I want my old domain name but it is owned by some web hosting co in Japan, I can't understand their site. I don't know why they would want my name except that it is still very well indexed with lots of links pointing to it on the internet. It was a little jewelry business that I let go 7 years ago. I would like to just grab my domain with all those links that will then go right to the site. I'm sure they'll charge a big price, if I change just a couple letters or add to the name, then I lose all those nice directory links I worked to get a few years ago. My old customers are still mentioning the site on the internet as well. How can I get it back without paying very much? It was a small, very small business for pete's sake. I have a Japanese friend, she could try to intercede for me, but what should I look out for to protect my interests?
From my experience with web host registrations and registrars, one of the first things I tell clients is never to use the "free" domain included with their web hosting plan because unlike when you buy direct from a registrar, buying a bundled domain in some cases is retained by the hosting company so if you decide to go elsewhere for hosting, the prior host will either wipe your domain or hold it ransom.
As for getting your domain back, usually registrars will let you buy your domain back at an inflated rate (usually $80) for up to 90 days post expiration/lapse, but for a name 7 years old, it's unlikely you can buy it back cheaply.
Your best bet is probably to go through a broker like Sedo or GoDaddy (they usually charge $80 plus commission on final price) since they can handle the process of negotiations and transferring the domain.