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Category Archive for Tokyo Gothic Lolita

Away x Minions luggage: kawaii cute suitcases! Alex Streeter Gothic earrings, LaForet mall Harajuku.

minions yellow suitcase carry on

Bello! Banana? In this post, I’ll go over some of my current favorites… and then we’ll talk about Japanese fashion at LaForet department store in Harajuku!

First up, let me introduce you to the cutest luggage collaboration ever: Away x Minions. I’m excited to have these adorable travel buddies with me, on my next trips around the globe. 

away minions luggage collaboration

Bee-do-bee-do… As you most likely know, the Minions are the short, eager, bumbling servants of evil masters throughout time (as seen in the Despicable Me movie series).

I love how Away distilled the essence of a Minion in this cheerful, minimal design. When you see the bright yellow case and eye-goggle tag, you can instantly picture a one-eyed Minion tottering behind me!

minions suitcases away travel

Away sent me a large-sized suitcase and a carry-on. Both are made from polycarbonate shell, which is lightweight and bends under pressure, but never breaks. (Quite like the resilient Minions from the movies.)

The new Away x Minions collection comes in four sizes. You can also purchase the accessories separately: they have stickers featuring the characters, and a leather tag shaped like their signature eye goggles.

away luggage minions despicable me

“You used to call me on my banana-phone… Poopaye!”

The Minions roll easily alongside you, with a retractable handle and Hinomoto wheels that rotate 360°.

away travel smart tech luggage

Inside, there’s plenty of room to store bananas. All of Away’s suitcases feature an interior compression system, secure zippered compartments, and a removable laundry bag.

kawaii cute minions suitcase

I’m always on the lookout for fun, beautiful luggage that can withstand my constant travels. Away has been on my radar for some time: they produce first-class designer luggage, direct to consumer, meaning that they can keep prices on the economy side.

travel airport fashion style luggage

The larger carry-on is made to fit the regulations of US airlines. And there’s a tech element: a built-in battery that can charge any USB device, and zippers that fit into a TSA-approved combination lock.

Ready to take over the world with these Minions? Away’s Despicable Me 3 collab is only out for a short time, and I have a feeling they’ll be snatched up fast.

alex streeter jewelry, earrings

As you know from my outfits throughout the years, I like to change up my styling. I had my ears pierced during elementary school, but stopped wearing anything in them around college. However, the piercing hole remains intact — so I decided to play around with earrings again.

Of course, I clicked straight to my favorite jewelry designer: Alex Streeter! (Above, I’m wearing his radiator silver cuff from the Space collection, Ouroboros ring from the Creatures set, and these silver elongated spike heart earrings that suit me perfectly).

goth ring designer alex streeter

Based in NYC and renown as the creator of the Angel Heart Ring, Alex’s designs are favored by rock stars worldwide (including Marilyn Manson and J-rock legends). He started out in the 1960s in San Francisco, carving jewellery from redwood bark and selling it on the streets. In 1971, he set up shop as a silversmith in downtown NYC.

Today, Alex Streeter is an icon — and the go-to designer for those who love Gothic, sci-fi and edgy high-end accessories. Above, I’m wearing his UFO spaceship studs.

alex streeter nyc space jewellery

Alex and his daughter Lily (who works with him) are inspirations: they dress in rock-Goth fashion, and travel to Japan every year (he has a rabid fan following there).

Perhaps you’ve seen his famous pentagram ring on the fingers of celebrities. Alex’s jewelry is all made to order, beautifully crafted in sterling silver (he also works with bronze, brass, pewter and gold). You can also contact him through his site to request a unique, customized design. 

silver pentagram earrings satanic

A serpent slithering down my earlobe, with a pentagram in his mouth… I think it’s clear why Alex Streeter jewellery is my absolute favorite! He is a master, and I’ll be treasuring these signature pieces. Stay tuned to see more photos soon — there are more serpentine designs by Alex that I’m excited to show you.

(PS: my hair color and cut are by Stephanie Hoy at Sugar Skull Salon in Gastown, Vancouver.)

exterior laforet mall harajuku

Now, let’s teleport to Japan — and take a walk inside Laforet in Harajuku. I’ve been doing dispatches from this mall since 2008 — see past posts in my Tokyo Gothic Lolita shopping guide.

