I’m back in Japan for Halloween! Shibuya The Church Goth bar, Akihabara cosplay & arcades, Dawn Avatar robot cafe.

japan gaming center arcade portraits pictures inside

It’s going to be the best Halloween ever… because Japan National Tourism Board is sending me back to 日本 for a month and a half!

From October to November, I’ll be Goth-ing it up around Tokyo and other cities. You’re invited to join me and friends for spooky festivities on Oct 7 (Yukiro’s drag Casket of Horrors) and Oct 29 (Mistress Maya’s Bizarre Night Circus with a performance by Yukiro) — full info below.

Read on for my fab Halloween Japan plans — as well a look inside a Tokyo church-themed bar, robot cafe, and more.

electric town akihabara subway exit crossing street

I’m grateful to Japan National Tourism Board for supporting my upcoming trip. In return for the flights, train passes and more, I’ll be delivering travel articles and photos about my experiences for leading publications (stay tuned).

My plans: first, I’ll be in Tokyo from early Oct to Nov — of course, I timed the trip around spooky season! Get ready for a deluge of Halloween coverage on my @LaCarmina Instagram featuring friends who will also be there (John, Trevor, Yukiro and other familiar faces).

sanrio hello kitty train subway car

Then, I’ll spend two weeks hopping around by train, thanks to the Japan Rail Pass from JNTO. l plan on maximizing the unlimited 14-day train pass and hitting up Hakone, Kyoto, Nara, Kobe, Osaka, Kanazawa and Shirakawa. Let me know if you have tips for any of these destinations.

tokyo japan arcades game centers ufo crane games

If you’re in Japan this fall, I hope you’ll come to the following events with my pals and me!

⛧ Oct 7: Casket of Horrors, Tokyo’s leading drag queen extravaganza masterminded by Yukiro. His Haus Von Schwarz and guest performers will be strut the stage at Shinjuku Club Science. Get discounted advance tickets here, or at the door.

⛧ Oct 29: Mistress Maya (of Midnight Mess) presents Bizarre Night Circus at Salon de Suigeikan in Kamakura. I can’t wait to see the venue, which is a funhouse filled with taxidermy and outsider art. Maya’s Halloween event includes a kinbaku rope show, a drag show by Yukiro, and other alternative performances (it runs from the afternoon to 8pm). More info here, and I hope to see you there!

sailor moon evil chibiusa black wicked lady costume halloween cosplay hair

Currently planning my Halloween costume for this year… (Above, I was Wicked Lady / evil Chibiusa from Sailor Moon last October).

Do you ever wonder how I have Internet on my phone when in Japan? My trick is to get an eSim from iFree MOGO for my smartphone! In the old days, people could only insert physical SIM cards into cell phones — but now, you can digitally activate a data plan for your device, and get online when you’re in Japan or traveling elsewhere.

MOGO’s website has electronic SIM plans for over 80 countries and different lengths of time (I got their 60-day 10GB Japan eSIM for my new iPhone 15 Pro). They offer stable connections and coverage at affordable rates, and have 24/7 live chat support. If you haven’t heard of eSims, check out iFree MOGO — it’s the easiest way I found to have the Internet on my phone when I’m abroad.

akihabara maid cafes maids giving flyers in streets

To get us even more excited for Halloween in Japan, here are some Akiba photos from my trip last fall, taken by Joey Wong (the tourism board sent us to Tohoku on a press trip, before the country re-opened to tourists). No wonder Akihabara is known as Electric Town — the vibe is electrifying here.

japanese teen cosplayers bandage over eye guro

Akihabara is known as Tokyo’s anime / manga / otaku / Jpop culture district. You’ll come across young Japanese dressed up in alt fashion or cosplay, like these two friends.

tokyo japan cosplayers festival outfits cosplay dancers

People come to Akihabara to unapologetically “geek out.” You can cosplay as your favorite cartoon, comic or video game characters…

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… and shop for figurines, body pillows, retro game cartridges, you name it.

japanese girl in video game arcade tokyo taito gaming center

Head to one of the many game centers to try picking out a toy with a UFO catcher. (Japan’s gaming arcades don’t allow you to take photos inside, but Joey managed to sneak a few shots.)

akihabara maid cafes signs billboards amime

Then, have lunch at a maid cafe — these theme restaurants are still popular in Akiba. (The staff wears French maid outfits, performs cute dances and treats you like royalty.)

