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New York Goth travel guide! Ryan & Regina Cohn’s Oddities Flea Market, House of Wax bar, Archer Hotel NYC.

midtown hotel empire state building view

New York, New York. It’s always good to be back.

A lot has changed since I lived here (it seems I’m in reminiscence mode these days). NYC has become a different world than the one I knew: there’s now WiFi in the subways; everyone relies on smartphones for getting around, and takes Ubers to parties in Brooklyn. Meanwhile, I can recall the days of flip-phones and the Korova Milk Bar!

Still, this remains “Gotham City.” I was delighted to meet up with friends old and new, and check out NY’s latest Goth / bizarre bars, club nights and more. 

Read on for an exclusive look at House of Wax bar, the upcoming Oddities Flea Market run by Ryan and Regina Cohn…

stella rose saint clair fashion designer

… as well as Stella Rose’s pop up fashion boutique, Gothic nightlife, and tips for alternative travelers!

archer hotel nyc new york room

This time, I stayed at Archer Hotel NYC right in midtown Manhattan. If you’re only in the city for a few days and love boutique design hotels, then this is the place for you.

(Keep scrolling down for a full look inside, including the epic view of the Empire State from their rooftop bar.)

Ryan Matthew Cohn, Regina Marie Cohn

While I was in New York, Ryan Matthew Cohn and Regina Marie Cohn invited me to visit them in Brooklyn. As you can see in these images, their home is a treasure trove of morbid curiosities!

It was a joy to see Ryan’s infamous skull collections in person, as well as pet their British Shorthair cat, Percy Blue. (The white Scottish Fold, Princess Andromeda, was hiding!)

oddities tv ryan matthew cohn

I’m sure you recognize Ryan Matthew Cohn from his regular appearances on the Discovery / Science TV show, “Oddities.”

You might recall that I was a guest on Oddities; we’ve kept in touch since then, as we obviously share a love of all things dark and deathly.

ryan matthew cohn house tour

Ryan and his lovely wife Regina currently work together in this fascinating field. They source, restore and sell unique osteological artifacts and other curiosities, as well as curate, lecture and educate on these subjects.

baby human skeletons, skulls

Exciting news: Ryan and Regina recently launched an Oddities Flea Market, which brings together vendors of all things peculiar! Mike Zohn and Evan Michelson of Obscura Antiques will be two of the many participants.

Their first event was such a success that they’re now hosting a two-day market on September 30th and October 1st –– NY friends, you must come check this out.

human skull flowers inside

Ryan and Regina have brought together only the best purveyors to take part in the Oddities Market. In a single location (Brooklyn Bazaar), guests can browse and buy anatomical wonders, taxidermy, Gothic jewelry, bizarre art… you get the picture.

oddities flea market nyc

These photos of Ryan and Regina’s home give you a sense of what to expect. I spy an Anatomical Venus, medical preparations in jars, shrunken heads, and skulls galore… I could spend hours browsing their personal collections, which are enough to fill a museum!

ryan matthew cohn regina house

Ryan and Regina are constantly traveling in search of “morbid anatomy” objects, which will be available for sale at the market. Plus, you can browse dozens of tables from Blood Milk, Amber Maykut, Goldengrove Jewelry, Adam Wallacavage, Meagan Meli and others.

exploded skulls, oddities collector

Come join Ryan Matthew Cohn, Regina Marie Cohn and friends!

What: 2nd Oddities Flea Market
When: September 30th and October 1st, from 12PM to 6PM.
Where: Brooklyn Bazaar, NY

ryan matthew cohn apartment

Ticketing: VIP pre-sale tickets are available for purchase through Atlas Obscura (act fast, Saturday is already sold out). These tickets will gain you entry at 11 am with full access to all 43 sales tables.

Or, just show up for general admission at the door, which is only $3. There’s more info on the Oddities Market RSVP page.

ryan matthew cohn wife regina

Be sure to let your New York friends know, and say hello to Regina and Ryan for me! I wish I could be there, but we’ll get together again very soon.

brooklyn bazaar oddities market vendors

Find out more news on Ryan’s Facebook page, and keep reading to peer inside the House of Wax Bar in Brooklyn that he curated…

archer hotel nyc new york

… but first, an outfit change back at Archer Hotel New York! The midtown location was near tons of subway stations, which made it easy for me to get to appointments in different boroughs. (Address: 45 W 38th St, between 5th and 6th Ave).

