Category Archive for Alternative Canada

I’m traveling to Tokyo, Japan on a business visa! Vincent Castiglia Gallery & tattoo studio Florida, Audain Museum.

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In the dog days of The Collapse, I have some unusually happy news… I’m going to be in Japan for a month, on a business visa! I was invited on a journalism project with the Japanese Embassy, and am delighted to be exploring Tokyo and Tohoku.

As you may know, Japan has essentially returned to “sakoku” (isolationism) since spring 2020. While most countries have re-opened to tourism, the Japanese government is still keeping its doors closed. (Some tourists are technically now allowed in, but there are enormous costs and hurdles: monitor tours, set itineraries, expensive and limited flights, and other restrictions.)

entering japan on business visa, tourist visas application tourism

I used be in Japan every year on average for work, and never imagined that I’d be shut out of the country for several years. I’m thankful for the opportunity to visit on a business / work visa, and will soak up every moment of being back in Tokyo with friends.

And this means… I’ll be back to reporting firsthand on Japanese subcultures and fashion for your pain and pleasure! Please stay tuned to the blog and @LaCarmina on Instagram / Twitter / Facebook to see my 2022 Japan adventures. And please let me know if you have tips for things to see, do and eat in Tokyo — I’ll do my best to check them out for you. (Above two photos by Said Karlsson, hair Lulu K.)

japan pcr test for tourism business visa entry

Rules are changing all the time but as of this post, Japan requires all inbound travelers to have a negative PCR or NAAT test, within 72 hours before flying. The rules are rather complex, as the Japanese government asks for a particular certification to be issued, and only allows certain types of tests.

I was relieved to be in the good hands of Iridia Medical in Vancouver, as they are experts in the process and knew exactly what was needed to enter Japan. I got a Rapid NAAT NEAR Molecular Test, which involved a shallow nasal swab (no discomfort). It only took 15-20 minutes for me to get my result, as the testing is done right there and isn’t sent to a lab. Iridia also provided me with a “Negative Test Result Certificate” as required by the Japanese government. Iridia Medical makes pre-travel testing as easy as can be — thank you for the kind and professional care!

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And a thank you to all of you for your support for my upcoming book! If you missed the news: The Little Book of Satanism: A Guide to Satanic History, Culture & Wisdom will be out right before Halloween, published by Simon & Schuster!

My Satanic guidebook is a historical-cultural look at the development of Satanism through the ages to today. With a foreword by Lucien Greaves of The Satanic Temple, “The Little Book of Satanism” covers the debut of the Devil in Biblical texts and legends, precursor Satanic groups, modern Satanist religions, the Devil in film and music, the Satanic Panic, rituals and holidays, and much more.

My fourth book is now available for preorder via: Amazon | Barnes and Noble |  Chapters/Indigo | Bookshop | other retailers worldwide.

See the book cover, interior, and more info HERE — and thank you for sharing and preordering!

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Before I board my flight to Japan, let me wrap up some of my 2022 photoshoots and travels. I am wearing a Satanic Planet band t-shirt from Shirtkiller — this is the musical group of Lucien Greaves (The Satanic Temple co-founder and spokesperson), Luke Henshaw (Planet B, Sonido de la Frontera), Dave Lombardo (Slayer, Misfits, Suicidal Tendencies, Dead Cross), and Justin Pearson (The Locust, Dead Cross, Swing Kids, Deaf Club).

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The struggle for justice is ongoing… 100% of band royalty from all Satanic Planet merchandise / clothing at Shirtkiller goes to The Satanic Temple’s Religious Reproductive Rights campaigns.

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Speaking of dark matters… I still have a story from my Florida trip to share. While I was in Miami last March, I swung by Ft Lauderdale to visit Vincent Castiglia Gallery and Custom Tattoo! (Address: 2227 S Federal Hwy, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316)

I’ve long admired Vincent’s art, and was delighted to visit him shortly after the opening of his Florida gallery and studio.

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Vincent Castiglia paints entirely in human blood… which is why his powerful, figurative surrealist works are in this signature red rust color! Vincent literally bleeds for his art — he uses his own lifeblood as his medium, sometime mixing it with blood volunteered by clients.

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Visitors to Vincent Castiglia’s gallery can also book an appointment at his tattoo studio. With over 22 years of experience, Vincent is renown tattoo artist who works in black and grey — the detailed examples on his walls speak for themselves. He can create a custom tattoo for you in a variety of styles, from realistic to biomechanical.

