Monday, May 2, 2016

My new relationship with TOM

Quick links: [My TOM link] [My discount code: EMICHAN2018] [My recommendations page] [My referral link for further discounts]

Hold tight, this is a bit of a long winded story. But I want to go over it so you know that I did not make this decision just on a whim.
If you know me or have talked to me about this in the past, you'll know that I wasn't the biggest fan of Tokyo Otaku Mode, and this post may come as a shock or be very unexpected due to how I've expressed my opinion previously.
I won't hide that I wasn't keen on TOM when they suddenly popped onto the Jfashion scene out of nowhere for me since I'm really not part of the anime/manga/figure comm and don't have exposure to the company from that. I didn't like that people were suddenly clogging all of my favorite tags with their code links and not really contributing anything of value except to advertise for overpriced items that may or may not have been legitimate.

However, as time passed and I did a bit of research for myself, I somewhat softened to the company although I wasn't ready to recommend, mention or hype it myself as I was still apprehensive about a number of things.
A rep from TOM recently reached out to me to ask me to join the affiliate program. If I'm honest, I didn't really consider it an option at first. I mean, I've been so adverse to the company for so long and I had a good number of hang ups about it. But since she had reached out to me personally, I took this as an opportunity to ask some questions my friends and I had, especially in relation the Jfashion items. After reviewing her answers and finding them satisfactory, I realized that I no longer have as much apprehension about the company. Now knowing this information, I do consider TOM a viable option for those of us who are international customers, particularly when purchasing full price items from our favorite brands and have agreed to be a TOM affiliate.

But first I want to be sure to tackle some of issues I had with TOM initially, and why I trust them more now. You may have had some of the same concerns that I did, and I want to address them directly.
My main issues with TOM dealt with the legitimacy of the item procurement process, the details in many of the Jfashion listings and proof of authenticity. I voiced my concerns with the TOM representative that I was in contact with and she addressed them specifically as follows -

Emi: I understand that TOM lists all of their items as "authentic" but how exactly does the item procurement process work (especially from clothing brands)? Is there a way I can be certain of the authenticity of items beyond just a single statement on your website?
TOM rep: Unfortunately we do not have any letter or official announcement from their side since they never do such things, however are a few of the online shops from Japan that works directly will all the all the brands we carry. Included like Liz Lisa or 6% DOKI DOKI (for 6% we are actually their official international shop).
They were more opened to announce that other brands: :
This is the same for all the other products in our store (figures, plushies...)
Our main goal is to bring all Japanese Pop Culture to overseas and we work really hard to just offer authentic products and to support the original creators. We will never sell any bootleg product and our shipping policies are super strict so for example we can not declare a lower value on the package or we can not get rid off the tags. So everything will be shipped with extreme care and under all this regulations.
Our promise it´s pretty clear too and I invite you to take a look: as well as some as our press releases:
You will find that we have collaborated directly with ANA, Crypton Media, NHK and we even produce exclusive items in collaboration with brands like Danboard or Street Fi[gh]ter! I am truly sorry for not being able to show you any "official" document that states our business relation with the brands we carry but I hope all the information above can give you more insight about our company :)
Emi: I noticed that many of the items are listed as "Made to Order" which is specified as "Each made-to-order product is manufactured solely for you." Does this mean that the items are not created by the manufacturer until my order is placed or that the item is not procured from the brand's warehouse until my order is placed?
TOM rep: [I]t´s not really well explained in detail, but spe[cific]ally with J-fashion Items we do not have all the the stock in our warehouse. The stock is located at the manufacturer warehouse and we have our reserved stock there. Once a customer places an order the brand will send it to us since we are the ones providing the shipping. So as you guessed, the items are send to us from the manufacturer until you place the order.
Emi: Another detail that caught my eye was "This product cannot be shipped to the following countries due to copyright and other region restrictions: Japan." With the items being authentic and from Japanese companies which sell their product, in many cases, only to domestic customers, I am curious as to why your company cannot ship the same product to those same customers due to copyright. 
TOM rep: For the country restrictions, our company is dedicated to overseas sales, so actually one of the conditions that we have to fulfill with many of the japanese brands to get the permission and sell their products it´s to not compete with the local market. Due to our licensing agreement with the product's maker, we have been placed under strict limits regarding the countries where we are allowed to sell it and Japan is not allowed in most of the cases. This same situation can be seen on almost all of our products. 
I made a few small adjustments in some places to the TOM rep's answer because there were a couple minor spelling errors, but otherwise, their answer has been left in tact. I was glad that she did not gloss over any of my questions and answered them specifically and thoroughly. Although I would have loved something a little more solid about the authenticity of items, I have always known that there wouldn't be some sort of decree that I would be privy to and am satisfied with how the question was dealt with.

