Category Archive for J-News

Asia pop culture tours, African safari & Owl cafes: my top fashion & travel memories of 2014.

tokyo tower glowing at night

I’m glad you enjoyed the first half of my Year in Review! In this post, we’ll look back at the last six months of 2014, which took me to eight different countries for various work collaborations.

We’ll begin with this magic moment, in front of the glowing orange Tokyo Tower. I’ve lost count of how many times I have been to Japan, but each time, I fall in love with the country once again.

pechakucha speaker, presentation

This year, I began working with — a startup that lets travelers plan “exceptional journeys” to Japan, by creating trips and getting offbeat tips from insiders like me.

In June, Odigo flew me to Tokyo to give a speech in front of hundreds at PechaKucha. I spoke about my bizarre journey from blogging to TV presenting, writing and traveling worldwide. << Curious about my presentation? Watch my Pecha Kucha speech.

japan owl theme cafe

I’m excited for the official launch of Odigo early next year, and invite you to get a sneak peek here. Odigo lets you discover the coolest attractions in Japan — such as the adorable owl cafe — and put together a customized trip with all the addresses, maps, hours and info in one place. You can also contribute your own write-ups and images; take a look at Odigo, and I hope you’ll enjoy using the site.

teal lace party dress

As part of my mission to find Asia hotspots, I flew to Taipei for the first time. Here’s a Nanette Lepore outfit post from Taiwan’s Humble House boutique hotel.

taiwanese modern art

Taipei’s cheeky, modern art scene impressed me. Looks like the resident caveman (at Le Meridien) is trying to apologize to me. Perhaps he tried to steal my cat… << All the photos and outfit details here.

hello kitty friendship festival

Did you think “kawaii” cute culture was found only in Japan? In fact, Hello Kitty is possibly even more popular in Taiwan. She has a theme cafe in Taipei, and Sanrio had an interactive exhibition while I was there. (I haven’t blogged about this yet — I know, I’m always backlogged — but you can peer inside the Hong Kong Hello Kitty cafe.)

travel writer, travel magazine writing

I keep busy with a variety of different projects. I was in Hong Kong for a big TV shoot with Pro Sieben (German television). Can’t say much about this yet, but I’ll show you the photos and clip when they air next spring.

I wrote a number of articles for magazines this year, like Sunday Times Travel UK. I also have my own column in each issue of Hong Kong Express Airways’ in-flight magazine (scans above).

fashion blogger modeling posters billboard

As I mentioned in the last post, my focus is now on coverage I find meaningful — hence the stories about travel and underground culture worldwide. I’d feel empty if I followed the typical fashion blog format: outfit photos, consumption-oriented roundups, and little else of substance.

Nonetheless, I’m still passionate about style when I can express it on my own terms. I love to support designers who do things differently: slow fashion, alternative styles, eco materials, vintage. Moat House’s sunglasses are a perfect example, and I was honored to model their frames on a life-size poster in Paris.  

upper house hotel room

I returned to Hong Kong, which remains one of my favorite cities thanks to my friends and relatives here. I organized an influencers dinner for Odigo, and took Yukiro around to my favorite boutiques and restaurants.

luxury hotel bed

Things got Miffy-crazy in our Hong Kong penthouse, at the Upper House Hotel… You’ve got to see this epic blog and video, if you missed it!

wwf panda bears exhibit

My Pirates and I went to the new art center: PMQ in Central. At the time, there was an exhibition of 1600 panda bear statues. A powerful (and cute) way to get word out on the WWF, and their work in protecting endangered animals.

japanese sashimi salad

Oh, and the delicious food we ate in HK! Above was one of the best meals of the year, a melt-in-your-mouth sashimi salad by Harlan Goldstein at Sushi To. << Check out all my Hong Kong restaurant reviews.

eat your kimchi youtube studio

My Asia journey didn’t end there. I went to Seoul for the first time in over a decade, and it’s changed so much. Fortunately, my friends Eat Your Kimchi gave me pointers on where to see the best of K-pop culture. << Wander inside the EYK YouTube studio.

kpop beauty fashion blogger

I couldn’t get enough of the youtful university district, Hongdae, filled with coffee shops and Kpop fashion shops. I posed with the modern art in Itaewon

dongdaemun design plaza, seoul

… and got beamed up into the Dongdaemun Design Plaza. Now that’s what I call space disco architecture!

cape town bo kaap street

This year, I realized more than ever: you only live once, and opportunities may never come again. So when Cape Town Tourism invited my film team and me to go to South Africa, we had to say yes — even though it was happening during an insane travel period. We weathered a sleepless schedule, trans-continental flights, lost luggage, and other fiascoes along the way.

