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Universal Studios Osaka Japan: guide to buying tickets, Express passes & Halloween horror nights!

where's waldo costume, minions girls

Universal Studios Japan rocks! You’ve got to visit this theme park at least once in your lifetime — ideally, during the Halloween season.

Getting express tickets is a bit complicated, so here’s a detailed guide to the theme park, which features Harry Potter, Minions, Hello Kitty, Resident Evil, Jurassic Park and other favorite characters.

wedding zombies, bride groom undead

Every September/October, Universal Studios Osaka turns into a zombie fest (literally, they send out walkers to attack!) For a limited time, there are frightening special attractions dedicated to Japanese horror — including Sadako of the Ring.

zombies halloween universal japan

Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights are brilliantly produced, with the right balance of fear and fun. (But there are themed events all year round, which match the seasons.)

If you only have a day to explore, I highly recommend getting entry tickets in advance, as well as Express Passes to bypass long lines. The online process is more than a little complicated — so read on for a detailed guide to purchasing Universal Studios Osaka tickets from their Japanese booking website.

universal japan entrance, directions subway

First, directions. To get to Universal Studios Japan, take the direct 15 minute train ride from Osaka Station to Universal City Station, on the JR Yumesaki Line (aka JR Sakurajima Line). You can use a JRailPass (unlimited Japan Rail Pass for 1-3 weeks) to ride all these trains, which saves costs and makes the trip even easier.

If you have a “timed entry” ticket and need to arrive by a certain hour, give yourself plenty of time to walk from the train station to the theme park. You might need an extra 30 minutes to purchase food outside the gates, or check your bags in the coin lockers (larger suitcases can be stored at Guest Services for a fee).

universal studios halloween horror nights

The amusement park goes all-out with seasonal decorations. Since I was there in late September, I got to see Hello Kitty, Elmo and Snoopy in spooky Halloween costumes!  (Shop for Sanrio goods below with a click:)

As for my outfit: I’m wearing a devilish T-shirt from Dead Gallery Iceland, and my tote bag is from Territory, DJ Taiki’s occult store in Osaka. 

I recommend wearing good shoes for walking around all day, and shielding your eyes with sunglasses and a hat (my cap is from the Drop Dead Clothing x Sonic the Hedgehog collaboration.)

flying snoopy ride, universal osaka

Now, a guide to buying tickets and making the most of your visit!

Osaka’s Universal Studios is compact, and it doesn’t long to walk between the various districts. However, this is a popular theme park. To avoid the crowds, try to come early, and on less busy days (avoid weekends and holidays).

While it costs more to buy Express and Special Passes, I highly suggest that you do. Otherwise, you’ll wind up waiting 1-3 hours in line for rides, and you might not be able to see the special attractions at all (as they require advance passes that sell out fast).

sailor moon group cosplay girls japan

If you’re going with a group of friends, I encourage you to designate one person to purchase tickets and advance entries. Otherwise, you won’t be able to coordinate the timed entrances, and “slowpokes” may not be able to get in at all.

Universal Osaka has an English-language sales website, but the available options in English are very limited (for example, when I checked, there was only 1 Express option and no Horror pre-sales).

Instead, you should purchase advance tickets from their website in Japanese. Let me warn you — this process is rather complicated and “Google translate” won’t work well, so ask a friend who is fluent in Japanese to help you (and reward them for their efforts!).

japanese suicide squad cosplayers cosplay

I can’t describe the entire process step-by-step because the Japanese website changes constantly, as the theme park updates attractions and passes.

However, I can give you a general overview. I recommend that you purchase three things well in advance, from the Japanese language site (or if you’re in Japan, you can go to any Lawson to order them):

1) An Entry Ticket ($75), which everybody need just to get inside the theme park. If you don’t get this ticket in advance, you may need to line up outside the gates for 1-2 hours. (If you decide to only get the basic entry ticket, you can purchase this on their English site. There’s also a cheaper evening-only entry price.)

2) An Express Pass, which lets you skip the lines on certain rides. The Japanese language site gives you a variety of Express options, which range in price. I suggest that you figure out which rides/attraction you want to see, and then pick the pass that matches. I personally went for the $55 “15th anniversary Express pass,” which let me access Harry Potter and 3 rides. A steep fee, but this lets you go straight to the front of the line instead of waiting 2-3 hours for the popular rides. Worth it, especially if you only have a day to explore.