Although I’ve been less impressed with the selection recently (more on that below), La Foret remains one of the top Tokyo destinations to find young, alternative fashion. You’ll always see chattering groups of teenage girls at the entrance, much like the anime schoolgirls in “seifuku” sailor uniforms on the poster.

colorful decor accessories tokyo

Laforet has multiple levels, each with a variety of clothing and brands. The experimental street style tends to be in the basement floors. I’m also quite fond of the first floor, which hosts rotating pop-ups. Japanese up-coming designers tend to be featured, such as these colorful Erico earring and accessories.

lady gaga japanese hats

There’s been a lot of talk about Harajuku changing for the worse. I’d say there is truth to this, as more and more big box stores have set up shop (H&M, Forever 21, etc).

Nonetheless, you can still find underground and club-influenced designs in this neighborhood.

abilletage laforet store

Case in point: Abilletage has established a new location inside Laforet department store. This antique / Gothic / Steampunk brand is run independently, and produces gorgeous custom-tailored corsets. (Remember I visited Abilletage during my NHK Kawaii TV shoot?)

japanese antique dolly style

Abilletage is an example of a local designer that keeps the Harajuku spirit going. Everyone there is closely connected to the subculture, and the original designs are handmade or produced in small batches (such as these corset-lace and floral motif tights).

I hope you’ll look for this boutique when you visit Harajuku. Also check out the Abilletage Shinjuku location, which has an elegant Victorian tea salon.

frapbois cute clothing japan

Laforet’s B1 and B2 levels are filled with stores that fall on the spectrum of Goth, Lolita, Punk or Street style. The mannequins in the center of the stairwell are always dressed up to the nines, in EGL fashion.

These days, I’m drawn more to minimalist scary-kawaii fashion, such as this Frapbois oversize top.

japanese hard rock clothing

At first glance, the clothes look similar to Western “Nu Goth.” However, they tend to have a Japanese cute twist to them: notice how the skull is made up of cute teddy bears in black and white.

lurem boutique laforet

Cute meets psycho at Lurem, a shop with a deranged bunny mascot. I always enjoy discovering Japanese indie brands in Laforet.

anime manga clothing shirts

As you can see, the youth / street styles can vary widely. These satiny oversized tops are screaming with Bunnicula and anime pumpkin lady prints.

japan shironuri clothing dresses

Contrast this with the flowing, gauzy, romantic dolly dresses next door. Perfect for a shironuri look (all-white face paint, makeup and clothing).

laforet jrock visual kei music store

J-Rock and Visual Kei bands still lurk in the basement of Laforet. There are often meet-and-greets, signings and other events here, with long line-ups of fans waiting to meet their music idols.

anko rock shop tokyo

At AnkoRock, influences from punk, rock, and dark subcultures come together in a refreshing way.

I can’t say the same for the Gothic and Lolita dresses I saw, which felt like they hadn’t evolved over the past years, unfortunately. (More about this below).

More here!

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The Birthday Massacre concert: 2017 tour review & new album! Sumo Cyco, Kyoto Gion kawaii shops.

chibi 2017 birthday massacre singer

Summer is back, and I’m ready to play! I have some big new destinations coming up — all will be announced soon.

If you’ve been following my Instagram Stories or Snapchat (@lacarmina), you’ll have seen me at the The Birthday Massacre live in Vancouver!

Read on for a review of the Gothic concert. I also included some snapshots from Kyoto, Japan because they remind of Rose (as I last saw this band with her in 2010.)

time top ufo sculpture vancouver

Greetings, Earthlings. We are now taking over your planet. (Couldn’t resist posing with the UFO spaceship “Time Top,” by Jerry Pethick.)

Before the concert, my friends and I spent the day walking by the ocean, and enjoying the sunshine that has finally hit Vancouver.

john lennon walrus sunglasses

I’m shading my eyes from the light with these exact John Lennon Walrus eyeglasses (yes, he has a glasses collection!) These round, retro metal frames are based on the design that the Beatles musician wore in iconic photos.

If you can “imagine” yourself wearing John Lennon sunglasses, you can get them here.

vancouver fashion bloggers, blogs

We encountered yet another alien mothership on our walk. (Okay, it’s Vancouver Science World).

– Outfit Details – I bought my dress at Siam Paragon / Discovery mall in Bangkok, Thailand.

