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the best times of the year to shop in Japan

Lucky bags always make January a great time to go shopping in Japan, but it’s the prime dojinshi-buying time for a very different reason.

As he does at the start of every new year, our resident anime fan, Seiji, made a trip to a branch of mega-retailer Animate to pick up one of the chain’s lucky bags (also called fukubukuro) filled with anime trinkets. But even with more than 70 pieces of merch inside, the otaku-shaped hole in Seiji’s heart still wasn’t completely full.

So next, Seiji resolved to get his hands on a lucky bag from Tora no Ana, which specializes in dojinshi, or independently published manga. So imagine how heartbroken he was when he called up the chain’s Akihabara A branch in late December, only to have the employee on the other end of the phone tell him that Tora no Ana doesn’t do lucky bags.

But then something strange happened. After stopping by Kanda Shrine (pictured above and located on the outskirts of Akihabara) to say a New Year’s prayer early in the morning on January 1, Seiji took a stroll through Akihabara, and was surprised to see a long line outside Tora no Ana, even though the store wouldn’t be opening for another hour. Guessing that Tora no Ana had decided to sell fukubukuro at the last minute, he took up a position at the back of the queue, which continued to grow and numbered about 100 people before the doors opened at 8 a.m., two hours earlier than usual for the store.

Since Tora no Ana’s Akihabara A branch has eight floors of merchandise (including one below ground), Seiji figured he’d save himself a lot of walking up stairs by checking the directory to see where they were selling the lucky bags. But even after he carefully read the listings for each floor, he couldn’t find any mention of fukubukuro.

So finally he gave up and asked a salesperson where the fukubukuro were, and got the same answer he’d gotten over the phone: Tora no Ana doesn’t sell any fukubukuro.

So why was there such a big crowd? Because the last day of Winter Comiket, the massive dojinshi fan and creator gathering that takes place in Tokyo, is December 31. Since dojinshi comics and memorabilia are produced in small batches and sold by the producers exclusively at Comiket, January 1 is the first day that the new and coveted dojin items are available only through the second-hand market, such as Tora no Ana.

So while Seiji didn’t get to buy a lucky bag, he was fortunate to be able to get an early crack at dojinshi comics that are going to become increasingly rare from here on out, and with the first post-Comiket weekend coming up, now is the time to hit up Tora no Ana if you couldn’t make it to Comiket but still want some special piece of merch.

Photos ©SoraNews24

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