But as soon as we stepped out onto the colorful streets of the Bo Kaap, I knew we made the right choice. We had so many wonderful moments on this trip — jazz in townships, Stellenbosch wines, street art, hanging out with local artists.

yawning lion, south africa safari

I also went on my first safari, and it was as magnificent as I imagined. We took photos of elephants, rhinos, zebras and this pride of lions.

aquila safari, game reserve

Perhaps you’ve been wondering: who is “we”? Or rather, who goes on these trips with me? Since my jobs require high-quality photos and videos, I’m not a solo traveler.

For the most part, these comrades are Eric and Melissa, my close friends and seasoned filmmakers. With each project, we aim to improve the quality of everything we produce. I hope you’ve been enjoying the recent visuals and stories — we’ll keep on upping the ante in 2015.

yuan chonghuan, 袁崇煥, 袁崇焕

In the late summer, I was honored to be the cover model for Kirameki Magazine, wearing a Moi-meme-Moitie dress. << See all the photos and credits from this shoot.

Also, fun fact: I found out I’m a direct descendant of 16th century Chinese military leader, Yuan Chonghuan (袁崇焕)! His story is rather heavy metal… In the Ming Dynasty, Yuen was a revered commander who twice defeated the Mongol army, but was later betrayed and killed via Death by a Thousand Cuts. His enemies in Beijing rushed to buy and eat his body parts, but his loyal friend She managed to rescue the head. For the past 300 years, She’s descendants have been guarding my ancestor’s decapitated head. I’m not sure where it is today, but my family still has an ancestral plot of land in Dongguan, his southern Chinese hometown…

philippines traffic, driving

After a bit of sunshine in Vancouver, I was back on the plane to a new Asian destination… Cebu in the Philippines! The streets were a jumble of colorful jeepneys.

white hippie dress

This time, my Pirates and I were collaborating with sáv Hospitality. I judged the Miss Scuba beauty pageant, a competition that gets the word out on ocean conservation…

goth model, lace dress

… and we did a showcase of their gorgeous Pacific Cebu Resort (travel video to be released soon).

travel blogging, beach destinations

Jet lag, what’s that? The small annoyances are all worth it, when you get to experience a near-perfect day like this one. << Look back at my boating and beach adventure in Lapu Lapu. 

the bund, shanghai skyline

We flew a few hours north, and wound up in what seemed like completely different universe: Shanghai, China. Here’s the glowing Bund, which captures how fast the city’s developed in recent years.

cachet hotels china

I went to the mainland a few times when I was growing up, and it never looked anything like this. I still have more to show you about Shanghai’s young design scene, hip restaurants, and French Quarter. << For now, here’s an outfit post from Cachet Boutique Hotel.

purple blue red hair color

Before the end of the year, I made two final trips: to New Orleans, and San Francisco for a TV shoot with ABC Nightline. I haven’t had a chance to post about these adventures yet, but here’s a preview at my new hair color (a blue-purple-magenta ombre by Stephanie Hoy). You can look forward to these stories and several new travel videos, beginning in January.

Middle East, Africa, Asia… what’s next? I hope you’ll continue to join my journey in 2015, since I have big plans up my kimono-sleeves! Check out @lacarmina on Instagram for day-to-day images, and to hear announcements like reader meet-ups. 

Thanks for being with me on my journey — I read all messages and comments, and am grateful for all the love you give. It’s amazing to connect with like-minded people who believe in what I do. See you next year. Let’s make it the best one yet!

San Francisco: Party with us at Wicked Grounds BDSM cafe! Die Schwarze Frau, Japanese drag queen show.

japanese drag queen, sakura blossoms

Here’s the fabulous travel news… I’m off to San Francisco with some of my best friends! Including the sakura-queen Yukiro (above), First Mate Naomi, travel film team extraordinaire Melissa and Eric… And we want you to join our adventure.

wicked grounds bdsm cafe, san francisco

Come to our event, “Pussycat Night: Chained but not Tamed,” at the San Fran BDSM cafe Wicked Grounds! Hang out with us and watch us perform, on Fri May 23rd from 7-9pm.

I’m hosting the festivities, and Naomi will draw a “thing”… you’ll have to show up to see what it is. (The above flyer is her fabulous handiwork; more art is on her Naomiyaki site.)

gothic drag queen

But the star of the show is Yukiro’s Gothic drag queen persona, Die Schwarze Frau. The bloody lady just performed to a crowd of 20,000 at Tokyo Pride, and this will be her international debut. For a preview of the evil, check out the DSF Ameblo.

