Donki discount store mascot survives axe after Japanese uproar

Donki discount store mascot survives axe after Japanese uproar
Facade outside a Donki store in Japan shows a figure holding the Donpen penguin mascotGetty Images

Japan’s largest discount chain has reversed a decision to replace its mascot after outrage from fans online.

Don Quijote, called Donki in Japan, has over 600 stores in the country and is known for selling a huge range of products at cheap prices.

Its mascot Donpen, a blue penguin which wears a Santa hat, has become synonymous with the store.

So an announcement that Donpen would be replaced sparked widespread shock on Japanese social media last week.

The company announced on Twitter it had decided to replace the penguin with “Dojo-chan” – an anthropomorphic representation of the Japanese katakana character “do”.

It did not give a reason for the change.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter


That prompted an outpouring of dismayed reactions online. Some fans posted photos of themselves in Donpen onesies, while others threatened to boycott Donki stores.

Another user launched a poll asking which mascot Donki fans preferred. That attracted more than 33,000 clicks with Donpen winning 93% of the vote.

The change also appeared to have blindsided Don Quijote president Naoki Yoshida. He said on Twitter he didn’t “understand the situation either” and had asked “relevant departments” for clarification.

A few hours later, Mr Yoshida announced that Donpen would remain as the company’s mascot.

“We have taken the opinions of many of you very seriously and have discussed them with our board members. As a result, it was decided that ‘Donpen’ would continue as the official character,” he said.

The company behind Don Quijote, Pan Pacific International Holdings, also apologised for the incident and said they appreciated fans’ support for Donpen.

Donpen was born in Antarctica and raised in Tokyo, according to the official Donki website. He enjoys taking “walks at night” and “it’s rumoured his appearance changes”, the store says.

Don Quijote was one of the few stores in Japan to turn a profit during the Covid-19 pandemic.