London alternative art! Yoko Ono at Tate Modern, Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill, The Athenaeum Hotel & Residences

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London, baby, yeahhh! Always a pleasure to be back in England — my starting point for my collab with Play Airlines (which I flew from London to Iceland to NYC).

If you’re looking for avantgarde and artsy things to do on London, UK, then this post is for you. Read on for my queenly stay at The Athenaeum Hotel and Residences (above photo) and Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill, two of London’s finest boutique hotels… as well as my visits to Sketch (avantgarde afternoon tea), fashion boutiques, and Yoko Ono’s exhibit at The Tate Modern!

yoko ono music of the mind art exhibit tate modern

“Yes, I’m a witch too.” Yoko Ono is one of my creative heroes… so I was beyond chuffed to see the Japanese artist’s show, Music of the Mind, at The Tate Modern, London. (It runs until Sept 1, 2024). Please watch my IG video of the exhibit to see the interactive elements, as well as clips from her films “Cut Piece” and “Fly.”

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The Tate exhibited a number of Yoko Ono’s works from the mid-1950s to the present. Music of the Mind turned out to be one of the most moving exhibits I’ve experienced. Her conceptual art and participatory works – such as where audience members cut off her clothes – are imaginative, absurd, genius.

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Here I am following Yoko’s instructions to trace my shadow on the wall, using pencils provided. (My skirt is Kuwalla Tee.)

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The artist was married to John Lennon, and has been unfairly blamed for breaking up The Beatles. But if you ask me, Yoko Ono is the most talented of them all!

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I loved seeing her thought-provoking, creative instructions written in Japanese (and published in her book “Grapefruit.”) Visitors can put their feet on “A Work to be Stepped On,” or add messages to their moms to the wall in “My Mummy Is Beautiful.”

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Here I am adding my wish to the Wishing Tree. Come see my video of the Yoko Ono x Tate Modern Britain exhibition — it’s one of the best art shows I’ve seen in recent memory. PS: Sound on when you watch my IG reel because her singing is “Ai Ai Ai Ai Ai Ai Ai Ai!”

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For another eccentric experience — book the afternoon tea at Sketch. An 18th century townhouse was transformed with maximalist decor that ranges from psychedelic to space-age (and the bathrooms look like alien eggs!)

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The funky space encompasses several restaurants and bars. My favorite is the pink Gallery by India Mahdavi, which serves as a playful salon de thé.

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Perhaps you’ve seen Instagram pics of the Sketch bathrooms. Each white egg is an individual toilet!

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The afternoon tea included British classics like cucumber sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, and Battenberg cake — all artistically presented.

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Then, a requisite visit to Machine-A, a luxury concept boutique with a brilliant selection of emerging, contemporary, and streetwear labels.

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Dover Street Market is another must-visit for fashion lovers. The multi-floor space feels like an art exhibition — I spotted a nod to The Collapse.

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After walking around London all day, I was happy to rest my head at The Athenaeum Hotel and Residences. The 5-star hotel has a bespoke, indie spirit that shines from the moment you’re greeted at the Art Deco doors.

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There’s a new queen of England… Or so I felt, staying at The Athenaeum Hotel and Residences near Buckingham Palace, London! The Mayfair location can’t be beat, and with only about 100 rooms, every guest can depend on personalized service.

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It was a royal stay by every measure… check out these spacious Art Deco rooms with views of Green Park, and a teddy bear on the bed.

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Unlike “cookie cutter” hotel chains, every space here is full of character. As the kids say these days, the bathrooms are a vibe.

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I received a sweet welcome when I checked in. Guests can also access the top floor lounge, and enjoy snacks while taking in skyline views (you can see the London Eye Ferris wheel and other landmarks over the trees).

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She loves a high protein breakfast… and The Athenaeum Hotel and Residences customized it to include all my favorites! (Free-range eggs made to order, smoked salmon, avocado, spinach, and berries with farm-fresh yogurt and chia seeds).

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The hotel has a marvelous spa and Jacuzzi as well. I recommend treating yourself to a nice stay in Central London to experience it to the fullest.

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Wearing a Kuromi top from Uniqlo, Miffy pouch, and Windsor Store denim skirt with slit. Hair ribbons are from Japan.

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Dinner at the in-house 116 Restaurant was a delight. The locally-sourced, seasonal dishes included gin-cured salmon and British asparagus. The fresh floral-infused cocktails paid homage to the neighborhood’s surrounding gardens.

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An impeccable stay at The Athenaeum Hotel and Residences, London… Can I move in?

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I also experienced the best of British hospitality at the stately Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill.  The hotel is in my favorite neighborhood of Marylebone/Mayfair — known for its flower gardens and classic homes, and close to Hyde Park and Oxford Street. Just look at these surroundings!

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Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill tips its hat to Sir Winston Churchill (Britain’s WWII Prime Minister) with elegant design and service to match. His charm radiates from the paintings and sculptures of his likeness, which fill the classic lobby.

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Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill is ideally situated a peaceful area, yet close to all the major London landmarks and shopping streets.

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Loved the seasonal British cuisine at The Montagu Kitchen: asparagus with poached egg, grilled octopus with spring peas puree, Dover sole and steak. The Churchill Bar also serves craft cocktails inspired by Sir Winston Churchill’s life and achievements.

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The joy of warming up by the fire, as my friend played the grand piano in the lobby… Can’t wait to return to the Hyatt Recency London – The Churchill to make more memories.

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We bade goodbye to London, and made our way to Stansted Airport. Hot tip: National Express is “the” way to do airport transfers in London. The buses are timely, comfy and inexpensive, with many stops throughout London. I easily booked my rides online and boarded from Victoria Station, which was close to my hotels.

