Shop ‘til you drop! Sendai’s ‘Hatsu-uri’

2017 is ending!! I can’t believe how time has passed so quickly! It seems just like yesterday when we were making plans for Christmas & New Year celebration. A lot of things has happened over the past year – I learned new skills, made new acquaintances,  traveled around Tohoku with B & friends, attended two conferences and did a lot of yoga in 2017! This year,  my father visited us in Sendai and conversations with him made me think twice about my goals in life.

One of the most memorable days in 2017 definitely has to be the first and second of January 2017! I had heard that New Year’s in Sendai was a special one. Hatsu-uri (meaning first sales) are limited to few cities like Sendai in Japan. Traditionally, January 2nd is supposed to be a lucky day to do things for the first time in the year, known as “kotohajime.”  From this idea, the concept of Hatsu-uri is supposed to have initiated some 200 years ago!

Out of curiosity, I ended up watching few videos of Sendai Hatsu-uri where people were overjoyed to find big boxes of tea at a price much less than what it would originally cost. So Hatsu-uri was something I didn’t want to miss, although never did we think we would end up spending a night at Yodobashi camera on New Year’s day.

The streets were empty, the shops were shut down, and we could see people idly walking by on New Year’s day. Although it didn’t snow, the weather was still cold with strong wind blowing. B wanted to check a few things at Yodobashi. After strolling around the Disney Store, we walked towards Sendai’s Yodobashi Camera.

People getting ready on the afternoon of Jan 1 for the new year sale the next day.

At Yodobashi, with our limited Japanese, we found attractive deals in the flyer, but unable to comprehend more, we followed where everyone seemed to be going. It was one of the corridors inside Yodobashi where two security guards gave us a ticket and ushered us into a large hall. To our surprise, we found out that it was a hall where people stayed OVERNIGHT to buy electronic gadgets for super cheap price! We were already one of the 30 people who had come to wait. Since we were already inside, we thought it would be too もったいない to let go of this opportunity, also we had no other plans…so we stayed! We made ourselves comfortable with sleeping bags and blankets which B and T brought later as I waited at Yodobashi.

Our one night stay at Yodobashi

Spending a night at Yodobashi was definitely not an easy task for someone like me who has never pulled an all-nighter. We played cards, engaged ourselves in deep conversation, people-watched, looked at the flyer for the umpteenth time weighing the pros and cons of each deal. As the morning arrived, the crowd had multiplied and at around 6 in the morning, there were more than one hundred people in the line! We waited until 6 and after specifying the deal we liked, we were given another ticket. Soon, Yodobashi opened and as we went inside the shop, dozens of Yodobashi staffs clad in blue-salesmen Yukata shouted おはようございます!(good morning!) and いらっしゃいませー! (welcome!) to us. I was sleep deprived and thus a little bit irritated but I remember how B’s eyes gleamed like a child in a candy store. We bought ourselves a DSLR camera and a laptop! We bought the laptop for 20,000 yen (around$200 dollars) less than its original price so I guess it was a good deal. (But later B didn’t like it and sold it on Rakuten, which is a completely different story). But nevertheless, our one night stay at Yodobashi was fun and definitely memorable!

From the early morning of January 2nd, the shopping streets of downtown Sendai are packed with people on the streets, hustling and bustling with shoppers ready to shop till they drop! The shoppers were welcomed by Japanese drum performances, lion dances and free drinks services.

Besides Yodobashi,  another place popular for new year’s sale is お茶の井ケ田 (Ochya no Igeta). As you can see, people line up here overnight to get boxes of Japanese tea sets.

Ochya no Igeta announcing its Hatsu-uri sales

If you want to experiment with your luck, you can also opt to get yourself a  “fukubukuro” (lucky bags) for 3000 yen or 5000 yen, in which there will be merchandise from the previous year with cut-prices, worth much more than the actual price you’ve paid for. While some are sold blindly, without the buyer knowing specifically what’s inside; many label their contents clearly. The goods sold in Sendai at New Year’s are said to be the best in Japan and sometimes people from other prefectures come and shop here. One of my friends said he got himself a lucky bag full of t-shirts but unfortunately liked only one. So I guess tea is the safest option!

Other places where you can enjoy hatsu uri are Fujisaki and Mitsukoshi Department Stores, and of course PARCO (I&II), SPAL and E beanS.

People lining up in front of Parco on January 2.


Sleep deprived me carrying my yoga mat (on which I slept) and looking at the queue of shoppers.

Watch this video to have an idea of the craziness of Hatsu-uri!

Finally, a survival guide for Yodobashi!!

  • The Yodobashi store at Tokyo holds its hatsu uri sale one day before Sendai. People write about what they got in their package on the internet & some even sell at Rakuten if they don’t like it. So, you can google the products before you line up at Yodobashi.
  • It is good to take a sleeping bag or cushion or blanket with you since you will be staying there overnight.
  • You can talk to Japanese people in the line to get their opinion on what is a better deal & what is not.

This year, I am planning to take a mini suitcase (don’t judge me) so I can shop and stroll it without having to carry my hoard! XD


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