My diamond fishnet tights are from We Love Colors. They carry a variety of colored socks and legwear (mine are the wide mesh fishnet style in navy — great for warm weather).

vancouver style blogger, summer outfits

A perfect day of wandering around downtown. We stopped for dinner and cocktails, and then headed to The Venue on Granville Street for the show.

sumo cyco sever singer

The opening act, Sumo Cyco, started the show — and stole it. The stylish lead singer Sever (or Skye Sweetnam) is impossible to take your eyes from. She tossed her blue-green hair back and forth, crouched like a tiger, and went out into the crowd to down a whiskey shot. By the end of the set, her powerful stage presence had everyone smiling and bopping along.

skye sweetnam hair color, hairstyle

Sumo Cyco’s songs are a mix of punk and metal: catchy hooks and riffing guitars over heavy beats. I was impressed with Sever’s vocals, which moved from the sweetness of Gwen Stefani to a deadly growl. 

sumo cyco band live concert

My friends and I were all blown away by Sumo Cyco, and would see them live again. It’s fantastic to discover an indie, female-fronted band that rocks this hard, exceeding all expectations for an opening act.

army of the universe concert

Next up: a solid performance by Army of the Universe. This industrial dance music group hails from Italy, and is signed to the Metropolis Records.

industrial band performance, metropolis records

I’m often reminiscing about the 1990s these days… Army of the Universe spoke to my nostalgia, with an electro-techno industrial rock sound reminiscent of early Nine Inch Nails.

the birthday massacre tour, venue vancouver

The crowd went crazy when The Birthday Massacre walked on. The Canadian Gothic group formed in 1999, and has cultivated a rabid following ever since.

It seems all my alternative friends have seen them at some point, and continue to love them (myself included). The band’s dark vision yet inclusive, positive energy have made an impact on many growing up Goth.

chibi singing, birthday massacre

The dynamic lead singer, Chibi, displayed as much energy as ever. She always gives 100% love to her fans, trading cheeky comments and reaching down to hold their hands.

The band’s name, The Birthday Massacre, perfectly encapsulates front-woman Chibi: cute, chirpy, with a touch of evil.

concert live birthday massacre show

Any time you see The Birthday Massacre on a concert bill, you know you’ll get a brilliant performance. The musicians displayed their talent through a wide-ranging dark spectrum of sound: electronic, atmospheric, Goth-melodic, headbanging guitar, and the all-mighty keytar.

canadian goth band, music

Michael Rainbow and Chibi are two of original founders (along with Michael Falcore), and you can sense the telepathic connection between them on-stage.

The touring drummer, Nik Pesut, only had two days to learn the songs, and rocked them. Even with a new addition, the live show is as strong as ever.

the birthday massacre new album 2017

The Birthday Massacre treated us to two hours of nonstop fun and dancing. They played their most beloved songs, including Blue, Kill the Lights, Looking Glass. Chibi gave a shout-out to a fan celebrating her big day, at the start of the Happy Birthday song.

birthday massacre tickets concerts

The group also debuted a few new songs from their upcoming album. I can’t wait for this one: my friend Kevvy Metal (Kevin Maher) worked on the production, and the cover art looks fantastic. The newest songs are on the heavier side, with lots of headbanging riffs.

the birthday massacre chibi michael rainbow

The band ended with a three-song encore, including a cover of Tiffany’s “I Think We’re Alone Now” that got me cheering. (All right, it’s originally by Tommy James & The Shondells).

The Birthday Massacre put on a brilliant, fan-friendly show as always. Check out their site for upcoming tour dates; this is an act you must see live.

kyoto design stores

My friends and I were talking about how strange it is to talk about Rose in the past tense… she would have been the first to get tickets for this show.

Still, it feels like she is alongside us, at events like these. In this vein, thought I’d end by sharing some last photos from Kyoto: I took snaps of cute stores that she would have gone wild for.

San-X Mamegoma Little Seals cute

Rose always wanted to go to Japan, but her health never stabilized to the point where it was possible.

When I saw this collection of cute little seals (San-X Mamegoma toys), I immediately thought of her. She’d run right over to them and give them a squeeze!

kawaii japan kyoto toy shops

Rose loved Halloween everything (like me), and all things kawaii with a touch of weird. She would have swooped up these pumpkin-seal and witch-rabbit hybrids.

This Kyoto portion continues below…

More here!

My Buddhist temple stay with monks in Mount Koya, Japan! Booking a Koyasan guesthouse, Okunoin graveyard.

japanese temple stay, koyasan guesthouse

As the cherry blossoms bloom for sakura season, I’m thinking back to my days in Japan. I did something very different from my usual trips: I escaped for a few days to a Buddhist temple retreat in Koyasan! 

