Category Archive for Tokyo Gothic Lolita
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.
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!
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)
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!”
- Shop her style by clicking items below. The Dolly Wink eyelashes are a must.
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.)
Of course, the establishment is also a café, so we had to try some of the food. The signature dish is the “Ganguro 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.
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.
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.
To top it all of, a green wig was applied and Alcy had been transformed from Goth to Ganguro.
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.
What else is relatively new in Shibuya, the neighborhood with the famous street crossing? Well… there’s a robot sushi parlor.
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)
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).
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.
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!
Take your sushi, and you’ll hear a beeping noise. Look for this unhappy-faced blinking yellow button, and push it.
This will send the empty tray hurtling back into the kitchen.
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.
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.
The black-and-white Noche greets guests. Many of us are crazy cat-lovers, so the party turned out to have a kitty theme.
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.)
Atsushi couldn’t resist taking cat selfies with Luna…
.. who looks a bit confused by the face he’s making! Meanwhile, Yukiro worked the room with vampire-red wine.
Cats are the best, aren’t they? Soon, I’ll show you photos from Tokyo’s cat-themed temples, Gotokuji and Imado Shrine.
It was fun to catch up with my Japan friends and finally meet Lily’s “babies.”
We laughed when we compared their iPhones. These mobiles are version 4, 5, and 6 — but all with kitty wallpapers!
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.
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.
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
Fashion blogger profile on FashionOne TV! Tokyo’s Cutest Stores: Kokokim pastel goth, Harajuku girls.
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…
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).
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.
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.
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.
At AC/ DC, the clothes are inexpensive ($10-40 US per item), and have cute-Gothic prints you can’t easily find anywhere else.
Such as tutu-dresses and this Miffy-mouthed hoodie.
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.
The StayReal brand is actually from Taiwan. The Heavy Metal Hello Kitty sign gives you a hint of the cute meets edgy fashion inside.
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.
And the experimental fashion boutique, Dog, is as madcap as ever. (Address: 3-23-3 Jingumae, Harajuku)
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.
Lady Gaga and others go nuts for the various handmade garments, from Japan and all over.
For more affordable prices, stop by Kinji, the secondhandstore on Meiji-jingumae. Mori and dolly-vintage fashion is big here.
And if you have no money to spend at all… Well, Death Is Free!
Onward to Shibuya, another favorite neighborhood for the young and trendy. There are endless restaurants and bars here.
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”…
Everyone has a smartphone these days, even this cute bear sitting at the top of a skyscraper.
Don’t forget to look down, or you’ll miss these Japanese manhole covers, decorated like flowers.
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…
… 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!
Japanese Goth clubs: DecabarZ Tokyo & Suspiria horror bar! Odigo travel blogging class, Wave Gotik Treffen 2015.
One of the most frequent questions I get is: “Where are the Goth clubs and parties in Tokyo?” Over the years, I’ve covered events and compiled all the best ones in my Japan Gothic nightlife guide.
However, there are always new places popping up. Let me take you into the recently-opened DecabarZ in Kabukicho, a Suspiria-themed horror bar, and more!
My friend Jen also shares her recommendations for Wave Gotik Treffen 2015, at the end of this post. (Sadly I won’t be there, but above is a memory from WGT a few years ago.)
Japan’s alternative fashion crowd still gathers at Decadance Bar, which used to be located above Christon Cafe in Shinjuku. Now, owner Adrien le Danois has opened up his own place, not far away in the heart of Kabukicho.
How to get to the new DecabarZ? The address is 5F Shinko Building, 1-2-13 Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, Japan. Here’s a link to the map.
To get to Decabar z, go out Shinjuku Station east exit, and walk straight until you hit the main road Yasukuni Doori. Turn and walk down the street with the Mr Donut on the corner. Stay on the right side (across from Shinjuku Ward). It’s on the 5th floor of the Shinko Building.
You can’t miss the entrance — there’s a huge, neon-colored mural in the style of Dragonball-Z, which is where the new club takes its name from. All of the regular DJs and performers have their faces immortalized here: Chihiro, DJ Sisen, Maya, Selia.
On most weekends, DecabarZ has special themed events. We were there for the 1980s Visage tribute, hence Yukiro’s retro-Goth look.
The new Decabar Z is more spacious, and illuminated in cyber colors. Some people dress casual, while others go all-out. Cosplay, Victorian, Ghostbusters… you’ll see it all here.