Guro Lolita Yami Kawaii, gurokawa fashion street style tokyo girl

We loved this local’s guro Goth style and genki poses. (The eye bandaid is for aesthetic purposes only.)

tokyo cosplay outfits anime manga costumes

A typical scene in Electric Town. You’ll see lots of people dressed in anime/manga outfits giving out flyers.

akihabara electronics stores camera tech shops

Akihabara is the place to get new or used tech as well — robotos, computers, cameras, cell phones, etc. You can also get funky snacks like Sega-shaped taiyaki, and dine at themed restaurants like the Final Fantasy Eorzea Cafe.

japanese weird vending machine girls sexy dvds

We stumbled upon a racy Japanese vending machine… This one contains adult DVDs. (VHS tapes in this genre remain popular as well in Japan.)

cute cosplayers japanese teen girls costumes makeup anime

Quite a few of my close friends will be in Tokyo for/around Halloween… can’t wait to dress up and celebrate with them!

tokyo robot cafe robots waiters ai restaurant

Akihabara is near the Dawn Avatar Robot Cafe, which is run by a staff of Mr Robotos! Here’s our video of the Tokyo robot cafe, which lets you see the androids in action.

dawn avatar robot cafe akihabara robots servers

At DAWN Avatar Robot Café, different-sized robots are remotely controlled by disabled workers. They greet you with a bow and wave, take your order, and serve it to your table.

I also came across a police patrol robot at Narita Airport… AI is indeed taking over. Check out my footage of helpful Japanese robotos in my Instagram video.

japan arcade games neon lights futuristic

Japan is full of contradictions… the robotics and arcade games are futuristic, but many businesses still use floppy disks, fax machines, and websites that look like they were coded in 1999.

miffy games stuffed toys ufo crane game

Miffy has become omnipresent in Japan, much to my delight. It used to be difficult to find Miffy items…

miffy crane game ufo machine tokyo

… but now, you can find her X-mouth all over Tokyo, including inside UFO catcher / crane games.

tokyo drag queens events japan drag shows

Now, let’s hang with my friends in Shibuya. I met up with the glamorous Triesste before she conquered the stage with humor at the Tokyo Comedy Bar.

tokyo comedy bar drag comedian performers japanese

Tokyo Comedy Bar has stand up shows in English and Japanese, and draws a friendly alternative / LGBTQ crowd. Shota had the crowd in tears from his hilarious story-time.

japan lgbtq pride parade drag queens

Can’t wait to see more comedy, music, and drag performances when I’m back in Japan. Of course, I’ll be sharing all these stories with you on this blog and @LaCarmina social media.

the church shibuya dogenzaka bar

And then, my Goth comrades and I had a blasphemous night out at The Church. This slightly sacrilegious Christian-themed bar is the Dōgenzaka district of Shibuya. With stained glass windows and crosses, the exterior looks like you’re about to enter into the house of the Lord.

 the church nuns christian cathedral themed bar shibuya nuns

Nuns in full habits greet you — but instead of blessing you, they’re here to tempt you into licentiousness and liquor!

 christon cafe tokyo japan bars club halloween parties

Christon Cafe in Shinjuku is now closed, but The Church takes over with a similar kitschy Christianity vibe.

the church dj booth altar goth gothic bars japanese

The Church’s altar doubles as a DJ booth… but the music consists of live EDM instead of Gregorian chants.

tokyo satanic heavy metal pub the church satanist bar

The interior decor continues the sacred theme with Holy Bibles, rows of wooden pews, crucifixes, and pointed arches.

dogenzaka the church tokyo shibuya bar drinks entry

Ask one of the nun bartenders for a glass of blood red wine, and give a toast to Satan before dancing the night away.

japanese bible the church theme bar shibuya dogenzaka

We’ll always make time on a Sunday to go to church… if it’s The Church in Shibuya!

shibuya hard rock heavy metal store

I’ll leave you with some final demonic snaps from Shibuya. I popped into Blitz rock shop, which sells heavy metal and hard rock merch.

pokemon gengar toys plushes tokyo

Shibuya is one of my favorite shopping districts. In Don Quixote and Village Vanguard, you’ll be confronted by shelves of kawaii mascots like Pokemon’s Gengar.

sanrio store goods shops hello kitty kuromi

The devilish Kuromi is popular in Japan, especially around Halloween.

kuromi toys accessories village vanguard shibuya

I love how plump they made these Sanrio characters!

miffy shop store tokyo shibuya kawaii merch

Miffy the Dutch bunny has her own row of goodies at Village Vanguard.

japanese weirdest mascots scary character mascot

You can find retro and lesser known characters in the basement of VV.

shibuya 109 sanrio store hello kitty plushes kuromi

I’ll never grow tired of Japanese kawaii character design.

hello kitty stores tokyo japan shopping collectibles

I was into the subdued colors and rounder shapes of this Sanrio collection inside Shibuya 109.

special edition sanrio japan kuromi toys

You can find Hello Kitty shops all over Tokyo, including in Shibuya and Shinjuku.

sanrio purses bags hello kitty designer purse tote

In Japan, there’s a greater selection of Sanrio goods as well as limited edition pieces like these Kuromi bags.

tokyo cute mascot stores sanrio hello kitty keychains

The yen remains low, so I’ll be doing some damage when I’m back here…

hello kitty themed subway cars train japan rail sanrio

See you cuties in Tokyo and other cities this Halloween! (Japan Tourism is sending me to the Land of the Rising Sun from October to November — join me at the alt parties on Oct 7 and 29, described at the top of this post.)

