Category Archive for Tokyo Gothic Lolita
Osaka, Japan Gothic stores! Satanic Territory occult & witchcraft shop, Japanese tattoos, pentagram fashion.
“Today is enjoy!” Since it’s still spooky season, I thought I’d release an updated guide to the Gothic and underground shops of Osaka, Japan.
The red pentagram hints at the theme of today’s post. We’ll delve into the Kansai Goth, occult and Satanic scene…
… including exclusive photos of Territory, the devilish lair of Taiki-san. Read on for Osaka tattoos, taxidermy and absinthe as well!
I thought I’d include these purikura (sticker machine) photos from Tokyo as well, since there are quite a few devil horns and pentagrams. Doing purikura with friends is a must when you’re in Japan. You’ll wind up with ridiculous sticker images (often with bizarre English) that you can decorate before printing out.
Outfit details: I’m wearing Killstar leggings and a top from Dead Gallery Iceland, by artist Jon Saemunder Audarson.
There are “sticker picture” photobooths around the world, but the most high-tech and bizarre ones are only in Japan. Go to any game center, such as Taito in Shinjuku, and you’ll find a handful or more “purikura” machines to pick from (as well as games galore).
Japanese purikura (short for “print club”) turns you into a big-eyed, stretch-limbed being. You can choose from all sorts of frames and effects, and digitally decorate the photos.
I especially love to do purikura around Halloween, since they release seasonal stickers (like the ghosts and pentagram stars above).
After posing for about six photos, you can choose your favorites and decorate them side-by-side with your friend. There’s a digital pen that you can use to select various borders, stickers, text and effects (such as changing your hair color).
Purikura decorating is an art form — you want to achieve the perfect balance of ridiculous-ness in the image, without cluttering it up! I think Kanae and I did a pretty good job with these ones.
In the old days, you had to use scissors to carefully cut up and divide the purikura prints. Now, you can choose to print out two copies, as well as send the images to your phone or email. What a world we live in!
And now, let’s dive into the Osaka underworld. Most of the alternative / Gothic / underground shops are in the America Mura district — including this self-described lair of Satanism and Witchcraft, Territory.
The entrance cautions you to Beware. Only those with dark souls dare to cross this gate, guarded by skulls and other deathly figures.
On the Territory signboard, you’ll notice the Latin words “Non Serviam,” or “I will not serve”. The phrase is generally attributed to Lucifer, and sums up the powerful spirit of this establishment.
Since 1996, Taiki’s Territory has garnered a devout underground following. Territory is well hidden, and not even many locals know about its existence. Go down to the basement level, and wander around until you find these skeletons and demons.
Address: 2 Chome-8-33 Nishishinsaibashi, Osaka Center Building B1, Chuo Ward, Osaka, Japan.
I visited Territory’s mastermind, Taiki-san, with Dr. John M. Skutlin (cultural anthropologist and Japan specialist, who writes about subculture and tattoos in Japan). He shares Taiki’s story in this special report.
“The founder of Osaka’s Gothic underground event scene, it is said that Taiki gained his Satanic pedigree in 1996 when he visited New York City and studied the dark arts at a certain occult shop. He returned to Japan in the same year and opened his own shop of occult and Satanic antiques and merchandise – Territory.”
“Meeting with Goth and occult luminaries on the scene like Voltaire and Paul Booth, he eventually became something of a regular in the New York’s Goth music scene during his frequent trips from Japan. This experienced helped inspire him to open his own Gothic music bar – the first of its kind in Japan – called Sabbat on Friday the 13th of October 1999.”
“Taiki began organizing Gothic events for the dark underground of Osaka around the turn of the millennium, including parties like Devil’s Christmas and later the long running Black Veil. His gatherings became yearly highlights that drew guests not only from Tokyo and other cities in Japan, but also from abroad. His events have featured major acts in the EBM and dark electro scenes such as Hocico and Combichrist’s Andy LePlegua.”