Vincent Castiglia blood paintings exhibition art

Perhaps Vincent Castiglia’s paintings might make you think of the visions of H. R. Giger. In fact, Vincent was the first American artist to have a solo exhibition at the H. R. Giger Museum, and formed a bond with the Alien visionary himself. (You may remember my pilgrimage to the HR Giger Museum and Bar in Gruyeres a few years.)

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Rather fittingly, Vincent’s iron oxide artwork is beloved by heavy metal musicians. His work is seen seen on albums, guitars, and other commissions by bands such as Slayer.

artist Vincent Castiglia the satanic temple exhibit

What a treat to be able to see Vincent’s blood-works up close. Many of his pieces touch upon death, transience, and humanity’s mortal coil (note the caduceus, neurons, and surgical tools in the one above).

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Vincent had a show at The Satanic Temple headquarters in Salem a few years ago, and he has exhibited works at top galleries worldwide. You can purchase striking prints (like “Feeding,” above) and original artwork on Vincent Castiglia’s site.

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Vincent designed the interior of his Fort Lauderdale gallery / tattoo studio himself, and it features high ceilings and cathedral arch cut outs.

vincent castiglia blood paintings art gallery

You’ve got to see his blood paintings in person for the full effect — so the next time you’re in Florida, I encourage you to visit Vincent Castiglia Gallery and Tattoo. 

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You’re going to be inundated with Japan photos soon… but before I jet to Tokyo, let me share some recent Vancouver shoots.

Does this outfit remind you of Liv Tyler in the 1990s? It’s inspired by the movie Empire Records! Her record store character wears a similar cropped baby blue sweater and plaid skirt combo, with boots.

My Empire Records ensemble is also from Kpop / Kdrama fashion company Fashion Chingu.

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I accessorized with an Inle Heritage Silk headband from Thread Tales Company. Their handwoven ikat design matches my hair and has a vintage vibe. Thread Tales’ accessories are zero waste (they use off-cuts from their cushion production) and support local artisans.

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I also had an art adventure at Audain Museum in Whistler, BC. How marvelous is the West Coast modern building, by Patkau Architects?

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Audain’s architecture uses wood and glass to let in light, and highlight Whistler’s mountainous surroundings. (Whistler is the famous ski and nature destination, about a 1.5 hour drive north from Vancouver.)

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Audain Art Museum’s dramatic exterior and walkway are excellent for outfit shots. (My new split dye purple-pink hair is by Katya at Kore Salon in Vancouver. BC.)

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I’m holding a Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon tote from the Maje Paris x Sailor Moon collection. As a fan of the Sailor Scouts since childhood, I was pleased to find a designer book bag with a kawaii / anime element.

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“In the name of The Moon, I’ll punish you!” Here is an Instagram @LaCarmina video of my Sailor Moon x Maje large blue tote bag, which has a Usagi / Serena print and can fit many items (including a bouquet of pink flowers).

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I paired my Maje Sailor Moon bag with chunky black leather loafers, and scrunch socks by We Love Colors,

Shop the Maje Paris x Sailor Moon clothing line below:

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The carvings in the column hint at Audain Art Museum’s goal: to showcase art from British Columbia, particularly from Indigenous creators.

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I was impressed by the displays of intricately carved masks inside. Doesn’t the one on the right look like Michael Jackson?

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At the end of the long hallway, I met the Dogfish — an enormous mask by Haida artist Robert Davidson.

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Don’t let a rainy day keep you from exploring. (Images taken on my new Sony a7 IV mirrorless camera.)

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The native masks and statues at Audain were fascinating — I enjoyed reading about the legends behind the spirits depicted.

Maje Sailor Moon Limited Edition Capsule clothing collaboration collection totes bags

A last look at my new half-and-half split colored hairstyle. More from the Maje x Sailor Moon fashion capsule collection below:

And now, I must finish packing my business visa and documents… as I’m off to Japan! If you have questions about visiting Japan under the current restrictions, or suggestions for things to do in Tokyo, please leave me a note. Add @LaCarmina on Instagram / Twitter / Facebook for a deluge of Japan updates.

And thank you again for supporting / sharing / preordering my upcoming book! Details about The Little Book of Satanism can be found here.


Goth Cottagecore! Dark cottage aesthetic at Lavenderland: Richmond BC lavender farm. Okanagan wine tasting tour.

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I’ve been blogging about subcultures since 2007, and it’s fascinating to see how fashion / youth culture / aesthetic trends shift with the times. In 2021, it’s no surprise that the fantastical, pastoral nostalgia of “Cottagecore” is having a moment. As the world keeps sliding into chaos, it’s understandable that people are drawn to the visual idealization of rural countryside living,

I decided to do a take on this look at a glorious local lavender farm — Lavenderland in Richmond, BC (Vancouver area). As always, I did it my dark way: call it Gothic cottagecore, CottageGore, goblincore, or whatever you’d like. If you’re a long-time reader, you’ll know we aren’t fond of labels around here!