Several of my friends have stayed with the Japanese monks of Mount Kōya (in the mountains north of Osaka), and raved about the peaceful experience. Since I was traveling with my unlimited Japan Rail Pass, it was the perfect opportunity to do a spiritual pilgrimage.

kukai statue, shingon buddhism

Mt. Kōya was first settled in the year 819 by the monk Kūkai, founder of the Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism. He discovered this mystical location high in the mountain peaks, and made it the center for his monastic headquarters.

koyasan bridge, mt koya japan

Since then, both monks and laypeople have come to Koyasan to study and practice Esoteric Buddhism. Most come for a 1-3 night stay, so that they can experience living in a temple with Buddhist monks. (I stayed two nights, which is a good amount of time to explore Mount Koya’s attractions.)

I hope this guide to Mount Koya gives you a sense of what it’s like to spend a few days in this spiritual village. You can see more about my entire J Rail Pass journey in the video above, or here on YouTube.

cable car to koyasan, mount koya

How to get to Mount Koya by train: I recommend getting a JR Rail Pass like I did. The pass lets you ride the rails throughout the country for a week or longer; it includes JR and bullet trans, busses and some ferries.

Most people come to Koyasan from Kyoto or Osaka. From Osaka, it’s only a 1.5 to 2 hour train ride: take the Nankai line from Namba or Shin-Imamiya Stations, and get off at Gokurakubashi (you may need to transfer at Hashimoto station). Then, it’s a 5 minute cable car up the scenic mountains, and a short bus ride into the town where the temple-stays are located.

japanese spiritual buddhist retreat

How to book a room at a temple stay: These Buddhist guesthouses (shukubo) are run independently by the monks, and most don’t even have websites.

Foreigners can visit the Koyasan Shukubo Association website, and fill out the form to make a reservation request (your travel dates, price range, etc). You’ll quickly receive an email reply in English, with a booking that you can confirm, and information such as maps. There’s no fee for this tourist service; you simply pay the guesthouse directly in cash upon check-out.

hoon-in shukubo, temple stay koya

I stayed at Hoon-in, a simple yet comfortable and authentic shukubo. I was greeted by a young Buddhist monk, who spoke English and showed me to my room (traditional-style Japanese accommodations with tatami floor mats, sliding doors, and futon mattresses).

koyasan temple monk dining hall

The monks serve the guests a vegetarian breakfast and dinner every day, and these meals are included in the price of the stay (about 10,800 yen per person, per night). I enjoyed gathering in this long dining hall and sitting cross-legged on the mat.

vegetarian food mount koya

Everyone receives a tray of delicacies — it’s a joy to open up the lids and see what’s inside! The cuisine is seasonal and vegetarian, and there are a variety of small dishes: tofu, soups, pickled vegetables, tempura, miso eggplant, rice and fruit. You can also order a small bottle of hot or cold sake to round out your meal.

I was impressed with everything I ate at Hoon-in. The plant-based fare is fresh, delicately seasoned and beautifully presented.

koya-kun mascot mount koya

I loved participating in the simple day-to-day life of the temple. At the lush entrance, you take off your shoes and wear socks or slippers. Each guest gets a robe to wear, and can soak in a large Japanese-style bathtub.

koya temple overnight stay, shukubo

Although you get to feel as if you’re in ancient Japan, the guesthouse has modern amenities such as free and fast WiFi. There’s even a convenience store and ATM machine next door, and you can easily walk to cafes, shops and more.

shingon buddhist chanting ritual

There are no “mandatory activities” or programs at Mt Koya’s shukubos. However, the guests are invited to wake up at 6am to see the resident Shingon monks chant sutras. I’m not a morning person, but this is well worth getting out of bed for.

buddhism prayers chanting koya

The monks’ chanting consists of low, guttural, repetitive verses, expressed in the same or different tones. (You can hear the Buddhist chants in my travel video.)

This ritual is as form of meditation that joins the body, speech and mind. It’s a feast for the senses: the monks sit beneath gold relics, light incense and candles, arrange offerings on the alter, and ring a bell or gong. It’s a powerful and uplifting effect that I hope you can experience in-person.

koyasan tourism, travel

For the rest of the day, you can walk around and visit the various temples, ancient gates, Tokugawa mausoleum, and other sites.