“While Bar Sabbat is no longer serving alcohol, his Satanic shop Territory is open for business in Osaka’s Shinsaibashi district, and Black Veil draws Goths from the dark corners of Japan three times a year around Walpurgis Eve, Halloween, and New Year’s Eve.”
Taiki-san usually does not permit photography inside his spiritual shop, but made an exception for us. Taiki has a powerful presence, and surrounds himself with dark talismans. When you speak with him, you feel as if you’re in the presence of a wizard.
Territory is not a Halloween kitsch shop. Everything here is of exquisite quality: dark art sourced from around the world, many with frightening backgrounds attached to them.
You can spend hours looking at all the small details within this museum collection (as not all items are for sale).
Taiki has a knack for finding works that seem to possess a malevolent spirit. Whether antique or new, these collections convey a sense of death and unease — which Goths like us find fascinating.
Of course, there is plenty of Satanic iconography. The horned one sits next to a Iron Maiden torture device, while a witch baby doll looms in the shadows.
Many items pay homage to Japanese “yōkai,” or monsters and demons in Japanese folklore. However, Taiki has items from around the world, especially relics from Germany and Europe.
In addition to taxidermy and human skulls, Territory carries clothing and home items with the mark of the devil. I picked up a tote bag with the Church of Satan symbol.
You’ll either feel appalled by Taiki’s Territory, or eager to visit (and I hope you’re in the second category!) If you aren’t going to be in Osaka any time soon, you can also order items from his shop online.
In the same building is Fog, an absinthe bar that Taiki-san frequents. My friends and I adore drinking absinthe, and Fog has some of the finest bottles of “green fairy” from around the world.
Fog even carries several of the HR Giger absinthes, named after the Alien art designer (I’m so excited to visit the Giger bar in Gruyeres, Switzerland). We tried the H. R. Giger Wolfsmilch and Absinthe Brevans; the latter is named for Jacques de Brevans, author of a classic French liquor-maker’s manual.
The bartender can help you choose from over 20 kinds of absinthe. He can suggest the best way to drink it (straight, on the rocks, or using the classic water drip over a flaming sugar cube). The bar carries other types of alcohol as well, and does cocktails.
Fog is dimly lit, and until my eyes adjusted, I didn’t realize it was filled with watchful creatures. There was a real owl in one corner, which I thought was stuffed at first.
The walls are mounted with butterflies and insect specimens, as well as creepy deer heads in serial killer masks.
Fog Absinthe Bar’s address is the same as Territory’s; both are in the maze-like lower level of Osaka Center Building.
Address: 2 Chome-8-33 Nishishinsaibashi, basement level, Chuo Ward, Osaka
We also stopped by Bleeding Maria, a special place protected by witches. (Address: 2-18-6 Shinsaibashi, 5th floor – it’s in a Americamura building with an elevator, filled with small shops).
Yukiro and I visited Bleeding Maria many years ago. This time, the witches had flown and we weren’t able to go inside.
I encourage you to drop by this unusual establishment of witchcraft, runes and fortune-telling. The owner, Kaori, speaks English and German very well — so you can visit even if you don’t know Japanese. Perhaps you’ll have a chance to hang out in this spiritual haven, and meet her pet tarantula.
If the words “Painful Pleasures” appeal to you, then you’ve got to visit Babylon. The name hints that this is not just a piercing / body art studio. There are twisted cultural and anthropological treasures to be found within.
Address: 1-16-7 Nishi Shinsaibashi, Osaka
John sets the scene in this report: “Stepping into Babylon Body Art’s Osaka, which started off more than a decade ago as a bar in a different location, one is surrounded by stuffed and mounted animals and various taxidermic specimens. Shelves are filled to capacity with rare and unusual books in both Japanese and English, on subjects ranging from anatomy and zoology to bestiality and methods of execution.”
“The glass cases are full of piercings from brands like Anatometal and Maya Jewelry. On the television, one can expect to find any number of macabre and unusual videos, such as the gruesome scenes of a VHS copy of the infamous Faces of Death shockumentary (directed by Conan LeCilaire, 1978).”
