In which I wax philosophic on trust, customer service, and bonus/chance items before snuggling the hell out of this awesome plush.
One thing I’ve loved when dealing with Japanese shops and sellers is a feeling of “getting a little treat.” The very first things I bought from Japanese shops were Sanrio toys, and I remember and hold so dear the little extra erasers and bits of stationery — once an amazing set of stamps I remember like it was yesterday! — sent by these sellers. Now that I’ve collected a while, I realize some of these things were very low priced items, but they were always beautiful and presented wonderfully and they never felt like junk with no value. They felt like real gifts, and the transaction like an interaction, and this translated into a loyalty such that I stayed with many sellers long after there were cheaper alternatives or I could buy domestically.
I buy Japanese fashion magazines (and, uh, magazines for elementary schoolers) that come with creative, high-quality toys and accessories for free — one my most-complimented bags I’ve had for years is one of these, and when I get those compliments most Americans seem downright skeptical when I say that it was a magazine’s “free gift.” It’s the same with UFO catcher/crane game items, with a ton of questions on the Toreba subreddit and elsewhere about whether the whole thing is a scam. And there’s a general assumption that chance or free goods will be, well, cruddy.
I mean, it’s quite logical. When my American friends find out I like crane games, they frequently ask if I can win something for their kids out at dinner or whatnot, and many of these machines are simply unwinnable. The claw is too weak, or the items cannot move as positioned, and that’s the way it is. And of course, the items inside are what I think of as “carnival plush” — better than when I was a kid for sure, but still cheap crap.
And I feel like “freebies” in other contexts in the USA seem — ah, it’s hard to say. Often cruddy, for sure, but if they’re above a certain level of nice it seems almost….sinister. Like, “Why would they give me this for free? What’s wrong with it?”
And I may be mistaken, but this seems to have increased over the last ten years or so, or perhaps at least become more noticeable. I get the feeling I’m not the only consumer who gets a bit tired of buying unfinished video games or being told essentially we should know to expect crap as extras for American releases. Maybe some of the increased notice that seems to be taken of the discrepancy is due to American buyers dealing with stores and manufacturers elsewhere with slightly different policies?
So all of that is a big huge introduction to say this Shirokuma plush, along with everything in my Japan Catch haul, is really nice. While I find items much harder to win there than I did even two weeks ago (I’m not accusing anyone of any machine nerfing — but I do think the employees may be getting better at placing items in ways much harder to get in a few tries), I’ve got no complaints with the service at all. My first package came a day early, this one came right on time, and everything was well packed and just as expected. And maybe the most impressive thing was this great big Polar Man!
This plush — すみっコ ふんわりぬいぐるみXL プレミアム しろくま (Sumikko Gurashi Funwari Nuigurumi XL Puremiamu Shirokuma, Sumikko Gurashi Fluffy Plush XL Premium Polar Bear) — is a great example of how good Japanese crane game plush can be. Shirokuma measures about 17.5 inches tall and is soft, huggable, and perfect to snuggle up with. The funwari in the name in the product name has a connotation of being both fluffy and…light? Airy? And that’s just how he comes off. The understuffed nature of the plush and the plush pile make Shirokuma very cuddly. His seams are tight, he “looks on character,” and he’s just plain adorable.