Category Archive for Tokyo Gothic Lolita

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…

akihabara akiba streets signs buildings

… 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!


Department H Tokyo: Drag queens fetish nightlife! Keroppy Maeda Jomon ancient tattoos & body modifications exhibit.

no face cosplayer makeup halloween costume spirited away costumes cosplay ghibli no-face

No-Face rides again! When I was last in Japan, I only had 15 minute to get ready for Department H (Tokyo’s seminal alt/drag/fetish party) — so I did quick look inspired by the mysterious spirit in the Ghibli film, Spirited Away.

spirted away train riding scene no-face chihiro

Spirited Away is probably my favorite Hayao Miyazaki anime, and this scene of Chihiro and No Face riding the train is unforgettable. They pass through water and the mystical Japanese countryside… you’ll have to see the film yourself to understand the magic.

tokyo japan drag queens

The outfit was fitting, as Tokyo’s Department H club night feels like being in a fantasy movie. Let me show you around the all-night party that features drag queen shows and eccentric outfits. Get ready for tons of photos by Joey Wong…

Ryoichi Keroppy Maeda journalist photographer taku oshima

… and I’ll also give you a tour of Keroppy Maeda and Taku Oshima’s Jomon tattoo / photography exhibit, which took place at Shinjuku Beams.

(By the way, I’m now on the Threads app. Who knows what will come of it, but you can add me @lacarmina on Threads as well as Instagram.)

tokyo latex bdsm fet life party

If you’re a longtime reader, you’ll know that my friends and I have long been attending Department H. The fetish night takes place on the first Saturday of every month, and has been running since the 1980s!

no face makeup spirited away halloween dress up

Dept H is held in a somewhat random venue: Tokyo Kinema Club (東京キネマ倶楽部) in Uguisudani (鶯谷). Vincent joined me outside — our purple/blue hair had matching vibes.

japan strong zero canned alcohol yuzu convenience store drink

It’s a Department H tradition to get canned alcohol at the Family Mart convenience store next door. There are no bars or food/drink available inside, so you’re encouraged to BYOB.

I got a yuzu Strong Zero for old time’s sake (I do not have the strength for these any more!)

department h club tokyo japan weird bizarre

At Department H, you can be who you want to be without judgment. (Please make sure you ask guests if they’re ok with being photographed, before taking any pictures.)

custom latex body suits japanese s&m

This is the place to wear hentai, fetish and latex gear. Lockers are available if you want to come in wearing normcore clothes, and then change into your finery.

japan scary costumes masks

Anyone is welcome here, and the partiers are extremely friendly (don’t let the spookier looks fool you!) Department H draws a mixed crowd — LGBTQ, fetish, alt fashion, you name it.

drag queen pride parade tokyo japan queens

The event features a glitzy drag queen parade, followed by all sorts of performances from dance to aerial silks…

weirdest attractions tokyo performers

… and racy wrestling with peen-monsters! Remember the time Naomi and I shot a German TV show with Mr Peen, at Department H? 

japanese drag queen tokyo drag race rupaul japan

This Japanese purple drag queen was giving Yukiro energy.

tokyo drag queen lgbtq gay nightlife

Can’t beat the creative costumes and makeup at Japanese club nights like Department H.

ryoichi keroppy maeda body mods book author

Photojournalist Ryoichi Keroppy Maeda always has a booth at Department H, where he shares his passion for extreme body modifications. He signed a copy of his Modcon book that chronicles these body mods and the people behind them.

bagelheads tokyo japan bagel head inflation forehead body modifications

You may remember Keroppy Maeda from our Japan bagel head adventures — there’s a photo of Dr John inside, from our National Geographic TV shoot where he got a bagelhead!

jomon tattoo photo exhibit keroppy maeda

At the time, Keroppy had a Jomon Tribe exhibit at Beams Shinjuku, which showcases his photography and collaborations with tattoo artist Taku Oshima.

taku oshima keroppi maeda jomon tribe shinjuku beams

Keroppy and Taku have researched and revived the tattoos worn by the indigenous hunter-gatherers that lived in Japan thousands of years ago.