I love clean design, and felt right at home amidst the modern, industrial brick-and-glass decor. 

midtown boutique hotel archer

My windows had a magnificent view of the Empire State Building (see first photo in this post). Every room came with cozy robes, bedtime books and cute his-and-hers slippers. I could have lounged all day in this plush bed, surrounded by classic brick walls…

ny archer hotel lobby interior

… but when you’re in the Big Apple, you’ve got to explore! With Archer Hotel NY’s central location, you can walk to lots of local spots. I confess I made several trips to Joe’s Pizza, which has a new Times Square location for its classic New York slices.

archer hotel restaurant new york city

Right in the hotel lobby, you can enjoy a memorable dinner at Charlie Palmer Steak. The NY steakhouse reflects chef Palmer’s bold, progressive American cuisine, which draws upon seasonal / local flavors from surrounding waterways and farms.

charlie palmer restaurant cocktails appetizers

Charlie Palmer’s menu has an impressive raw bar and seafood selection. We began with the special appetizer of the day: scallop ceviche. Our server also recommended the outstanding tuna tartare with citrus ponzu, pickled ginger and sesame crisps. It went perfectly with my Midtown Manhattan with rye, aperol, bitters and grapefruit peel. (You know I love my “old man drinks,” and the cocktails here were on point.)

charlie palmer steakhouse nyc menu

Next came a perfectly seared, melt in your mouth filet mignon. It was hard to choose from the many spectacular sides available (truffle potatoes, asparagus) and sauces (the house CP sauce is recommended).

Finally, dessert: creme brulee with black currant and Tahitian vanilla creme, with passionfruit and vanilla ice cream. For a special celebratory meal with excellent service, Charlie Palmer Steak delivers big-time.

hotels near empire state nyc

A stay at Archer Hotel NY isn’t complete without a cocktail at their Spyglass Rooftop Bar. On the 22nd floor, you can take in a panoramic view of the Empire State and Chrysler Building, while sipping a crafted cocktail.

spyglass rooftop bar midtown

The Spyglass bar also has a classic Manhattan happy hour; the “Archer Palmer” with black tea-infused gin and lemon fit with the retro vibe. Cheers to Archer Hotel New York for a fantastic stay!

house of wax bar brooklyn

I enjoyed more outstanding cocktails at The House of Wax Bar in Brooklyn, with my friend Lily Streeter of Alex Streeter Jewelry. As soon as we arrived at the entrance, which is lined with 19th century death masks, we knew we were in for an adventure.

House of Wax is a little hard to find, so listen up: it’s inside the Alamo Drafthouse movie complex on the fourth floor, in the same building as Dekalb Market Hall and Trader Joe’s. (Address: 445 Albee Square).

alex streeter pentagram angel heart ring

Lily was wearing the Angel Heart pentagram ring, one of Alex Streeter’s most iconic designs. 

We examined the cocktail list by candlelight: they drew upon 19th century ingredients, and had names such as Butcher of Hanover, and Napoleon Death Mask (made with Pierre Ferrand 1840 cognac, Cardamaro, Cynar, rhubarb bitters.) Talk about mixology meeting the macabre!

ryan matthew cohn house of wax

I’ve been to a lot of theme bars worldwide, but this was one of the most outstanding. House of Wax features a permanent collection of 19th century wax moulages, curated by Ryan Matthew Cohn. He sourced over a hundred medical wax models from Germany, which were once used to demonstrate surgical procedures and diseases.

nyc weird strange theme bar

Lily and I loved trying the Anatomical and Pathological cocktails, which were perfectly balanced and creatively concocted with old-time ingredients. We snacked on small bites (the menu includes pretzels with cheese, edamame hummus, flatbreads and cheese boards).

Between rounds, we walked around and admired the glass display cases of wax figures, eerily lit by chandeliers.

crazy new york bars

This is not a Halloween kitsch bar. House of Wax is better described as a museum, with a mesmerizing collection that transports you back in time. Lily and I marveled at the wax renditions of diseases such as syphilis, floating hands that demonstrated operations, and painful-looking birth canals. (This collection was also once at the Morbid Anatomy Museum, which is now sadly closed.)

alamo drafthouse house wax cocktails

Behind the bar, there were dozens of New York beers on tap. I’m an absinthe aficionado though, and couldn’t resist this cocktail with an egg white foam.

