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Amsterdam’s Weirdest, Strangest Museums! KattenKabinet cat museum, Dutch cocktail making & tasting tours.

katten kabinet cat museum amsterdam

Meow from Amsterdam! Welcome to my adventures in the Dutch capital.

One glance at my blog, and you know that I love all things bizarre, unusual and quirky.

To my delight, Amsterdam has museums that veer gloriously into this territory… including a cat-themed museum, Katten Kabinet!

rainbow painted walls, wallpaper

As a cocktail-lover, I also adored the creative, interactive tours at The House of Bols and Wynand Fockink. My friends and I got to taste Dutch spirits, and mix our own cocktails.

Ready to explore Amsterdam with me? Read on for a prowl inside the cat museum, and then we’ll get tipsy.

fashion blogger airport outfit, suitcase

I teamed up with I Amsterdam, and they put together an itinerary that was tailored to my offbeat interests. (How do you like my flying outfit?)

I had a smooth direct flight from Vancouver to Schiphol Airport on KLM, the Dutch blue airlines known for its comfortable service. They’re one of my personal favorites, and even sell a Miffy bunny toy dressed in a flight attendant uniform.

● Outfit Details ● I’m wearing MySwear customized Hoxton creepers from Farfetch, which I designed to be shiny pink with an LC monogram. I’m towing this pink Samsonite suitcase, and you can see more photos of my faux fur coat here.

amsterdam canals travel blogger

Before long, I was strolling through Amsterdam, a city known for its iconic bicycles and canals. Spring-time is also a great time to visit, as the weather is warming up but the tourists have yet to arrive.

● I’m wearing a sweater that belonged to my friend Rose — but you can find a similar star sweater by Wildfox (also sold in white), and a pink knit top with stars by Acne. Check out more below:

kattenkabinet cat cabinet museum

I reunited with my local friend Leyla, who runs LeylaFashion blog. (Remember when we visited the Miffy museum in Utrecht together?) Together with photographer Arina Dresviannikova, we were ready for an epic girls trip.

The fun started at KattenKabinet, a cat-themed museum. My friends and I donned pointy-eared headbands, and walked over to the centrally-located building that looks over the canals. (Address: Herengracht 497, 1017 BT, Amsterdam, Netherlands).

cat themed collection museum

The black kitty sign beckoned us to enter.

(Watch Leyla’s travel vlog about Katten Kabinet to see us exploring).

cat faced girl photograph art

Most tourists stick to the popular attractions (Anne Frank House, Rijksmuseum), but I was keen to get off the beaten path, and discover a lesser-known collection — featuring nothing but cats.

toulouse-lautrec cat ads

The museum is small (two floors) but the cat artwork is beautifully presented, with original pieces by masters including Pablo Picasso, Rembrandt, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. 

interior kattenkabinet museum

We went up a winding staircase, and found ourselves in this Baroque-style room finished in red and gold.

This collection of cat-themed objects is not at all kitschy or tacky. The works are masterpieces, carefully chosen and arranged in royal style. 

cat posters france 1800s

KattenKabinet was founded in 1990 by Bob Meijer, in memory of his red tomcat John Pierpont Morgan (named after the American banker J. P. Morgan). To this day, Meijer and his family live in the upper floors of this house.

dutch sleeping cat

Several of his cats roam freely through the rooms. At  first, we weren’t sure if this lazy fellow was real, or a stuffed kittycat!

cat statues collection

Katten Kabinet’s collection includes depictions of all types of cats (various species, colors), in a variety of mediums. I had a stare-down with this grumpy gold statue.

cat cabinet art museum

Many of the works are from the family’s personal collection, which gives De KattenKabinet a pleasingly non-commercial feeling.

dutch 17th century ceiling art

This classic Amsterdam house once belonged to a 17th century merchant. Look up, and you’ll see a restored ceiling painting from this era.

However, there are contemporary works as well. In one corner, I found a spectacular costume from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Cats” musical.

holland katten kabinet artwork

Without taking itself too seriously, the Cat Cabinet lets visitors learn about the role of felines in culture, over the centuries. These works range from advertisements for household products, to fine porcelain figures.

chinese lucky cat statue

The gallery has partnered with famous museums like the Van Gogh, in order to present special works by famous artists. The “Cat-A-Logue” includes pieces from all over the world, such as this antique Chinese lucky cat statue.

maneki neko statues

You can’t help but smile as you walk through the exhibitions. I’ve never seen so many cats in one place! 

rembrandt cat art

Arina played a few songs on the grand piano. Behind her, it took us a minute to find out why this sprawling painting was cat-related.

cat ears girls headbands

Movie buffs may recognize this as a filming location for “Ocean’s Twelve.”

(If you like my star sweater, click for more designs below:)

charlie chaplin cat

The gift shop is just as joyful. The perfect place to pick up a unique souvenir for a cat enthusiast.

cat postcards, cats prints

Isn’t the wide range of kitty-designs inspiring?

If you’re a fellow cat-lady, come on down to KattenKabinet. This funny Amsterdam museum has our paw-stamp of approval.