My last issue with TOM is still unresolved and I didn't bring it up with the rep because I didn't expect her to change anything or do anything to assuage this. This is something that I consider a personal hang up and likely isn't an issue for many others. It doesn't really have anything to do with how the company conducts business or whether they can actually follow through on what they promise. However, it's something that really does bother me and I want to address it. "Otaku". This is not a word I relate to on any level and I don't believe it has anything to do with my interests. I also do not even remotely connect to the word "weeaboo" or see it as a positive thing. I personally don't want to be living "that otaku life" or subscribe to it. I'm not saying that you can't enjoy manga or anime or whatever it is from Japanese pop culture that you like, but I just don't feel like the word applies to my interest in regard to the products that TOM distributes. While I agree that there may in fact be some overlap for some people, they are not equivalent and I don't enjoy being lumped into "otaku life". I understand that it's a strategic marketing move to push the use of the word and find customers who do relate to it but I'm just not one of them and actually it makes me shrink away from the business due to how strongly it's emphasized. I don't need anyone defending or explaining the concept to me. I get it. But I just don't have a positive connection to it and I don't think I ever will. However, despite this, I do stand by the products that the company helps bring to overseas customers, and this is why I have gone forward with accepting the affiliation because I do want to present it as a potential alternative.

Now that I've examined my uncertainties and addressed them, let me tell you about my first experience ordering from TOM as a customer. I feel that it's important for you to know that I wouldn't have accepted the affiliate offer if I hadn't given the company an honest try as a regular customer beforehand and was content with the service I received. Although I still had hesitations about TOM, I did actually happen to make an order for myself before the affiliate offer was even on the table or having been in contact with anyone at the company. I made the decision to purchase completely of my own will (after conferring with a few trusted friends) with no clue that I might even potentially be an affiliate, and I want to explain to you why I made that choice. It was purely a financial decision. I rarely like to talk about money on the internet anymore, especially when it comes to my personal spending, but in this case, it's extremely relevant and worth expounding on.
These shoes. I'll go into details about the shoes themselves in a blog post now published here, but basically, just let it suffice to say that I really wanted them. A lot. For now, let's just focus on the service from TOM. Despite everything that I doubted about TOM, this is what it came down to for me:
Tokyo Kawaii Life (Liz Lisa's official online web store) has the shoes for 9936yen. If TKL is not running a free shipping promotion and I don't reach a minimum amount, domestic shipping from TKL to Tenso (my forwarding service of choice) is 540yen. Based on past experience, I estimated that a package containing the shoes would weigh about 1300-1350g and would cost about 2580yen to ship from Tenso via SAL small package (gambling that it would meet the size restrictions) or about 4000yen via EMS. The total cost to get the shoes to me in the US would be about 12516yen to 13936yen depending on shipping method. At the exchange rate at the time and considering other various payment related fees I'd be paying approximately $120 (SAL) or $135 (EMS).
Because I purchased the shoes through TOM instead, I was able to save some money. The base price of the shoes from TOM at the time (early April 2016) was $85.99. Because I was a first time customer and had a referral code from a friend, I would be getting free shipping (my choice of EMS or Airmail) and $5.00 off my order. The total cost to get the shoes to me in the US using EMS was $80.99.
That's a difference of about $54 for the exact same pair of shoes and services. From a financial standpoint, I think it's fairly easy to see why I made the choice I did. As a first time customer, I had the added benefit of the referral code voucher and no minimum for the free shipping and that was enough for me to give TOM a fair shot and the result met my expectations.

Here are a few other things other than price that I noticed when purchasing from TOM versus TKL with Tenso:
  • Language - With TOM, the site is operated in English. With TKL, the site is operated in Japanese. I don't personally have any issues with this, but I know that other people might and it is a huge difference worthy of note.
  • Payment method - With TOM, I was able to use PayPal as a payment method. With TKL, I have to use a credit card and sometimes have to deal with my cc company blocking the transaction because it is deemed as "suspicious activity". I don't mind using my credit card in general, but I personally prefer to use PayPal when making online purchases if I have that option.
  • Payment currency - With TOM, payment was in USD and is not variable. With TKL, payment is in JPY and my credit card company will convert to USD at a rate they determine. (My card doesn't have any foreign transaction fees.) Specifically when I made my purchase of the pumps, the USD to JPY conversion rate was not very strong and the USD price for the shoes from TOM was already cheaper than the price of the shoes from TKL once converted to USD. Payment in USD is advantageous to me as someone who lives in the US, but if you live in another country, this may not be a positive for you.
  • Timeline - With TOM, I submitted my order for a "Made-to-order" item on Apr 2. I received an email that my order was shipped on Apr 6. With TKL and Tenso, the best case scenario might be as follows: Apr 2 - Order submitted. Apr 3 - TKL ships my order. Apr 5 - Order arrives and is processed at Tenso. I pay for shipping and service fees. Apr 6 - Tenso ships my order.
  • Customs fees - With both TOM and TKL/Tenso, I still run the risk of being charged customs fees as both companies ship Liz Lisa items from Japan.
  • Packaging - With TOM, even though I ordered only one pair of shoes, I received a giant box with "Tokyo Otaku Mode" scrawled on the outside. With TKL, the box is an appropriate size for the items, and the appearance of the package is more discreet. This could be important because packages of a certain size may garner more attention during customs inspections and thieves can be more attracted to large boxes that look like they may contain interesting contents (with resale value). Despite package size, with both companies, packing materials were/are typically sufficient and product arrives without damage.
    Package for one pair of shoes, why so big??
Overall, my experience with TOM was satisfactory. There are notable differences between TOM and TKL but when it comes down to what's important to me for this situation, I feel like I made the right decision. I received the product as described within a reasonable timeline and I also able to save some money.