For tons of spooky Japanese content, add @LaCarmina on Instagram, as well as FB, TT and X (is that what we call Twitter now?). またね — see you later!


Las Vegas’ hippest & most creative restaurants! Best Friend by Roy Choi, Block 16 food hall, Lago fountain view, Skyfall bar.

las vegas instagrammable backdrops flower wall bellagio

“Live life in full bloom” — yasss to this motto! During my time in Las Vegas, I got inspired by the fabulous art exhibits and restaurants at Park MGM hotels, which I’ll show you in this post.

lago restaurant vegas view of eiffel tower fountain show bellagio

Read on to see how I “lived deliciously” at Sin City’s most creative restaurants… such as by eating truffle pizza with a patio view of the Bellagio fountain and “Eiffel Tower!” (Photography by Joey Wong.)

sourpuss clothing eyeball puff dress eyes print dresses

I first visited the Bellagio in the 90s, and remember that it was “the” hotel of the time. 25 years after opening, the Bellagio remains one of the most artistic and luxe destinations on the Strip — thanks to its revamped amenities and intriguing works of art found throughout the hotel. 

nick cave soundsuit Gallery of Fine Art bellagio hotel museum

The Bellagio is known for its Conservatory, an elegant glass dome filled with plants and flowers. For a special occasion, you can rent the Garden Table and dine while surrounded by botanical art.

The Bellagio’s Gallery of Fine Art also brings in works by BIPOC and international artists, curated around a theme. Above is Nick Cave’s Soundsuit, a wearable sculpture that emit sounds when someone wears it and dances (the artist first made one in response to the 1991 beating of Rodney King).

Michelangelo Pistoletto mirror paintings bellagion gallery art

Become part of the picture by gazing into Michelangelo Pistoletto’s eight-panel Color and Light mirror painting. Wearing an eyeballs puff dress by Sourpuss Clothing.

best friend restaurant las vegas korean los angeles food

The Park MGM hotel group has some of the most outstanding celebrity chef restaurants in Las Vegas — including Roy Choi’s Best Friend. I had heard rave reviews of the LA chef’s Korean-Mexican fusion menu.

roy choi best friend design park mgm restaurants

From the moment I saw the vibrant design — neon lights, bright yellow accents — I knew I was in for a dinner to remember.

best friend restaurant korean bar convenience store decor

Roy Choi’s Best Friend is a love letter to his childhood in LA. The restaurant looks like a funky convenience / liquor store, much like the ones run by his family when he was growing up.

best friend restaurant interior decor design counter

The staff wore street style, and the check in counter fit with the theme — a nice departure from the formality of most fine dining places.

chef roy choi anthony bourdain korean street tacos no reservations costar

We were seated at the special booth adjacent to the kitchen, so that we could watch the team at work. And look who came to say hi… Chef Roy Choi! (Perhaps you recognize him from his appearances on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations show, something we have in common.)

best friend korean bulgogi barbeque beef short ribs

Roy Choi first made waves with his Korean street food truck, Kogi. Best Friend serves these creations and other grilled delights, like bone-in kalbi or BBQ beef short ribs that come apart in your mouth.

best friend vegas park mgm hotel menu food

You can order Korean favorites for the table to share, like banchan (small dishes of vegetable appetizers) and house-made kimchi. The hamachi aguachile was a citrus delight.

best friend cocktails drinks las vegas roy choi menu

The sunny menu is filled with snapshots of Roy Choi as a child, and with his high school friends. Try the slushies and “dranks” like this fresh watermelon cocktail with sesame-infused tequila.

best friend roy choi korean fine dining grill bbq

In addition to signature barbequed beef dishes — like bulgogi-marinated prime ribeye — Best Friend has “umami” seafood options like yuzu shrimp and uni dynamite rice (with salmon roe, sriracha, and yuzu. It was one of my favs).

roy choi best friend las vegas review

If you splurge on only one restaurant in Las Vegas, make it this one from our new best friend, Roy Choi!

vdara hotel room window view suites

In the 90s, Las Vegas was all about kitschy themed hotels. Now, you can stay in a sleek, designer suite like ours at Vdara Hotel. The stylish rooms are enormous and come with a spa-like bathroom, living room with a work station, kitchen, and picture window views of the City Center.

