Category Archive for Tokyo Gothic Lolita

Hosting a Travel Channel TV series in Tokyo! Using Happn app to meet new people through everyday coincidences.

tokyo travel tips blog

Tokyo remains one of my favorite cities on the planet. There’s always something new (and usually cute!) to discover here.

I recently filmed in Japan with a new Travel Channel TV series, and am delighted to finally share behind-the-scenes from the shoot.

As we whiz through Tokyo’s coolest districts, I’ll also introduce you to a fabulous French app called Happn, which seizes everyday coincidences and lets you meet the people you cross paths with!

Last month, I revealed I’m the host of a new Travel Channel TV series (Japan episode) called “Could I Live There?” Above is a teaser clip; you can also see it on YouTube.

(“Tokyo’s Cute Culture” airs again on March 29th at 8:30am. Soon, the show will be available for download on Amazon.)

tokyo street crossing

The Travel Channel team and I filmed all over Tokyo. Can you imagine how many people I must have walked past, during this TV shoot alone?

I snapped this photo in busy Akihabara, and it made me think. People are always on their phones, and yet, it can be hard to start up a real-life conversation.

shibuya beauty makeup

I was excited to learn Happn was launching in Japan, as it’s a brilliant way to bridge these gaps.

This free app lets you give a second chance at a first encounter. It first launched in Paris in 2014, and is now is in over 35 cities worldwide.

happn french app

Happn is all about facilitating real-life connections. Every time you cross paths with another user, their profile appears on your app: a starting point for getting to know someone new.

travel channel woman tv host show

On a busy day like my Travel Channel TV shoot, I’m sure I walked by or near tons of interesting people. (The app connects you with users within a 250m radius.)

However when we’re caught up in work, or in a hurry to reach the next location, there’s no time to interact.

hachiko statue shibuya station

We filmed an intro at Hachiko dog statue, near the busy Shibuya crossing. As many as 2500 pedestrians cross this street every time the light changes!

tokyo busiest street crossing shibuya

So many people gather here in Shibuya — but are often too shy to strike up a conversation.

Happn lets them see the number of times they’ve crossed paths with someone, as well as the time and approximate location of the last encounter.

shibuya station meeting point

Wouldn’t it be fun if the fellow behind me was checking his phone, and finding me on Happn?

namie amuro face makeup

If there’s a user who you want to get to know better, you can Heart their profile (the person doesn’t get a notification, so it’s private). If that person Hearts you too, you can then start up a conversation.

You never know… one of the people you cross paths with could be a special guy or girl destined for you!

travel channel tv cameraman crew

I love how Happn lets me meet new friends with common interests. As you know, I’m an animal lover… and was in my element when we filmed at Deco’s Dog Cafe.

japanese poodle cute

Owners bring their puppies here to dine on gourmet food, and see other dogs.

deco dog cafe tokyo

In Japan, locals can be reticent about conversing with people they don’t know. An app like Happn breaks the ice.

“Hi, I was at Deco cafe too! Where did your poodle get her cute dress from?”

dog food recipes cookbook

“Perhaps we can exchange cooking tips for organic dog food!”

Akihabara buildings streets

I have a feeling Happn will be especially popular in Akihabara, the high-tech otaku district. 

maid cafe akiba tokyo

Maid cafes are big here, since they let customers talk to the staff about manga, anime and other “nerdy” interests. 

anime shops tokyo

No need to be shy when you can first chat about shared hobbies on the app.

odaiba onsen Oedo Monogatari

As you can see, I went to all types of neighborhoods for my Travel Channel shoot. We filmed a segment at the Odaiba hot springs, Oedo-Onsen-Monogatari. 

tokyo shinto temple gates

The final “decision scene” took place at a verdant Shinto temple.

japan buddha statue

In the end, did my “relocation” clients decide to move to Japan? You’ll have to tune in to find out. (“Could I Live There”? airs regularly on Travel Channel.)

asakasa modern architecture

I think anyone new to Japan would have fun using the French app Happn. It’s a charming way to meet people, from real life encounters.

japan travel instagram

Who knows — you could bond over your passion for kawaii mascots, creepy accessories, or a heaping plate of pasta!

happn app japan logo

Perhaps you’ll even cross paths with me! (If you’re intrigued, here’s where you can find out more about Happn.)

Hearts for all of you — I wouldn’t have these opportunities in Japan without your support. More Tokyo coverage to come, and I hope you enjoy the Travel Channel show that I hosted.