3) Advance tickets to Special attractions that you’re keen to see. Again, this will change with the seasons; in my case, I did the $75 package to skip the lines at three Japanese horror attractions. These special events require advance/extra passes regardless, and they sell out fast — so advance entry may be the only way you’ll be able to get in. 

halloween wreath, skull

Ready for another layer of challenges? The Express and Special attraction passes have timed entries — meaning that you have to pick the exact “time window” for going to the front of the line.

Some of these “windows” sell out — so you’ll have to compare time-charts in Japanese, and do some juggling to figure out a schedule that works. For example, I chose an 11-11:20am entry for Harry Potter, and a 1:10pm entry for the first Japanese Horror attraction, followed by a 2-3pm window for the Jurassic Park rollercoaster, and so forth. The attractions may be in different areas of the park, so give yourself enough time to walk over.

prisoner striped costumes halloween

Final puzzle: How to pay for Universal Studios advance tickets? If you’re in Japan, you can go to any Lawson within a day to pay. If you’re outside the country, you must use a credit card to check out from the Japanese website.

Here’s the trick: you need to input a Japanese address AND phone number, or else your credit card won’t go through. You can try putting your Osaka hotel’s address and phone; it took me a few tries, but I finally managed to get through to the confirmation page.

universal studios japan theme park

Complicated? Expensive? Yes, but it’s worth it for guaranteed timed entries and to avoid waiting in queue. I’m glad I splurged on the Express and Japanese Horror passes, and booked weeks before so that I had many timed entry options to choose from.

You can also save money by bringing in outside food (just keep it hidden in your bag) rather than eating the theme park food, and resisting the merchandise. 

jaws ride osaka universal theme park

All right — now we’re inside, and ready to explore Universal Studios Osaka!

The park is divided into different sections: Jaws, Jurassic Park, Terminator, Spiderman, Waterworld, Harry Potter, Snoopy and more. The attractions are constantly changing; there previously were Resident Evil and Evangelion features.

ユニバーサル・スタジオ・ジャパン

From September to October, Universal dresses up its characters in Halloween costumes. Since this is my favorite holiday, I was excited to visit during this time.

universal studios osaka amusement park

As you can see in the photos above, many visitors come in groups, and dress extravagantly (even when it’s not Halloween).

It’s a terrific opportunity to cosplay as your favorite Universal mascot. However, keep comfortable footwear and sun protection in mind, or else you may wind up at Universal’s First Aid office (they have one near the front gate).

super mario cosplay, nintendo costume

I saw a lot of Suicide Squad and Minion outfits. Since this is Japan, I was happy to see Nintendo represented — “It’s me, Mario!” — and a bad Japanese schoolgirl in a sailor uniform.

harry potter entrance osaka japan

I was excited to see The Wizarding World of Harry Potter for the first time. My heart raced when I saw “Please respect the spell limits,” and the pointed, snow-capped rooftops of Hogsmeade village. Universal recreates Harry Potter’s world magnificently, with swells of music and meticulous attention to detail.

hogwarts express train universal studios

All aboard the Hogwarts Express! In every area of the park, you’ll find the Universal Japan staff smiling and welcome guests. In Wizarding World, they helped children perform magic tricks with wands (a few gestures made it rain candy). There was also a Harry Potter choir and stage show, performed in both English and Japanese.

You can easily spend an hour or more exploring Harry’s home. A barrel dispenses Butterbeer, a sweet non-alcoholic beverage that is a bit like butterscotch. Personally, I didn’t enjoy the taste…

hogwarts entrance winged boar statues

Hogwarts Castle looms high over the village. Stroll past the winged boars, and into Hogwarts’ School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. This is the site of the uber popular ride, “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.” (Average wait time is 3 hours… but with my timed entry Express pass, I got to go straight in.)

