Steam Garden: Tokyo, Japan steampunk party at Christon Cafe Shinjuku. Japanese cosplay fashion event.
The concept of Steampunk is only beginning to gain recognition in Japan, even though there have been many works that incorporate the aesthetic, such as Katsuhiro Otomo’s anime film Steamboy. My Tokyo-based friends Kenny Creation and Luke Chaos have been passionate about Steampunk for some time, and last year, they founded the event Steam Garden. (Photo above by Aki Saito)
On March 10th, I went to their fourth event, themed “Celtic Fantasy.” Luke and Kenny rented out the entire Christon Café Shinjuku (a theme restaurant filled with European relics), and filled it with tribal fire dancers, cosplay performances, Medieval food, and live music on period instruments. (Photo by Jab)
Each event has a different theme, revolving around a past era. Previously, Steam Garden did a Meiji-themed party — a fascinating time when Japan was opening its doors to the West, and fusing Victorian fashion with traditional kimonos and obis.
This time, the code word was Celtic Fantasy. Luke describes it as “a blend of industry, fantasy, and epic adventure set to a soundtrack of exciting tribal and Celtic music.”
Kenny Creation DJ-ed possibly the most original set I’ve ever heard… it was exclusively bagpipe music! The crowd wasn’t sure how to dance to it, but Sarah and I gave it a go.
In between sets, there were mesmerizing performances by motion capture and stunt performer Kaori Kawabuchi (Final Fantasy 13), live music on a variety of period instruments from medieval group Homonculus…
… steamcore music and tribal fire dance from Chaos Royale VS Lyon.
Kana is the beautiful green Absinthe fairy, serving French “grande absente”.
With the dapper “philosopher” of Steam Garden, Luke. La Carmina wears:
Plaid purple dress: Miho Matsuda, from Closet Child. I wore it quite differently in this grunge outfit post.
Clockwork purse: Amavel, from Lumine Shinjuku (pics from this store soon)
Tako corset: gifted by Dracula Clothing (I wore it on the cover of Ladies of Steampunk magazine)
Braveheart roamed the room, challenging partygoers to duels in a Scottish accent.
One section of Christon Cafe contained tables, which sold pocket-watches, Steampunk accessories and other brass and clockwork instruments.
You could also order food — a plate of meat on skewers, to fit the Medieval vibe.
Yukiro Dravarious is an evil witch from the woods.
Steam Garden attracts an extremely fashionable, well-dressed crowd. It’s inspiring to see how Japanese alternative fashionistas have adopted the style, making it into something distinctively Japanese.
Love the cute twist on Steampunk’s signature brown clothing and brass goggles.
I enjoyed the company of a Victorian pageboy, a Braveheart lass…
… Captain Nemo, and a Victorian inventor gentleman.
A striking Mori-kei wood maiden look here, with flowers and antlers in the hair.
Every style tribe is welcome here, like Shiro-Nuri (white face paint, ghostly fashion).
And Japanese Lolitas. Do you like their coordinates?
Many of the outfits involved DIY gear, like this impressive glove with moving parts.
If you’re having a hard time deciding between square and circular glasses, why not choose both!
Except for the first two, all photos are by Said Karlsson, who photographed me for two magazine covers and spreads.
Steam Garden occurs every few months, and I can’t wait for the next one in July. People from all over Japan travel here to attend, as it’s the only regular, organized Steampunk event in the country.
For updates, and to keep track of this scene, join the Tokyo Steampunk Society on Facebook. As Luke puts it, “Here’s hoping the airship will keep on soaring higher!”
Did you know this Steampunk culture existed in Japan? What do you think of the performances and fashion at this event?
PS: Off to Montreal to cover Kinetik festival, and the local alt art/culture! Let me know your travel tips.
Kawaii bento-making isn’t as popular as it was a few years ago, but cute decorated food is still all over Tokyo. What else is currently trending in Japan?
In this post, I re-visit Shinjuku Studio Alta, the gyaru-alternative shopping complex near the station’s East Exit. Keep reading for neon-haired Japanese shop girls!
Let’s start with cute cakes. These bunny, cat, puppy and teddy bear pastries are sold inside the Swimmer shop, in the basement of Alta. While Swimmer has a few locations, I believe this is the only one with kawaii baked goods. (Compare these images to the Swimmer Studio Alta photos I took in 2011.)
For those who enjoy cooking, these cherry and chocolate print aprons are a nice gift.
Swimmer is all about pastel, animal-faced pens and accessories for the home.
One of the biggest trends in Tokyo right now: patterned or tattoo tights. The prints are colorful and intricate; Disney even got into the action.
Pop star Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is everywhere, and her color contact lenses are big sellers.
Liz Lisa remains a favorite brand for girly types. (More photos of this brand in my Yokohama Vivre store pics.)
Cats will never go out of style. Not while Hello Kitty’s in charge.
Scary meets cutesy in many of the accessories.
I always stop by Fernoppa. The shop girl is very friendly and her rock-Goth coordinates are impeccable. (See her outfit photo from 2011 here.)
Lady Gaga might go gaga at the studded bras, chokers, and giant leopard print bows.
Algonquins hasn’t changed much, but it’s not a bad thing. They’ve got their punky Gothic look down.
Quite a few stores sold large cross necklaces, and items with pentagram symbols.
Electro neon. The 1980s are alive.
One of the upper floors sells costumes and fabulous accessories. For some reason, the mannequins were dressed like LFMAO.
Impressive wigs. Wouldn’t it be nice to have hair like on the right?
For more photos of Shinjuku Studio Alta, take a look at my previous shopping trip. Address: 3-24-3 Shinjuku.
If you want to see more Scottish Fold cat photos like this one, I invite you to add our Facebook page.
Thanks for reading and supporting!