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Fashion & Travel Blogger: 2015 highlights, memories, videos! Working with hotels & tourism boards.

steampunk hair, classical goth

2015 is drawing to a close… Time for my annual blog ritual of looking back at the highlights of the year! 

In my 2014 recap (see part 1 and part 2), I was determined to dedicate more of this site to travel and subculture stories. I feel like this goal came into fruition: my work took me to 14 different countries in 2015, where I covered alternative topics ranging from British Goth festivals to Moroccan beauty workshops.

giuseppina magazine cover, la carmina

In this post, I’ll share how these projects came together, and reminisce on my favorite memories of the first six months (above is my Giuseppina Magazine cover – here is the whole shoot). I’ve also embedded my travel videos from each destination, in case you missed them when they first came out.

And the year’s not quite done yet… Two more destinations ahead. Find out what they are at the end of this post, and on my social networks (@lacarmina, linked below). Thanks for being part of my journey, and here’s to a meaningful 2016!

Find @LaCarmina on Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Vine, YouTube, Facebook page

hong kong fashion instagram snapchat

My travel filmmakers and I started the year in Hong Kong, where we were working with the new Hotel Sav. I always love coming back to this city, where I have many friends and relatives.

hong kong boutique art hotel

It was an incredible honor to have my own hotel room at Sav, which I decorated with artist Naomiyaki! This “Floor of Love” project appealed to us because it had the goal of elevating a traveller’s stay through art, and giving back to charity.

Check out all my Hong Kong articles here for the behind-the-scenes story of how we made a “La Carmina” room, and what these paintings represent.

We also celebrated Chinese New Year for the first time, in Hong Kong.

Dragon dances, fireworks and food… take a moment to watch the travel video above, to see it all in action.

line store harajuku bear stuffed

Next, my film team and I flew to Tokyo, Japan. We were working once again with trip-planning startup Odigo. I had the time of my life at the Odigo launch party with my friends.

sanrio theme cafe, pom pom purin

We also did stories and videos about the bizarre, kawaii attractions found only in Japan. From the Pompompurin puppy cafe (above) to the mecha Gundam robot, you can see the latest pop culture oddities in all my Tokyo posts.

And above is the Tokyo travel video — Pokemon cafe, Suspiria horror pubs, game centers and more madness.

iceland futuristic church reykjavik

In the spring, I finally visited one of my top dream destinations: Iceland. The country is like nowhere else, with science fiction buildings and an otherworldly landscape.

My Reykjavik memories include exploring the street art and prismatic architecture, eating insanely fresh seafood, and meeting the RuPaul drag queens (they were randomly performing while we were there).

iceland blue lagoon girl

You absolutely must take a nature tour in Iceland. Our wonderful guides Salty Tours took us to secret spots including black sand beaches, waterfalls and elf caves, instead of the usual Golden Circle. (Here are all my Iceland photos and posts, to help you plan a trip here.)

Enjoy the ethereal video of my Iceland adventures above and on YouTube @lacarmina. There’s footage of me dipping into the Blue Lagoon and taking selfies with plump Icelandic horses!

british afternoon tea party decor

My white rabbit (Miffy) and I went onward to Manchester UK, where we were working on stories with support from the tourism board. These British adventures included Alice in Wonderland high tea…

salford and sons, the smiths fan club

… and a pilgrimmage to Manchester music landmarks, including Salford and Sons. (Enjoy the full story about my The Smiths and Joy Division music tour.)

whitby england dracula castle

After a train ride through the Yorkshire countryside, I arrived at the seaside town of Whitby. We did a magazine cover shoot at the Dracula abbey that inspired the Bram Stoker novel.

whitby goth weekend costumes

Such fun to finally experience Whitby Goth Weekend, where Andi Sex Gang and other Gothic greats performed. For more photos of the event, take a gander at all my England posts.

tokyo cat temple, thousands cats statues

I then went back to Tokyo, Japan for a Travel Channel TV shoot. I can’t reveal anything about this TV hosting gig yet, but when it airs next year, I’ll be sure to let you know.

I also got to see the Japanese cat temples, Gotokuji and Imado shrines (featuring thousand of lucky cat statues). I haven’t had a chance to blog about this yet… still so many posts from 2015 that need to go up…

singapore merlion sunrise

In May, I traveled to Singapore for the first time (it was a year of many firsts). We got insider access at Marina Bay Sands, and ate our way around the city — from high end molecular gastronomy, to hawker center street food.

singapore hipsters hip restaurant

I still have a Little India and Chinatown post to share with you, but until I get around to it, you can see all my Singapore travel tips so far.

bali ubud pura temple

And then, there was Bali — land of temples and spirituality. I thoroughly enjoyed my time here with my friends Cohica Travel, and think back fondly at our temple tour around Ubud.

bali cooking classes

We also had far too much fun taking a Bali cooking class at the Ritz-Carlton Nusa Dua, with these jolly chefs!