Of course, the town has a kawaii mascot: “Koya-kun!” The cute character is supposed to be  little monk in a “kasa” bowl-shaped hat… but doesn’t he remind of Toad the mushroom-head, from Super Mario Brothers?

japanese pyramid statue

I encourage you to wander around at a leisurely pace, rather than making specific plans. There’s no better place than Koya to practice mindfulness and being in the moment.

Okunoin cemetery entrance

Visiting Okunoin graveyard is an absolute must. It’s best to come during the morning, when the lighting conditions are ideal and there aren’t too many other visitors.

At the Ichinohashi Bridge (the traditional entrance to the cemetery), visitors bow and pay respect to Kobo Daishi (the posthumous honorific name for Kukui).

koya buddha statues wearing hats

I loved exploring Okunoin, filled with 200,000 ancient graves. This immense, forested cemetery is the largest in Japan, and home to the mausoleum of Kukai.

Okunoin buddhist graves

I came across many small Buddha statues, adorned with red bibs and hats. They represent the Bodhisattva Jizo, who protects travelers, women and children.

gravestones Okunoin graveyard japan

The gravestones are surrounded by a lush canopy of towering cedar trees. The inner sanctuary contains the resting grounds of several famous Japanese, including the samurai ruler Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and a memorial to the soldiers who died in the Pacific War.

hiking japan mountains

Okunoin cemetery has an otherworldly feeling. I felt as if I were surrounded by ancient Buddhist spirits.

ancient japanese graveyard

Some of the graves are over 1000 years old, and covered in layers of moss. No wonder Koya-san was declared a UNESCO protected site in 2004.

buddhist cemetery, mount koya

The path through the cemetery spans two kilometers. Along the way, you’ll find lots of interesting sculptures and gates, which cast shadows under the morning rays.

buddhist spiritual retreat

Many visitors leave flowers and offerings in front of the tombstones.

overnight stay mountains japan temple

The buried Buddhist monks are not dead according to legend, but meditating and waiting.

old buddha statues

You’ll notice that many of the little Buddha statues are wearing colorful red or purple bibs. Often, people who lost children tie these cloths around Jizo Bosatsu, since he is believed to protect children in the afterlife.

buddhist statue wearing clothes

These lovingly handmade hats and accessories keep the Bodhisattvas warm.

Bodhisattva statues

Doesn’t it seem like these stone statues are bursting with personality? I half expected this little guy to stand up and bow, as if were a character out of Totoro.

okunoin cemetery night

At night, Okunoin cemetery is lit up by long rows of stone lanterns for a spooky atmosphere.

shingon monks ritual march

I was fortunate to be in Mount Koya during an October festival for the spirits. These yellow-robed Buddhist monks walked single-file through the graveyard, followed by the head monk under a red umbrella.

koya buddhist monks procession

Everyone followed the Shingon Buddhist procession to the main temple of Okunoin. The monks slipped off their shoes to enter the inner sanctuary, which was glowing with lanterns and golden artefacts.

From behind the barrier, we watched the monks march in a circle and recite chants, while incense filled the air. A powerful and uplifting ritual — I’m fortunate to have witnessed it.

Kongobuji temple rock garden

The next day, I continued to take in the sights around Koyasan. I’m standing inside Kongobuji temple, the head temple of Koya’s Shingon Buddhist sect. It was built in 1593 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi upon the death of his mother.

Inside Kongōbu-ji, you’ll find Banryūtei, the largest rock garden in Japan. The inner rooms are beautifully decorated with sliding doors (fusuma) that depict cranes, animals and ancient landscapes.

Konpon Daito Pagoda koya-san

The Garan (Koyasan’s central temple complex) features a Kondo Hall, and the eye-catching Konpon Daitō pagoda.

The interior holds a statue of the Cosmic Buddha (Dainichi Nyorai) surrounded by art, which comes together to form a three-dimensional mandala.

mt koya temples

I snapped a photo of a monk bowing in front of Sanmaido Hall. This is supposedly where Nichiren (Buddhist founder of the Nichiren school) debated other monks.

zen buddhist garden pond

I discovered a pond with lotus leaves, under a red arching bridge… Koyasan, you’re magic.

zen rock sand gardens japan

There are many shukubo (guesthouse) to choose from, which all offer the temple stay experience. This one had a perfectly raked sand garden.

zen temple stay overnight

Do you see Koya-kun peeking out from the bushes? (I’m wearing vintage Japanese robes.)

japanese shinto buddhist retreat

I loved immersing myself into the spiritual culture of Koyasan. I hope you’ll take the cable-car up to these tranquil mountains one day.

staying with monks temple koya

Would you do a temple stay in a Japanese Buddhist temple, like I did? For more about Mt. Koya and my Japan trip, enjoy my travel video — and feel free to ask me any questions in the comments.