Me, an eggy frying pan, and six boobs. Only in Nakano, Tokyo!
Yukiro and I are back… with a funny new video about this Japanese geek-pop district. We visit a Goth cafe, encounter aliens, and get chased by pink monsters. Watch our adventure on Huffington Post Travel and below.
It would make us very happy if you can please take a second to share/Tweet the article, or Like it below — our sincere thanks.
I encourage visitors to stay in Nakano if they’re visiting Tokyo for more than a few days. The location is convenient — it’s a direct, five minute subway ride to Shinjuku — and the vibe is more laid-back than Shibuya or Roppongi. (Above is North Exit at night)
Hotel bills add up quickly, so I suggest renting an apartment from a foreigner-friendly service like Live In Asia. An English-speaking representative met me at Nakano station and helped me get set up in a furnished flat, complete with a kitchen, TV, and WiFi. There was a supermarket down the road, and many cheap but yummy eateries nearby.
My one-bedroom apartment was in a quiet neighborhood, and only a five minute walk from the station. It was fun living among Nakano locals, and having friends over — a nice change from cramped hotel rooms. Check out their website to reserve a short-term Tokyo apartment the next time you’re visiting.
Yukiro dressed as his new alter-ego, “Leonarde Le Douze” — twelfth-ranked sleazy host boy, born from the loins of a lion.
Nakano’s main attraction is Broadway, a shopping complex dedicated to geekdom. The little shops are packed with collectibles, from creepy dolls to Astroboy lunchboxes.
Leonardo ran into his furry, yellow brother.
We can spend hours here, browsing for Super Mario and Sailor Moon goods. The girl with the tongue is Peko-chan, mascot of Fujiya Co. (a chain of sweet shops and restaurants).
A big blue robot guards Mandarake, known for its selection of anime (animation) and manga (comics).
Behind these Shinto torii gates are rare toys. Nearby, at the retro arcade, you can play Space Invaders and other classic video games. (Thanks to Geoff for helping us with the filming.)
Look out for aliens and wild animals!
You’ll undoubtedly run into slightly disturbing goods, like these sexy “gachopon” machines.
This is a hub of subculture, as you can tell from the art-covered walls running alongside the train tracks.
A big inflatable maneki neko, outside a pachinko parlor.
Inside a little Japanese cafe that served traditional, homey food. I also enjoyed the takoyaki stand (octopus balls), tiny ramen shops, and North Exit bakeries that sold cute Totoro and Anpanman buns (photos soon).
We went to little-known Gothic cafe, Omega Algea. After searching for some time, we found the basement space decorated with human spines and chandeliers.
Reminiscent of Vampire cafe in Ginza, the mood is dark and bloody. We drank rose tea and ate green curry.
The side room displayed underground art. At the time, the works were inspired by dark angels.
Look who we found in this artistic book of photos.
At night, you can hop between little bars, each with a distinctive theme such as heavy metal or karaoke. The award for “most outrageous” goes to Dai-Kaiju Salon.
Every Wednesday, the space becomes a shrine to retro monsters like Godzilla and Mothra.
Fanboys watched 1960s Ultraman movies and fawned over rare toys. The walls displayed drawings by famous anime and manga artists.
The highlight was hanging out with this pink, suction-cupped, vaguely aquatic kaiju (the word means a strange, supernatural beast).
I laughed so hard when First Mate Naomi put on a full-body monster costume, and danced around!
Don’t miss the crazy footage we shot at this bar – watch our latest episode to see it for yourself.
Nakano is a kooky, weird, colorful area that is often overlooked by visitors. I hope you’ll put it on your Tokyo to-do list, and consider staying here during your next trip. (Above drawing and photo by Naomi)
Who are your favorite Japanese mascots and characters? Did you giggle at the monster scenes in this travel video? Or did Yukiro steal the show? Muahahaha!
Pirate Cat: custom iPhone case & laptop sleeve from Caseable! Designer cell phone cases, Scottish Fold in bow tie.
Ok, this is a ridiculously cute post featuring my Scottish Fold kitten in a bow tie…
My iPhone’s on/off button stopped working, so I recently upgraded to an iPhone 5. When Caseable invited me to design my own cellphone case, I took this opportunity to hoist my ship’s flag, designed by First Mate Naomi.
I also custom-designed a laptop sleeve, with Joanna’s winning design from my La Carmina Goth Travel contest.
It was fun and easy to make custom designs using Caseable’s website. I selected the iPhone 5 template, then uploaded the high-res images and moved them around until I was satisfied with the layout. There are also options to change the background color and add text.
You could save and share the designs before placing your order. If you’re not feeling creative, you can choose a pre-made design by a modern artist (see examples above).
And then the goods are delivered to your door. As you can see, the printing job was spot-on, with no color mismatches or blurriness. Everything’s hand-crafted in Brooklyn, from recycled materials. The materials and stitching are solid; I can tell they’ll last through my journeys.
I haven’t been doing many DIY or home decor projects recently, since I’m always on the road. Luckily, Basil Farrow’s grandma is picking up the slack — and made him this special bow tie for his birthday.
Aren’t the colors and style a perfect fit for this gentleman?
Basil doesn’t mind wearing costumes or hats, or even cat wigs.
The bow-tie had to be extra, extra large to accommodate his fat neck… I think it suits his personality perfectly.
As for home decoration, do you remember the pop printmaking lesson I had in Arizona? Artist David Manje sent me a few of the prints we made together. You can spot angry Basil in the mix.
I also arranged the stencils into a pattern, and pasted them on these boards. To see how we achieve these colors, watch my pochoir print-making video tutorial.
Have you done any crafts or sewing lately? How do you decorate your home and cell phone?
PS: I updated my press page with the latest clips, magazine covers and interviews. View it here.