Don't get me wrong, first and foremost, I am still an advocate for purchasing directly from the brand, especially when that's the best option for my wallet. I don't plan on making all purchases solely through TOM just because I am an affiliate, and I wouldn't dream of trying to convince you to do so either if it doesn't make sense for you. What I've always aimed to do with my blog posts and the information I disseminate is help others make the best informed decisions possible. And now that I am armed with more information about TOM, I feel a lot more comfortable sharing it as a viable option for certain situations.

I don't plan on making any big changes to my blogging style or suddenly become a TOM advert machine. I will be adding links to a few places when I think it is appropriate, but I won't be just spamming you with stock photos and demanding that you use my code. I think that if you've been following me for a while, you know that's not who I am or what I am about. However, you may occasionally see something about the company posted on one of my social media accounts when there's a promotion or special offer. I will be upfront about any sponsored products I receive (none as of yet and none in the works to be honest) and really aim to be as forthcoming as possible with you all. Of course, if I purchase an item/items myself and want to share about it, then it may very well get its own informational blog post like I do for TKL orders which really have the purpose and intention of providing more (IRL and personal) information about certain items regardless of where they are purchased from (as long as the items are authentic as sharing about replica items doesn't really help too many people purchase an authentic item imo).

Now that all that explanation is out of the way, here's the good stuff! (Also listed at the top of the post for ease of use/reference later.)
I have my own "recommended items" page which I will try to keep it up to date with items that I think are particularly worthwhile purchasing through TOM! (Also easily accessed through the banner at the bottom of any page on the blog.)
Even if you aren't keen on any of my suggestions, if you are considering purchasing from TOM, I would love it if you would help support my blog by entering the website through my affiliate link! (I have a small banner in the left sidebar for convenient access as well.)
Coupon code: EMICHAN2018 for $5 off a minimum $5 order. Valid until Feb 9, 2018 [Go directly to the Liz Lisa products here]
I also still maintain my personal referral code. If you are a first time customer and use this link to sign up for an account, you can get more discounts! (I used a friend's referral code to get a discount for the shoes I purchased as mentioned earlier.)

I welcome any questions or concerns you have about the company. I know I had a bucket load of them in the beginning and would be more than willing to be a liaison for you. I really am most focused on creating an environment where you feel 100% confident in what you are paying for and what product you will be receiving.

I also am open to feedback for you all about the whole affiliate thing. Let me know your honest thoughts! If my blog posts aren't beneficial to you in some way, I want to change that and make them better for both of us.


  1. I feel very good this publication have investigated and asked TOM was the best. TOM is an excellent shop (have not bought there, but gets very good review) many usually they get a request for Affiliation and many unhesitatingly accepted without first investigating. It is horrible to find great reviews on a store but ultimately a lie because the package was actually sent by the store and not the buyer.

    Buy in a store before ordering a sponsorship or affiliation, is the best that can be done, for example wanted my own code off Syndrome Store, but I wanted to buy something in the store before you apply for the discount, if I do not have the opportunity to buy something at a store where I would work, what I do is investigate and ask their buyers that this is the service, as the service is not the same as having a buyer that an affiliate.

    I loved your post, sincerity to your followers from the beginning telling a experience with TOM, is good for your readers and you give them more confidence about the stores where you have purchased and you have your own recommendation instore it's excellent!

    Kisses!!~ (๑´`๑)♡

    1. Yes, I definitely wouldn't have accepted the affiliation without first willingly being a customer first and thoroughly believing in the company. The timing in this case may seem a bit fishy, but I promise that I made my purchase without being contacted at all and my friends will tell you that I was very reluctant about it lol. I was certainly surprised that TOM had reached out to me later in the month and but it seems as if it worked out quite reasonably!

  2. I've known about TOM for a long while, as I am very much a fan of anime/manga in addition to J-fashion. I've ordered Liz Lisa from them a couple of times. They're honestly a really great company, imo! But I agree that the size of their shipping boxes is nonsense. -__-
    Granted, I don't think they've ever used the word "weeaboo". x__x That is never a positive thing, and is usually used to insult anime fans - so most of them don't relate to it either.