The anticipation builds as you pass Dumbledore’s office, the Gryffindor common room and Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom. Then, you put on special goggles and get strapped into a moving chair — for a “4K 3D” ride that makes you feel as if you’re soaring through the skies with Harry, on a broomstick.

harry potter roller coaster, flight of hippogriff

There’s also a small roller coaster called “Flight of the Hippogriff,” which dives past Hagrid’s hut. I was impressed by the moving recreation of the half-eagle half-horse creature, which you pass on your way up the tracks.

owl post, dogweed deathcap, harry potter world

Shops, shops everywhere. You can purchase Harry Potter goods inside the various themed stores, such as Owl Post and Dogweed & Deathcap (which had a moving plant in the window.)

harry potter magic wand store, universal

Inside Ollivanders, you can choose from an array of magic wands, including replicas of the film characters’ personal wands. They’re intricately carved out of wood and decorated, and are in the $50 range.

japanese cosplayers, universal studios osaka

The staff does a fantastic job at immersing you in a fantasy world. I watched a little girl purchase a stuffed owl, and the shopkeeper gave her gentle instructions on how to care for the creature (“she needs lots of hugs, and to have her feathers brushed”).

I snapped a photo of these Japanese girls in front of Honeydukes, which sells sweets from the Harry Potter stories, including Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavour Beans and Chocolate Frogs.

snoopy mascots, universal studios parade

I couldn’t help but smile as I strolled through the different parts of the park. Universal broadcasts holiday music, so I got to groove along to The Monster Mash and Time Warp.

Many of the live attractions appear at random. I caught a few Minions performing on a fire truck. Then, it was time for the parade.

hello kitty parade, sanrio theme park

Dancing Hello Kitties, and pumpkin-folk giving out free candy… How can this day get better?

asian matching couples kawaii costumes

Many visitors wore impressive costumes. Some couples dressed up together, such as this pair of Minions, and Hello Kitty and Daniel. 

cute japanese girls halloween costumes

Naturally, “kawaii” cute is a frequent theme. In the “San Francisco” section of Universal Studios Osaka, I came across three Little Red Riding Hoods.

resident evil hunk costume, cosplay mask

Behold — it’s Hunk from Resident Evil! If anyone can survive the zombie apocalypse, it would be this guy.

jason, nightmare elm street toys

As a horror movie fan, I was thrilled to see Jason Voorhees (Halloween) and Freddy Krueger (A Nightmare on Elm Street). They’re strung up as prizes, in the games section.

zombie blood bags, universal studios halloween

The zombie attacks and Japanese horror-shows start when the sun sets… you simply must read on to see what happens.

More here!

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I stayed at Tokyo’s Godzilla Hotel! Gracery Shinjuku, Japanese theme hotel review, Akihabara Washington.

godzilla hotel tokyo japan

Skreeeonk! Watch out, Tokyo. It looks like Godzilla is taking over the city once again.

Did you know you can stay at a Godzilla monster themed hotel: Hotel Gracery ShinjukuOnly in Japan, of course!

hotel gracery shinjuku kabukicho

Let’s kick off 2017 with a roar. I’ll take you inside Gracery Shinjuku, a wonderfully idiosyncratic hotel in the best possible location. (Godzilla’s claw points over Kabuki-Cho, the host club and nightlife district where most of the Goth / alternative events take place.)

● You can book a discounted room at the Godzilla hotel here, using my special link.

godzilla hotel ホテルグレイスリー新宿

On the terrace of the hotel is a towering Godzilla statue — it doesn’t get more epic than this. The monster even moves and roars, with flashing eyes!




toho cinemas shinjuku tokyo movie theater

Where is this bizarre Japanese hotel located? From Shinjuku station’s East Exit, walk towards Kabukicho and go down the street near Don Quixote. Look up — you’ll see the Hotel Gracery sign, and Godzilla atop a skyscraper!

It makes sense that he’s towering over Toho Cinemas, which releases all the Japanese Godzilla movies. (Address: 1-19-1 Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, Japan.)

hotel gracery shinjuku rooms review

The hotel has 30 storeys, which meant I had these soaring views of Shinjuku from my window. Gracery’s rooms are simple yet spacious, which provides great value (prices are around $100 a night). I spent over an hour soaking in the large bathtub, using the free red bath salts that I got when I checked in.

godzilla theme room, gracery japan

For fans of “dai kaiju”… There’s a Godzilla room that you can rent. Keep reading to see photos of the “monstrous” interior.

long clothing skirt, tokyo fashion

Hotel Gracery only opened in 2015, but already, it has become a Shinjuku landmark — thanks to the Godzilla perched menacingly over its ledge.