(You can watch Leyla’s video about our day here and above.)

house of bols amsterdam museum

Now, let’s get trippy at The House of Bols! Once more, this is not a typical museum. Bols is better described as an interactive cocktail / liqueur experience for all five senses.

(I’m wearing this Long Clothing Drippy sweatshirt with side pockets.)

cocktail liqueur museum netherlands

House of Bols is located on Amsterdam’s Museumplein — where the major museums are — and was recently renovated. (Address: Paulus Potterstraat 14, 1071 CZ Amsterdam, Netherlands)

The new design is modern and intriguingly lit, and each room is designed to stimulate the senses. In the rainbow-colored “hall of taste,” I got to squeeze the bottles and guess the liqueur aromas, ranging from green apple to butterscotch.

house of bols brewery, history

Using various media (video, sound, sculpture, photography), the museum tells the story of the Bols family, who started producing bottles of liqueur in 1575. Lucas Bols is the world’s oldest distilled spirits brand, and remains popular worldwide today.

klm blue houses collection

Bols currently has 48 creatively flavored spirits, as well as genever: the neutral or juniper-flavored national liquor of the Netherlands. This is a 35% alcohol that can be a bit similar to gin, and ideal for mixing cocktails.

I thought these blue houses were toys, but they actually are bottles with a cork on top — and contain Dutch Genever!

gin KLM Delft Blue houses

Starting in 1952, KLM Airlines has given these “Delft Blue Houses” to business and royal class travellers. There are 96 different styles, and collectors are keen to have one of each.

lucas Bols Cocktail & Genever Experience

What lies behind Door #2? I received a small jar of liqueur, and went inside to find out.

Suddenly, I was transported into an interactive experience called “The Art of Flavour.” Lights flashed and swirled, the floor buzzed, and music played. The taste on my tongue shifted along with these sensory changes — amazing.

bols fruit liqueur flavors

In the distillery room, I learned about the extraction process and distillation of flavors. The Bols portfolio includes more than 20 brands including liqueurs, genever, gin and vodka.

long clothing drippy sweatshirt

Guests are encouraged to dip their hands into these bins, and smell the various natural ingredients that go into the century-old recipes.

The 48 infusions include berries, fruits, herbs and botanicals. Ginger, peppermint, blueberries, dates, amaretto, and more. 

house of bols cocktail bar, lessons

The final stop: Bols’ Mirror Bar. You can ask the professional bartenders to shake you a delicious cocktail (they are graduates of a special in-house training program)… or create one yourself.

I chose the latter, so I picked and printed out a cocktail recipe on the touch screen. I selected the “Dutch n Stormy,” which combines fresh lime and ginger beer with genever (instead of rum).

learn make cocktails, amsterdam netherlands

Time to shake, shake, shake! I had never made a professional cocktail, and it was fun to test out various recipes using jiggers (the measurement device) and shakers.

Visitors can also come here for group cocktail-making lessons, or book a Bols tastings or food pairing.

wynand fockink dutch tavern

On another evening, we tried a variety of spirits at Wynand Fockink, a Dutch tasting tavern (proeflokaal). Established in 1679, this is the oldest tasting room and distillery in the city.

The bar is located not far from the Red Light District (address: Pijlsteeg 31 & 43, Amsterdam, Holland).

chocolate dessert liqueur

We took part in a tasting session, but you can also walk into the adjoining Wynand Fockink bar any time for a drink. It retains the 17th century atmosphere, and serves the liquors in the traditional fashion: filled to the top, in a tulip glass. 

The “proper” way to take your first sip is by putting your hands behind your back, leaning over, and slurping the head off the top. Not even the royal family can get out of bowing to the drink — if you try to pick it up, you’ll inevitably spill it!

Wynand Fockink Tasting room

We tasted a variety of liqueurs and genevers, which are still made using the same 17th century traditional craft methods. The Dutch distillery produces more than 70 varieties in small batches, which preserves the high quality of the product.

genever distillery amsterdam

Our guide took us into Wynand Fockink’s distillery — which had a “Breaking Bad” vibe! There were rows of flasks, filled with fruit and herb infusions. Everything is hand-brewed in this small space, just as it was centuries ago.

steampunk liqueur alcohol machines

The equipment has been updated (and has a steampunk look), but the process of making these traditional Dutch liqueurs is exactly the same.

weird flavored liqueurs

Back in the tasting room, our guide entertained us with stories about the spirits while we tried them. For example, the Dutch would historically serve “Naked Belly Button Liqueur” at parties, where a pregnant mother would show her growing belly!

Wynand Fockink is not afraid to experiment with limited-run flavors. They created a pine-infused Christmas tree one during the holiday season, and a charred red pepper flavor that was unexpectedly delicious. (We picked up a few flavors at their candlelit shop next door).

i amsterdam iamsterdam museum card pass

I hope you enjoyed this first taste of Amsterdam! Coming up, there’s a visit to the Miffy store and more… stay tuned.

PS: If you’re a museum-lover like me, I highly suggest you pick up the I Amsterdam City Card, which is what we used during this trip. It’s an unlimited travel pass for 1, 2 or 3 days, with tons of benefits.