Die Schwarze Frau, tokyo drag queen

WHEN: Friday May 23, 2014
WHERE: Wicked Grounds (BDSM cafe), 289 8th St, San Francisco, CA 94103
TIME: 7-9pm
All ages! No cover, just order a drink or snacks.

lgbt photography, tokyo japan

I’ve visited San Francisco at least four times, but haven’t been here in recent years. Can’t wait to re-discover the alternative scene, including Goth-fetish club nights, Trannyshack, Japantown, vintage fashion, and more. If you have travel tips for us, please let us know in the comments.

Naoko Tachibana, cross dress japan

Fortunately, Die Schwarze Frau will only be causing mischief at the show. The rest of the time, I’ll be with Yukiro, who you’ll remember from my Wave Gotik Treffen, Berlin, Japan, LA and NY Fashion Week travels.

You can keep up with Yukiro’s photoshoots, events and more on his WordPress blog and Yurara modeling site (focusing on the fem side, with a graceful high fashion feeling).

cross dresser model

These photos of Yukiro are by Japanese photographer Naoko Tachibana, who runs the site Cross Dress Japan.

japanese cross dressing, transsexual model

She was a cosplay model for many years, and became close to people in the Tokyo LGBT scene. Naoko specializes in cross-dressing images like these; her works have been published in two books, and she had a solo exhibition in Taipei, along with features in galleries internationally.

japan lgbt drag performers

I’m in awe at the mood and light that she captures. If you want to work with Naoko in Tokyo, or simply see more of her images, contact her photo studio.

scottish fold fat cat

I leave you with some snaps of another top model: my Scottish Fold, Basil Farrow.

cat with missing ears, no eared cat

For many more round-faced images, peek at his cat blog.

sakura spring flowers modeling

Can’t wait to explore the subcultures of San Fran! Do you have any suggestions for places to visit? Let me know in the comments, or Tweet me @lacarmina.

And please let your SF friends know about our Pussycat Night at Wicked Grounds (May 23, 7-9pm, full details above). Hope to see you there!


A bittersweet update about Rose. Gothic Lolita, Anime & Cosplay wigs at Tokyo craft store, Okadaya.

goth girl with tattoos, jrock style

A surprisingly large number of people ask me about my friend Rose. Why hasn’t she appeared on the blog recently? I’ve been reluctant to say because the news isn’t good. Basically, Rose has been battling an extremely serious medical condition.

However, there’s a light (over at the Frankenstein place)! A test has nailed down Rose’s mysterious condition — and with some help, she can regain her health. Please read on for the personal story, followed by the latest in Tokyo makeup and wigs (since Rose loves J-fashion, and we want this post to end on an upbeat note!)

pretty gothic girl with tattoos, piercings

Long-time readers will remember Rose from our adventures in Seattle and Vancouver — absinthe burlesque clubs, Jrock concerts, dance videos and more. She’s got such positive energy, and a flair for alt-Japanese style.

Some have commented on her thinness. Rose has been struggling with a serious medical issue for years, which left her unable to eat or gain weight. It’s a long story (which her mom outlines in full here). Basically, about 11 years ago, Rose started having digestive troubles that lead to full gastroparesis or stomach paralysis. Despite going to the best doctors and trying all options, nobody has been able to determine a cause or cure. A series of painful operations, including inserting a pacemaker and removing her entire stomach, did nothing to help.

leopard print bathrobes, tights

Sadly, in recent months, Rose has been getting worse. Her weight dropped to 73 pounds even though she takes in enough calories by tube-feeding, and she developed other complications.

However, there’s been a breakthrough: Rose tested 100% positive for Lyme disease. She took a test years ago, but the results came back negative since there is a high error margin. With this new and reliable method, the diagnosis is undeniable, and the symptoms fit.

crimped hair, goth punk girls

It’s terrible that the undiagnosed Lyme disease caused her to worsen for a decade. On the plus side, Rose now knows the cause, and can undergo a complicated treatment to hopefully beat it. However, this will be a long, expensive road. I know her family, and they put everything into her medical costs, but it is a struggle. We’re having an online fundraiser, and hope you can help Rose with a contribution, no matter how small. So grateful for your support, and will share updates all along the way. Let’s get her healthy again!

You can donate safely here by PayPal or credit card (choose to pay with PayPal and then at the bottom you will see “buy as guest.” Click that and you can then use your credit card.)