I’m wearing a Long Clothing Infinity Clip skirt. See more from this designer below:

godzilla teeth roar sculpture

If you’re a guest of the hotel, you can access the terrace where Godzilla lives… that is, if you dare.

hotel gracery shinjuku cafe lounge

Hotel Gracery’s convenient location makes it a perfect hangout. John and I invited our friends to join us for drinks and snacks at “Café Terrace Bonjour,” located on the eighth floor.

life size godzilla statue tokyo

The cafe is guarded by a life-sized version of the monster, similar to this 1995 Godzilla statue that you can put in your home.

godzilla cake, theme menu, dessert

The relaxing lounge has an adjoining outdoor terrace, and large selection of snacks and cocktails. There’s even a Godzilla cake that you can bite into.

absinthe ghost marshmallows

However, my friend Caro (who runs a Gothic baking blog) brought her own homemade spooky sweets for us to share. These are marshmallow ghost cookies are made with white chocolate and absinthe, in colors that match her green liquid lipstick

goth scene tokyo japan

Everyone grabbed a ghoul to eat. By the end of the evening, they had vanished into thin air.

(Many of us are wearing Killstar, Long  Clothing and other Gothic styles that you can get on this site.)

roaring moving robot godzilla

In the evening, Godzilla awakens at the top of each hour (6pm, 7pm, etc). For a few minutes, he shakes his head and his eyes flash like lightning. The creature bares his pointed teeth and spits out fog — or rather, his secret weapon of “atomic breath.”

ゴジラ fans, shin-godzilla movie

We did our own impression of the scary beast. I think Goths and Godzillas get along rather well together.

godzilla themed hotel review tokyo japan

Beneath the behemoth, there are carvings of Godzilla from his films over the years. The monster’s design changes every time they release a movie, such as with the latest “Shin-Godzilla.”

strathberry scotland mini tote bag

Some of the depictions are more goofy-retro than frightening.

The sea-monster tries to take a bite out of my Strathberry of Scotland midi leather tote, which I decorated with a Devilish 666 bow.

giant godzilla monster sculpture

For those who aren’t familiar with “Gojira,” (ゴジラ), the monster first appeared in Ishirō Honda’s 1954 film, Godzilla (more info here). He’s a raging, gigantic prehistoric sea monster whose powers were awakened by nuclear radiation.

godzilla hotel gracery rooftop

Japan’s Godzilla quickly became a legend, and his name is now known all over the world. To this date, he’s the star of over 20 films, as well as video games, manga and spin-offs featuring his allies, rivals and juniors.

nu goth dark fashion blogger

John, Atsushi and I are fans of Godzilla, even though he’s destroyed Tokyo over and over. My skirt is a Long Clothing Infinity Clip design; find more from this label at:

godzilla store, merchandise tokyo

For super-fans, Hotel Gracery has two special suites dedicated to Godzilla! One gives you the perfect view of Godzilla’s head, from your window.

book godzilla theme hotel room

The other, called “Godzilla Room,” lets you get immersed in the monster’s universe. Everything is decorated playfully, such as trick walls that reveal art in black light, and a mega-statue that greets you when you enter.

mothra flying over tokyo

The suite’s windows have decals of his frenemies such as Mothra, who appears to be spreading his wings over Tokyo.

big hand godzilla hotel rooms gracery

High five to Gracery Shinjuku, for the creative Godzilla room decoration. Would you be able to sleep with his scaly hand on the wall, looking like it’s about to grab you?

shinjuku gracery hotel reviews, rooms

One of the walls is decorated with his movie posters, from the 1950s to today. I enjoyed seeing the concept evolution over time. (Photos by John S and me.)

space godzilla window

SpaceGodzilla came down from the stars. Such a creative window design — from this angle, it looks like he’s about to tear this skyscraper out from the ground. 

godzilla road sign kabuki cho

The Japanese love their home-grown monster, and even named this Godzilla road after him (leading from Meiji-doori to Hotel Gracery).