The IAmsterdam card includes free public transport and entry to all the major attractions, including quirky museums and canal cruises. The perfect way to maximize your visit, and visit tons of places for a much lower price than if you bought individual entry tickets.

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Tokyo Goth clubs & absinthe bars! Gothic party Midnight Mess, Decabar Z, Japanese tribal tattoos.

hibiya shrine tokyo

Greetings from the red torii gate of Hibiya Shrine! Ready for more alternative travel tips from Japan?

I haven’t posted any updates recently to my Tokyo Goth clubbing guide, so keep reading for the latest party / nightclub information, as well as a peek inside an absinthe bar.

I’ll also take you to two Godzilla statues, and an exhibit of Japanese modern primitive tattoos with Keroppy Maeda (who did the infamous bagelheads for our TV shows).

japanese goth girl eyes contacts

I receive far too many emails from travelers, asking for information about Japanese Goth and Alternative parties / clubs. It’s impossible for me to look up specific information for everyone, so here’s what I encourage you to do:

1 – Consult my Tokyo Goth clubbing guide, which highlights parties and events from over the years.

2 – If you’re reading this post in 2017, I suggest you check out the Facebook pages of Midnight Mess, Decabar Z and Department H. Upcoming parties will be announced there, usually about a month in advance. There are also smaller and less frequent alternative / Goth parties, but it’s impossible for me look up everything for each person, as I’m sure you can understand.

So again, please check out this club guide and research the party names I mention there, to see if they have any upcoming events. I hope you have a great time!

fox spirit shinto shrne

We’ll delve deeper into the nightlife further down in this post. But let’s start with a visit to Hibiya Jinja in Minato-ku, by Park Hotel Tokyo (where we stayed).

Outfit details: My sunglasses are these exact ones. I paired fishnet tights with my leopard print dress, which is Gladnews Japan (it’s available for sale on my Depop).

shinto water purification scoops

Although it’s now surrounded by busy streets, this peaceful Shinto shrine dates back 400 years. I smiled at the statues of fox spirits, and washed my hands in the running water of this purification fountain.

ringing bell shinto shrine

Ring my bell-el-el. I’m tugging a rope that leads to a “suzu” or Japanese Shinto bell that contains pellets. The ringing sound calls the kami, or spirits, which brings in good fortune and positive energy.

japanese fox altar temple

Kitsune (foxes) are prominent in Shinto folklore. They’re messenger spirits to Inari, as you’ll recall from my visit to the famous shrine of Fushimi Inari in Kyoto.

godzilla statue ginza

There’s another creature who has a big impact on the Japanese imagination… ‘Gojira’!

I walked to the Godzilla Statue in Ginza, which is located next to Toho Cinemas (as they release all the Godzilla films). (Address: 1 Chome-2-2 Yurakucho, Tokyo)

japanese shin godzilla poster

Shin-Godzilla or Godzilla Resurgence was still playing in the theater when we visited.

The nearby mall even had a Godzilla-themed cafe with food that was shaped like the monster’s paw! (For more about Tokyo theme restaurants, check out my book.)

ginza hibiya godzilla statue

I’m wearing these exact Vysen lavender sunglasses and this Shashi Tiffany choker necklace

This little Godzilla statue is based on one of the older movie designs, and doesn’t seem so frightening. But inside the mall…

shin godzilla movie statue

… there’s a much bigger and scarier Godzilla! This is the latest look for the “dai kaiju”, as seen in the new movie.

tokyo shin godzilla statue

We saw a lot of fans come to take photos with the towering Godzilla statue (he’s so popular here). This was only a temporary pop-up so I don’t think this statue is here any more.

His little eyes and pointy teeth are a bit goofy when seen from up close….

godzilla head tokyo japan

If you’re a fan of the Japanese monster, you’ve got to stay at the Godzilla head hotel in Shinjuku like we did. Don’t miss these photos of our stay in the Godzilla Gracery Hotel.

tav gallery tokyo japan

One evening, I supported my friends John and Keroppy at their panel discussion on Japanese tribal tattooing at TAV Gallery in Asagaya. This small but progressive space showcases artists who are involved in alternative culture. (Gallery address: 阿佐谷北1-31-2 Suginami-ku, Tokyo, Japan)

jomon tattoo keroppy maeda

John Skutlin, a cultural anthropologist who specialises in the study of Japanese tattooing and body modifications, speaks about the experience:

“On display at the TAV Gallery that night were photos from the Jōmon Tattoo Project, a collaboration between journalist and photographer Keroppy Maeda and black-work tattooist Taku Ōshima that attempts to recreate the tattoos of Japan’s Jōmon period (approx. 14,000~300 BCE) on modern human bodies.”

japan ancient tattoos jomon

“Although there is no physical evidence of tattooed bodies from the Jōmon era, the people of that period left behind clay figurines called dogū, which depict human forms engraved with various swirling and spiraling designs that archaeologists theorize to represent scarification and tattooing. Chinese accounts from the second and third centuries CE record extensive tattooing among the people of the Japanese archipelago, making it even more likely that the Jōmon people had a rich tradition of tattooing,” says John.

tattoo event conference tokyo

The discussion held that evening included Maeda and Ōshima, as well as the Miho Kawasaki (chief editor of Tattoo Burst magazine from 1999-2012), Professor of New Materials and Technologies Werner Lorke (HfG Offenbach, Germany), and cultural anthropologist John M. Skutlin (The Chinese University of Hong Kong).