♥ Or if you can just help us get the word out — maybe with a Facebook post, Tweet, blog post or email — it will make a difference. Thank you.

pink pastel wig, bunny ears hairstyle

On a brighter note, since this post is dedicated to Rose, I wanted to put up something that makes her smile. Rose dreams of visiting Tokyo, and I know she’ll go nuts inside Okadaya — one of the best places to pick up wigs, makeup, and craft supplies. I love coming here to scout out the latest beauty trends, like bunny-eared pastel wigs.

japanese girls false eyelashes, jpop lashes

The main floor of Okadaya (address: Shinjuku 3-23-17, near the station’s east exit) has a wall of false eyelashes, especially in the glam gyaru style. Above are some special collaboration lashes, which come in different colors. There are also over-the-top ones in rainbow colors, feathers and glitter.

Don Quixote and 100 yen “dollar” stores sell cheaper false lashes, but you can’t beat the variety and uniqueness of the ones here.

disney nail polish, minnie mouse makeup

There are always displays of new, chic beauty products. Disney just released a glittery nail polish line, in a variety of colors. Cinderella, Minnie Mouse and Snow White seem to love it.

hello kitty perfume, makeup

Hello Kitty’s cute face is omnipresent in Japan. This is the new Sanrio perfume, packaged in “small gift” pouches. Different colors represent different scents.

one use contact lens, harajuku circle contacts

Circle or novelty contact lenses remain big sellers in Japan. These “Funky Whip” contacts are a relatively new offering, which you wear only once and dispose.

black red dyed hair

On the second floor, it’s wigs galore! The sample hairdos are always done up in creative styles, like this braided and flower-topped mannequin.

pastel goth wigs, fairy kei

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s influence is obvious in these quirky, experimental pastel hairstyles.

cult party kei hairstyles

Would you rather have a snake dangling by your face, or a snowman on your scalp?

weird experimental hairstyles japan

This green and red Christmas wreath hairstyle gets props for creativity, if nothing else.

funny mannequin heads

What a lovely romantic couple. The one on the left is a man… I think? (Okadaya has a fun selection of Jrock or host boy wigs too).

women's colored wigs, alternative hair

Every possible type of synthetic wig is sold here, in all colors and lengths. These shaggy bobs are more natural-looking.

pastel color wigs, gothic lolita wig

If that’s not your bag, then there’s a shelf of Sweet Lolita, pastel goth and cosplay wigs! Most are by the brand Prisila. Perfect for anime convention costumes, Halloween, or a club night out.

For more photos of fabrics and craft supplies at Okadaya (including feather boas), see this blog post…

ne-net cat logo

… and peruse my LaCarmina Instagram. I’m on YouTube and Facebook too.

fat cat face drawing

I leave you with a few kitty snaps. Here’s a fat-faced illustration in a Shinjuku store window. Looks like a British Shorthair to me.

big scottish fold male cat

Can you see the resemblance to my Scottish Fold kitten?

pretty goth girl, legs

Basil sends a hug to everyone who helps out our friend Rose, if it’s by giving to the fund, or simply sharing this post. You can see all of our adventures together right here — she’s a very special person, and I hope to have better news for you soon!

6 Best Israel Restaurants: Tel Aviv & Jerusalem’s hottest food and wine. In LA for Oscars parties!

oscars parties 2014, invitation

This post contains a lot of “nom”… it’s about all the delicious restaurants we tried in Israel!

Before we dive into the food, some travel news: I’m off to Los Angeles, to attend Oscars events! Seby and I were invited to several Academy Awards festivities, including a celebrity pre-party and Oscars gifting suite. Can’t wait to bring you inside coverage of the Oscars on my social networks — add me, below, to join the fun.

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kimel restaurant tel aviv

On our most recent journey, the Israel Tourism Board went all-out, and treated my filmmakers and me to 5-star dinners every evening. Each restaurant offered us a hedonistic “tasting” — we picked any main course, and they served it with a humongous selection of appetizers and desserts, and unlimited wine.

I always say: when you’re traveling, eat to your heart’s content! There are foods you simply can’t find at home, not even in specialty markets (such as local cheeses and wines that don’t export out of the country). Might as well taste as much as you can, when you’re somewhere far away.

israeli wines, kosher wine bottle

And drink up. In Hebrew, “cheers” is “l’chaim,” and we did a lot of that. Israeli vineyards have been making waves recently, overcoming the not-so-cool associations with “Kosher wine.”

I enjoyed tasty varietals with names like “Issac’s Ram” and “Star of David”. My favorite was a tasty and easy-to-drink Teperberg 1870 Cabernet/Merlot.

beet pine nuts salad

The first night, we had a rustic meal at Kimel Restaurant Tel Aviv. We thought the meal was over, after filling on incredibly fresh beet and pine nuts salad, goat cheese ravioli, and olive toasted bread. Then, the waiter asked, “Are you ready for the main courses?” He came out with plates loaded with fish filets, beef and lamb… Needless to stay, we left Kimel very satisfied!

