If you read my blog with any degree of regularity, you know that in addition to anime, chara/mascot and gaming goods, I also love J-snacks and the like. While this technically does fall under the heading of "mascot goods", donuts are also food. =P If you live in North America and are older than 20 or 25 you'll probably remember franchises like Lawson, Circle K and Mister Donut from the 80's or early 90's. I was surprised at first when I was in Japan and saw many Lawson stores there. 7-11 didn't surprise me because I knew about that ahead of time, but Lawson hadn't existed in my neck of the woods back home in some time, so it was odd seeing it in Japan (and that it had the best-tasting house brand of water that I'd ever tasted).
As with anything Japan imports, Mister Donut - or Misudo as it's known there - has been completely Japanified (read: tailored to the market it's in), adding distinct flavors, catchy names, new donut types - and the obligatory kawaii mascot. Those last two are actually one-in-the-same. The best-selling glazed donut is called "Pon de Ring", which resembles a lion's mane. So when your Pon de Ring looks like the silhouette of a lion's head, what else do you name your lion mascot? That's right, Pon de Lion is his name. ^^;
According to what I could dig up, Pon de Lion has been around since 2003, though I only became aware of the little guy in like late 2006 or maybe even late 2007. However, I wasn't aware of the promo limited edition goods that they made of him. So browsing around Yahoo Japan Auctions one day I stumbled upon a crazy amount of Mister Donut cups and such, and an even crazier amount of Pon de Lion goods in general. I kinda regret not buying a wall clock of his face. (It was only $15 & I'm sure it's probably still up for auction) I did, however, pick up this ocha set that is classy looking but still slathered in mascot-y goodness. ^^
While I'm on the subject, the reason I didn't pick up the clock even though it was so cheap is because after deputy fees and shipping and international shipping, that 1500 yen balloons into about 3200 yen or so. (I'm estimating here, but 1500 yen for the clock + 600 yen for the deputy fee + 300 for the bank transfer + probably around 500 yen for domestic shipping inside of Japan, maybe more because it is breakable and finally international shipping which alone is expensive, but I usually go with about 15 items at once, so let's say 600 yen for that. Add that up and it is actually around 3500 yen. Factor in the currency conversion - about 90 yen to a dollar as of this writing - and you've just paid around $39 for a $17 clock. And I really didn't want it that badly. Where they really get you is the under and around 1000 yen items. You think you're gonna come out with a "steal" but one time I ended up paying almost $25 for a 600 yen item. And by, "Where they really get you," I don't mean the deputy company or anyone in particular really. Most deputy places, especially the one I use (****shameless plug**** Goody Japan is awesome) charge you actual shipping and actual everything with the exception of the paltry 600 yen fee then get per auction. (they add up, but they are performing a service to get you something that would otherwise be near-impossible to get unless you live in Japan or know someone else who does) So no one is really making out like a bandit or anything, it just costs money to ship things, bank transfers cost money (Japan has very unique ways of paying for things, compounded by the fact that credit cards are still not a big way to pay for things there), international shipping is expensive, etc. I think I may write an article/guide about conducting business with a deputy auction service in the near future.
Conversely, "One man's trash is another's treasure," really applies to YHJ Auctions in the sense that something that someone outside of Japan considers rare and/or exotic usually sells for a whopping $10-20 US, and sometimes less. That set of Bleach keychains that can be had from a Gashapon in Japan for 200 yen a piece that you saw on ebay last week for $40 from Hong Kong plus $12 shipping? Yeah you can prolly get those for around 700-900 yen on YHJ Auctions. In fact, if you are in Japan, even with shipping you'd probably get off cheaper buying them on there than plugging two 100 yen coins into a Gashapon machine until you collect em all. (Of course you could auction off the duplicates you got =P) That and you don't have to run the risk of getting spoofed by some fake seller or of getting a bootleg item. That Nendoroid that's sold out at Hobby Search, HLJ, Toylet and Kid Nemo? Yeah you can probably get it for about 1000 yen less, which, with deputy fees and such you probably are paying close to the same price you would having it shipped from Japan from HS or HLJ. That's a win. Especially in the case of North American otaku goods stores, who love to inflate the price of everything.
But that in and of itself is really the problem, it's waaaaay too easy to get carried away, especially if you get on a roll and the series you want has a million chara goods/figures like Geass, Gundam, Gintama, Monster Hunter, Naruto, Bleach, Rockman, nado nado. When you're bidding you're thinking, "Wow! This was only 700 yen! 1500 yen! 2500 yen! What a bargain!" like you're on a roll gambling. =P I won't mention the downside because there really isn't one so long as you really appreciate what you bought. But I will say that there is a certain amount of sticker shock when your invoice comes rollin in.