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Tokyo Goth clubs & absinthe bars! Gothic party Midnight Mess, Decabar Z, Japanese tribal tattoos.

hibiya shrine tokyo

Greetings from the red torii gate of Hibiya Shrine! Ready for more alternative travel tips from Japan?

I haven’t posted any updates recently to my Tokyo Goth clubbing guide, so keep reading for the latest party / nightclub information, as well as a peek inside an absinthe bar.

I’ll also take you to two Godzilla statues, and an exhibit of Japanese modern primitive tattoos with Keroppy Maeda (who did the infamous bagelheads for our TV shows).

japanese goth girl eyes contacts

I receive far too many emails from travelers, asking for information about Japanese Goth and Alternative parties / clubs. It’s impossible for me to look up specific information for everyone, so here’s what I encourage you to do:

1 – Consult my Tokyo Goth clubbing guide, which highlights parties and events from over the years.

2 – If you’re reading this post in 2017, I suggest you check out the Facebook pages of Midnight Mess, Decabar Z and Department H. Upcoming parties will be announced there, usually about a month in advance. There are also smaller and less frequent alternative / Goth parties, but it’s impossible for me look up everything for each person, as I’m sure you can understand.

So again, please check out this club guide and research the party names I mention there, to see if they have any upcoming events. I hope you have a great time!

fox spirit shinto shrne

We’ll delve deeper into the nightlife further down in this post. But let’s start with a visit to Hibiya Jinja in Minato-ku, by Park Hotel Tokyo (where we stayed).

Outfit details: My sunglasses are these exact ones. I paired fishnet tights with my leopard print dress, which is Gladnews Japan (it’s available for sale on my Depop).

shinto water purification scoops

Although it’s now surrounded by busy streets, this peaceful Shinto shrine dates back 400 years. I smiled at the statues of fox spirits, and washed my hands in the running water of this purification fountain.

ringing bell shinto shrine

Ring my bell-el-el. I’m tugging a rope that leads to a “suzu” or Japanese Shinto bell that contains pellets. The ringing sound calls the kami, or spirits, which brings in good fortune and positive energy.

japanese fox altar temple

Kitsune (foxes) are prominent in Shinto folklore. They’re messenger spirits to Inari, as you’ll recall from my visit to the famous shrine of Fushimi Inari in Kyoto.

godzilla statue ginza

There’s another creature who has a big impact on the Japanese imagination… ‘Gojira’!

I walked to the Godzilla Statue in Ginza, which is located next to Toho Cinemas (as they release all the Godzilla films). (Address: 1 Chome-2-2 Yurakucho, Tokyo)

japanese shin godzilla poster

Shin-Godzilla or Godzilla Resurgence was still playing in the theater when we visited.

The nearby mall even had a Godzilla-themed cafe with food that was shaped like the monster’s paw! (For more about Tokyo theme restaurants, check out my book.)

ginza hibiya godzilla statue

I’m wearing these exact Vysen lavender sunglasses and this Shashi Tiffany choker necklace

This little Godzilla statue is based on one of the older movie designs, and doesn’t seem so frightening. But inside the mall…

shin godzilla movie statue

… there’s a much bigger and scarier Godzilla! This is the latest look for the “dai kaiju”, as seen in the new movie.

tokyo shin godzilla statue

We saw a lot of fans come to take photos with the towering Godzilla statue (he’s so popular here). This was only a temporary pop-up so I don’t think this statue is here any more.