Subjects included the inspiration behind the project and speculation as to what kind of role tattooing played among the Jōmon people. Maeda believes that the urge to alter one’s body is universal, saying that, in the course of our evolution, “the first step to becoming a human being is the choice to change our own bodies artificially.” 

taku oshima keroppy maeda tattoo exhibit

John continues: “According to the project’s manifesto, the Jōmon tattoos are “inscribed upon real human bodies as modern tattoo designs to show how the primitive spirit of humankind will become a new identity to survive the postmodern life of the 21st century.” Ōshima, who spent time studying tattooing in Goa, India before traveling the world to ply his trade, is a master of bold black-work designs, many of which cover entire arms, legs, and bodies.”

tokyo handpoke tattooing

Nearly all of the volunteers for the project had never been tattooed before, and the striking designs indicate natural phenomena that would have been important to the tribal peoples of ancient Japan. Waves, snake coils, and tree branches are all motifs that can be seen in the designs of dogū and now recreated on the bodies of the project participants. “You could say that Jōmon tattooing is the true traditional tattooing of Japan, and the designs everyone knows from the Edo period [1603-1868] were Japan’s modern tattooing,” said Ōshima.

primitive japanese tribal tattoos

For more about John Skutlin’s research, you can read his interview with The Diplomat and watch his presentation at the University of Pittsburgh about ink and body modifications in Japan.

If you’re in Frankfurt, Germany between June 3-18, you can see the Jomon Tribe exhibition at Robert Mayer Zeigt Galerie. I’m excited to see how the modern primitive movement in Japan will continue to develop, and question the country’s taboos about tattooing.

japan goth party

While in Tokyo, John and I were also guests at Midnight Mess, the longest-running Goth club — and our hangout for a decade now! How time flies…

If you’re coming to Japan, I highly recommend that you check out their Facebook group page for upcoming events. DJ Maya always creates a welcoming space (and she and many of the guests speak English).

tokyo japan disco discotheque

We gathered at Bar Shifty in Shibuya for the all-night party. Under the disco ball, Goths in black clothing danced to EBM, dark techno / electro, industrial, aggrotech and noise. 

tokyo clubbing shibuya

Posing with Athena, who often plays with Mistress Maya in shibari (rope-bondage) performances.

shibuya nightclub, clubbing

It was great to reunite with Maya and DJ Statik, the resident deejay who I’ve known for years.

tokyo japan club parties

As always, the party ran all night long (trains stop running in Japan after about midnight or 1am — so you have to keep on dancing til dawn!)

industrial gothic dj japan

Midnight Mess always brings in underground performers and guests from around the world. That evening, DJ Maschinenpriester from Germany pounded out a special set.

mistress maya dj japan

I also invite you to visit Mistress Maya at her Gothic/Fetish Bar, which takes place every Monday & Tuesday at Grenier (a small snack bar in the gay district of Shinjuku). She’ll play alternative music, and make sure you are well fed with homestyle cooking and drinks. Address: 東京都新宿区新宿2-18-10 新千鳥街二階 (2-18-10 Ni-Choome, Shinjuku, Tokyo), phone 0363801199.

otaku dj anime

DJ Sin performed with a hooded head. (All of these club photos are by fake-fantasy).

Thanks to Midnight Mess for having us as the guests of honor!

guinea pig bar shinjuku

My friends and I also stopped by one of our favorite Goth bars — Guinea Pig in Kabukicho, Shinjuku. I previously wrote about this bizarre horror bar here. The bondage baby and spine immediately set the dark (yet fun) mood of this tiny bar.

Address: 2-41-2 Leo Kotobuki Building 3-A, Kabukicho, Shinjuku, Tokyo. 1000 yen cover. Opening hours are generally 8pm to early morning. Phone: 03-3209-3455

japanese smoking in bars

There’s always an eccentric crowd of regulars sitting around the long, black bar. Yes, that’s a blood-splattered pole in the middle — and torture instruments in the back.

kabukicho weird strange bars

We love coming here to sit under the rotting flesh cross, and watch splatter-gore movies play on the big screen.

horror bar tokyo japan

Obviously, Guinea Pig is not a bar for everyone. But if you love strange, obscure, weird Japan — this spot is for you.

haunted bars japan weird

Chains and zombie hands and live snakes — yes please.

tokyo fetish crazy bars

Even though I am in Tokyo all the time, the city and subculture never grow old to me.

craziest theme bars tokyo

Guinea Pig caters to horror / experimental / slasher movie fans. When we visited, they were showing trailers from Herschell Gordon Lewis films (such as Two Thousand Maniacs and Blood Feast), as he had died that week.

shinjuku kabuki-cho nightlife clubs

Cheers to Guinea Pig, which remains one of our regular drinking holes! If you’re interested in Tokyo Visual Kei and Jrock bars, a Suspiria themed bar, and other oddities, check out my Tokyo nightlife guide.

long spiked fangs ring

Close-up on Atsushi’s spiked fang ring and studded bracelets. Now, to the next party…

shinjuku buidings lights

There’s something about Shinjuku at night — lit up and buzzing — that fills me with joy, every single time I’m here.

pentagram men's shirt disturbia

Every time we’re in Tokyo, we stop to see our friends at Decabar Z (5F Shinko Building, 1-2-13 Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, Japan. Here’s a link to the map.)