(Read on for photos by Joyce Cheung of Ondine Photography, as well as Part 3 of my Kelowna wine travels.)

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I’m not one for light florals and gingham peasant dresses, so I wore a breezy moon dress from Jawbreaker Clothing. However, I love the wide-brimmed straw garden hats typical of farmcore / countrycore.

I’m wearing the Elgans palm fiber safari hat from Tenth Street Hats. The five inch downturn brim shades my face from the sun, and the beaded band with tassels adds flair.

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As I’ve been focusing on local explorations, I was excited to visit Lavenderland, a seven acre lavender farm in Richmond, British Columbia. (Address: 8460 Steveston Hwy.)

Lavenderland grows various species of the purple flower, using eco-friendly natural farming techniques. For those fed up with city life, this is the perfect little getaway: you can take your time to wander the peaceful fields, take photos, and enjoy time with family and friends.

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There’s no better place than a rustic floral field to shoot Goth cottagecore photos. Come around golden hour (before sunset) to capture lens flare over the rows of purple flowers. (Lavenderland images by Joyce Cheung of Ondine Photography.)

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I wish this were a “scratch and sniff” photo, so that you could get a sense of the floral aromas in the garden!

Every weekend from 11am to 4pm, Lavenderland holds an Artisan Market that is free to attend. Grab a basket and pick up local handcrafted soaps, hair accessories, beauty products, art and crafts, and more. The market also features pop-up musical performers.

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Lavenderland is much more than an Instagrammable flower farm. The staff is eager to share their knowledge with educational and interactive demos. I learned about the different types of lavender, and how they extract the essence to create naturally-scented products.

(Lavenderland grows English (Superblue and Melissa), Grosso, and French Lavender; each has a unique scent and appearance. Above is Lavandula angustifolia ‘SuperBlue’, known for its bright blue-violet petals. The deep fragrance makes it ideal for essential oils, teas and food.)

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At Lavenderland’s gift shop, you can take home a bundle of dried lavender (such as the ones in my basket), or pick up hand creams and washes, hydrasol, and oils made from the flowers in the fields. They also sell original lavender-flavored drinks from BlackBall, with ingredients like coconut milk and aloe vera (you can’t find them anywhere else in Vancouver, Canada).

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In addition to the signature fields, Lavenderland has a waterfall fountain, pagoda and gardens. Walk around, and snap dark / Goth cottage-core photos that capture the romanticized yearning for simpler times that never existed…

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Lavenderland is in bloom all summer from June to August, as the fields contain multiple varieties of lavender that blossom at different times. Soon, they’ll be transforming the space into a Halloween extravaganza… I can’t wait.

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What do you think of my take on Gothic cottage core? Love how the flowers matched my hair color.

Outfit details: sunhat with downturned brim by Tenth Street Hats. Moons dress by Jawbreaker Clothing. Photos by Joyce Cheung of Ondine Photography.

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Escape from the collapse at Lavenderland in Richmond, BC — I had the best time prancing around these fragrant fields with friends. Don’t forget to check out their weekend Artisan Market, and upcoming Halloween events.

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Since we’re talking about local travel, let’s take a look back at my trip to BC wine country (Okanagan) last fall. In the first two stories, I shared my Kelowna, British Columbia winery tours with you. This time, we’ll wander into the Naramata Bench region for more tastings.

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Last fall, I did a local trip from Vancouver to Kelowna with Flair Airlines. This Canadian airline flies to destinations throughout Canada. I’m excited for Flair to start offering routes to the USA in October 2021 — including to Palm Springs, Phoenix, Vegas, and Florida.

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During my stay, I hit up many vineyards in the region, thanks to Okanagan Executive Rentals & Concierge. The owner, Jeremy Giroux, knew the best spots — and was the best driver and guide one could wish for.

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Okanagan Executive Rentals has a number of luxury and exotic cars that you can rent — or you can hire Jeremy to drive, as I did. This way, you can sit back and enjoy the scenery, and drink wine to your heart’s content.

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Drive south from Kelowna, and you’ll pass through some of the best wine regions of British Columbia: Peachland, Summerland, Penticton, and up to the Naramata Bench. 

Jeremy stopped so I could take in this view of Okanagan Lake. In truth, I was looking for Ogopogothe legendary lake monster with a long neck, who supposedly lives in these clear waters!

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Interior British Columbia has recently been engulfed by wildfires, and the skies have been apocalyptic with smoke. Fortunately, last Oct, things were crystal clear at Okanagan Lake… even a rainbow appeared over the water.