“The owner, Bonzin, admittedly revels in his own self-professed “bad taste.” Covered in tattoos (including a full back piece of the Senju Kannon bodhisattva) and sporting multiple implants (both subdermal and transdermal), he is not only a piercer but also a popular artist and DJ at Goth events, and has organized all of the major suspension performances in Kansai.”
“Bonzin sees his own body as a work of art, explaining he was initially inspired to modify his body in more extreme ways after seeing the decidedly Cronenbergian cyberpunk film Tetsuo: The Iron Man (Tsukamoto Shinya, 1989). He claims to have transformed into the “Iron Man” that he set out to become.”
I like how Babylon’s displays have a sense of absurd humor. The seal on a swing looks happy to be bopping noses with a piglet, while an armadillo crouches behind.
This skeleton models a cyber apocalyptic gasmask, wedged between two glass cases.
How kawaii are the stuffed mice, with gems for eyes and black ram horns coming out of their foreheads? Babylon is quite the kingdom of dark delights.
Next, we paid a visit to Horitsuna, the revered tattoo artist at Desperado studio. (Center Bldg 6F, 2-10-29, Nishi-
Horitsuna is self-taught, and specializes not only in Japanese wabori designs, but also tribal and other styles. Above are some design mock-ups featuring devils and daruma.
John has interviewed Horitsuna extensively for his scholarly work, and explains, “He uniquely incorporates Japanese tattoo design elements like gakubori (background designs, such as waves, clouds, or fire, connecting motifs into a larger piece) with more Western design elements, including grotesque and occult themes.”
In a country where tattooing is heavily regulated, Horitsuna is one of Japan’s most prominent tattoo artists and owns two studios. He regularly attends the Hong Kong International Tattoo Convention, and has won awards at conventions in Japan, Thailand, France, and Finland.
All of these underground stores are found in Amerikamura or Ame-Mura (America Village). This remains the best neighborhood in Osaka to see Gothic, Lolita, Punk and alternative street style, including indie boutiques — a sort of equivalent to Harajuku in Tokyo.
To get to this Osaka youth district, take the subway to Shinsaibashi station, and then wander around. The shops change around all the time, and the district is not large, so it’s best to simply spend time here and see what you find.
There’s a great mix of vintage and new street style in Amerika Mura. This time around, I spotted a whole lot of pentagrams / Satanic stars….
This top like Miffy the bunny, with a similar X mouth. How funny to see her with bat wings, inside the star of the devil, yet in soft pastel colors! (I always knew Miffy had an evil side.)
Goth pastel Lolita meets horror Japanese fashion? Osaka’s Big Step department store has all your favorite EGL brands (Alice and the Pirates, Baby the Stars Shine Bright, Kera, Miho Matsuda).
The Magic Amulet collection from Angelic Pretty has several types of pointed stars on its JSK prints.
Funny to see the Jewish Star of David… all over Japanese Gothic accessories! Perhaps the designers merely like the look of the six-pointed star.
Spooky Goth meets Seinfeld… now that’s a Japanese street style I never thought I’d see!
The devil is everywhere in Shinsaibashi, Osaka. I passed by the 666 store, on the way to Closet Child (the secondhand chain also found in Tokyo).
Theme restaurants abound as well. Here’s the entrance to Alucard, a vampire themed restaurant that is now closed (I guess they were a bit too successful at banishing vampires with wooden stakes). However, you can still visit the Tokyo Vampire cafe.
John introduced me to Cafe Anamune, a medical themed cafe run by locals. I love the laid-back feeling of this little place, which has flasks and zombie nurses lurking around. Order the simple yet lovely Japanese curry, and enjoy the atmosphere.
Anamune Cafe address: 1-8-16 Nakanishi Building 501, Nishishinsaibashi, Osaka.
Osaka’s Americamura / Shinsaibashi area is a district filled with funky art, alt culture and inspiration. Such as the Alice on Wednesday shop, which is dedicated to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. If you figure out the correct door and hidden keyholes, you’ll enter a boutique with a Queen of Hearts throne room, Mad Hatter party and more — selling everything from Eat Me candies to clocks.