His little eyes and pointy teeth are a bit goofy when seen from up close….

godzilla head tokyo japan

If you’re a fan of the Japanese monster, you’ve got to stay at the Godzilla head hotel in Shinjuku like we did. Don’t miss these photos of our stay in the Godzilla Gracery Hotel.

tav gallery tokyo japan

One evening, I supported my friends John and Keroppy at their panel discussion on Japanese tribal tattooing at TAV Gallery in Asagaya. This small but progressive space showcases artists who are involved in alternative culture. (Gallery address: 阿佐谷北1-31-2 Suginami-ku, Tokyo, Japan)

jomon tattoo keroppy maeda

John Skutlin, a cultural anthropologist who specialises in the study of Japanese tattooing and body modifications, speaks about the experience:

“On display at the TAV Gallery that night were photos from the Jōmon Tattoo Project, a collaboration between journalist and photographer Keroppy Maeda and black-work tattooist Taku Ōshima that attempts to recreate the tattoos of Japan’s Jōmon period (approx. 14,000~300 BCE) on modern human bodies.”

japan ancient tattoos jomon

“Although there is no physical evidence of tattooed bodies from the Jōmon era, the people of that period left behind clay figurines called dogū, which depict human forms engraved with various swirling and spiraling designs that archaeologists theorize to represent scarification and tattooing. Chinese accounts from the second and third centuries CE record extensive tattooing among the people of the Japanese archipelago, making it even more likely that the Jōmon people had a rich tradition of tattooing,” says John.

tattoo event conference tokyo

The discussion held that evening included Maeda and Ōshima, as well as the Miho Kawasaki (chief editor of Tattoo Burst magazine from 1999-2012), Professor of New Materials and Technologies Werner Lorke (HfG Offenbach, Germany), and cultural anthropologist John M. Skutlin (The Chinese University of Hong Kong).

Subjects included the inspiration behind the project and speculation as to what kind of role tattooing played among the Jōmon people. Maeda believes that the urge to alter one’s body is universal, saying that, in the course of our evolution, “the first step to becoming a human being is the choice to change our own bodies artificially.” 

taku oshima keroppy maeda tattoo exhibit

John continues: “According to the project’s manifesto, the Jōmon tattoos are “inscribed upon real human bodies as modern tattoo designs to show how the primitive spirit of humankind will become a new identity to survive the postmodern life of the 21st century.” Ōshima, who spent time studying tattooing in Goa, India before traveling the world to ply his trade, is a master of bold black-work designs, many of which cover entire arms, legs, and bodies.”

tokyo handpoke tattooing

Nearly all of the volunteers for the project had never been tattooed before, and the striking designs indicate natural phenomena that would have been important to the tribal peoples of ancient Japan. Waves, snake coils, and tree branches are all motifs that can be seen in the designs of dogū and now recreated on the bodies of the project participants. “You could say that Jōmon tattooing is the true traditional tattooing of Japan, and the designs everyone knows from the Edo period [1603-1868] were Japan’s modern tattooing,” said Ōshima.

primitive japanese tribal tattoos

For more about John Skutlin’s research, you can read his interview with The Diplomat and watch his presentation at the University of Pittsburgh about ink and body modifications in Japan.

If you’re in Frankfurt, Germany between June 3-18, you can see the Jomon Tribe exhibition at Robert Mayer Zeigt Galerie. I’m excited to see how the modern primitive movement in Japan will continue to develop, and question the country’s taboos about tattooing.

japan goth party

While in Tokyo, John and I were also guests at Midnight Mess, the longest-running Goth club — and our hangout for a decade now! How time flies…

If you’re coming to Japan, I highly recommend that you check out their Facebook group page for upcoming events. DJ Maya always creates a welcoming space (and she and many of the guests speak English).

tokyo japan disco discotheque

We gathered at Bar Shifty in Shibuya for the all-night party. Under the disco ball, Goths in black clothing danced to EBM, dark techno / electro, industrial, aggrotech and noise. 

tokyo clubbing shibuya

Posing with Athena, who often plays with Mistress Maya in shibari (rope-bondage) performances.

shibuya nightclub, clubbing

It was great to reunite with Maya and DJ Statik, the resident deejay who I’ve known for years.

tokyo japan club parties

As always, the party ran all night long (trains stop running in Japan after about midnight or 1am — so you have to keep on dancing til dawn!)

industrial gothic dj japan

Midnight Mess always brings in underground performers and guests from around the world. That evening, DJ Maschinenpriester from Germany pounded out a special set.

mistress maya dj japan

I also invite you to visit Mistress Maya at her Gothic/Fetish Bar, which takes place every Monday & Tuesday at Grenier (a small snack bar in the gay district of Shinjuku). She’ll play alternative music, and make sure you are well fed with homestyle cooking and drinks. Address: 東京都新宿区新宿2-18-10 新千鳥街二階 (2-18-10 Ni-Choome, Shinjuku, Tokyo), phone 0363801199.

otaku dj anime

DJ Sin performed with a hooded head. (All of these club photos are by fake-fantasy).

