Category Archive for Tokyo Gothic Lolita
Halloween 2014 is creeping closer… do you have your costume ready yet? How will you be celebrating?
If you’re in Tokyo, Japan for Halloween, there are a number of dark and alternative events this year. These include Midnight Mess’s 12th anniversary Goth dance party on Oct 25, and Tokyo Dark Castle Zombie Halloween on the same day. In Osaka, Farplane Night is having a cabaret festival on Nov 1st.
But for Japanese spooky kids, Halloween is every day of the year! So every month, they congregate at Heavy Pop (へびぽ), a club night that celebrates cyber, Goth, Lolita, drag and other alt fashion tribes. As you can see from the group photo, it’s one colorful party.
Heavy Pop changes its location and exact date each time, so check their Facebook for the next event (I’m not sure yet if they’re having a Halloween extravaganza). I went to the anniversary celebration at Hell’s Bar in Sangenjaya. The tiny space was packed, hence the face-fanning.
“Hebipo” generally takes place on the last Sunday of the month, around 3pm to 11pm (so that partygoers can take the last train home, as it stops running around midnight). Come here if you want to dance to Jpop while surrounded by youths, dressed in experimental-kawaii fashion.
Each event features a roster of DJs and performers. I watched these two cute Japanese girls dressed as French maids, singing and dancing a frenetic “para-para” on stage.
One of the regular artists is… Yukiro, in his evil guise as drag queen Die Schwarze Frau! That’s reason enough to check out the club night, don’t you think?
Most of the guests dressed in some sort of alternative street style like kawaii, fairy kei, or Gothic. I saw some wild makeup and hair in the crowd. This lizard-monster, made of full body rubber, gets my medal for “craziest costume.”
As you can see, there isn’t much room to make giant hand motions. Wear layers so that you can take something off if the room gets too hot. (Even the reptile took off his head at one point.)
Everyone’s welcome at Heavy Pop, but I suggest you join the Jpop spirit of the party, and dress up. Wigs, crowns and hats add a fun touch.
Don’t forget to take a picture at the photobooth, and say hi to Die Schwarze Frau (she won’t bite) and organizer / DJ Ray Ochiai. He started this party a few years ago, and it’s built up quite the following.
You can’t help but smile at the theatrical performances on stage. The event alternates between DJ sets and performers.
The side of the room has a line-up of vendor booths, run by independent designers. Shop here for neon face masks and other oddities.
Light colors, lace and living-dolls abound.
Can you feel the energy of the music? All these images are by Said Karlsson — give him a shout if you need a photographer in Tokyo.
The drag theatrics of Die Schwarze Frau always get attention. Stand too close to the front, and you might get whipped by her flailing skirts.
Love the hair-horns, pink eyebrows and layers of eyelashes on this girl.
The queen in motion. DSF performs drag at other events in Tokyo, which you can see on her Facebook.
Don’t you want to be at this fabulous club night too? Keep track of the next Heavy Pop party on their Facebook page. Entry fee varies; it’s generally 1500 yen and a drink if you RSVP on Facebook.
How do you like the Harajuku fashion and makeup featured in this post? Do you have Halloween plans yet?
If you’re in Tokyo in late October, be sure to check out the Gothic nightclubs and bars, listed here and at the top of this post.
Yes, that’s an owl sitting in my blue hair! This summer, I visited Tokyo owl cafe Fukuro no Mise. This newest Japanese trend lets you drink coffee while petting over a dozen live owls.
Keep reading for the shop address, cover charge, hours of operation… and tons of fluffy owl photos!
In Japan, cat cafes (where you can play with dozens of kitties) are old news. To keep the novelty fresh, people opened up petting spaces for dogs and bunnies, and penguin bars.
Now, owls are the stars of the show. Fukuro no Mise launched in 2012, and its bizarre concept became so popular that more have opened up. Today, there are two owl cafes in Tokyo (Tori no Iru and Fukurou Sabou), and two in Osaka (Owl Family and Crew), all run by different owners.
Let me take you inside! But first, the pertinent travel info…
Owl cafe address: Seven Star Mansion 1F, 2-6-7 Kiba, Koto-ku, Tokyo.
How to get here: Ride the subway to Tsukishima station (it takes about 40 minutes from Shinjuku, via Oedo or Yurakucho line). Walk out of Gate 10, and the café is a few blocks ahead.
Opening hours: Sun 12-6pm, Weds and Thurs 2-6pm, Fri 2-9pm, Sat 12-9pm. Closed Mon and Tues. English speaking staff every Friday.
Entrance fee: 2000 yen ($19.50), which includes a drink and gift book. Check their website for any changes.
I recommend arriving at least an hour before doors open to make a reservation, since the spaces fill up quickly and can’t be booked in advance. (I arrived at the exact opening time, which varies depending on the date, and the earliest availability was three hours later.)
At the designated time, the staff let me in along with ten other customers. I saw real-life owls staring at me from every corner — some were smaller than my hand, others were larger than my head. There were even adorable stuffed toy owls everywhere.