John’s pentagram top is by Disturbia Clothing, makers of occult and Satanic fashion.

pokemon nail art, pokeball nails

Tokyo’s alternative DJs, performers and personalities grace the colorful mural at the entrance of Deca Bar Z. Here’s Maya as a cat, offering a cup of sake in a pink kimono.

ouija board devil tshirt

Devil horns to match this Satanic ouija board unisex shirt, by Disturbia

deca bar z tokyo decadance

Say hello to Preta Porco, who you’ll find behind the (Deca) bar! He’s easy to spot with his bright yellow foundation, contrasted with rosy red lips and cheeks.

halloween tokyo decadence party

Adrien le Danois, owner of Deca Bar Z, also runs the Tokyo Decadance parties. If you’re not in town during one of the decadence events, don’t fret — Decabar Z is open every evening, and there are always interesting theme nights such as “Addams Family.”

decabar z cosplay bar

Grab a glass of absinthe, and chill out on the comfortable couches. (Here are more photos of Deca Bar Shinjuku, from my last visit.)

gothic lolita dj music

We loved the music at the “I Am Electro” night, run by Migon. The DJs play Depeche Mode, Visage, Europe and other favorites — as well as obscure synthwave and 1980s Goth.

shinjuku absinthe bar alternative

As an absinthe aficionado, I’m always looking for the green fairy wherever I go.

Maya took me to Caribbean, an absinthe and rock bar in Kabukicho. (Address: Kabukicho 1-3-10 2F, Shinjuku Tokyo)

absinthe bars tokyo japan

I drank Mansinthe (Marilyn Manson’s absinthe) and we chatted with the owner. He let DJ Maya control the song selection, resulting in the perfect Goth playlist.

absinthe alternative bar kabukicho

The same owners also run the nearby Absinthe Bar Alternative (Address: 1-6-12-B1F, Kabukicho 歌舞伎町, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 160-0021). It’s a small basement bar, with several shelves of absinth from around the world — heavenly.

tokyo japanese absinthe

If you’re looking for more absinthe in Tokyo, check out Bar Tram in Ebisu.

Modern primitive tattoos, spatter-gore bars, Gothic club nights… isn’t Tokyo’s underground the best? For more coverage of Japanese alternative nightlife, come peruse my Tokyo Goth club guideHave fun!

Volunteering with Punk Rock bands in Yangon, Myanmar! The Rebel Riot, Human Rights concert, Rangoon restaurants.

kyaw kyaw rebel riot punk singer

Believe it or not — there’s a 1970s-style punk rock subculture in Myanmar!

Yukiro and I loved getting to know Kyaw Kyaw, the leader of Burmese punk band Rebel Riot, and his studded, tattooed, Mohawk-ed friends.

As you’ll see in this post, Yangon’s punks play hard. But they also give back to their community in a huge way: Kyaw Kyaw runs two charities that directly aid the homeless, and children in need.

burmese punk rockers, punks burma

Yukiro and I called the theme of our Burma trip “Monks and Punks.” The two groups have more in common than you’d think: they’re all about inclusivity, compassion, and taking action to support others.

(You might remember from our Shwedagon Pagoda photos that this is the world’s most Buddhist nation.)

rebel riot band concert punk

Before we arrived in Yangon, I reached out to The Rebel Riot band on Facebook (as they are one of the most prominent punk groups in the scene). We were keen to volunteer for their charities, and get to know Burma’s alternative, underground side.

Singer and songwriter Kyaw Kyaw welcomed us warmly. He invited us to Human Rights Day, where The Rebel Riot was performing an acoustic set.

yangon human rights day, people's park

The free event took place outdoors, in People’s Park (not far from the famous golden temple).

As I mentioned in my first post about Myanmar, the country was formerly under a military dictatorship, which put up strict barriers for freedom of expression. Now, Aung San Suu Kyi is the democratic leader. The state of human rights is still a work in progress here (as it is everywhere — I’m not going to get into the specific politics). Still, it’s significant to have event like this one, run by young Burmese who believe in this mission.

lgbt gay rights myanmar burma

We were thrilled to meet locals at the event. I was impressed by their passion: they were here to stand up and speak out, for human equality and freedoms. 

A lot of friendly faces came up to us, and asked to take photos together. Yukiro’s makeup and fashion were quite the sensation!

gay rights pride yangon festival

In recent years, the LGBT community has become more open and accepted in Myanmar. Still, same sex activity remains technically illegal, and the gay night at J-One Music Bar is sometimes shut down.

