November 25, 2008 / 11:58 AM / 12 years ago

Lottery lures thousands to "lucky" booth

TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - Its boutiques may be starved of customers but the sidewalks of Tokyo’s Ginza shopping district were crowded on Tuesday as people eager for a chance to become rich overnight lined up for “Jumbo” lottery tickets.

A man buys a lottery ticket in the Ginza district of Tokyo November 25, 2008. REUTERS/Michael Caronna

A chance to beat the recession with a top prize of 200 million yen ($2 million) lured thousands from the suburbs to stand in line for hours, despite consumer confidence hitting an all-time low in October and falling household spending.

The mostly elderly hopefuls were set on buying tickets at booth No.1 on a Ginza street-corner, as they believe it is particularly lucky. A neighboring lottery ticket booth did not have a single customer.

“The recession makes me want to win even more,” said Megumi Mizuno, a 53-year-old who said she was not working, as she approached the ticket booth.

Blue-clad security guards organized the crowds into orderly queues, while women holding placards and microphones reeled off statistics about the number of lucky winners.

Many said they planned to buy dozens of the 300 yen ($3) tickets.

“I live on a pension, but I do it because it’s fun,” said 70-year-old Takayasu Oki, who said he was going to buy 100 tickets. “I don’t fritter away money on anything else.”

A Buddhist monk stood chanting quietly nearby with a bowl held out in front of him seeking offerings.

“I don’t know that this one is any better than the others,” one elderly man said as he waited in line. “I think I’m just lining up here because everyone else is.”

Japan’s lottery industry is generally little affected by changes in the economy, a spokesman for administrator Mizuho Bank said in a telephone interview. The organizers have printed slightly more tickets than were sold last year, he said.

The proceeds of the lottery go mainly toward funding infrastructure projects, the Mizuho Bank spokesman said. (Editing by Miral Fahmy)

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