All the birds are tame, and have a leg attached to the perch by string. I had an hour to enjoy their company and sip a drink that is included with the cover charge. The café doesn’t serve food, so I didn’t have to worry about beaks pecking at my plate.
I wore a mint-colored dress with a royal owl print, to match the theme cafe. It’s from the Algonquins store in Shinjuku.
The staff gave a short introduction in Japanese (if you don’t know the language, there’s an English speaker on Fridays). Then, it was owl-cuddling time. I pointed at a horned one, and the staff helped me put her on my shoulder, hand or head. The birds are calm and I felt comfortable holding them. Up close, I could sense the power of their talons and bright eyes — such majestic creatures.
So far, these cafes are unique to Japan. Customers get to see these intelligent creatures up close, and interact with them for an hour. (All photos by Said Karlsson, Tokyo-based photographer.)
Fukuro no Mise houses a variety of different species, including barn owls. I was amazed at how tame they were, sitting quietly together.
The staff gave commonsense instructions, such as “Don’t make sudden movements. Only touch the birds gently on the head or upper back.”
With a cute cartoon, this sign reminds me not to take videos or flash photos.
A lot of customers took selfies with an owl on the wrist. The girls made cute poses with their hands, next to the owls.
These two are babies, so I was only allowed to touch them twice on the head. So soft and cute!
Before the hour is up, don’t forget to browse the owl-themed memorabilia for sale.
Fukuro no Mise sells owl-decorated goods like a jeweled iPhone case, statuette, and stationery.
However, the pet owls are not for sale — although you may be tempted to take one home!
Here’s a snap of the owl-petting cafe rules and cover charges.
As you can see, the menu includes a variety of soft drinks and coffees. One drink is included with every entrance. Alcoholic beverages cost slightly more.
My Scottish Fold cat, Basil Farrow, felt left out… so here’s a photo of him. With their giant round eyes and heads, this breed is often compared to owls.
Scottish Folds are so gentle — they never scratch or bite, and love to get tummy rubs!
You can watch videos of my Scottish Fold cat with his robot-kitty clone (a moving toy from Japan!) on his kawaii blog.
Would you visit an owl cafe? What do you think the next Jpop cafe trend will be?
It’s my birthday! (August 17.) Thanks for all the kind wishes, I’m so grateful for your friendship.
Perhaps this is an opportune time to share the PechaKucha speech that I made in Tokyo, since it reflects on my journey over the past few years. I’m stunned at how everything has grown — and I couldn’t have done any of this with your support.
I’ve recently been working with a trip-planning startup, Odigo, and they asked me to do a presentation at PechaKucha 20×20 Tokyo. This is a public speakers’ event that began in Japan, and now takes place worldwide. The challenge is that each presenter only gets 20 slides, displaying on screen for 20 seconds each, to convey their point.
I look like I’m having Seinfeld moment, with the microphone and upturned hand. “What’s the deal with bagelheads?”
Outfit details: To match the Alice in Wonderland motif in my speech, I’m wearing a Baby the Stars Shine Bright skirt. This off-shoulder black top by Free People is almost identical to the one I’m wearing (I got mine at 2% Hong Kong).
As you can see, there were hundreds of people in the audience! I had no notes on me, and couldn’t even see the screen behind (which switched to the next photo automatically after twenty seconds). So how did it go? And what exactly did I do a presentation about?
Above and on YouTube, you can see a video of me speaking to the crowd at Pecha Kucha.
The most difficult part was nailing the transitions between the slides, which change automatically. I recommend practicing over and over, including doing trial runs in front of an audience, until you get used to this unique format.
Other PechaKucha tips? Tell stories as you were talking to a friend, to keep the crowd engaged. It never helps to tell a funny anecdote or too. Keep relaxed and the 6-7 minute speech will flow by fast.
Since you can’t always clearly see the slides in the first video, above is one that contains only my PechaKucha slideshow and the audio. I hope you’ll find this example 20×20 presentation helpful, if you ever end up doing one yourself.
Arigato everyone who came to see me at SuperDeluxe Roppongi, and to the PechaKucha Tokyo team for having me! The event is full of positive energy, thanks to founders Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham, and executive director Jean Snow. PK always features a creative roster of presenters (speaking in Japanese and English) about topics as diverse as rope tying and natto packaging.
Here are some of the slides and stories I mention in my speech. “Ever since I was one year old, my family and I would take trips to Asia at least once a year. As a child, some of my most vivid memories were visiting Japan. Imagine little ol’ me in 1990s Harajuku, an alien world inhabited by punks with spiky hair, and girls in Victorian ruffle dresses. And everything was so cute!”
“Even though I loved visiting Japan and wearing Jpop fashion, I never imagined it was possible to have a travel career like mine. I went to Columbia University, and then Yale Law School – but my heart wasn’t into law. I needed a creative escape – so I started my La Carmina blog in 2007. Every day, I posted about the hidden spots I loved in Japan – such as the Vampire Cafe where the waiters dressed like Dracula, or pastel Goth boutiques where the fashion is inspired by My Little Pony. All the places that mainstream travel guides and tours would never show you.”
