This was what made the bag worth its weight in electronics. And quite rare for a junk shop item, it even came with all its parts such as an adapter, AV cables, and a remote control.

And before you go guffawing at how nobody watches DVDs anymore, it also has USB and SD card ports to watch all kinds of video files.

Mr. Sato grabbed the first USB stick he could find and tried it out. The photos on the stick all showed up on the screen like a charm.

However, when he tried to play a video file only the sound came out. The image was just stuck on the DBPOWER logo screen. 

That might have just been the file type. Perhaps this particular device couldn’t read mp4 files properly. Next he tried out a proper DVD.

▼ “There is no disc.”

It appears that this portable DVD player didn’t play DVDs after all. Afterward, Mr. Sato popped in a CD and it worked fine, so this was more of a portable music player in the end. You can’t blame the shop either because their confirmation that this DVD player was “operational” was correct. It just wasn’t “fully operational.”

And so, Mr. Sato’s 2023 gamble wasn’t a total win but wasn’t a total loss either. That’s just how they roll in Akihabara: You take the good. You take the bad. You take them both and there you have the junk shop lucky bag.

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[ Read in Japanese ]