Bakugai: Buzzword of the Year Describes Chinese Tourists’ Shopping Sprees

It’s no secret that Chinese shoppers make up a huge proportion of tourists in Japan. Not only that, but the amount spent on shopping sprees is also disproportionately weighed in their favor.

Well, the numbers are in for 2015 and there’s even been a word coined that describes the phenomenon. The word is “bakugai,” and it’s been named the buzzword of the year by U-Can Shingo Ryukogo Taisho (U-Can New Words and Buzzwords Awards).

Sharing the top honors with another term “toripuru suri” (“triple three” — a rare achievement in baseball when a player excels in the categories of batting average, home runs and stolen bases), “bakugai” is a unique phrase that  refers to “record-level shopping sprees by Chinese tourists” (The Japan Times).

So how much are Chinese tourists actually spending?

As reported by The Japan Times, they spent ¥358.1 billion (US$2.9 billion) in the second quarter of this year alone, which is three times what was spent the same quarter in 2014. This equates to around 40% of all tourist dollars and easily the most of any nationality visiting Japan.

Luo Yiwen, president of the Laox electronics store chain, commented that “Bakugai shows the high quality of Japanese goods.” His stores had 1.49 million Chinese customers last year (Quartz).

bakugai
Yodobashi Camera (Image: Chester / Flicker, used under CC)

From report released in March, Forbes says that “in Japanese stores, China’s ravenous consumers cleared out shelves, buying electronic rice cookers, air purifiers, digital cameras, and, most notably, electronic toilet seats.”

Tokyo Weekender recently elaborated on the situation, noting that both the weak yen and slackened visa policies were major factors that contributed to the upswing. The Diplomat says duty free shopping and numerous discounts have also highly enticing for Chinese tourists. Other experts note the renowned quality of Japanese products, as opposed to the quality control controversies of many Chinese goods, as another factor.

The “bakugai” phenomenon isn’t likely to go anywhere in the near future. CLSA, an Asian brokerage and investment group, says that by 2020 outbound Chinese tourists will double the amount that traveled in 2014, and the amount of money spent on these shopping sprees will triple.

Main image: Chester / Flickr, used under CC

– Chris Zajko

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