godzilla building shinjuku skyscraper

I always recommend that travelers stay in Shinjuku, since it’s close to everything. Hotel Gracery is in the best possible location: near Decabarz (the alternative Goth club), Golden Gai, host clubs, bizarre theme restaurants, cat cafes, and all types of delicious food. In the area underneath the hotel for example, there’s takoyaki, okonomiyaki, sushi, and Krispy Kreme.

godzilla roaring, mouth

Hotel Gracery did a spectacular job in executing the Godzilla theme. There’s impeccable attention to detail…

retro gojira posters, japanese godzilla movies

… and tributes to the “kaiju” all over the lobby, such as this mural leading up to the elevators. 

godzilla enemies, rivals

Fans of Godzilla, King Ghidara and Mothra — you’ve got to check out this unique hotel.

akihabara hotel washington tokyo

While in Tokyo, I got to rest my head at yet another theme hotel, Washington Akihabara. (Japan’s Washington Hotels are under the same umbrella as Gracery.)

Located in the “otaku” district of Japan, this is the only hotel in the world with a room dedicated to train aficionados. One of the walls contains a glass case, filled with miniature re-constructions of railway stations. (Above, can you spot No Face?)

train themed hotel, tokyo

Washington Hotel is once again in a convenient location: a 1-minute walk from JR Akihabara Station. (Address: 1-8-3 Kanda Sakumacho, Chiyoda, Tokyo)

Train fans can reserve Room 1304, which has a huge train track with professional levers. You can borrow one of the hotel’s model trains, put it on the rails, and use the gears to make it whizz around at different speeds. 

washington hotel akiba tokyo room

Above, you can see a blue and green train looping around on opposite tracks. The model set includes the city’s landmarks, including Tokyo Tower.

pokemon go nail polish, nail art designs

Once again, the rooms are clean and spacious, and excellent value (book a room for under $90 here). Hotel Washington also has a terrific included breakfast: I ate my fill of hiyayakko (chilled soft tofu), pickled vegetables, tamago and miso soup every day.

tokyo godzilla tour

You can also find out more about Hotel Gracery Shinjuku and book a room here (you can request the Godzilla suite).

godzilla theme restaurant

Have you watched any of the Godzilla movies? Would you stay in this eccentric theme hotel?




Coming up – a travel video and more posts from my JR Rail Pass trip through Japan. If you’re planning to come in the spring for cherry blossom season, it’s a great idea to get one of these unlimited passes, which let you ride the rails at a fraction of the cost.

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Gothic Brussels! Avantgarde art galleries in Belgium: Maison Particuliere, coffin Goth metal bar.

goth christmas tree, decoration

It’s almost the holidays, and I’m winding down my travels for the year. While in Hong Kong this month, I snapped some photos in front of a cute Xmas tree and decorations.

goth christmas decor, style

I’ve had so many work trips this year that it’s been hard to catch up on blogging. There’s a lot from Asia to come (Hong Kong, Myanmar, Japan).

But before Christmas comes around, it feels right to release my final post from Brussels — one of my favorite destinations of 2016.

private art centre Brussels, library

If you Brussels is a boring city — then I have a feeling this story will change your mind.

“Bruxelles” is currently one of the best places in Europe to be a young artist. There’s a huge number of new galleries and fairs here, which are open to emerging artists. These experimental attitudes and relatively low rents have resulted in a vibrant scene (remember the David Bowie mural I wrote about?)

Not convinced? Then let’s start with a visit to a fetish art exhibit!

Maison Particulière art gallery brussels

Visit Belgium introduced us to Maison Particulière, and it turned out to be one of the best exhibits I’ve seen in a long time. (Address: Rue du Châtelain 49, 1050 Ixelles, Belgium)

This unconventional space is a private townhouse originally built in 1880. Nothing is for sale, but anyone can walk in and appreciate the works without fees. Maison Particuliere encourages you to pick up a book, curl up on one of the seats, and enjoy the displays for as long as you wish.

edgy fetish art exhibition

The exhibits are constantly changing, and pertain to a theme. With S&M birdhouses, silicone labias and Thai ladyboys… I’d say this “ta.bu” curation lives up to its name!

(I’m wearing a velvet dress by Alice’s Pig, a London vintage-inspired brand. You can purchase it directly from me from my wardrobe sale.)

taxidermy deer sculpture

Everything — from Mapplethorpe nude photographs, to scandalous taxidermy — reflected on the idea of taboo.