The staff is always rocking underground fashion. This lady wears ganguro makeup, the tanned and white-highlighted look popular in Shibuya in the 90s.
I’m digging this bartender’s bowler hat with a polka dot veil, and military jacket with shoulder pads. (More amazing Goth fashion below – click to shop!)
On the dance floor, a TV broadcast cartoon episodes of Jem and the Holograms. (Love the American Horror Story shirt.)
There was also a mix of post-punk, rock and other underground sounds from the past decades. When the DJs played the Ghostbusters theme, this cosplayer stood on a ledge and waved around his proton pack!
This bar is open most nights – so what are you waiting for? For upcoming DecabarZ theme nights, check out their Facebook event listings.
Now, for more horror and darkness. On the recommendation of John Skeleton, we visited Cambiare — a Shinjuku drinking hole inspired by the Dario Argento B-horror film, Suspiria!
Address: 1-1-7 2F Kabukicho, Shinjuku. This is located in Golden Gai, the cluster of tiny bars that line several streets. It may be hard to find, so look up to see the Cambiare sign in spooky writing.
The interior is full of references to the 70s cult film, such as the stained glass window where the girl falls through (below), and the evil-eyed cat. Even the wallpaper mimics the one in the movie (which has one of the coolest sets of all time).
We drank the homemade sangria and watched the slasher movie on the TV screen. The bartender has seen it over 100 times, and we chatted about the bloodiest scenes.
If you’re a fan of Dario Argento’s works, then a visit to this Suspiria themed bar is a must. (More info on the Cambiare Facebook.)
Time to check out yet another Gothic hangout. Also in this same Kabukicho district is Mistress Maya’s new snack bar, Tsudoi (now Dalkima). For a “nomihoudai” all-you-can drink price, she’ll serve you sake and beer, and feed you her homestyle Japanese cooking.
Address: 3F Chipupura Plaza, 2-23-7 Kabukicho, Shinjuku
Tsudoi is the perfect place to get to know others in the Japanese underground scene. Maya speaks fluent English, and will introduce you to her colorful friends who are regulars at her bar. She’ll spin Goth and EBM music (she takes requests), and play movies like David Bowie’s Labyrinth in the back.
I love discovering alternative spots like these, and sharing them with you on my La Carmina blog. Can you believe I’ve been doing this since 2007?
While I was in Japan, I shared what I learned in a travel blogging / writing workshop with Odigo. My team and I taught about 30 students how to start and grow a blog, get your name out, interact on social media, apply SEO and much more.
I spoke for about three hours, and loved teaching students about every aspect of blogging. My site may only seem to be a collection of photos and words, but there’s a lot more than meets the eye. I spoke about backend matters like CSS, loading speeds, cloudfront, hosting providers, design and image-tagging – to name a few. (My top is by Black Milk.)
Filmmakers Eric and Melissa, who travel with me on most of my projects, also spoke expertly about camera equipment, settings, video production and other technical aspects. We also talked about travel TV hosting and production. Again, there’s a lot of work that goes into the videos and visuals you see here.
One of the students, Lori of the Spendy Pencil, wrote a review of our travel blog workshop that you can read here. She says “They were friendly, extremely organized, and direct about their experiences. I’ve been to a lot of different classes and this was the best presentation I’ve attended about blogging and social media.”
Thanks to Odigo – a Japan travel planning site – for inviting us to teach this special class. We’re so happy that our attendees found our course helpful, and want to keep offering it all around the world! Stay tuned for announcements, and how you can join our next travel blogging, video and photography lessons.
Time to celebrate a successful day, with dinner in Roppongi. Can you believe these kawaii mascots… are for the Tokyo Police Station? Truly, everything is cute in Japan.
We moseyed around the Roppongi Hills courtyard, inhabited by the giant “Mother” spider sculpture. I don’t usually hang out in this district, but there are some cool spots like the Mori Museum gift shop (selling toys by Nara, Murikami and Kusama) and Moomin theme cafe.
There are some incredible dining options near Roppongi station. We can’t stop raving about Hassan (八山 六本木), a shabu shabu and sushi restaurant. This fine-dining establishment first opened in 1979, but the interior was recently renovated with elegant Edo-meets-modern craftsmanship.