Without doubt, I’ll be coming back to The House of Wax Bar with friends. I couldn’t think of a better place in NY to have a Gothic gathering.

ny jrock visual kei club

Now, time for some nightcrawling. I’ve written about Goth nights in NYC over the years; the party scene is constantly changing. Right now, a lot of the best Gothic / underground / alternative parties are in Brooklyn. 

brooklyn goth gothic parties

We started the night with a rooftop DJ set…

saint vitus bar greenpoint ny

… then headed to Saint Vitus bar in Greenpoint, for a 1980s Goth night. Quite a few Gothic dance parties take place in this venue, which has stained glass artifacts, upside-down crosses, and this resident weirdo (at first, I didn’t realize he was a mannequin!)

I reunited with my old pal Zachary, and we reminisced about fun times at the Trash! party. RIP DJ Jess Marquis…

synthwave party new york st vitus

New York’s nightlife is always evolving, and it’s not a bad thing. Zachary told me that St Vitus now has a brilliant synthwave party, called Night.Wav. As a retrowave addict, I’d love to check it out (as well as the other outrun events that are starting to bloom worldwide, like San Francisco’s Turbo Drive).

greenpoint brooklyn bars clubs

4am on the waterfront. Late, decadent, alternative nights in New York with friends… that is something that will never grow old.

stella rose saint clair pop up shop

Last but certainly not least, I stopped by the pop-up shop of my friend Stella Rose. She and I were bloggers way back in the day, and I’ve watched her grow her spirited clothing line to the success it is today.

it's stella rose clothing fashion

The boutique was filled with her charming and cheeky designs, from her It’s Stella Rose fashion collection. I have the “No Thank You” pink backpack and sheer tank top above, which she made in collaboration with Print All Over Me.

stella rose fashion boutique ny

Isn’t the Stella Rose boutique fabulously decorated? I tried on her handmade rose beret, and held on to her fuzzy pom-pom hair ties that come in different colors.

print all over me stella rose collaboration

Angry animals, tropical skirts, ghosts… the cuteness meets attitude is distinctively Stella. 

You can find these designs and more on her Stella Rose website and Facebook.

round k goth matte black latte

I ended my trip with a “Goth latte.” I heard that Round K Cafe served a matte black latte, blackened with organic coconut ash, almond paste and coconut cream. A drink for dark, lost souls.

fashion blogger nyc hotel room

Time to pack up my Minions x Away luggage, until my next trip to NYC… I’ll be back soon, as always.

Did you enjoy this peek into Ryan Matthew Cohn’s world, and Oddities Market? If you’re looking for more New York City Goth travel tips, click here – this blog has a decade’s worth of stories from the city!

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Celebrating 10 years of blogging! Perturbator concert review: synthwave outrun retro wave music, Akade 80s fashion.

retrowave synthwave fashion clothing hair

Back to the future, baby!

I’m currently obsessed with synthwave / outrunretrowave — the music genre that pays tribute to the synthesizers, video games and night driving soundtracks of the 1980s. If you’re in the same boat (or Testarossa), then I’m sure you’ll enjoy this story about Perturbator’s concert and Akade fashion.

This is a flashback post for another major reason… Believe it or not, I’ve reached my 10 year anniversary of blogging! That’s correct: I began this La Carmina blog a decade ago, on Sept 14, 2007.

We’ll celebrate this ten year milestone with a ride down memory lane, through Neo Tokyo and the Future 80s.

outrun 80s retro clothes, akade wear

Let’s start with the present: I’m currently in love with all things shiny and chrome. Since I was on my way to a futuresynth concert, I wanted to wear something along the lines of this aesthetic (imagine electric neon cityscapes and Miami’s midnight highways, circa 1983).

Unfamiliar with synthwave music? Here’s a dark gaming mix to get you in the mood. Think John Carpenter soundtracks x eighties nostalgia against pulsing, dark, spacey dance beats.

Some of my favorite synth artists are Carpenter Brut, Gost, Lazerhawk, Kavinsky, Dance with the Dead… and Perturbator, who I was about to see live.

synthwave style, retro wave model

I was “dressed to kill” in Akade Wear, an indie clothing line inspired by the retrowave revival. I’m wearing Akade’s New Retro Wave tshirt, which is unisex (I got size XS and tied the end in a bundle, as I did in the early 90s.)

I paired it with this Iron Fist silver skeleton skirt (available here), and a Spiral UK bum bag (which comes in holographic and glitter versions too). Fanny packs rule — why on earth did they go out of style?