The King n Queens Organisation is doing wonderful work to advocate for equality in Burma. As their motto says, “Human rights are LGBT rights.”

burmese lgbt gay groups

In addition to fighting the discriminatory laws, these LGBT groups are working to increase awareness and education. One giant placard contained a “glossary” with definitions in both English and Burmese. The terms include queer, pansexual and transgender (which are not instinctively known in this population).

yangon abandoned amusement park rides

Next to People’s Park, we noticed a creepy abandoned theme park! This is the old “Happy World,” which looks like a derelict, haunted version Disney’s Fantasia. (It should be re-named “Unhappy World,” don’t you think?”

Anyone can access the run-down rides — so naturally, we posed inside the creepy roller-coaster cars. (More images at the end of this article; all photos by Sniper Chau.)

yangon calling, underground punk scene

To celebrate Human Rights Day, various Burmese bands took the stage and performed. The Rebel Riot band did an acoustic set with their friends. Between songs, Kyaw Kyaw spoke from the heart about the importance of this cause.

rebel riot punks myanmar band

As he put it — he’s an advocate for human rights because as a human being, how could he not be? The fundamental rights to equality, free expression, and protection against unjust persecution should be extended to everyone in society.

human rights day yangon concert

The Rebel Riot’s songs conveyed these messages with power.

burma punk rockers, rebel riot

As Kyaw Kyaw’s nonprofits gain more recognition, many are coming to Myanmar to volunteer directly alongside him. My friends and I brought a suitcase full of school supplies for Books Not Bombs, which provides children with educational support (especially in conflict and rural regions of the country).

burma music festival concert live

Every Monday night, his group Food Not Bombs purchases food and distributes it to the homeless and needy in Yangon. At first, locals weren’t sure what to make of these tattooed and pierced punk volunteers! However, their dedication spoke for itself, and the rockers are now welcomed each week with hugs.

myanmar punks, band

The logo at left (two people giving a high five) summed up the positive spirit of Human Rights Day, Yangon.

myanmar tattoos, piercings

In the audience, we saw others with large gauge earrings, alternative dyed and shaved hair, and DIY studded and painted clothing.

It’s interesting (but perhaps not surprising) that punk ideologies have taken hold in Myanmar — as the country has recently broken free of military rule, yet continues to struggle with regional clashes and authoritarianism.

young burmese millennials

We have full confidence in the young Burmese volunteers we met. They’re progressive and full of energy, and will shape their homeland in a positive, inclusive direction.

punk hair tattoos earrings

We wanted to get to know The Rebel Riot and friends better, so we made arrangements to hang out the following evening.

rangoon tea house yangon

It turned out to be a grand gathering of Goths and Punks, at Rangoon Tea House! (Address: Ground Floor, 77-79 Pansodan Rd (Lower Middle Block), Yangon, Myanmar).

burmese tattoos, punk rock tattoo arm

We sat down at a long table, and the boys laid out their tattooed arms. I see A for anarchy, hell on the knuckles, a skull, and two gasmasks on these sleeves.

yangon punk boys rockers

In true punk spirit, many of these tattoos are DIY. I spot 666…

myanmar goths, gothic

A lot of young locals and travelers come to dine at Rangoon Tea House, which is one of the highest rated restaurants in the city. The restored two-level space is reminiscent of the British colonial era, with classic molded ceilings and lanterns.

rangoon tea house bar cocktails

Rangoon Tea House is well known for its drink menu. The world-class cocktails are inspired by Asian flavors, such as a jasmine gin and tonic, and “Smoking Cheroot” with smoky cinnamon, bourbon and Hennessy, served on a thanaka tray.

At the entrance, we saw the staff preparing tea from the finest grade pindica leaves, aerated with a long pour from above.

punk in myanmar, burma punks

Goths in the back, and punks in the front! I’m standing next to Esther, a Gothic makeup artist, and Ze Ze, vocalist and composer of the band Maze of Mara. We quickly became fast friends — amazing how you can find like-minded spirits in the most unexpected of places.

burma tattoos

“System Error” — so good. Tattooing isn’t taboo here, as it is in Asian countries like Korea and Japan. There’s also a history of tattoos among ethnic groups in Burma, up until the 20th century.

drag queen myanmar

As you can see from our smiles, we loved the food at Rangoon Tea House. The mohinga (Burmese fish noodle soup) was so delicious that we ordered two bowls! This national favorite dish is made from fresh Rakhine daggertooth fish, and perfectly balances sweet, sour, salty and spicy.

rangoon tea house food menu

The menu is a homage to Rangoon’s past — when traders from different countries mingled with colonial settlers and locals. We ate up every bite of the Indian-inspired curries, biryanis, samosas, rotis. Other highlights included British Pimm’s, and traditional Burmese “ohn note kauk” chicken and noodles in coconut broth.

southeast asia punk scene

As you can see, the boys were fans of the Burmese beers.

myanmar punk boys

A meal to remember, followed by a night of more laughs, drinks and shenanigans!

green gallery thai food yangon

On a different evening, we dined at the amazing Yangon Green Gallery — a Thai restaurant that is the favorite hangout of expats and young artistic types. We were sold on the chalkboard sign: “Let us tickle your tastebuds and fill your stomachs.”