Thanks to our new friend, fashion journalist Roza Sinaysky, for joining us. She blogs about Tel Aviv and international high fashion at TelAvivian. (Food photography by me, Melissa Rundle and Eric Bergemann.)

vicky cristina restaurant, woody allen

The next evening, we learned that there’s a Woody Allen theme restaurant. Vicky Cristina is a Spanish eatery, located at the Hatachana compound (a collection of restaurants and shops, converted from the old Jaffa train station built in 1892). One side is more formal (like the movie character Vicky), while the other, where we dined, is loose and care-free like Cristina.

mia farrow pet cat

Side note: we should note that despite dining at this restaurant inspired by the Woody Allen film, we are Team Farrow all the way! (More images of our cat, Basil Farrow, on his Scottish Fold blog.)

seafood paella, vicky cristina tel aviv

Nonetheless, the Spanish tapas were delightful — Israeli food is always fresh, since many ingredients are grown locally. The seafood paella was so outstanding that we asked for a second order.

israel cocktail menu, drinks

We perched on high counters, and people-watched in the lively, open space. The drink menu says it all. Go for the sangria, and end the meal with mint tea.

turbot fish dinner, herbert samuel

Day 3 was a treat: fine dining at Herbert Samuel, run by top chef Jonathan Roshfeld. I later found out the restaurant is kosher, but that didn’t at all limit the flavors in dishes such as turbot (above) and the signature veal cannelloni.

chocolate cake, ice cream, gold leaf

As for the desserts, the photo says it all. Chocolate cake, caramel sauce swirl, gold foil and vanilla ice cream. I licked the plate.

jerusalem bagels, oblong bagel

I’ve been showing you high-end restaurants, but let’s not forget the street food. I loved trying Jerusalem bagels, (during my day in Jerusalem), which are long and large. And my mouth is watering when I think of the falafel (crispy chickpea balls wrapped in pita) I got from small stands.

machane yehuda restaurant

If I had to name one favorite restaurant among these winners, it would be Machneyuda in Jerusalem. The space is bursting with energy and personality. Between taking our orders, the waiters danced to upbeat Lana del Ray and Prince covers!

jerusalem best desserts, semolina cake

The food also has a personal touch, using ingredients from the next-door market. Some surprises included lamb and hummus, ceviche, and tomato cauliflower salad. I’m still thinking of this trio of desserts: tiramisu at the top, an incredible deconstructed cheesecake with berries in the middle, and “Uri’s mother’s semolina cake” dotted with tahini ice cream at the bottom.

jerusalem cool bar

If you think that Jerusalem is a serious, religious place… think again. At night, Machaneyuda has a happening bar scene with acrobatic cocktail mixing.

machane yehuda israeli restaurant

The open kitchen bursts with friendly calls between the chefs, and flaming dishes.

lively jewish restaurant

Outside, we saw locals hanging out in the streets, and going from bar to bar. If you visit only one restaurant while in Israel, I hope it will be this one.

boya tel aviv

However, we ate so well on every night. We joined Louise Kahn (glam singer of Terry Poison) at Boya, a top-rated restaurant at the Tel Aviv port. This is great place to take a walk, and watch big waves roll in.

grilled mushrooms, top israel restaurants

By now, you must be getting a sense of what’s loved in Israel: fresh Mediterranean dishes, with a touch of the Middle East. We tried a number of pastas, fresh baked bread from the “tabun” (traditional clay oven), and lots of seafood. We agreed that one of the standouts was a grilled cauliflower appetizer.

best hummus in israel, hommous restaurant

One cannot visit Israel without trying the hummus — sometimes called the national dish. We had it multiple times, and even visited a local “hummous restaurant” where Jews and Arabs happily sat down to eat this delicious dish together.

social club restaurant tel aviv

Finally, before a night of clubbing, we chowed down at Social Club on Rothschild Boulevard. It’s an ideal location for meeting up with friends before going out, and we especially enjoyed the grilled calamari with fava beans and tahini.

Coming right up: I’ll take you inside the Israeli LGBT nightlife, including a drag queen performance!

herbert samuel desserts

I leave you with a flower-topped napoleon dessert, from Herbert Samuel restaurant. Did you expect Israel’s food scene to be this exciting? Have you tried hummus, falafel, or other dishes mentioned in this post?

PS: don’t forget, I’ll be in LA with Seby for Oscars celebrations — previews will be on my @lacarmina social networks.