I finished the look with a silver hair ribbon in my high sideways ponytail, silver heels, and a bomber jacket by Disturbia. It has a spider on the back, similar to the scorpion jacket in the movie Drive.

new retro wave tshirt logo

The Akade Wear fashion line is a branch of New Retro Wave, the online hub for all things outrun. They’re passionate about the musical genre and associated culture, and bring fans together with articles, streams, events, and now clothing. As they put it, “the sound, drive and sheer passion of the 80’s-90’s is one of the most refreshing sounds to hit the music scene, and has been long overdue.”

Closeup on my NRW t-shirt logo, Dark Tropics leggings, and chrome nail art. The print of palm trees and toucan birds has a rainbow sheen, matching the holographic reflections of my Iron Fist skirt.

synthwave bomber jacket 1980s

I’m having fun “living the 80s dream” in streetwear from Akade! They have a large selection of nostalgic, high-saturation designs for both men and women, and ship worldwide.

(If you’re looking for synthwave streams, check out these YouTube channels by Gelbar and NewRetroWave. I listen to them nonstop.)

perturbator concert posters, logo

Synthwave has gained ground in recent years, and the leading artists are now touring worldwide. Interestingly, a lot of my Goth friends have independently discovered and fallen in love with the genre. Many metalheads and geek-types are also drawn to the retrofuturistic sound, bringing together a fanbase from various subcultures. 

Those with a Gothic disposition tend to be fond of France’s Perturbator, who creates futuresynth with a dark edge. The pentagram posters are spot on: “Satan is a computer.” “If machines could feel the way we do, would they believe in a god?”

perturbator pentagram shirts merchandise

I was excited to see Perturbator live, at the Rickshaw Theater in Vancouver (he’s currently touring North America, with tour dates in major US and Canadian cities). The concert was close to sold out; I spotted lots of guys in long hair, girls in platform boots, and pentagrams on everyone.

perturbator performing live james kent

“The Legend Says He’s Half Human, Half Synthesizer”  — yes! James Kent (Perturbator) helmed a spaceship pod surrounded by vertical lights, which strobed and flashed blinding colors.

From the moment Perturbator took the stage, the audience never stopped moving. He delivered relentless darkwave, heavy and sinister yet uplifting: one of the best performances I’ve seen in a long time.

You can see video clips from the Vancouver show above and here on my Instagram. He played many of his faster, more aggro tracks like “Satanic Rites,” “Neo Tokyo,” “Humans are Such Easy Prey.”

perturbator north american tour vancouver

I was riveted by the strobe and color effects behind him, simple yet powerful. Perturbator kept his hood on and never spoke to the crowd, but bobbed his head to the driving basslines and gestured with his hands during the climaxes.

synthwave festival music concerts

I haven’t been out to as many concerts recently, but synth-wave is changing this up. Perturbator’s live was enormously engaging, and he’s an act that you need to see in person.

You can hear more on his future-80s sound on the Perturbator bandcamp page, and check for upcoming tour dates on his Facebook.

alice wonderland tea room cosplay

During the concert, my friend turned to me and asked, “How long have you been blogging for?” My expression was like above… for I realized we had reached Year Ten!

My “La Carmina blog” launched on September 14th, 2007 — a time when blogging and social media were in their infancy. To put it mildly, a lot has happened since then.

As we reach my blog’s 10th birthday, it makes sense to do a trip down memory lane. I considered recapping the top events, but you can already find my Year in Review summaries here, and all my travel destination stories in one place.

Instead, I’ve recently been in nostalgic mode — and thought you might have fun revisiting these memories as well.

cyber goth tokyo japan futuristic

The early days of this blog (2007-2012 approximately) were very different from the current incarnation. Long-time readers will recall that I focused almost exclusively on Japanese subcultures, particularly Gothic Lolita fashion and Tokyo nightlife. 

This was a particularly exciting era in Tokyo, especially for the Goth clubbing scene, weird pop culture, and experimental style. You’ll find a lot of exciting subcultures in Japan still, but they aren’t the same as they were in the mid to late 2000s. 

tokyo dj sisen cyber goth

Looking back, I’m glad I captured this transformative time. In 2008, I spent part of the year in Tokyo, and met many of the “creatures of the night” that remain my closest friends to this day.

The Gothic nightlife was wonderfully inclusive, bringing together an electrifying group of locals and expats. In particular, Mistress Maya’s club night Midnight Mess and DJ Sisen’s parties formed the heart of the dark subculture (above is the infamous night when Covenant played).

tokyo bondage shibari rope tying

There was the feeling of anything-goes: the freedom to experiment with fashion (even if it resulted in some fails), dive into the dark arts, and dance til morning to cybergoth electro.