Alice on Wednesday is found at 2-12-25 Asahi Plaza Shinsaibashi, Osaka
I leave you with this subway poster featuring Miffy the bunny, peeking out passengers! Huge thanks to JR Pass for making this Japan trip a reality.
I was able to travel seamlessly by train, from Tokyo to Osaka and other cities, using an unlimited Japan Rail Pass. Find out more about these rail passes on their site, and in my travel video.
I hope you enjoyed our funny purikura escapades as well! If you’re in Japan, taking “print club” sticker photos is an absolute must.
For more offbeat travel stories from Japan, come browse my Tokyo blog category. There are tips for theme restaurants, underground shops and more, from 2007 to today. Here’s to more Gothic Japanese adventures soon!
Osaka, Japan Halloween shops! Japanese weird beauty products, costumes, makeup. Auxiliary Magazine modeling.
It’s getting close to Halloween! To get you in the mood, I’m doling out two Treats from Asia. (And no Tricks, promise.)
1) Scroll on to see dozens of cute photos of Halloween shops in Osaka! As you’d expect, Japan celebrates the October holiday in kawaii-scary style. Read on to see the spooky beauty products and costumes found only in Japanese stores.
2) And… I’m thrilled to finally release my Hong Kong photoshoot, which was published in the spring issue of Auxiliary Magazine!
I look forward to taking a black cat bubble bath, and fizzling the glitter pumpkin, monster and “Lord of Misrule” bath bombs in my tub.
Also perfect for Goths: the Black Rose lip scrub and gloss (which appears black but turns pink), and Goth Fairy shimmer bar. The Hedgewitch and Magic Wand soaps promise to leave you with “boo-tiful, spellbinding skin!” There’s a video on my Instagram with close-ups of Lush’s spooky collection — which one is your favorite?
Now, let me share one of my favorite photo editorials to date. The images are by the brilliant Hong Kong based photographer, Rose Conway.
As always, my hair cut and color are by Stephanie Hoy (you can tell that we took these photos a while back, as my hair is pink and longer now).
We shot these photos in – where else? – the streets of Hong Kong. I’m standing in front of a Buddhist temple in Kowloon.
I’m wearing these exact Michael Kors black suede pumps. More items from my outfit below:
Hong Kong truly has a Blade Runner vibe: alleyways lit by neon lights, juxtaposed with old Chinese signs. My Lovecraft “Necronomicon gate” top is by Disturbia Clothing.
It was an honor to have these photos appear in the Spring 2017 issue of Auxiliary Magazine.
An absolute pleasure to work with HK based photographer Rose Conway.
We looked for interesting storefronts and colors to shoot. This Chinese shop sold statues of folk gods, incense, and other ritual items. The flamboyant owner insisted on coming out to pose for a photo!
Red and gold are the signature lucky colors of Hong Kong. (The brick wall matches my devil horns as well).
I’ve been going to Hong Kong since I was a child, and certain scents and images are quintessential to the city. The Chinese butcher, with BBQ duck hanging under bright lights, for example.
I like how you can see “real world” Hong Kong in these images. Citizens live in close quarters, and carry themselves with an upfront attitude. It can seem brash at first, but you grow to love it for what it is.
Kawaii culture and street style are as popular in Hong Kong as they are in Japan. I paid tribute with a cat-ears headband and a white tulle skirt.
A curtsy for a hunk of meat? (Find my Michi top here.)
Perhaps Lady Gaga got her “meat dress” from this Chinese street market vendor!
Major thanks you to Rose Conway for photographing me in Hong Kong! Hair is by the fabulous Stephanie Hoy, and makeup / styling is by yours truly. You can get copies in print in the current issue of Auxiliary Magazine (and stay tuned for the next one… I’ll be doing something more with them!).
If you like what I’m wearing, click below to shop my look:
Now, let’s get you excited for All Hallow’s Eve — the best time of the year! When I was in Osaka last September, I took lots of snaps of the ghoulish-sweet items found in Japanese stores.