block 16 food hall cosmopolitan hotel vegas

Vdara is perfectly located by the Strip, and quick walk to the fashionable Cosmopolitan Hotel. Las Vegas’ dining options can be on the pricy side, so I was eager to chow down at Cosmo’s Block 16 Urban Food Hall. The elevated food court includes Bāng Bar by Momofuku, and Portland sandwich shop Lardo (I’m still salivating over their grilled cheese with beef rib burnt ends!)

tekka bar hand roll sake restaurant block 16

Block 16 is home to local Japanese favorite Tekka Bar. Sit at the counter and sip on sake, while watching the chefs prepare hand rolls.

las vegas best japanese sushi hand rolls tekka lobster

Tekka’s hand rolls are stuffed with the freshest spicy tuna, blue crab, yellowtail, salmon, lobster, and more.

block 16 food court las vegas signs vendors

Don’t leave Block 16 without ordering the freshly-baked cinnamon roll at District Donuts, a New Orleans institution. Joey and I still talk about the perfection of the warm, spiced interior and bruleed icing… I’d fly back to Vegas just for another bite!

Lago by Julian Serrano patio Bellagio fountain show view

For an “only in Vegas” experience, reserve a table on the patio for lunch at The Bellagio Hotel’s Lago. The elegant Italian restaurant overlooks the Paris Hotel’s Eiffel Tower and balloon, and Bellagio’s dancing fountains show (the water spurts in patterns and moves to the sound of music).

las vegas  Italian Restaurant lago bellagio hotel food

Chef Julian Serrano offers a fresh, coastal Italian menu at Lago. The heirloom tomato and mozzarella salad was full of flavor, and this is one of the best salmon and hamachi crudos I’ve ever had (the citrus and seaweed crunch were on point).

truffle pizza las vegas most expensive food dishes restaurants

When in Sin City, you might as well indulge in pizzetta with black truffle shavings!

lago balcony restaurant with view of bellagio fountain show vegas

Lago’s desserts — like a classic olive oil cake with roasted grapes and rosemary gelato — are a sweet finish.

las vegas weird strange bizarre theme restaurants

You know I love the 1980s and 1990s (the height of civilization before The Collapse)… so I felt right at home at Retro by Voltaggio, the newest restaurant at Mandalay Bay.

retro nostalgia 1980s restaurant las vegas voltaggio

True to its name, Retro fills its enormous space with nostalgic toys and doo-dads from millennial childhoods. (I had the Lite Brite, and played Uno with my cousins!)

giant 1980s cell phone display museum old 80s brick cellphones

My mom’s giant brick cellphone from the early 90s remains my favorite cellular device to date.

Retro is the vision of brothers Michael and Bryan Voltaggio. Both are celeb chefs, and Michael is the winner of Top Chef season 6.

Retro by Voltaggio restaurant spaghetti o noodles

The Voltaggio brothers based their menu on the Americana fare they ate growing up. For example — SpaghettiOs get a glow-up, but still come out of a can!

retro restaurant review menu dessert las vegas Mandalay Bay - MGM Resorts

The dishes include deconstructed versions of snack foods, and creative combos like this cheesecake and crème brûlée in one. (All photos by Joey Wong.)

view from skyfall bar las vegas, delano mgm las vegas hotel rooftop bars

For drinks with the best views over Vegas, drop in on Skyfall at the Delano. The 64th floor bar looks over the Luxor pyramid and other lit-up landmarks.

Skyfall Panoramic Bar & Lounge food menu alain ducasse cocktails

We were impressed with the Tour of the Sky craft cocktail flight, which incorporated unexpected ingredients like beer. Perfectly paired with French / Italian cuisine from celebrated chef Alain Ducasse (his restaurant Rivea is next door).

alain ducasse vegas rivea french restaurant romantic fine dining view

The creamy lobster risotto, tender steak and warm chocolate souffle at Skyfall were to die for.

vdara hotel art displays lobby decor

Thank you to Vdara Hotel and the Park MGM team for the taste of your impressive art and dining experiences.

akhob las vegas james turrell mall shops at crystals

A few final snaps from Las Vegas… Akhob by James Turrell was closed for renos so we couldn’t visit the art exhibit, but we were able to see his public light installation at The Shops at Crystals.

hello kitty cafe las vegas food truck sanrio kawaii cute

Kawaii fans, Vegas has a Hello Kitty Cafe…

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And here’s the Mantis sculpture outside the Downtown Container Park. For more Sin City alternative travel tips, check out all my Las Vegas posts here.

Did you realize Las Vegas had such fabulous art exhibitions and restaurants? Which of the dishes featured in this post would you most like to try?


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