“Banned, proscribed, prohibited, censored, feared, dreaded, transgressed, trespassed… Taboos are inherent to society and to mankind. No matter what they are, taboos are invariably rooted in the fear of danger.”

Maison particulière weird bizarre art

The idea of Taboo was expressed in an impressive range of mediums. Age, disease, sexuality, sadomasochism and other “repulsive” subjects are brought to the forefront for discussion.

holocaust painting, concentration camp

Some of the works were unnerving, such as large-scale paintings that depicted the Holocaust.

crazy art galleries brussels

Others took a funny, pop culture approach. Quite the surprise to come across giant hanging boobs, and a monkey fetus in a sack!

tattooed pig sculpture

I came across works that commented on body modifications, such as this tattooed pig. Maison Particuliere did an incredible job at facing these social dangers head-on, and left me with a lot of food for thought.

Galerie Daniel Templon brussels art

Onward, to a very different yet equally impressive environment. The St. Gilles district is home to many top galleries, including Galerie Daniel Templon (Address: Rue Veydt 13A, 1060 Saint-Gilles, Belgium).

I was immediately captivated by the dream-world spun by Japan’s Chiharu Shiota. She covered the room in black cobwebs, hand-laced and knotted by hand. With this deceptively simple technique, she conjures up subconscious feelings: the past, dreams, anxieties.

Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota

Brussels is a magnet for the world’s most exciting contemporary artists. Perhaps you’ve heard of Chiharu Shiota from her massive display of keys, strung by red yarn, at the 2015 Venice Biennale. 

venice biennale artist japanese installation

She created this original installation in a single week. At the opening of “Sleeping is like Death”, her two assistants slept in hospital beds covered by dark spider webbing — uncanny, eerie, magnificent.

belgium optical art

I explored more of Brussels’ art scene with my local friend, Jérémie Venganza of Super Dragon Punch!!, a synthbit Industrial band.

We walked next door to the Op Art exhibition, called “Let’s Move” at La Patinoire Royale.

(I’m wearing a coat by Alice’s Pig.)

op art exhibit, galllery

We were dazzled by the eye-popping displays of kinetic art from 1955 to 1985. There were works from more than 30 artists, all of which tricked the mind into perceiving motion and dimensions. Once again, an offbeat and world-class collection — free for anyone to see.

pop art museum brussels

Our last stop was “Pop Art in Belgium,” a temporary collection at the ING Art Center. It brought together famous works from stars of the movement (Warhol, Lichtenstein, Rosenquist) — and even had a funny photo booth in the basement.

le cerceuil bar brussels

After all that astonishing modern art, it was time for a drink. Jeremie took me to a Gothic / metal bar, Le Cerceuil or “The Coffin.”(Address: Rue des Harengs 10-12, 1000 Bruxelles)

Le Cercueil burst into the city center in 1974, after the popularity of horror movie, “The Exorcist.” The decor lives up to its morbid names: Skulls and bones and death, oh my!

heavy metal bars europe

Inside the dive-y basement, we sat on couches next to ribcages and monster paintings. Metallica and other metal bands blasted from the speakers.

coffin shaped table, bar

Like a scene from The Rocky Horror Picture Show… the table are shaped like coffins, with skeletons inside!

brussels goth bars, clubs

The drink menu had a long list of gruesomely-named cocktails, like Sperm of the Devil and Piss of the Cadaver.

cerceuil coffin hard rock bar

We had a fabulously spooky time at Le Cerceuil. Highly recommended for those who like to hang out in cemeteries.

absinthe bar brussels belgium

Jeremie also recommended Floris Bar, nearby in the City Center. (Address: Impasse de la Fidélité 12, 1000 Bruxelles) I nicknamed it “Absinthe Heaven” because… well, this photo says it all.

Over 350 varieties of the Green Fairy, including  Belle Epoque, Die Grune, Fee Verte, Tabu. The environment is a little touristy, but the spectacular selection of absinth — served French-style, with flames — makes it worth the trip.

brussels hipster fashion art

Did I change your preconceptions of Brussels? I found out for myself that the modern art scene is edgy, and among the most vibrant in all of Europe. (Belgian photos by BorderlessMedia.)