Green Gallery Address: Mahabandoola No 58, 52 Street Lower Block, Between Mahabandoola and Merchant, Yangon 1116, Burma.

best hippest restaurants yangon

The friendly owner, Bo, welcomed us with gusto, and insisted that we make ourselves at home. Once again, we found a kindred spirit — we bonded over the 1980s songs that she broadcast all night, from Europe to Eurythmics! 

thai restaurant green gallery expats

Bo used to live in Thailand, and brought these traditional flavors to her cooking. At the same time, Green Gallery is as modern as it gets: she brought us gin and tonics with colorful straws, and we admired the industrial, bohemian design of the restaurant.

yangon hipster restaurants

The Lady, Aung Sang Suu Kyi, looks over the space. It’s wonderful to see women like Bo put their hearts into their independent businesses, and succeed.

green gallery myanmar food curries

My mouth is watering as I reminisce about our meal at Green Gallery! The menu is simple, with a focus on fresh and healthy — yet comforting — Thailand dishes. The items change with the seasons; we started with spicy salad Larb Mhoo, and adored the panang and green curries with rice. Leave room for the coconut sticky rice and mango dessert, which is full of love.

rangoon green gallery

As you can see, the tables fill up quickly, especially with groups of expats. The restaurant also hosts a monthly Green Party that draws in lots of friendly, young faces.

yangon cool cafes restaurants

We could have stayed all night, grooving to the 80s songs and joking with Bo about thumb sizes. There’s no better place in Yangon to get a heart-warming meal than Green GalleryPlease say hi to her for us!

root kitchen bar yangon

We chatted with someone at the next table, and he suggested that we visit Root Kitchen and Bar for a “Wa-Tang” cocktail. His recommendation was on point: the drinks are perfectly concocted with ingredients like tea, lemongrass, ginger, and a special Wa-region liquor made from rice and barley grains.

yangon myanmar cocktail bars

Root is a new restaurant and bar, which pays homage to the Wa people who live in Shan State. This region of Myanmar is often dismissed as a drug and conflict-ridden borderland, so these owners wanted to showcase Wa culture, art, and food in a comfortable space.

50th street bar yangon bands

Later, we met Bo and other new friends at the nearby 50th Street Bar (there are lots of bars and hip restaurants in this district). This venue is known for its live concerts — that evening, we watched several alternative bands perform.

More here!

A night at Kobe Gothic Fetish bar: Idea! Killstar Satanic occult fashion, pentagram harness dresses.

goth punk spikes sexy dress

Devil horns, times two! Appropriate attire… as I was ready to party at a Gothic and Fetish bar in Kobe, Japan.

● I’m wearing a pastel goth ram horns headband from Devilish 666. Love the lavender poof detail on a silver band.
● My bodycon dress is a one-off from Hong Kong’s Spider, similar to many of the fashions by Killstar

occult wiccan satan bar

Idea (pronounced “E-day-ah”) is one of the most authentic and unique underground bars in Japan. Those with a dark disposition will love the occult decor, particularly a light-up pentagram at the center of the bar. 

killstar kill star gothic dresses

What better place to wear occult, Gothic, fetish-inspired fashion? These recent designs from Killstar would fit right in with the aesthetic. My favorites are:

1. Spooky Harajuku Backpack — reminds me of the Ghostbusters ghoul, and is a perfect mix of spooky and cute.
2. Repent Vegan Leather Choker — I have a similar one, which you can see in this outfit post.
3. Living Dead Skater Dress  — Skeleton prints never go out of style.

pentagram satanic fashion killstar

Killstar has lots of pentacles and other Satanic symbols in their fashion. Such as:

4. Band Of Misfits Crop Top — such a killer cut-out design, and can be styled in so many ways.
5. In Like Sin Skater Dress — the horned devil on top, and a hem of Satan’s crosses.
6. Templar Initiate Knit Cardigan — a cozy oversize coat, with a pentagram devil on the back
7. Silver Spring Skater Dress — pentagrams all over. There’s a pentagram leggings version of this as well.

✪ Shop more from Kill Star by clicking the images below ✪

japan goth girls, parties

Many visitors overlook Kobe as a travel destination, or only know its name because of “Kobe beef.” But the city has tons to offer (food, nightlife, sights) — and the locals are known for their down-to-earth, friendly vibe.

I was traveling around the country on a Japan Rail Pass, and it made perfect sense to stop in Kobe. The station is only 45 minutes from Osaka, and 1.5 hours from Kyoto. With an unlimited J Rail Pass — which I highly suggest you book — you can hop on and off the trains, and easily see this city.

kobe okonomiyaki restaurant

John introduced me to his local friends, who as you can see are fellow creatures of the night. Alternative fashion, Visual Kei and more devil horn salutes!

We went to a cozy restaurant and ordered lots of drinks and dishes to share. The Kansai district is known for its okonomiyaki (Japanese savory pancake, grilled at the table). This restaurant’s version was probably the best I’ve ever had, especially the one made with natto (a fermented sticky bean that is not to everyone’s taste, but delivers cheesy umami in this dish).

pentagram coasters, satan bar

After this perfect meal, we walked to the Goth & Fetish bar where two of the ladies work: Idea.