“I did this all out of love – I enjoyed connecting with people online over these shared passions, and never thought the site would lead anywhere. But then some of my posts about theme restaurants and cute food became popular… and long story short, it landed me a NY literary agent. That led to two books: Crazy Wacky Theme Restaurants and Cute Yummy Time.”
“From then on, everything just kept building organically. One day, a producer emailed and said… “I’m writing from the Andrew Zimmern show, Bizarre Foods. He loves your book, and wants you to be his guide.” That was my first taste of travel TV hosting and production, and I was hooked. Since there was so much demand, my business partner and I started a TV fixing company, and three years later, we’ve organized shows for Food Network, NHK, CNN, Discovery, National Geographic Taboo, and many more.”
“The reason these shows hire us – and not some normal tour guide – is because we’re underground insiders. We know all about the bizarre hot-spots all over the city, and are able to make all the arrangements so that TV shows can shoot things like bagelhead inflation, where you drip saline solution into the forehead, creating a bulge.”
“One thing that I noticed was even though many people enjoyed reading about the places I share on my blog, it was still difficult to search for them on Google maps and figure out how to get from A to B. So I became involved with Odigo, a project that helps me to share my trips with others. All you have to do is go to odigo.travel and you can follow my footsteps!”
And if you want to give me a little birthday love, I invite you to join my mailing list (I only send emails about once a year, don’t worry).
❤❤ Just fill in details below & click. ❤❤
Thank you kindly! If you’re intrigued by my trip-planning collaboration, or want to be one of the first contributors, take a look at Odigo and sign up.
And hugs for First Mate and illustrator Naomiyaki for this fat-faced greeting card of Basil Farrow.
Have you heard of PechaKucha, or been to one of their events? What do you think of my presentation?
Readers often ask me: “Where can I buy Jrock CDs and Visual Kei memorabilia in Tokyo?”
In this post, I’ll take you to some of my favorite musical haunts in Shinjuku: Book Off, Closet Child Mens, and Pure Sound. At the bottom of this post, you’ll find more info about J-rock stores in Harajuku and Ikebukuro.
My shopping partner of the day was Yukiro Dravarious, wearing signature purple and lots of kitty-cat influences.
Who says Goths can’t rock neon? The Japanese taxi in the back matches the look.
I hadn’t brushed out my curls yet, but this gives you a sense of the blue-green shaded color. The scarf is by Sex Pot Revenge, and the sunglasses are old ones by Salvatore Ferragamo.
We first stopped by Book-Off, which has various locations. One is located near the Southern Terrace and Shinjuku station south exit.
Inside, you’ll find tons of used music and magazines. We picked up recent copies of Kera and Gothic Lolita Bible, and Yukiro even found Malice Mizer cds for about $2 each!
We walked to the West side of Shinjuku station, and spotted these rock-style boys looking at music posters. Obviously, we were in the right place…
Here is a map of Closet Child Men’s; you may need to walk around a bit to find it.
On one side of the small store, you’ll find tons of J-rock and Visual Kei memorabilia, including special edition CDs and concert booklets. Many young people hang around, browsing for treasure, like this green haired girl.
Note: only the Men’s and Ikebukuro branches of Closet Child sell music as well as clothing.
On the other side, there’s a nice selection of Goth, punk and alternative men’s fashion. These brands include unisex ones like Super Lovers and Sexy Dynamite.
Right next door is Pure Sound, a Jrock-oriented music shop. When you see the giant posters of boys with teased colored hair and makeup, you’re there.
Pure Sound often has special events, such as band signings. If so, the shop may be temporary closed, and there could be a long lineup of fans.
All your favorite VK music is sold inside, like Penicillin, The Gazette, Golden Bomber and more.
Tip: pick up the free band flyers at the front of the shop. You can used these to decorate your walls.
A smaller rock music shop nearby also sells some used Lolita and Harajuku fashion.
The best place to shop for secondhand Goth Lolita Punk clothes, however, remains Closet Child. This is a snap of the upper “rock” floor of the Shinjuku location. (For more info about the various branches of CC, see my Tokyo shopping guide.)
I leave you with some close-ups of Yukiro’s cute accessories. A zombie doll…
… a cute faced plush cat.
Bright pink sneakers and mis-matched socks, a Harajuku staple.
Want more Jrock posts? Check out my collection of concert reviews including Dir en Grey, X Japan and Moi dix Mois.
There are also more Visual Kei merchandise stores in Harajuku; I’ve listed a few at the bottom of this comprehensive guide.
Which bands are currently on your playlist? Share your favorites with us in the comments!
Tons more Tokyo coverage coming right up — including the owl cafe, Heavy Pop Harajuku party and a horror themed bar. Be sure to add my Instagram for previews of my Asia adventures.