Thanks to Midnight Mess for having us as the guests of honor!

guinea pig bar shinjuku

My friends and I also stopped by one of our favorite Goth bars — Guinea Pig in Kabukicho, Shinjuku. I previously wrote about this bizarre horror bar here. The bondage baby and spine immediately set the dark (yet fun) mood of this tiny bar.

Address: 2-41-2 Leo Kotobuki Building 3-A, Kabukicho, Shinjuku, Tokyo. 1000 yen cover. Opening hours are generally 8pm to early morning. Phone: 03-3209-3455

japanese smoking in bars

There’s always an eccentric crowd of regulars sitting around the long, black bar. Yes, that’s a blood-splattered pole in the middle — and torture instruments in the back.

kabukicho weird strange bars

We love coming here to sit under the rotting flesh cross, and watch splatter-gore movies play on the big screen.

horror bar tokyo japan

Obviously, Guinea Pig is not a bar for everyone. But if you love strange, obscure, weird Japan — this spot is for you.

haunted bars japan weird

Chains and zombie hands and live snakes — yes please.

tokyo fetish crazy bars

Even though I am in Tokyo all the time, the city and subculture never grow old to me.

craziest theme bars tokyo

Guinea Pig caters to horror / experimental / slasher movie fans. When we visited, they were showing trailers from Herschell Gordon Lewis films (such as Two Thousand Maniacs and Blood Feast), as he had died that week.

shinjuku kabuki-cho nightlife clubs

Cheers to Guinea Pig, which remains one of our regular drinking holes! If you’re interested in Tokyo Visual Kei and Jrock bars, a Suspiria themed bar, and other oddities, check out my Tokyo nightlife guide.

long spiked fangs ring

Close-up on Atsushi’s spiked fang ring and studded bracelets. Now, to the next party…

shinjuku buidings lights

There’s something about Shinjuku at night — lit up and buzzing — that fills me with joy, every single time I’m here.

pentagram men's shirt disturbia

Every time we’re in Tokyo, we stop to see our friends at Decabar Z (5F Shinko Building, 1-2-13 Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, Japan. Here’s a link to the map.)

John’s pentagram top is by Disturbia Clothing, makers of occult and Satanic fashion.

pokemon nail art, pokeball nails

Tokyo’s alternative DJs, performers and personalities grace the colorful mural at the entrance of Deca Bar Z. Here’s Maya as a cat, offering a cup of sake in a pink kimono.

ouija board devil tshirt

Devil horns to match this Satanic ouija board unisex shirt, by Disturbia

deca bar z tokyo decadance

Say hello to Preta Porco, who you’ll find behind the (Deca) bar! He’s easy to spot with his bright yellow foundation, contrasted with rosy red lips and cheeks.

halloween tokyo decadence party

Adrien le Danois, owner of Deca Bar Z, also runs the Tokyo Decadance parties. If you’re not in town during one of the decadence events, don’t fret — Decabar Z is open every evening, and there are always interesting theme nights such as “Addams Family.”

decabar z cosplay bar

Grab a glass of absinthe, and chill out on the comfortable couches. (Here are more photos of Deca Bar Shinjuku, from my last visit.)

gothic lolita dj music

We loved the music at the “I Am Electro” night, run by Migon. The DJs play Depeche Mode, Visage, Europe and other favorites — as well as obscure synthwave and 1980s Goth.

shinjuku absinthe bar alternative

As an absinthe aficionado, I’m always looking for the green fairy wherever I go.

Maya took me to Caribbean, an absinthe and rock bar in Kabukicho. (Address: Kabukicho 1-3-10 2F, Shinjuku Tokyo)

absinthe bars tokyo japan

I drank Mansinthe (Marilyn Manson’s absinthe) and we chatted with the owner. He let DJ Maya control the song selection, resulting in the perfect Goth playlist.

absinthe alternative bar kabukicho

The same owners also run the nearby Absinthe Bar Alternative (Address: 1-6-12-B1F, Kabukicho 歌舞伎町, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 160-0021). It’s a small basement bar, with several shelves of absinth from around the world — heavenly.

tokyo japanese absinthe

If you’re looking for more absinthe in Tokyo, check out Bar Tram in Ebisu.

Modern primitive tattoos, spatter-gore bars, Gothic club nights… isn’t Tokyo’s underground the best? For more coverage of Japanese alternative nightlife, come peruse my Tokyo Goth club guideHave fun!