Category Archive for Tokyo Gothic Lolita

Tokyo’s Buddhist cat temples, Gotokuji & Imado! How to visit the Japanese Maneki neko cats shrines.

cat shrine jinja

Did you know that Tokyo has two temples… dedicated to lucky cats? 

At Gotokuji and Imado Shrines, Japanese visitors make prayers and offerings in front of thousands of cat statues! 

gotokuji tokyo temple cats

In this photo diary, I’ll show you both of these very special places, and provide all the travel information you need to visit. 

Every cat-lover will be delighted by Gotokuji temple, which has more maneki nekos than you can count.

cat temple ema

Imado Jinja is just as charming, with a platform where people can bow in front of two giant cat statues.

setagaya japan cat temple

Both of these temples are dedicated to “maneki neko,” or fortune cat statues. You’ll recognize these kitties above, wearing a red collar with a gold bell, and with one paw raised in the air. (Some statues even have both paws raised, for extra luck!)

buddhist worship cat ema boards

Maneki Neko translates to “beckoning cat” and is a symbol of good luck in Asia. People often place these cat statues or images in their homes or stores, to bring in business, money and other happy things.

thousands maneki neko statues

Let’s begin our feline-worshipping journey at Gotokuji Temple, which has thousands of identical cat statues in different sizes. The address is: 2-24-7 Gotokuji, Setagaya 154-0021, Tokyo. Generally, the temple is open from morning to late afternoon, but double check the opening hours before you go.

gotokuji cat art poles

How to get to Gotokuji Cat Temple: From Shibuya, it’s an easy journey by subway. Take the Odakyu Line, get off at Gotokuji station, and walk about 15 minutes.

If you’re visiting destinations all over the country, I highly recommend you pick up a Japan Rail Pass — which lets you travel on any number of JR Shinkansen bullet and local trains, all through Japan! It’s the best deal out there (unlimited 7, 14 or 21 day passes, shipped worldwide to you in 2 days), especially if you’d like to see Hiroshima, Kyoto, Osaka, Nagoya and other cities on your trip. The new JRailPass site also offers VIP train car access, along with itineraries, tips and more.

cat street signs, tokyo

While you are in the station, I highly recommend connecting to the free WiFi and loading up a Google Map of the address, on your smartphone. The path to Gotokuji Temple is a bit complicated, and I had to walk around the complex before finding the entrance. With a GPS map, the journey is much easier.

gotokuji cat paintings

As you walk through Gotokuji’s charming, quiet neighborhood — look out for cat art along the way. These creatures are peeking out at you from lamp posts and flags…

Gotokuji cat stores

… and seen on posters. There’s even a lucky cat statue right at the subway station exit.

gate entrance gotokuji shrine

When I arrived at the entrance to Gotokuji temple, I was enchanted by this gate that opens into a peaceful garden path. The temple complex is quite large and filled with greenery, and beautifully maintained.

gotokuji temple shrine

After going through the Somon front gate, you’ll find the towering pagoda and Butsuden Buddha Hall straight ahead.

lion statue incense burner

At first, you won’t encounter any cats — the maneki neko statues are further inside. However, the giant incense burner has a lion with a big gold ball under his paw.

black lion japanese statue

The temple also has an old cemetery with family gravestones, which adds to the quiet and reflective tone of Gotokuji.

gotokuji maneki neko statues

Turn the corner, and you can’t help but smile when you see this family of cats! It looks like a mom and dad, and three children of different ages. All have their right paw raised.

beckoning cat statues

Keep on walking, and you’ll come across this mind-blowing sight. Thousands upon thousands of Japanese cat statues, lined up and facing you!

豪徳寺 cats

Cute as they are, these kitties are not toys. Visitors treat the cat statues with reverence, and refrain from touching them. Since the shrine is outdoors, the bodies get a little muddied at times, but the groundskeepers clean and replace them regularly.

lucky cat statues temple

What’s the origin story of the Maneki Neko? There are quite a few legends, but one of the most popular ones dates back to the Edo period. A daimyo (feudal lord in Japan) was passing by a temple, when a cat raised his paw and beckoned him to enter. The daimyo followed him inside, and suddenly a powerful thunderstorm broke. Thankful that the cat saved him, the lord rebuilt the temple that is now Gotokuji.

birthplace of maneki nekos

Another version says that the Lord Ii Naotaka was doing falconry, and on his way back home when it started raining hard. He huddled under a tree near a temple, and then noticed a cat raising his paw. Naotaka went over to the cat… just in time, as lightning struck the tree that he had been standing under. Grateful, the lord became the benefactor of the temple.

