It's a month before Christmas, and coming out of JR Asakusabashi Station in Tokyo, there they were, the long queues, lined up in front of the tiny street booth, in which sat a beneficent-looking old man dressed up like Santa. (Unfortunately the full glory of his white curly beard doesn't come out in the photo.)
It's Nen-Matsu Jumbo Takarakuji time: the Year-End Jumbo Lottery.
The lottery in Japan has been in its present form since 1948. It is primarily a way for local government organizations in Japan to make money.
The latest statistics available for the Japanese lottery are from 2008, when the lottery generated a total of 1.419 trillion yen, or USD15.7 billion at the exchange rate as of the end of that year. 45.7% of it went back to people in the form of prizes, 14.2% was used for administrative expenses, and the remaining 40.1% went to six different public-service corporations (all of which were headed by ex government officials who received their positions by way of amakudari, i.e., the old-boy network that bridges public and private in Japan by which public officials finally get lucrative jobs in private positions.
Anyway, this year's End-of-Year Jumbo lottery is paying 132 prizes of 200 million yen (about USD2.5 million) each, and 66 of 100 million yen each, to be drawn on 31 December, to some pretty big Ho ho hos!
Read more about gambling in Japan
Like this blog? Sign up for the JapanVisitor newsletter
Books on Japan