The Sanrio store puts a whimsical Halloween twist on Hello Kitty and Friends. Above, you can see Dear Daniel as Frankenstein, and Hello Kitty and Pompompurin (the yellow dog) as witches!
Sanrio’s favorite “kawaii” characters get a spooky makeover, while retaining their adorable look. On the right, Kuromi yells “Noooo!” while surrounded by smiling pumpkins, and Chococat with a cobweb.
The usually sweet bunny Cinnamonroll transforms into a red-eyed vampire. Pom Pom Purin gets a sewn-up skeleton look, and a deathly green pallor to his fur.
Sanrio releases a special Halloween collection each year in Japan. However, the store continues to sell its regular pastel cute merchandise as well. Witness Gudetama (the lazy egg) in many forms, and what appear to be… My Melody Crocs meets Uggs slippers?
Many of these designs can be only found in Japan (they aren’t sold online, as they are produced here). If you’re a rabid Hello Kitty fan, it’s reason enough to make a pilgrimage to Japan.
I went around to various Osaka beauty / 100 yen stores, especially in the Amerikamura and Umeda districts (two of my favorite shopping hubs). Since it was mid-late September, there were lots of Halloween designs available — such as these “come on!!” Halloween stick-on nails.
Fancy eyelashes and colored contact lenses remain very popular among Japanese youths. When I saw the Disney “Evil Queens” collection on the right, I thought of Yukiro.
I love how creative Japanese makeup can be. In spooky season, there are tutorials on how to use “hypersharp eyeliner” to create Day of the Dead, spiderweb and undead effects around the eyes and lips.
The Korean makeup brand, Etude House, is big in Japan as well. How sweet are the heart-eyed pumpkins and pink skulls, which contain product inside? The panda and kitten keychains also stole my heart.
More examples of Halloween cosplay makeup. This time: how to be a cute cat, or a Snow White witch.
Disturbed, yet cute as a button. That’s the spirit of Japanese Halloween! (These female models are showing off glitter and rainbow face / body tattoos.)
From bloody wounds to fake blood, Japanese dollar stores have you covered.
Jelly moustache, anyone? For 450 yen ($4), why not.
My friends and I tend to stock up around Halloween, such many items (like the dark eyeshadows) can be used year round. Not sure about the impractical stuffed animals clinging to the smartphone cases though…
Japan also gets into the Halloween mood with themed food. At Chococro, the addictive chocolate croissants come in a haunted house box.
Namba-Land (the Osaka arcade and amusement park) has Halloween celebrations each year. Above, the same flyer advertises a pumpkin pudding and tart that made my mouth water.
Now, let’s look at some street fashion in Osaka. The neighborhood America Mura is your best bet for Gothic Lolita and underground styles. There are several secondhand stores dedicated to these style tribes here…
… as well as department stores that cater to youth fashion. Snoopy on the left; pumpkin-printed Sweet and Goth Lolita outfits on the right.
Follow the white rabbit to cute stores. Oversize pastel and monochrome garments are everywhere recently.
No matter how many times you visit Japan, you’ll undoubtedly encounter something that leaves you scratching your head. At Funky Fruit, I was perplexed to see sweatshirts… with giant, heavy nooses around the necks!
You saw it here first. Hangman-chic.
Funky Fruit carries all sorts of fetish-Gothic fashion, like these chokers with silver rings.
Punk and fetish influences, combined with sportswear. Weird.
Around Halloween, many of the Goth / Lolita / Kawaii labels put out spooky-themed garments. The Jack-o-Lantern print top on the left caught my eye.
Rydia / World Wide Love remain one of my favorite designers. I tried on the “Night Wander” devil-ghost on the left, and left a note in the black cat post office box on the right!
Vampire fangs, floating ghosts, crescent moons, plaid and leopard print. You can tell why I’m into Rydia / World Wide Love.
I also made a stop at EST, the Umeda department store by Hep Five and the Osaka Ferris wheel. Inside EST, you’ll find indie boutiques with out-of-the-ordinary items — like these vintage-style cat carpet bags.
Near the entrance, I found this eccentric pop-up.
These colorful critters have chains through their nostrils… more creepy than cute, in this case.