Temple Gotoku-ji

Regardless of the historical truth, maneki nekos (and cats in general) have been tied to good fortune and the supernatural in Japan. Since Gotokuji is dedicated specifically to these cats, people make offerings here as a sign of gratitude when their wishes come true.

cats Gotokuji Temple, Setagaya

The cat stories are part of Japanese legends and folklore, rather than Buddhism or Shinto in particular. However, the cats fit right in since they are an important symbol in Japanese culture, and a way of giving thanks and strengthening intention. 

biggest cat collection

Some visitors purchase one of these cat statues to take home. After the maneki neko has delivered with good fortune, they bring back the statue and add it to the shrine’s collection. 

buddhist prayer boards

Shinto devotees also write out wishes on ema (豪徳寺), or small wooden plaques decorated with images from the temple.

lucky cat ema

The ema prayer boards or votive tablets are then hung up near the shrine, for the Shinto kami (spirits) to receive them. 

buddhist cat temple, buddhism

At Gotokuji, the boards are painted with cats and Buddhas, with their right arms raised. The wishes written on the back might be for good health, overcoming challenges or anything at all.

manekei neko souvenirs

At the gift store, you can purchase these prayer boards and cat statues of all sizes (these are the exact same ones found in the shrine). I bought a medium maneki neko to take home, and a prayer board to hang on my door. The proceeds support the temple, so it’s for a great cause.

fortune cats shrine

Even though the legend of the beckoning cat goes back many centuries, these “maneki neko” statues probably only date back to the 18th century in Japan.

Gotokuji temple cats

Nowadays, these cats are popular all over Asia, especially in Hong Kong and China. The beckoning cat is also the official mascot (Hiko-nyan) of Hikone in Shiga Prefecture, since that is the district that Ii Naotaka ruled.

ringing bell gotokuji jinja

Gotokuji visitors can also pull this long red rope and ring the bell, which looks like the one worn on the cat’s collar. Called a “suzu,” these bells bring in the good spirits (kami) and repel the evil ones.

Maneki Neko Beckoning Cat Temple

Gotokuji Temple is not often visited by tourists, making it a lovely and unique place for contemplation.

猫観音を祀る招猫殿

If you’re a cat-lady, or simply interested in the fascinating spiritual culture and folklore of Japan, you must go to Gotokuji Temple.

But wait — there’s another location for cat-worship in Japan…

imado shrine tokyo

Imado Shrine in Asakusa! Here, you can make offerings and prayers in front of two giant cat statues: one white, and one with black spots.

imado asakusa japanese cat temple

When you approach the stand, it looks like these two cats are greeting you with fist-pumps in the air!

Now, how to get to Imado Jinja? The address is 1-5-22 Imado, Taito 111-0024, Tokyo. If you take a taxi, the address in Japanese is : 今戸神社 Japan, 〒111-0024 東京都台東区 今戸1丁目5−22

lucky cat temple tokyo

Imado Shrine is a bit of a walk from Asakusa subway station, but on the plus side, you can make this a day trip and visit the famous Senso-ji temple as well. Take the Toei Asakusa or Ginza subway line, and don’t get off at Akasaka station by mistake! Once again, I suggest connecting to the free WiFi when you arrive (such as from 7-Eleven), and mapping out your route to Imado.

And likewise, double-check the opening hours as the temple usually closes by the early evening.

imado jinja maneki nekos

After navigating the crowd of tourists at Sens0-ji, and going through several small streets, you’ll find this little-known temple built in 1063. These two maneki nekos are here to welcome you. The male on the left is Nagi-kun, and has patterns. His mate is the white female Nami-chan.

lucky cat statues asakusa

Imado Shrine isn’t as large as Gotokuji, and has fewer statues of “lucky cats”. However, they have a larger variety of cats, mostly in pairs. I enjoyed visiting both equally, as they were special in their own ways.