Address: IDEA is located at 2-17-8 Nakayamate-dori, Chuo-ku, Kobe (it’s found near Kobe Mosque, here on Google Maps).
The bar is open from 8pm to 3am. Look for the chained-up slave boy at the entrance, and you’ve arrived.

gothic fetish bar idea, kobe japan

For those who love horror movies and witchery, Idea is a revelation. You’ll walk past a collection of skulls and taxidermy, and arrive at a long bar with nails under the glass… and an evil baby doll on top of the pentagram! 

goth halloween themed bar japan

Mistress Midori opened Gothic & Fetish Bar “IDEA” in July 2010. It’s comprised of two floors, with a spectacular Devilish VIP room on the upper level.

Under the glass counter, there lies a torture device: a nail bed with 8800 deadly spikes. The ladies can open it up, in case someone is in need of punishment!

pentacle skull, satanic altar

Mistress Midori has amassed an impressive collection of Satanic symbology. This black table is a miniature altar, strewn with skulls and roses. Nearby, there’s a life-sized replica of Dracula in “bat” form from “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” hanging on the wall.

Idea also keeps a ball python and scorpion as pets at the bar, and plenty of occult-related books on the coffee tables upstairs.

japanese goth mistress bar

Everyone who sits down at the bar gets personal attention from the staff, dressed in enticing Gothic garments. Our hostess Naito spoke conversational English, and made sure I always had enough yuzu chips and whiskey on the rocks.

Behind her, you’ll see metal rods behind the bar arranged in three rows of six (to signify 666, the number of the Beast). The red-and-black bathroom has the same black metal rods lining the room — but there are 72 of them, one for each demon of the Goetia or invocation of demons.

pentagram tarot coasters home decor

Idea’s pentagram logo (and much of the interior design) is the work of Taiki. He runs the magnificent Gothic club night Black Veil, and occult store Territory in Osaka, which I will feature soon. Taiki is also the cousin of Mistress Midori.

The speakers broadcast DJ Taiki’s Industrial-electronic-Goth mixes all night, which brought back fond memories of my earlier clubbing days in Japan.

japanese mistresses, fetish

Despite the frightening objects found in every corner (such as this three-eyed demon baby), the ladies make Idea a fun and positive space. Don’t feel intimidated about coming here: everyone is so welcoming.

(Naito is wearing a lace-up skull corset similar to this one.)

shibari rope tying bar japan

After a few hours of hanging out, it was time for a shibari performance (Japanese fetish rope-tying). Choose your weapon… there are plenty on-hand.

japanese s&m dominatrix

It’s incredible to watch Mistress Midori in action. She’s an experienced artist at the ropes, and has a deep connection with her girls.

shibari rope domination club

Mistress Midori tied up Naito with both care and speed, inverted her and spun her around, and applied flicks of the whip. 

candle wax sado masochism

On special occasions, she will often incorporate ritualistic elements such as lighting candles on a candelabra and raising up a skull, and then snuffing the flames after the show has ended.

For this performance, she lit red candles and dripped them onto Naito’s mouth, an image reminiscent of vampire blood.

japan medical hospital theme bar

Idea also has special events on all of the traditional pagan “wheel of the year” days (and women get in free). On Halloween, Walpurgis, and the Summer and Winter Solstices, she tends to have bigger events with rope shows and hook suspension as well.

osaka kobe goth clubs parties

Time flies when you’re having fun… and torturing victims.

pregnant goth mother

That must be Rosemary’s Baby, ready to come out and play!

japan goth occult wiccan

If you’re looking for an offbeat Japanese bar and nightlife experience to remember, come and experience IDEA in Kobe. The ladies may even let you lie down on the nail bed…

(For ideas for something to wear, there are pentagram and harness dresses below:)

baker street sherlock holmes kobe museum

I only had a brief time in Kobe, but there’s a lot to see. John and I walked around the hilly Kitano district, home to trendy bars and cafes. Many foreigner merchants and diplomats lived here in the 19th century, and their European-style houses are still around.

Fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective should check out the Sherlock Holmes Room, a replica of 221 B Baker Street in Kobe. (I didn’t have time to visit, but I went to a similar Sherlock Holmes cafe in Shanghai).

daruma shrine, kawaii altar

We also visited the Shinto Ninomiya Shrine, which is dedicated to good health, fortune and luck.

This colorful shelf of daruma and lucky cats caught my eye and made me smile.

Ninomiya Shrine, Kobe japan

Ninomiya is a small shrine, beautifully maintained. The stone gardens lead to fortune papers and red torii gates.

(Read more about Shinto worship and traditions in my post about Kyoto).

arashi shrine, japanese idol worship

On the less traditional side: why are there wood wishing boards (ema) with drawings of Arashi, the Japanese idol boy band? Because J-pop fans are hardcore. The singer of the group is named Kazunari Ninomiya, and this shrine shares his last name — so it’s part of the “Arashi shrine tour” that fans visit on a pilgrimage.

japanese snake statue shinto

I leave you with a white snake, coiled up inside the shrine. Fox and pig spirits help guard the exterior.

Did you know Kobe, Japan was home to such a fascinating Goth bar? If you’re drawn to the the dark side, here are more designs by Killstar below (click to see details).