Trick or Treat — Halloween in Japan is sweet! Did you enjoy these snapshots from my trip last year in Osaka? Have you stocked up on any bat, ghost, zombie, Dracula or pumpkin goodies yet?
PS: If you’re looking for a Halloween costumes — I have some of mine for sale on my Depop! Above are some of the many available (size small), which you may recognize from past Halloweens. If you’d like any, shoot me an email at gothiccarmina (att) gmail (dott-comm) and I’ll send it to you. More details and prices here on my shop; lots of clothes available.
Here’s to the spookiest time of the year!
Celebrating 10 years of blogging! Perturbator concert review: synthwave outrun retro wave music, Akade 80s fashion.
Back to the future, baby!
I’m currently obsessed with synthwave / outrun / retrowave — 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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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?”
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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†.
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.
Our personal style has all changed quite a bit since these days… but oh, we had fun!
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.
At the time, Japan’s extreme body modifications were not widely known about. Snake tongue and bagelheads, oh my!
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, the hentai / drag / fetish party, has always been a funhouse and remains this way today.
Some of the people I partied with have disappeared, while others remain in my life… albeit with different hair, makeup and clothing choices.
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.
Two things that always guarantee a good time: the twins Atsushi and Takashi, and a can of Strong Zero convenience store alcohol!
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…
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.
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.
I took this snap on Harajuku bridge. Youths still dressed up and hung out here; this is a rarity today.
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).
I forgot that I saw Deluhi live. VK hair and styling though… still so good.
How can anyone resist a host boy with bleach-blonde sky-high hair, and velvet joggers with a leopard print top?
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…
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.
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!
Away x Minions luggage: kawaii cute suitcases! Alex Streeter Gothic earrings, LaForet mall Harajuku.
Bello! Banana? In this post, I’ll go over some of my current favorites… and then we’ll talk about Japanese fashion at LaForet department store in Harajuku!
First up, let me introduce you to the cutest luggage collaboration ever: Away x Minions. I’m excited to have these adorable travel buddies with me, on my next trips around the globe.
Bee-do-bee-do… As you most likely know, the Minions are the short, eager, bumbling servants of evil masters throughout time (as seen in the Despicable Me movie series).
I love how Away distilled the essence of a Minion in this cheerful, minimal design. When you see the bright yellow case and eye-goggle tag, you can instantly picture a one-eyed Minion tottering behind me!
Away sent me a large-sized suitcase and a carry-on. Both are made from polycarbonate shell, which is lightweight and bends under pressure, but never breaks. (Quite like the resilient Minions from the movies.)
The new Away x Minions collection comes in four sizes. You can also purchase the accessories separately: they have stickers featuring the characters, and a leather tag shaped like their signature eye goggles.
“You used to call me on my banana-phone… Poopaye!”
The Minions roll easily alongside you, with a retractable handle and Hinomoto wheels that rotate 360°.
Inside, there’s plenty of room to store bananas. All of Away’s suitcases feature an interior compression system, secure zippered compartments, and a removable laundry bag.
I’m always on the lookout for fun, beautiful luggage that can withstand my constant travels. Away has been on my radar for some time: they produce first-class designer luggage, direct to consumer, meaning that they can keep prices on the economy side.
The larger carry-on is made to fit the regulations of US airlines. And there’s a tech element: a built-in battery that can charge any USB device, and zippers that fit into a TSA-approved combination lock.
Ready to take over the world with these Minions? Away’s Despicable Me 3 collab is only out for a short time, and I have a feeling they’ll be snatched up fast.
As you know from my outfits throughout the years, I like to change up my styling. I had my ears pierced during elementary school, but stopped wearing anything in them around college. However, the piercing hole remains intact — so I decided to play around with earrings again.
Of course, I clicked straight to my favorite jewelry designer: Alex Streeter! (Above, I’m wearing his radiator silver cuff from the Space collection, Ouroboros ring from the Creatures set, and these silver elongated spike heart earrings that suit me perfectly).