I invite you to check out my Indonesia posts here, for a visual diary of my time on the island.

travel instagram accounts follow influencers

That takes us up to June! Next up, I’ll look back at memories from the second half of the year.

karisma experience, el dorado hotel mexico

And what’s next? Off to New York City and Mexico — with partner in crime Yukiro! We’ll be celebrating New Year’s Eve, and kicking back at the new Karisma El Dorado resort in Riviera Maya / Tulum.

I’ll be posting inspiration all throughout these travels. Join us on my social networks @lacarmina — Instagram, Twitter, Vine, YouTube, Facebook page.

christmas card scottish fold cat, kitten

How about you — what were your favorite moments of 2015? Did you achieve any goals that you set, or experience something extraordinary?

Tokyo Ganguro Cafe & Robot Sushi! Gyaru Black Diamond makeover & nail art in Shibuya.

ganguro cafe girls, black diamond gal unit

Dark-skinned makeup, zebra print dresses and massive eyelashes… Yes, 1990s Japanese Ganguro fashion is back!

In this dispatch from Tokyo, my friends investigate the new Ganguro cafe and get a technicolor makeover by the Black Diamond Unit gals.

hello kitty haneda airport gifts store

As you might remember, I was recently in Tokyo for a Travel Channel TV shoot. Although I’m not permitted to reveal anything about the filming yet, I can share photos of the latest Jpop trends in the city, taken during my days off.

Keep reading to see a “cat party” with friends, Haneda Airport’s new kawaii stores, and sushi made by Mr. Roboto!

ganguro cafe shibuya, ガングロカフェ

We’ll begin with John Skeleton’s review of the new Ganguro theme bar / cafe. He writes:

If you missed your chance to see Ganguro girls in their natural habitat (Shibuya, Tokyo) during their heyday in the mid-9os and early 2000’s, now is your chance! All you have to do is take a trip to the Ganguro Café (ガングロカフェ), run by the Black Diamond musical unit that has performed at such international venues as the Japan Expo in France and Anime Expo in the U.S.

The café is equipped with a fully stocked bar, karaoke machine, and darts, and while it may be rather small, it sets off the larger-than-life Ganguro fashion even better. (Address: 2F, Crea Dogenzaka Building, 2-22-6, Dogenzaka, Shibuya, Tokyo, 150-0043)

Yamanba Manba makeup, hairstyle

Super-tanned skin, contrasting white makeup, bleached hair, and impossibly elaborate fingernails are the order of the day at the Ganguro Café. My new friend Alcy and I decided to venture into this latest hotspot and see what all the hype was about.

Staff member Harutamu was assigned to our table, well-coiffed and happy to discuss what drew her to Ganguro fashion. “I remember seeing some Ganguro girls on TV and thinking, Wow, this is amazing! They were like beautiful dolls and so colorful. I’ve never been interested in normal fashion, so this was perfect for me!”

gyaru tokyo nail art

Although the initial Ganguro boom had ended more than a decade ago, Harutamu and her fellow staff members represent the next generation of young people who have been inspired by their fashionable forerunners. She also explained how, while often misunderstood as an imitation of hip-hop style, Ganguro is a fashion and musical sensibility all its own, embracing J-pop and rejecting the common aesthetic that says white skin and natural makeup are the ultimate in feminine beauty.

(Some girls take the look further, with stark white eye makeup and Day-Glo clothing, in an offshoot called Yamanba or Manba. And yes, the spiked nail art on their hands are acrylics, meaning they don’t come off.)

crazy long ganguro japanese nails

Of course, the establishment is also a café, so we had to try some of the food. The signature dish is theGanguro Balls,” a dish similar to takoyaki (octopus balls), but dyed appropriately with black squid ink and and containing sausage and cheese – the perfect accompaniment to the many alcoholic beverages available at the bar. For dessert, we tried the pudding and chocolate cake, both of which were mouthwateringly good.

ganguro cafe makeup makeover

It wasn’t long before it was makeup time. Alcy had volunteered to make the dramatic transition from light to dark, Ganguro-style, and the Ganguro Café “Image Girl” Erimokkori was up to the task, even with her outrageously adorned fingernails.

gyaru beauty salon, eyeshadow

Watching her apply false eyelashes with six-inch nails was quite a sight to behold and, if nothing else, one certainly has to respect the amount of time and effort these young ladies put into constructing their striking appearance.

gyaru gal ganguro before after

To top it all of, a green wig was applied and Alcy had been transformed from Goth to Ganguro.

black diamond ganguro gals

Even if you don’t make the full transformation, if you’re looking for an underground tourist spot off the beaten path in Tokyo, the Ganguro Café is guaranteed to be an unforgettable experience!