PS – you can purchase this exact dress that I’m wearing on my Depop (browse all items here, and email gothiccarmina@gmail.com to buy directly from me). There’s also a similar velvet dress by Alice’s Pig available here, at a discount.

gothic christmas decorations, xmas tree

Got any Nightmare Before Xmas plans? Will you be traveling anywhere over the holiday season?

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Park Hotel Tokyo: luxury art & culture hotel in Shiodome! Japanese artist project, decorated theme rooms.

snapchat fashion bloggers, style influencers

As that Italo disco song goes: “Tokyo by night / City full of light. I will lead you through / Tokyo by night.”

That sums up the feeling of my stay at Park Hotel Tokyo, a modern skyscraper filled with Japanese design and culture. Every evening, I looked out from my Artist Room on the 31st floor — decorated floor-to-ceiling in wabisabi — at the neon twinkle of the Tokyo Tower.

(Above: I’m wearing a rose gold cuff bracelet and this exact 90s style choker by Shashi Jewelry. And clearly I’m on Snapchat, at username @lacarmina.)

tokyo tower hotel window view

As you’ll recall, I was traveling around Japan using a JRailPass, which gives me unlimited access to JR trains (including shinkansen, buses and some ferries). If you purchase a Japan Rail Pass like mine (for 1-3 weeks), I recommend beginning your trip in Tokyo. Spend at least 5-7 days here, and then activate your pass to start riding the rails.

I’m glad I stayed at Park Hotel in Shiodome (near Ginza), as the entire experience is designed to immerse you in Japanese art and culture. My Instagram lit up when I showed you the soaring views from my hotel room window.

(Find out more about Park Hotel, and book a stay.)

grey green haircolor, asian gray dyed hair

From the moment you step into the 25th floor lobby, Park Hotel lives up to its reputation for omotenashi, or Japanese-style hospitality. The kind staff anticipates all your needs, and everyone speaks fluent English.

(For my Japan travels, my stylist Stephanie Hoy at Sugar Skull Studio made my hair grey and green.)

colorful artist rooms, park hotel tokyo

In 2012, Park Hotel Tokyo initiated an “Artist in Hotel” project, which brings in local artists to decorate a room on the 31st floor.

To date, there are over a dozen art rooms on this floor, each inspired by some aspect of Japanese culture. The creative themes include Sumo, Zen, and Lucky Cat. Photographer John S and I got to take an inside look — read on for the details and to learn about each artist.

asian goth 90s choker, japanese hotel art

That day, I wore a corset-style tank top by C/Meo (Cameo). They specialize in romantic, unique cuts, such as this similar cut-out black shirt and this bodice top .

My black lace necklace is this exact choker by Shashi. With embroidered detailing and a lobster claw clasp, this choker is 90s Gothic perfection.

(Shop my look below, and click the arrows for more:)

 

art boutique design hotels tokyo

At Park Hotel, the art immersion begins in the lobby. The artists who took part in the room project also have designs on display, and for sale.

review park hotel ginza

There’s so much to see in the lobby lounge. I admired the glowing circular halo paintings by Nobuo Hashiba, and peeked into glass cases of contemporary design. At night, the tall atrium walls light up with colorful projections.

japanese woman smoking mural

At this hotel, even the most unexpected spaces become canvases for creativity. Indoor smoking rooms are usually glum and bare-boned spaces. Fortunately, the funky artist Akihisa Hayashi (“Marron-chan”) stepped in, and turned the walls into a retro-sexy painting of a geisha, with golden clouds drifting out of her elegant pipe!

Look closely and you’ll see Tokyo landmarks along with flying sushi and ramen girls, Godzilla, a UFO, and cats.

park hotel tokyo japan review travel blogger

Guests can book any of the Art Colours rooms on the 31st floor of Park Hotel Shiodome. I’m lounging in “Kabuki” by Yamaguchi Keisuke: he painted this horse and flowing circles while staying in this room for 16 days.

His inspiration is “Yanone,” a Kabuki performance that captures the beauty of ancient Japanese traditions. The arms and legs blur into curves, representing the expressive movements of the theater.

lucky cat painting japan

In another room, painter Nanami Ishihara took the concept of “Festival” as her theme. The party never stops: every inch of free space is covered in rainbow rabbits, elephants, deities and schoolgirls doing the “Bon odori” matsuri dance.

