Fukubukuro: Grab bag or mystery bag containing unidentified items and sold at a substantial discount. Literally “lucky bag.” From Japanese fuku (“lucky”) and fukuro (“bag”); fukuro changes to bukuro because of a Japanese morphological phenomenon called rendaku, which affects the initial voicing of consonants.
A Japanese New Year’s custom since the late Meiji period (early 20th century), fukubukuro were introduced by Tokyo’s Ginza Matsuya department store and later spread to other retail establishments. Merchants in Honolulu’s Ala Moana Shopping Center adopted the tradition in 2004, and many Sanrio stores in the United States observe it as well.
A fukubukuro bag is one of the rewards offered by the Kickstarter campaign for a new daily-deals site, Meh.
Meh—an interjection meaning “I’m unimpressed” whose coinage is often attributed to the cartoon character Lisa Simpson—is the deliberately under-promising name for a site whose creators say will “keep it simple and stupid” by presenting a single deal each day:
It may amuse you. It may perform a necessary function in the digestive system of capitalism. Once in a while, it may even offer a kick-ass deal on something you actually want. But it isn't going to change your life, or give you more powerful orgasms.
As for the fukubukuro reward, it’s
a century-old tradition we're borrowing from the Japanese, where people buy crap in bags sight unseen and then are crushed by the inevitable, certain disappointment. (And for this Kickstarter-edition fukubukuro, we created a custom, original, one-page comic that you could call collectible if you have little understanding of that word.)
“The possibilities are literally unlimitless!” the copy concludes with feigned, oh-so-ironic enthusiasm.
Meh is a project of Mediocre Laboratories, whose low-expectations name I wrote about last year. Matt Rutledge, Mediocre’s founder, “founded e-commerce site Woot a decade ago and is generally considered the granddaddy of the daily deal,” writes TechCrunch reporter Ryan Lawler. Amazon bought Woot for $110 million in cash in 2010.