I have many more photos to show you from these temples, so keep on reading below…

More here!

My Goth fashion blogger closet sale on Depop! Selling Gothic Lolita, Japanese clothing & accessories.

depop fashion blogger clothing selling

Ever wish you had pieces from my wardrobe? Well, now you can — because I’ve launched a store on Depop! 

I’ve listed hundreds of unique clothes and accessories for sale: including Gothic Lolita, pin-up, J-rock, kawaii styles.

Most of my items are rare, and found only in Japan. As a thank you for your support over the years, prices are low, and I’m willing to put together a bundle order for you at a discount. Email me (gothiccarmina att gmail dotcom) and let me know what you’d like!

Ready to shop? Then come over to my Depop store – username “lacarmina” – and pick out your favorites! (I ship worldwide; contact me if you have any questions, I respond to everything myself, and can send items with a personal photo and note.)

Click to shop La Carmina’s closet sale now!

style bloggers closet sale

A lot of my clothing can’t be found anywhere else on the Internet. I’m selling designs by Japanese underground brands — including several that no longer exist (like Banana Fish, Peace Now, Sex Pot Revenge).

For example, everything in the above photo is for sale (dress by Banana Fish, coffin backpack by h.Naoto, shoes by Yosuke). You can find it all here on my Depop shop.

grunge gothic nu goth clothes

I’ve gotten many messages over the years from people who wanted to purchase my clothes — like the Miho Matsuda grunge dress above. However, I couldn’t find an easy way to list and sell items.

Depop solved my problem. It’s a free mobile app that makes buying/selling a breeze.

With a few taps on your cell phone, you can browse for goods (makeup, clothes, home decor) or put things up for sale. It takes me less than two minutes to snap a few photos, write a description and publish.

depop screenshop, using app, explore items

Above is a screenshot of my Depop store (lacarmina)! The app loads quickly, and has a fun visual layout similar to Instagram.

It’s easy to click on an item to see more photos, and read the description (size, construction, etc). You can browse by hashtag or use the fast-loading search, and find beautiful designs for sale from all around the world.

fashion blogger clothes for sale

I’ve worn a lot of my clothing only once for photoshoots, so they’re in near-new condition.

Almost everything on my store is listed at 50%below the retail price, and I can ship to any address worldwide.

lace market, sweet lolita egl auctions

I’m selling a lot of my Gothic Lolita EGL dresses, skirts, corsets, accessories. These labels include Innocent World, Angelic Pretty, Baby the Stars Shine Bright, Alice and the Pirates. 

pinup vintage alternative fashion buy

I’ve put up a fantastic selection of alternative, Goth and pin-up fashion. This Iron Fist dress and heart purse are available! 

sailor pin up wiggle dresses

Don’t worry: my store has clothes in all sizes, and I’m selling dozens of accessories starting at a few dollars. Skull bracelets, kawaii jewellery, purses from Japan and Hong Kong, and more.

depop app shop bloggers closets

In addition to tons of Gothic, Jrock and Gyaru styles, I have a range of fashion by international designers. Floaty summer dresses, bohemian tops, you name it.

depop app, selling old clothes online

I’m loving the experience of using Depop. Payments are easy and secure through the app (PayPal, credit card) and I can ship to any mailing address in the world.

I’m personally responding to all comments and messages through my Depop store, so it’s also a fun way for us to chat and interact!

visual kei jrock egl lolita sales

Message me and I can put together a bundle order for you, at a discount. You’ll also save on the shipping cost for the package.

fashion blogger closet sale

Items are going fast from my wardrobe sale, so I encourage you to check out my store before your favorites are gone.

la carmina depop wardrobe sale

This dress, that skirt… it’s all for sale now, on La Carmina’s Depop shop! You won’t find this fashion sold anywhere else online, and I’ve priced everything low.

I hope you enjoy my fashion blogger closet sale. Looking forward to chatting with you, and putting together a package for you — with a special signed note included! 

Ready? Set? Let’s shop La Carmina’s closet now!

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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?