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What Is a Kuji? And why they are Number one!

  Prior to my my 2015 trip to Japan, I would always shop around conventions and see interesting off the wall merch. with large letters on the front. Sometimes it would be a standard mini figure or blind box, but more interestingly it was often a set of Fate Stay Night Glass wear, or Prince of Tennis wash cloths. With many of these strange items being more on the affordable side than their bizarre highly collectible counterparts (Like the Eva Razor by shick).I was absolutely curios where they were. Inspectiong the packaging further, I was left with more questions than answers. In small print each box said Not for sale. If these Items weren't for sale, Where were they coming from?

A Fate Stay Night Glass with mysterious "I"

  Arriving in Japan in 2015 I was immediately greeted by a large life insurance advertisement. This somewhat morbid concept was not conveyed by a photo of an elderly couple holding hands in the sunlight, or a young woman pushing her mother through a hospital in a wheelchair. Instead it showed an extended family sitting around the dinner table. Not photographed, but in classic big eyed, cel shaded, Anime style. I thought of the many hours I had spent on YouTube, listening to pompous young adults tell me and the rest of "weaboo kind" that "Japan isn't Anime land" .While I had understood this from a young age, and I knew their was more to the culture than cartoons, I had begun to subvert my expectations for visiting Japan as an adult. Anime would be a rare sight, and was reserved for the freaks, geeks, and children of the land of the rising sun. 

But this life insurance poster set a very different scene. As I proceeded forward through the airport, and watched out the window of the train bound for my hotel, I began to get the bigger picture.

 

A Roots Coffee Advertisement in a Japanese trian station source: new gabriel times

Anime was around every corner! Completely inescapable. Arriving in Shibuya, I was greeted by a cardboard cut out of Kirito From Sword Art Online. He was there to promote an augmented reality tour of Tokyo for tourists! Upon getting lost in a mall on this trip I became very accustomed to life sized cardboard characters, ultimately stumbling upon a character cafe for my favorite show Ojamajo Doremi

Visiting a combini (Japanese convince store) , Was the country's warmest welcome. While I had spent most of the flight dreaming about bread and bento, what caught my eye first was the answer to my haunting merchandise mystery.

The Ichiban-Kuji

On an end cap close to the checkout counter a display of love live merchandise rested, seeming very out of place. Each item was labeled with a mysterious letter, and next to it hung a sign with small bits of cardboard labeled with corresponding letters. I grabbed a rubber strap from this shelf and brought i to the cashier. He shook his head and spoke words beyond my rusty Japanese skills. Looking at each other in confused desperation for a moment. He pulls a tiny colorful, with a round hole in the top box from behind the counter. Shaking the box he puts a cash register ring in for ¥700. "もしよかったら" would you like to? He asked. Too intrigued not to I gave the man my yen. He holds the box open to me holding up one finger. I grab a slip and hold it puzzled. He takes one himself and motions to tear it along a perforation. I carefully pull back the paper and reveal a letter "E". We walks me over to the shelf, tacking my "E" stub to the sign he motions for me to grab a poster. Prize E.

A photo of a Kuji at Lawsons source: Kaiju korner

After that day I was a Kuji ADDICT. Almost every time I wanted a snack I ended up trying at least once. There was Kuji at the grocery, Kuji at the train station, even Kuji on the street by the arcades! Now don't paint me as a gambler. Kuji is not technically Gambling. While Kuji litterally means lotteryPrize Kuji (What we are discussing here) gives you a prize every time. And as a standard the bottom prize is always the value of the ticket, so its only up from there! This is a fantastic explanation of all the affordable neat Kuji stuff we see for sale second hand. While an Anime glass wear is cool and worth well over ¥700, sometimes the person playing has a specific prize in mind. The top prize is usually a nice figure. Since there is only one and youcannot buy it outright, these usually end up being very rare and valuable on the second hand market.

The most common Kuji is Banpresto's Ichiban-Kuji (一番くじ) Litterally translating to " Number One Lottery". Although other brands do exist, sometimes stores will even run their own Prize Kuji.

Here at Shazami's we are starting to get into Kuji ourselves! Keep an eye out for "Shazami's Live Stream Lottery" coming soon!



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