Info: Thanks to John and Alcy for the photos and story. You can find out more about the Ganguro Cafe on their website, and also reserve tickets in advance – since the seats often sell out, especially on weekends.

Price: The 3000 yen package includes entry, 1 drink and 1 food dish, and souvenirs. For 7000 yen, you will also get a ganguro make-over and purikura with the gals.

japanese matsuri celebration

What else is relatively new in Shibuya, the neighborhood with the famous street crossing? Well… there’s a robot sushi parlor.

shibuya street view, crowds crossing

Located near Shibuya’s 109 department store, Uobei Sushi looks like a factory assembly line, and there are no chefs in sight. Tip: go early or at off-hours to avoid lineups, since this sushi parlor is popular among both locals and tourists.

(Address: 2-29-11 Dogenzaka, Shibuya, Tokyo)

uobei sushi parlor shibuya

How do you order from this bizarre sushi restaurant? Everyone sits in front of a touch screen, which you can toggle between Japanese and English (and other languages).

uobei shibuya sushi

Flip through the various screens, and press to choose up to three items. I’m a fan of the nigiri selection, especially the salmon topped with pepper. There are also pages for desserts, edamame, and side dishes.

japanese computer robots sushi chef

When you’re ready, push the big Order button. A few minutes later, your sushi will come zooming down the rails on a platter, which stops right in front of you!

uobei sushi, menu, nigiri

Take your sushi, and you’ll hear a beeping noise. Look for this unhappy-faced blinking yellow button, and push it.

robot automatic sushi, tokyo

This will send the empty tray hurtling back into the kitchen.

japanese robot sushi restaurant

You can keep on placing computer orders until you’re full (and drink unlimited green tea). The meals will arrive on different ramps (top, middle, bottom).

The robot sushi parlor is a marvel to behold, and inexpensive too (two nigiri are about $1 US). The quality of the food is excellent, considering the price. That’s what I love about Japan — even the cheapest sushi is made with better quality rice and fish than most places in North America and Europe.

Want to see the flying sushi in action? Check out my video above and on my @lacarmina Instagram.

cat themed birthday party

Who else is a fan of fish? Cats, of course! (That’s my attempt at a topic transition…) My friend Lily was celebrating her birthday, and invited us over to play with her kitties. Here she is above with Luna.

black white cat, tongue out

The black-and-white Noche greets guests. Many of us are crazy cat-lovers, so the party turned out to have a kitty theme. 

pink cat shaped cupcakes

Our friend Xiomara Entropy showed up with adorable cat-faced cake pops. (She runs a “baking with a mohawk” blog, with recipes for original baked goods like these.)

japanese male goth makeup

Atsushi couldn’t resist taking cat selfies with Luna…

japanese goth mens hair

.. who looks a bit confused by the face he’s making!  Meanwhile, Yukiro worked the room with vampire-red wine.

friends with cats

Cats are the best, aren’t they? Soon, I’ll show you photos from Tokyo’s cat-themed temples, Gotokuji and Imado Shrine.

cat birthday decorations

It was fun to catch up with my Japan friends and finally meet Lily’s “babies.”

cell phone cat wallpapers

We laughed when we compared their iPhones. These mobiles are version 4, 5, and 6 — but all with kitty wallpapers!

haneda hello kitty shop

The Japanese queen of the nekos, however, remains Hello Kitty. She has a new souvenir store in the revamped Haneda Airport.

Fortunately, you can order items from anywhere in the world! Browse below; I personally want the Kitty iPhone case.

sirotan cute baby seal character

I had time to kill before my flight to Singapore, so I went around to the kawaii stores and took photos for you.

I prefer Haneda Airport to Narita because it’s closer to the city, modern, and filled with cuteness — like Sirotan the seal.

yellow japanese chick character

If you didn’t have time to pick up souvenirs in Tokyo, you can make up for it at these airport stores. Tons of photos below… click to see
More here!

Fashion blogger profile on FashionOne TV! Tokyo’s Cutest Stores: Kokokim pastel goth, Harajuku girls.

cute japanese teen girls, harajuku twins

Tokyo remains the cutest place on Earth — and there’s no better place than Harajuku for fashion inspiration! 

