Sunshine Aquarium’s 2022 lucky bag is a true rarity

Our writer would share the special items in his bag, but he’s a little shellfish.

The New Year’s tradition of lucky bags or “fukubukuro” in Japanese, are usually found in major retailers such as Muji or restaurants like McDonald’s. But even some less conventional businesses are getting in on the act, like Sunshine Aquarium in Tokyo. However, these bags are extremely exclusive. Only 150 were sold this year and among those, only 80 contained a super-special item. Although the odds were against him getting one, our reporter Tasuku Egawa ventured out on 10 December in order to reserve one of these bags for 5,500 yen ($48).

If the limited number wasn’t bad enough, the chances of getting one were largely in favor of season pass holders who can enter the aquarium before everyone else. Still, Tasuku arrived early enough in the morning that he could get third in line with the other non-pass-holders, but by the time he was finally able to reserve a bag, only 11 were left. On his way out, Tasuku saw the lineup behind him and realized that a lot of people were about to be very disappointed. He was literally moments away from being like them, and strongly considered the benefits of getting a season pass since it was about the price of two regular visits anyway.

It wasn’t until New Year’s Day that his bag arrived, and Tasuku quickly opened it to see what was inside, and especially to see if he had gotten one of the lucky 80. First, was a turtle-shaped jigsaw puzzle. Although 100 pieces was a little easy for his age, it was still pretty cool.

That sea turtle actually looks rather big, but let’s not overthink it.

Next up was some toilet paper with a picture of marine biology fanatic and popular TV personality Sakana-kun. Generally, people probably wouldn’t want their face on toilet paper for obvious reasons, but on the package Sakana-kun shouts, “Let’s go out to the open sea!” Perhaps by flushing his TP, you’re really fulfilling his dream of going out to the ocean.

Then there was a rather neat piggy bank decorated with sea creatures, which I suppose would make it a fishy bank.

This is neat because in order to unlock it you must first complete a labyrinth, which should really cut down on impulse buying.

Of course, all aquariums are famous for their cute stuffed animals, so it’s no surprise that this bag has those too. First is an adorable penguin parent and its very large child.

Next up was an otter, and this is probably a good point to mention that Tasuku majored in marine biology when he was a student in the U.S., because he immediately tried to pinpoint the species of otter. He estimated that it was an Asian small-clawed otter, but it was difficult to confirm because the maker didn’t put any claws on it.

And then there was a bag full of various odds and ends like plastic file folders, a pencil case, Japanese wasabon sugar confections, and a snow globe.

It was impressive how loaded this lucky bag was.

It wasn’t finished either. On top of everything else, there was also a big basket full of seashells.

It was a really nice haul of marine merch from Sunshine Aquarium that would make anyone happy, especially those who live the life aquatic like Tasuku.

But there was still one more item. It was a very special one, the likes of which only came in 80 of the 150 bags sold, and it was indicated by a big yellow ticket that says “You win…”

“You win a ray’s teeth. Congratulations!”

The teeth were packaged in a lovely soft pink shell case.

As you can see, rays don’t have teeth like people, or a lot of animals. Instead they’re long saw-like rows that line the animal’s mouth.

Before you start worrying that Sunshine Aquarium is out hunting rays and pulling their teeth out with pliers just to stuff some New Year’s lucky bags, that is entirely not the case. Rays are closely related to sharks, and much like sharks they also constantly shed and grow new teeth throughout their entire life. If anything, the fact that they kept these discarded denticles in such a plush container shows the respect they have for the animals.

These particular chompers came from a ray called “Narutobiei” in Japanese. These creatures inhabit the waters of the Pacific Ocean around western Japan, China, South Korea, and Vietnam, but are considered a nuisance because they like to eat the same shellfish that people do.

However, that I.D. was a cause for concern for our writer and his encyclopaedic knowledge of fish. The ray he saw in Sunshine Aquarium had a spotted pattern on its back, which Narutobiei do not, and it was more likely a spotted eagle ray that comes from the Atlantic Ocean. To make matters more confusing, a few years ago the Japanese name “Narutobiei” was found to have been applied to two different species of ray; the Naru eagle ray and the longheaded eagle ray, which lives along the more western edge of the Pacific, so it’s pretty much impossible to tell them apart by name alone.

▼ All these rays have the same pointed snout in common, so it’s difficult to distinguish them

But even though he couldn’t be sure what species of ray these teeth fell out of, they were still quite cool and an excellent addition to his baculum collection… You’re going to have to look that one up yourself.

Tasuku felt truly lucky with his fukubukuro this year and also learned that not all of Sunshine Aquarium’s special bags had teeth in them. Some were said to contain tickets to feed otters and other fun stuff as well. So, it was settled that he would get a season pass for 2022 and aim for a penguin feather to add to his collection next time.

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