Based in NYC and renown as the creator of the Angel Heart Ring, Alex’s designs are favored by rock stars worldwide (including Marilyn Manson and J-rock legends). He started out in the 1960s in San Francisco, carving jewellery from redwood bark and selling it on the streets. In 1971, he set up shop as a silversmith in downtown NYC.
Today, Alex Streeter is an icon — and the go-to designer for those who love Gothic, sci-fi and edgy high-end accessories. Above, I’m wearing his UFO spaceship studs.
Alex and his daughter Lily (who works with him) are inspirations: they dress in rock-Goth fashion, and travel to Japan every year (he has a rabid fan following there).
Perhaps you’ve seen his famous pentagram ring on the fingers of celebrities. Alex’s jewelry is all made to order, beautifully crafted in sterling silver (he also works with bronze, brass, pewter and gold). You can also contact him through his site to request a unique, customized design.
A serpent slithering down my earlobe, with a pentagram in his mouth… I think it’s clear why Alex Streeter jewellery is my absolute favorite! He is a master, and I’ll be treasuring these signature pieces. Stay tuned to see more photos soon — there are more serpentine designs by Alex that I’m excited to show you.
(PS: my hair color and cut are by Stephanie Hoy at Sugar Skull Salon in Gastown, Vancouver.)
Now, let’s teleport to Japan — and take a walk inside Laforet in Harajuku. I’ve been doing dispatches from this mall since 2008 — see past posts in my Tokyo Gothic Lolita shopping guide.
Although I’ve been less impressed with the selection recently (more on that below), La Foret remains one of the top Tokyo destinations to find young, alternative fashion. You’ll always see chattering groups of teenage girls at the entrance, much like the anime schoolgirls in “seifuku” sailor uniforms on the poster.
Laforet has multiple levels, each with a variety of clothing and brands. The experimental street style tends to be in the basement floors. I’m also quite fond of the first floor, which hosts rotating pop-ups. Japanese up-coming designers tend to be featured, such as these colorful Erico earring and accessories.
There’s been a lot of talk about Harajuku changing for the worse. I’d say there is truth to this, as more and more big box stores have set up shop (H&M, Forever 21, etc).
Nonetheless, you can still find underground and club-influenced designs in this neighborhood.
Case in point: Abilletage has established a new location inside Laforet department store. This antique / Gothic / Steampunk brand is run independently, and produces gorgeous custom-tailored corsets. (Remember I visited Abilletage during my NHK Kawaii TV shoot?)
Abilletage is an example of a local designer that keeps the Harajuku spirit going. Everyone there is closely connected to the subculture, and the original designs are handmade or produced in small batches (such as these corset-lace and floral motif tights).
I hope you’ll look for this boutique when you visit Harajuku. Also check out the Abilletage Shinjuku location, which has an elegant Victorian tea salon.
Laforet’s B1 and B2 levels are filled with stores that fall on the spectrum of Goth, Lolita, Punk or Street style. The mannequins in the center of the stairwell are always dressed up to the nines, in EGL fashion.
These days, I’m drawn more to minimalist scary-kawaii fashion, such as this Frapbois oversize top.
At first glance, the clothes look similar to Western “Nu Goth.” However, they tend to have a Japanese cute twist to them: notice how the skull is made up of cute teddy bears in black and white.
Cute meets psycho at Lurem, a shop with a deranged bunny mascot. I always enjoy discovering Japanese indie brands in Laforet.
As you can see, the youth / street styles can vary widely. These satiny oversized tops are screaming with Bunnicula and anime pumpkin lady prints.
Contrast this with the flowing, gauzy, romantic dolly dresses next door. Perfect for a shironuri look (all-white face paint, makeup and clothing).
J-Rock and Visual Kei bands still lurk in the basement of Laforet. There are often meet-and-greets, signings and other events here, with long line-ups of fans waiting to meet their music idols.
At AnkoRock, influences from punk, rock, and dark subcultures come together in a refreshing way.
I can’t say the same for the Gothic and Lolita dresses I saw, which felt like they hadn’t evolved over the past years, unfortunately. (More about this below).