keroppy maeda taku oshima

Archeological evidence shows the Jomon people adorned their bodies with geometric lines and swirls, which Taku has adapted into modern tattoo designs.

cevin soling malcolm jarry a hole in the head documentary satanic temple

At the exhibit, you could see their Jomon body art and photos in large-scale, and shop Keroppy’s books and DVDs. (He did the Japanese subtitles for “A Hole in the Head,” a documentary about trepannation or drilling a hole in one’s skull.)

a hole in the head dvd japanese cevin soling trepannation film

Fascinating to learn how Japan’s earliest inhabitants engaged in bold tattooing, and how Keroppy and Taku have revived it using today’s techniques (in a country where tattoos remain taboo).

tattoo artist japan taku oshima jomon tools

Taku Oshima shows tools like the ones used in Jomon body modifications, thousands of years ago. They’ve uncovered evidence of dental mods and piercings made by the ancient Jomon tribes as well.

jomon tribe ancient japan tattooing taku oshima tattoo artist

Research suggests that the Jomon may have had facial markings, much like the ones he wears. Tattooing has long been practiced among the indigenous people of Hokkaido and Okinawa, until it was banned in the Meiji Period.

jomon tribe tattoos shinjuku beams showcase

Researchers are still uncovering artifacts about Jomon culture and practices, which bring new insight into the history of tattooing in prehistoric times.

japanese tattoo artists tattooing tokyo parlors

These tribal influenced tattoos are stunning, and a departure from the full-body yakuza style that most people equate with Japanese body art.

japan underground art weird strange galleries artists

Can’t wait to see what Keroppy and Taku do next with their modern primitive tattoo endeavors! Here’s their artistic statement in Japanese and English:

縄文族』とは、タトゥーアーティストの大島托とフォトグラファーのケロッピー前田によるアートプロジェクトである。このプロジェクトは縄文の文様を抽出し現代的なタトゥーデザインとして身体に刻むことで、人類の原始的な精神が21世紀を生き抜くためのアイデンティティとなり得ることを示している。これは日本における「モダン・プリミティブズ(現代の原始人)」 の実践である。

“JOMON TRIBE” is a collaborative art project between tattoo artist Taku Oshima and photographer Ryoichi Keroppy Maeda, in which the patterns of Japan’s Jomon period (14,000 – 300 BCE) 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. This project is the practice of “modern primitives” in Japan today.

fetish women in japan

And on that note… back to the fabulous personal expressions at Department H nightclub.

japanese drag queen show club dept h

Kinema Club takes up two floors: you can walk around to admire the outfits, visit various vendor booths, and clap along to the performances such as the drag queen strut-fest.

japanese girls wearing latex club

Of course, we found Miffy among the latex fetish bunnies…

japanese satanic priest

Would you give your confession to this priest?

japanese drag queen dancer aerial artist

Such talented alt performers, like this aerial silks artist wearing horns.

japanese bondage club shibari kinbaku rope tying

At Department H, you can observe or take part in shibari / kinbaku (Japanese rope bondage).

japanese weird cosplay makeup

Always some kawaii and cosplay inspired looks in the mix at Japanese events.

department h party club report tickets entry

The party spills over outside to the convenience store next door, where guests went for snacks and drinks.

japanese pentagram clothing bondage dress

Admission to Department H is 5000 yen, but 10% off with an event flyer and 40% off with a costume — so put on your best pentagram, and party here until dawn (as the trains stop running between about midnight at 5am).

lace bunny ears japanese accessories

Department H remains one of Tokyo’s best alt night clubs — may it remain this way for decades to come. Thanks to organizer Gogh-san for always welcoming me.

tokyo japan travel writing tourism tips guides

If you’re keen to travel to Japan, I have some new resources for you. I wrote four travel guides to Tokyo for (formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights), geared towards new travelers!

My articles are about Tokyo itinerary suggestions (for 3-7 days), the best day trips from Tokyo, 15 best things to do in the capitol, and where to stay from high-end to budget and family options. Let me know if you find them helpful, and feel free to share them.

And add me @lacarmina on Threads — I’ve been around since MySpace so who knows if Threads will last, but I’ll give it a go.