Can't see BlogTV?
This video (5 min, Japanese and English subtitles) contains so much fast action that it can hardly be captured on screen. Due to the rapid motion, the compression is poor and the original source has a pause due to a transmission problem. But the material is sufficiently compelling that I am presenting it despite these problems. The content has a combination of the factors that make it interesting culturally and linguistically. It has colloquial conversations between people of radically different social status, allowing us to see how the different levels of speech work in practice. We also see a traditional Japanese social custom, in the most modern, trendy context.
In the wee hours of the morning on January second, in front of the hyper-fashionable Shibuya 109 building, a hundred women rush to a closed storefront and form a queue. Something is afoot. Thus begins our first linguistic confrontation between these sassy lasses and the representative of the company, a single security guard. The guard insists in a polite tone they can not queue here, and the girls shriek their dissapointment at being booted out of the front of the queue. The situation is defused, the queue relocated to a warmer location, near the store's basement entrance. By the time the store is ready to open, 16,000 young women are waiting. The store employees are inside, preparing for the onslaught.
As opening time approaches, the throng of women make the glass doors shake as if they are about to burst, and as the doors are opened, a few fearless men stand in between the women and the elevators, linking arms, and yelling at them not to run. But their safety warnings go unheeded, and they are swept right up elevator with the rest of the crowd. Nobody could withstand such a force. The women run into the shops and now we see their goal: fukubukuro, grab bags. Fukubukuro literally translates to "lucky bag" and uses an amusing pair of nearly-rhyming words, fuku means luck, and bukuro means bag. They want their lucky bags, and nothing will stop them.
On the first day of sales of the new year, stores will clear old inventory by filling grab bags with their signature merchandise. Nobody knows what their bag will contain, but since the store's reputation is contained in each bag, there is intense competition to get to the trendiest stores first, and snatch the bags from the best stores before the other girls. Saleswomen toss the bags through the air, and shout through megaphones, enticing the buyers to the point it nearly becomes a riot. A lone man expresses his worry for his daughter, they were separated in the crowd and he fears for her safety. He does not understand the madhouse scene, it was far worse than he expected, and worries that it represents materialism run amok. And most certainly it does. Perhaps he does understand. And as quickly as the crowd arrived, they pay for their bags and run outdoors to rip open their prize and see what they have received. The women compare their goods, one woman complains she could only buy 7 bags because that was all she could carry. Another woman is so excited she starts dressing in her new clothes right out in the street in the cold morning air, and the other women giggle as she tries to wriggle her butt into a pair of pants that are a bit too small. Some women are more satisfied than others, as the value of goods varies from bag to bag. But that is not why these women are here. One woman, when asked what is the best part of buying fukubukuro, says "oshiai," the competition. Another woman shows her torn coatsleeve, ripped during the battle, and she laughs and waves it like a battle flag. But despite the mixed results, everyone has gotten what they came for, the excitement of competition, and the opportunity to rip and slash their way through the trendiest places in Shibuya. The prizes may be inexpensive, but some experiences are beyond value.