    The shoes you got are SO nice! I actually had my eye on those in any of the three colorways, but the shoes I like always seem to sell out before I can afford to buy them.

    (Also, I'm sorry if you just got three of the same comment from me. Kept hitting "publish" 'cause it didn't seem to be going through. Well..... apparently it did. Oops. I guess it's clear that I don't comment on blogspot often. ha)

    1. I didn't mean to say that TOM equated weeaboo = otaku, especially since I believe the word "weeaboo" is more used in the west whereas "otaku" is a familiar term within Japan. Neither hold a particularly positive connotation for me but I do know that others find the terms comparable (or levels of one another). This is not to say that I'm turning judgment on anyone for this, but just that I do not personally relate strongly to either word and don't feel that it fits me or my interests at all. I don't expect others to agree or disagree but since I have a strong opinion about it, I did think it important to share. I know others who feel similar about the "otaku" label being forced down their throats when it really has nothing to do with a simple fashion or pop culture interest. If you are comfortable being labeled an otaku, that's up to you, but I do honestly feel like it has nothing to do with me.

      I hope you're able to get the shoes or something you can feel similarly happy with soon!

    2. I actually don't identify with the word "otaku" at all (I just said I liked anime/manga). The way I read it just came off as weeaboo=otaku, which isn't necessarily true to many westerners. But I apparently just read it wrong! :)
      For me, I definitely agree that the word "otaku" has evolved in the western world to mean something as simple as being an "anime fan", but considering the fact that in Japan it basically means being SO obsessed with something that it affects your personal and/or social life makes me not like to label myself as such, especially considering my interests don't make me unable to function as a regular adult.

      I just like to say, "I like anime." or "I like Japanese fashion." The two are not related. They just come from the same country, and I like both. So I see where you're coming from since TOM does kinda lump J-fashion and anime together on their site.

    3. Tbh I just wanted to cover the bases by bringing up both terms and avoid any confusion but maybe I started more than I wanted to by even just mentioning both terms lol.
      And sorry, I didn't mean to seem as if I was addressing you specifically with the identifying as an otaku comment. I meant it as a "royal you"/general audience "you" for people in general. I read it back now and I realize that wasn't clear and I'm sorry if that came off too aggressively especially since it seems as if we already agree on this point.

    4. Honestly, I think it might just be me that read it wrong. haha
      And don't worry, I wasn't offended or anything like that. I've been reading your blog for months, and it's quite clear that you aren't an aggressive or nasty person. :)

      But yeah, I think we actually do agree. XD Even as a fan of anime, I don't want people thinking I go around going, "Sugoi! Kawaii desu ne~" or that I want to be asian even though I'm white, which is what I often think when I hear those terms. >.<

    5. Oh the joys of things being misinterpreted through text >,<. Thanks for your feedback though - I really enjoy reading what people think, especially on issues like this.

  3. I have the same problem with the term "Otaku"...! Even if I grew up watching anime (etc) I don't like mixing it with fashion as if I was wearing some kind of cosplay or something like that \o/ + I never refered to myself as an Otaku, and don't think it' sur "cool".

    I appreciate all your efforts to make reliable articles. As for the partnership, I 100% trust you. I was thinking about taking an order from TOM so I feel quite lucky actually \o/

    1. Yeah I think it (the word "otaku") has evolved in certain circles (outside of Japan) to try and make it something more than it is and something "cooler" than it is, but I know that it's definitely not me and why I was reluctant to associate myself so closely with it.
      That being said, the products are more than fine besides that and if ordering from TOM saves me money in the long run, I think I can deal with it lol. No sense in being a poor elitist. Glad this post may have been informative for you!

  4. I have my doubts about TOM too and never considered ordering LL products from them. I have always stuck to TKL and Shibuya109 (among other listed webshops from LL's page). However, after reading your thorough review, I feel like my doubts have lessened. I was quite skeptical about it because of the above sentence about how it is not allowed to be sold in Japan, it led my mind to think, "hmm..this is suspicious" lol. Now I understand why so thank you for all of your good questions and reporting the answers back to us. I placed my first order with them today. I pre-ordered some LL A/W 2016 items. I am enjoying this year's A/W much better than last year's XD It was hard narrowing down what I really wanted versus waiting/wishing for the rest to go on sale before purchasing.

    1. Believe me, I 10000% understand the doubts you had but am glad I was able to bring some things to light. Thank you for taking the time to read this! For the amount of money we end up shelling out for some of these things, it really pays to be an informed buyer and not just mindless shopping zombies haha. I also plan to pre-order some items but I'm just not sure which ones yet! I'm so excited for AW16 :)