(Address: B1F Denki Building, 6-1-20 Roppongi, Tokyo)
Hassan’s ambiance was the perfect complement to its authentic, lovingly presented cuisine. Although you can order a la carte, most diners choose one of the all-you-can-eat menus, which include Wagyu or Kobe beef shabu shabu, tempura, sushi, drinks and dessert. We dipped the thin cuts into the boiling hot pot, and they melted in our mouths.
And what a treat: we had our own personal sushi chef, who set up station in our private dining room! He prepared sea bream, tuna, sea urchin, mackerel and other delicacies — paired with real wasabi and homemade sauces. I washed it down with the highest quality yuzu and umeshu (plum liquor with real pulp in it), and finished with green tea mochi and gelatin.
I’ve eaten at a lot of phenomenal Japanese restaurants, but this ranks among the best experiences I’ve ever had. Hassan in Roppongi is a meal you’ll never forget.
I’ve experienced so many marvels in Tokyo… it’s impossible to blog them all. However, you can see my daily inspirations on @lacarmina Instagram — such as a lucky cat tile mural in Shibuya, Sanrio cafe pancakes, a rainbow dreamcoat in Harajuku, and smiling Murakami flowers.
And now, I’ll turn it over to my friend Jen Hoffert. She goes to Wave Gotik Treffen (the world’s biggest Goth festival) every year in Leipzig, Germany. (Remember when I went with Yukiro and our Japanese friends?) The events start this Friday, so if you’re going, I hope you’ll enjoy her top recommendations for WGT 2015.
Jen writes: It’s nearly Wave-Gotik-Treffen time again. In less than a week, over 20,000 goths, rivet-heads, lolitas and other dark souls will arrive, turning the streets of Leipzig Germany into a shimmering sea of black.
With over 150 bands playing in 30 venues over 4 days, WGT is recognized as the largest international music festival for wave and gothic music. It’s not just about the music. Treffen means “meeting” in German and that’s a vital part of this festival. In addition to all of the concerts, parties and official cultural offerings at Leipzig’s museums, opera and symphony hall, many visitors arrange their own meetings with friends in the city’s parks, cafes, and nightclubs.
One of the largest of those events is the “Victorian Picnic”, started in 2008 by Viona Ilgens. The first few years attracted a few hundred costumed visitors, but since 2010, the picnic has been held at a central city park and become an enormous event which draws in plenty of curious onlookers. Although the picnic is so well loved by so many, it will go on without Viona this year because she is organizing a Viona’s Victorian Village including a Victorian Market, “Thé Dansant” and exclusive concerts in a more secluded location. Our good friend Courtney of Atropos Threads, a talented seamstress and jewelry maker, will be vending her wares there.
For those who would rather continue the picnic tradition there are several options, the newly re-christened Neo-Romantic Picnic at Clara Zetkin Park on Friday, the Steampunk Picnic at the Palmengarten or the Blaue Stunde picnic at Parkschloesschen on Saturday. “Die Blaue Stunde” also hosts one of the most intimate and incredible farewell parties on the last evening of WGT, the traditional “Romantischen Tanznacht”. Their site is only available in German, but the hosts and party-goers are an international mix and everyone is welcome.
Another offering of interest to visitors of the festival is the IMAGO Camera, a mobile large format camera currently located at the Spinnerei in Leipzig. Holger and I had a portrait made (see above left image). This is a unique opportunity to capture a one of kind image of your beautiful dark self. You can contact Susanne directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to book a session. (All other WGT photos in this post by Seventh Sin.)
WGT includes a broad range of music beyond “gothic” and “wave”. (Above: Mera Luna photos of Front 242 and Combichrist.) The big names playing this year span from EBM (Front242, DAF, Combichrist) to classic dark rock (Fields of the Nephilim) to neo-classic (Deine Lakaien) and neo-folk (Sol Invictus, King Dude).
Some of lesser known, but promising acts include Harm Joy, an EBM/synth-pop band fronted by our friend Dan Von Hoyel, The Essence (Holland’s answer to The Cure), Evi Vine (Post Rock, Ethereal), Orphx (cult Technoid-Industrial), Last Dominion Lost, a project from former members of the Industrial pioneers SPK, lauded as “guaranteed 101% glow stick free!” and a special ritual performance by Zeena Schreck.
PS – What to wear to a Goth festival? Here are some devilish picks to get you started, including this sigil jacket, Ancient Egypt dress, and studded vegan leather jacket. Below are links to more places to shop.