Wouldn’t you like to follow along with me in Tokyo, and see what happens on a typical day? You can, thanks to the magic of television…

military gold brocade dress

I’m honored to be profiled by FashionOne, the international style TV network that broadcasts to 120 countries worldwide!

The “day in a life of La Carmina” episode first aired on June 15, but you can see it on repeat and online on FashionOne’s channel (or just click play below).

In this feature, you’ll catch glimpses of the Pokemon cafe, Line Friends store, and Odigo travel launch party — where I dressed as a Grand Budapest Lobby Girl.

Thank you to Stephanie and everyone at FashionOne TV, for letting me share my world with you. The video is created and produced by my travel filmmaking partners, Borderless Media.

tokyo airbnb apartment rental

In the video, you’ll notice that my team and I stayed at an AirBNB in Shibuya. We’re big fans of this short-term apartment rental site, which lets you live in comfort — as if you were a local — while spending less. Our apartment had two bedrooms and a kitchen, and was a five minute walk from the station. (Psst, here is my AirBNB discount link that gets you $31 off your first booking!)

A lot of people ask me where to stay in Tokyo. If you’re only visiting for a short time, I urge you to stay in one of the major districts (I prefer Shibuya or Shinjuku). This way, you won’t waste time and money on getting to the city every day. Also keep in mind that the trains stop running around 1am, so you might as well be in a neighborhood where you can party and then walk home.

harajuku punk clothing

But let’s go back to fashion blogging in Japan. To celebrate the release of the FashionOne episode, I thought I’d share photos of the best alternative shopping destinations in Tokyo.

Let’s start with Harajuku, since it was featured in the travel video. Over the years, Takeshita Doori has gotten more and more commercial. Nonethless, you can still find Goth, punk and metal fashion here.

goth harajuku boutiques

At AC/ DC, the clothes are inexpensive ($10-40 US per item), and have cute-Gothic prints you can’t easily find anywhere else.

cool harajuku tutus hoodies

Such as tutu-dresses and this Miffy-mouthed hoodie.

kera magazine lolita dessert dress

Many of Harajuku’s shops are quite mainstream now, but if you wander down the side-streets, you’ll find the gems. Here’s a sign for Kera Magazine, featuring a cute model in a dessert-pastry-print Lolita JSK.

stayreal japan shop, hello kitty

The StayReal brand is actually from Taiwan. The Heavy Metal Hello Kitty sign gives you a hint of the cute meets edgy fashion inside.

hyper core, japanese designer

It pains me to report that more punk and Gothic brands are closing doors. Sex Pot Revenge is now no more. On the bright side, Hyper Core and Listen Flavor are still around.

dog harajuku, punk store

And the experimental fashion boutique, Dog, is as madcap as ever. (Address: 3-23-3 Jingumae, Harajuku)

avantgarde harajuku clothing shop

Every time I go down these stairs, I’m astonished by their intricate, avantgarde designs. Dog’s pricetags are expensive — I’ve never bought anything here, but I love to loo.

famous japanese punk boutique

Lady Gaga and others go nuts for the various handmade garments, from Japan and all over.

mori girl clothes, vintage

For more affordable prices, stop by Kinji, the secondhandstore on Meiji-jingumae. Mori and dolly-vintage fashion is big here.

funny japanese graffiti

And if you have no money to spend at all… Well, Death Is Free!

shibuya crossing buildings

Onward to Shibuya, another favorite neighborhood for the young and trendy. There are endless restaurants and bars here.

black cherry jrock band

Inside Tsutaya (the music and DVD store), we saw these posters for the Jrock band Black Cherry. Looks like the two guys are giving some “fan service”…

kawaii statue japan

Everyone has a smartphone these days, even this cute bear sitting at the top of a skyscraper.

rainbow lights tokyo shibuya

Neon lights — Shibuya at night! (Photos by Borderless Media, using my Sony Alpha 7 (A7) mirrorless DSLR)

japanese flower manhole covers

Don’t forget to look down, or you’ll miss these Japanese manhole covers, decorated like flowers.

feather crown hat

High-quality images are important to me, so in recent years, my blog photos are all from DSLR cameras. However, there are times when I’m in a hurry, and simply use my iPhone to capture inspiration.

I usually share these snaps on my Instagram, but felt I should also put some in this post for you. Keep on reading for my Tokyo smartphone snaps…

fairy kei retro clothes

… including a peek at the Kokokim pastel goth boutique, which sells coffin purses in mint and lavender!

♡ Lots of photos below, click to see ♡ More here!