She even turns functional objects into playful art. In the closet, the air vent becomes the mouth of a dancing lion!

artist rooms, park hotel tokyo

Yuka Ohtani lived in Akita prefecture (in the north of Japan), and the peaceful landscapes and lifestyle inspired her to create this room. The panels are framed with cedarwood from the region, with a view of the local moat and flowers in bloom.

She pays tribute to Akita with elegant details: a “cracked ice” pottery pattern on the ceiling, camellia flowers over faux sliding screens…

art decorated room, japan hotels

… and paintings of glowing lanterns from the Kanto festival, hidden in the closet.

(I couldn’t resist going inside and doing a Sadako impression!)

dragon black white mural

One of my personal favorites was the “12 signs of the Zodiac” room by Ryosuke Yasumoto, which was completed during his 11-day stay. His black and white animal illustrations flow through the walls, and emphasize the humorous side of the Asian folk tale.

park hotel tokyo artist floor, zodiac room

I had fun finding all the animals in the room. Ryosuke Yasumoto takes full advantage of the three-dimensional space, mounting a cat sculpture on one wall and reflecting creatures in the mirror. (The cat was left out of the legendary race, but makes a comeback here.)

5 star design hotels tokyo

I stayed in the Wabi-Sabi room, which I recommend as it has a brilliant view of the Tokyo Tower. Artist Conami Hara created this work over four months, using silver foil to transform the walls into shimmering colors that will change over time. She painted driftwoods and ripples, inspired by the Zen stonen garden Ryoanji in Kyoto.

tokyo luxury art hotel

Castle by Kazuki Mizuguchi was constructed over 454 days. His transcendent vision depicts Edo Castle, which was lost in a fire, over a black background. The room entrance mimics a stone wall, and even the lampshades reflect the archtecture of the roof.

At night, a surprise appears: when you gaze in the direction of the Imperial Palace, the castle appears in a reflection on the glass.

park hotel shiodome lobby, breakfast buffet

The 25th floor harmonizes a functional lobby with natural surroundings of Japan. Looking up, the atrium soars up into a triangular prism of light.

Every morning, I came downstairs for the freshly prepared breakfast, with both continental and Japanese options. (I feasted on the gobo, hijiki, soft tofu and miso soup.)

pokemon go nail art

Eggs, anyone? Next to the yogurt and fruit display, I came across these alien-like sculptures. (My Pokemon Go nail art is by Glam Nail Studio in Vancouver.)

interior design park hotel japan

Park Hotel’s mission is summed up in “Art”: Atrium, Restaurant, Travel, and of course the artist rooms project. They succeeded in bringing Japanese aesthetics to the forefront, and made my stay feel like a cultural integration.

travel instagram looking out windows views

Park Hotel is right by Shiodome and Shimbashi train stations, and a short walk to Ginza. The location gives easy access to the major districts of Tokyo, while letting you feel as if you’re in a peaceful hideaway, up in the clouds. 

Scotch Malt Whisky Society japan

John S and I had a memorable drink at The Society, the first bar in Japan to be officially recognised by The Scotch Malt Whisky Society.

These connoisseurs stock hundreds of bottles of whiskey from around the world, each with poetic names that reference the taste or feeling. Such as: “Jingling Jalapenos,” “Hospitals on Guy Fawkes night,” and “BBQ in Pine-Clad Dunes.”

tokyo japan whiskey bar, park hotel

We took in the Blade Runner views from the windows, and sipped one of the bar’s finest Japanese single malt whiskeys. Prices are steep at The Society, but a tiny taste goes a long way.

tokyo hotel best views

I’ll miss my mornings in my Artist Room, drinking green tea and reading The Japan Times while curled up on this sill…

Arigato Park Hotel Tokyo for a beautiful stay that immersed me into the art and history of Japan. (You can learn more about this hotel and book rooms here.)

Which is your favorite of the Artist Rooms? Doesn’t this city view remind you of the movie “Lost in Translation”? (PS: check my Instagram Stories and Snapchat @lacarmina for cute daily updates from Asia right now.)

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