I always felt inspired by the clubgoers at Midnight Mess, as well as the stage shows. You might see Akira Death perform robotic metal, the Dark Marchen prance around in Rococo gowns, and Mistress Maya tie up and dominate a Sweet Lolita dolly. 

tokyo goth punk parties

Many Japanese creatives were regulars at these events, always showing up in death-disco ghoul fashion. Above is Goth designer Kenzo A, and nAo12xu of the band †13th Moon†.

dj sisen, selia midnight mess tokyo

The queens of darkness were of course DJ Sisen and Selia, who mesmerized us with her dark operetta vocals. Absinthe, corsets, feathered eyelashes, cyberlox and chains — yes please.

japan goths, gothic parties clubbing

Our personal style has all changed quite a bit since these days… but oh, we had fun!

alamode night artism gothic lolita bar

I went down the rabbit hole, and realized I’d forgotten about many of the events I’d written about in the early days.

For example, do you remember D’s Valentine? He was the master behind Alamode Market and Gothic Bar Heaven, and club nights at venues like Tamachi Cube — I haven’t thought of these places in years.

japanese body modifications split tongue

At the time, Japan’s extreme body modifications were not widely known about. Snake tongue and bagelheads, oh my!

tokyo lgbt gay clubs

I laughed at the caption I had written under this photo. “Unzipped pants and nipple tape… what more do you need in a boy?”

department h drag queen party tokyo

Department H, the hentai / drag / fetish party, has always been a funhouse and remains this way today.

tokyo goth djs clubs

Some of the people I partied with have disappeared, while others remain in my life… albeit with different hair, makeup and clothing choices.

tokyo dark castle, goth parties

The old school Tokyo Goth crew, on the way to Midnight Mess after dinner at Hibari sushi in Shinjuku. Ah… I’d love to teleport back for a night.

atsushi takashi japanese goth twins

Two things that always guarantee a good time: the twins Atsushi and Takashi, and a can of Strong Zero convenience store alcohol!

black veil osaka occult goth club

In the beginning of the blog, I was very Japan-focused. Yukiro and I did a memorable trip to Osaka, where we raged with hard rocker Fu-Ki at occult club night Black Veil. Somehow, I was inspired to do KISS makeup that night…

takuya angel cyber rave designer japan

Harajuku fashion remains exciting now, but it was certainly weirder and rave-ier in those days. I remember that people were infatuated with Takuya Angel’s designs, and yearned to take part in his fashion walk.

japanese lolitas tokyo laforet

Gothic Lolita fashion was thriving. My friends and I loved to gawk at the frilled fashion in Laforet, and hunt for secondhand bargains at Closet Child.

Many of the brands have now closed or downsized, and Lolita style no longer feels fresh to me — but at the time, it was a joy to wear.

harajuku bridge girls crazy fashion

I took this snap on Harajuku bridge. Youths still dressed up and hung out here; this is a rarity today.

moi dix moix mana cosplay concert

I was also a huge fan of Visual Kei / J-Rock music at the time (now, I never listen to it — I gravitate to Italo Disco and retrowave). I saw many of my favorite Japanese bands perform, including Versailles and Moi dix Mois (above are Mana cosplays and tributes at the concert).

tokyo jrock visual kei live

I forgot that I saw Deluhi live. VK hair and styling though… still so good.

japanese host boy hairstyle

How can anyone resist a host boy with bleach-blonde sky-high hair, and velvet joggers with a leopard print top?

japanese french maids, maid cafe tokyo

I remember that readers were fascinated by the Japanese pop culture oddities I reported on, such as maid cafes. Today, these are common knowledge, and you can find theme cafes (such as cat ones) worldwide. Times have changed…

dj chihiro baal auto mod

While you can’t go back to the past, you can certainly revisit it… 10 years is a long time! I know some of you have been reading this blog since MySpace days, and I am enormously grateful. Thanks for growing with me through some bad point-and-shoot photography, dubious style choices, and epic adventures with friends.

synthwave retro wave font

I hope you had fun reading this “old school La Carmina blog” retrospective. Do you have any favorite “member-berries” from Tokyo, or thoughts on how things have changed? 

PS: you can find old blog posts in the right-hand sidebar of this blog, under Archives (there’s a drop-down menu that filters by month and year). You can also see all my Tokyo, Japan stories here, from 2007 to today.

PPS: What’s coming up in the future? Only time will tell… fasten your seatbelts, and stay tuned for more wild rides!

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!