Are you coming to Leipzig this week? Got questions about Wave Gotik Treffen? Let us know in the comments, and Jen hopes to see you there!
There’s no place like Tokyo. A city filled with cute shops, theme cafes and game centers. As you know, I love to write about these wonderful places on my blog.
However, Japan can be a confusing place to visit. It’s hard to figure out where to go and how to get around. But I’ve been working on a project with Odigo, to make trip-planning a whole lot easier.
Read on to see the Gundam giant robot, Hello Kitty shops and much more kawaii!
I visited the Odigo team at their Tokyo office. They’ve built a community of passionate experts like me, who want to help travelers get off the beaten track in Japan.
What I’m wearing: Killstar skirt with witchy patterns, and a Nightmare Before Christmas sweater from Lumine Shinjuku. My blue coat with a zig-zag front is by Alice’s Pig.
Odigo is a newly-launched website that lets you create your own custom trip. You can search for cool local spots, and link them together in a customized trip.
You can then download the itinerary to my phone, or print out a pocket-sized version. That way, you have all the necessary info — addresses, opening hours, subway routes — right on hand.
I’ve been helping the team with ideas. Our goal is to make Odigo as helpful as possible for English-speaking visitors to Japan. It’s free to use, and anyone can add their own writeups to the site. If you’re intrigued, you can also keep track of our collaboration on Odigo’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
For example, when I search for Gundam… the site shows me there’s a giant robot exhibition in Odaiba! I can click to see photos, prices, and a review by a local expert.
Thanks to Odigo, I know exactly how to get to “Tokyo Teleport” station (how sci-fi!) and walk to the Gundam Front.
It’s located in Odaiba, the Japanese man-made island. You can spend a whole day here, shopping and enjoying the various entertainment activities.
On the way, we passed by the Fuji TV headquarters. I’m digging this futuristic glass building, with a big “hachidama” ball at the top that serves as an observation room. hachidama ball
Odigo’s travel tips including arriving at the top of the hour, to see the robot in action. We got to Diver City just in time, to see the Gundam’s head turn and lights flash.
Somehow, this towering metal mecha fits into the Japanese landscape.
I felt so tiny, looking up at the Gundam’s bright yellow eyes. The statue rises 18 meters from the ground.
DiverCity mall also has a Gundam Cafe, which serves roboto-themed drinks and food. (There’s one in Akihabara too.)
I ordered a green tea Haro latte. I suppose matcha tastes better when it’s decorated like a cute little robot.
You know you’re in Japan when you are ordering coffee from the Gundam cafe, and the signs tell you to “cooperate with judgment.”
Later that evening, a colorful Jpop boy band performed at the foot of the Gundam. Their look and dance moves reminded me of the Power Rangers.
Hundreds of Japanese teen girls gathered and screamed, while waving neon lights above their heads.
Odaiba is a great place to visit on rainy days, since most of the attractions are indoors. In addition, you can usually take photos and videos without a storeperson running up to you and screeching “Dame-ehh!”
I said hello to children’s TV character, Gachapin the green monster, at the Sweets Paradise cafe.
Odaiba is full of cute characters gift stores. You’ll even find obscure mascots like Chikin the ramen chicken. I found Miffy coin purses and cards in other parts of Diver City.
So many big-eyed cuties, everywhere you go!
Of course, there’s a Sanrio store. This one features traditional Japanese-themed goodies, like Hello Kitty in a pink kimono.
One side of the shop sells My Melody and Hello Kitty pancakes. The batter goes into special molds, to make the shape of these characters.
Odaiba is home to Rainbow Bridge, and this electric tunnel that leads to Venus Fort. The colors change every second.
Illuminated in space-purple. Odaiba is full of wonders. (Photography by Melissa Rundle and Eric Bergemann)
Random… there was an antique car show inside MegaWeb and VenusFort. This mall is decorated like ancient Italy, with Roman-style fountains and a sky-painted ceiling.
We continued to this humongous game center. So many video games, crane machines… and even robot pandas and lions that you can ride for a 100 yen coin.
I tried this sumo fighting game, where you lean on this stocky wrestler and try to push him back. I lost…
I hope my Jpop adventure showed what you can experience, with travel website Odigo! Soon, they will also have a mobile app that lets you add your own discoveries, and be part of a community of travellers.
What type of features would you find most helpful, in planning a trip to Japan? Stay tuned, and we’ll release a video of my adventures in Tokyo.