Mt. Boucherie Estate Winery - West Kelowna

First stop: Mt. Boucherie Estate Winery in West Kelowna. This vineyard is known for crafting wines that draw on low yields and patient aging processes.

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Come for a tasting inside their modern West Coast building, which features wood beams and panes of glass.

You can also have a meal at their in-house restaurant, The Modest Butcher Kitchen + Market.

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Mount Boucherie farms 200 acres in British Columbia. The grapes tend to have a shorter growing season due to the northern climate, which influences the distinctive taste of the wine.

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I tasted a number of unique wines, such as the Similkameen Valley Blaufrankisch (a lesser-known German grape, which yields dry cherry and pepper notes similar to Syrah). Mt Boucherie has a propriety Summit blend of 5 grapes, resulting in intense flavors of cassis and black / red fruits. They also make an indulgent Merlot ice wine in a thicker port-style.

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Mt Boucherie’s tasting lets you get acquainted with a generous number of their wines. I was fond of the Syrah rose called “The Last Hurrah,” and the off-dry Gewurztraminer.

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Onward to the next vineyard, thanks to Jeremy Giroux. His Lincoln Navigator had spacious and luxe interiors, and I could cue up a disco mix to the sound system.

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Onward to Penticton, a hilly BC region with an outstanding terroir (soil, climate, and other environment factors that affect wine production). No wonder you can see dozens of vineyards spread out over the landscape.

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Poplar Grove is one of the most highly-rated wineries in this region. It also takes the award for most Instagrammable — check out these views from the entrance.

Poplar Grove Winery view penticton

BC’s Okanagan region has over 100 wineries, including small boutique ones where you can talk to the owners, and take home bottles that aren’t sold anywhere else.

Restaurant at Poplar Grove Winery

Some, like Poplar Grove, have outstanding restaurants as well. I’d come back for dinner and this view of Okanagan Lake.

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Poplar Grove is located on the slopes of Naramata Bench, the world-famous wine region that has racked up international awards. (And it’s gorgeous as well — be sure to come with a camera.)

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Poplar Grove is widely recognized for its Pinot Gris and Cabernet Franc, as well as other grapes and blends. Their Legacy flagship is an age-worth blend of red Bordeaux varietals. (Why not take home a sample box, for a little of each?)

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Poplar Grove is sustainably, locally farmed and family-owned. You can see the vines right from the window of the Tasting Room.

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Order a charcuterie board, and pair it with a glass of red. Poplar Grove has a terrific Malbec (cranberry flavors that would go well with a turkey dinner), Syrah (notes of steak, pepper, thyme, rosemary), and CSM (a medium-bodied blend of Cabernet, Syrah/Shiraz, Merlot).

Naramata Bench wineries

The Pinot Gris has a crisp stone fruit flavor and signature minerality, which comes from being grown on the Naramata Bench.

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The rose is a juicy blend (81% Malbec, 9% Cab, 5% Syrah, 5% Merlot). Dry and crisp, with aromas of melon and strawberry, the rose would pair well with a salad.

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Visit Poplar Grove and see why their wines helped put the Okanagan Valley on the map.

Okanagan Rentals & Concierge cars

A huge thank you to Jeremy Giroux for the concierge driving services, and for outfitting me with a sweet ride. His company’s fleet of luxurious cars include a Range Rover, Porsches, and a Lincoln Navigator.

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Okanagan Executive Rentals provides exotic car rentals and driving / chauffeur services, and delivers wonderful customer service. As a long-time local, Jeremy can tailor your trip to best fit your needs, such as recommending wineries or hotels.

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Jeremy can accommodate wine tours year-round in the Okanagan area. In the fall/winter off-season, he provides luxury ski shuttle services to the nearby BC mountains (Big White, Revelstoke, Sun Peaks).

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I’d love to come back soon to do more tastings on the Naramata Bench, in the Southern Okanagan. There are about 40 indie wineries within 14 km of winding lakefront scenery.

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For more Kelowna tips, see my previous articles about Okanagan vineyard tours and a private helicopter ride that Jeremy arranged.

And a head’s up: please check out my Depop shop @lacarmina. I’ve listed new items from my personal wardrobe and decor collection, including Gothic skull home goods.

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Finally, in travel writing news, please check out my latest Fodor’s Travel byline. I wrote about the weird, cute and unexpected spots I discovered in Waikiki, Honolulu — including a huge Miffy the bunny statue.

And I was interviewed by Insta Travel Style about travel blogging and content creation. I reveal how I fund my travels, monetize my work, negative experiences, bucket lists and more. Thank you for reading!