If you’re flying into London, take National Express to/from the airport — very happy with the rides and service.

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PS: If you’re interested in Goth guides to London, see my previous Gothic England posts here. I covered Camden Market / Cyberdog, Highgate Cemetery, Last Tuesday Society / Viktor Wynd, and other Halloween / dark attractions. I also have stories about Manchester’s alt culture and Whitby Gothic Weekend — there’s so much to see and do in UK!

PPS: I was interviewed about fashion and travel in The Wall Street Journal. I also have new Tokyo guides up on Fodors. including where to shop, eat, and how to save money.

Much more travel writing and content to come soon from my Europe and NYC trip… check back on the blog soon, and see my videos and pics on @LaCarmina Instagram! 



Horiyoshi III, Japanese tattoo artist & Hajime Sorayama art exhibit, Tokyo! New Kagaya izakaya in Hatanodai, shunga.

hajime sorayama tokyo art gallery museum exhibition

Looking for Goth and offbeat art / culture activities in Tokyo? This gang-gang has got you covered… My friends and I love hitting up Japanese art exhibitions with themes such as tattoos, AI, and shunga (Edo-era erotica, often involving tentacles!) Our video of this event went viral on @lacarmina IG… be sure to watch the reel here.

Last fall, the Goth crew went to this showcase by Japanese tattoo master Horiyoshi III and contemporary artist Hajime Sorayama (famous for his sexy robot ladies). We also had dinner at Mark’s new Kagaya izakaya location in Hatanodai (the old Shimbashi theme restaurant closed down) — read on for Kagaya’s address and details!

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It was an honor to meet the groundbreaking Japanese tattooist himself, Horiyoshi III. John stopped by on the previous day and got to chat with Hajime Sorayama, as well.

This “Lone Wolf Exhibition” took place at Art Gallery Dogenzaka in Shibuya for a short period in October 2023. While the show is no longer up, both visionaries tend to have showings at museums and galleries in Japan, so it’s worth looking up their latest announcements.

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Before we continue — just a quick announcement that I’m off on my next trip! I’m flying to London, Dublin, Malta, Iceland and NYC, in collab with Play Airlines. Get ready for a yassified feed with outfit/travel photos like this by Joey Wong. (Got any travel tips for the five cities I’m hitting up? Please let me know in the comments.)

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Back to our Shibuya hangout. Ryoichi Keroppy Maeda of bagelhead and body modifications fame was an organizer of the Sorayama x Horiyoshi III exhibition. You may recall that he’s one of Japan’s foremost researchers / reporters on tattooing and extreme bod mods.

 Seductive Kinbaku Pin-Ups hajime sorayama illustrations paintings

I got to see Hajime Sorayama’s art in Vancouver as well — he’s best known for his sleek depictions of futuristic yet humanistic robots. The Shibuya show put the spotlight on his Seductive Kinbaku works, or paintings inspired by Edo-era shunga woodblocks (more about this further down).

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I’m sure you are wondering — why are there sticky notes with Sorayama’s face over the “parts?” In Japan, the law prohibits the public exhibition of obscene “pictures” — so to be safe, the graphic bits are covered up. (However, you can of course lift up the paper to see what’s underneath, muahaha).

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Japan is famous for its artistic depictions of women getting pleasured by undersea creatures with tentacles. Here’s Sorayama’s stunning interpretation of the classic woodblock that started it all, Hokusai’s The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife (see the original further down).

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Our Tokyo Goth gatherings always involve fab fashion and antics… Don’t miss this naughty video of our visit to the Horiyoshi III and Hajime Sorayama art gallery (on @lacarmina Instagram).

And dig our array of Gothic footwear… we’re fond of Demonia boots and other Goth punk shoe styles.

most famous japanese tattoist horiyoshi iii old tattoo horimono artist japan

We were warmly welcomed by Horiyoshi III, Japan’s legendary horishi or master tattoo artist. He’s famous for his intricate full-body irezumi / horimono, aka tattoo “suits.” The artist adds shade and color to the intricate pieces with tebori, which is the traditional Japanese hand tattooing technique.

tattoos in japan young japanese horishi irezumi or Horimono tattoo suits

You likely know that tattoos have historically been taboo in Japan as they are associated with the yakuza, or Japanese gangsters. Yakuza are known for covering their entire bodies (except face, neck, hands, feet) in ink. To this day, most Japanese onsen (hot springs), pools, and gyms do not allow people with tattoos to enter, even if they are foreigners with a tiny Hello Kitty tat.

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However, tattooing was finally ruled legal by Japan’s Supreme Court in 2020 (previously, it required that tattooists have a medical license). If you’d like to learn more about Japanese tattoo culture and the stigma, read Dr John Skutlin’s article about his research on these subjects, published by the University of San Francisco Asia Pacific Perspectives.

PS: In the background, you might notice one of Sorayama’s less-shown works: a roboto Adolf Hitler!

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Today, it’s not unusual to see people in Japan with prominent, visible tattoos especially in the subculture.

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We’re happy we got to visit a gallery that honors two Japanese artists known for their fearless, boundary-pushing personal expression.

The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife hokusai squid famous shunga wood block

However, erotic and controversial art is nothing new in Japan… Above is the infamous depiction of a woman diver being pleasured by two octopi! “The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife” is the early 19th century work of Hokusai, who also made G-rated landscape woodblocks like “The Great Wave Off Kanagawa.”

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I was tickled to see over 50 works of shunga (racy ukiyo-e, or woodblock prints) at Ginza’s Gallery Art House last autumn. The curators put together a fascinating collection of shunga by Edo-era Japanese artists from the 17th to 19th centuries. This cheeky artistic style had a great impact on manga: note the chatty dialogue up top.

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Although the art can be quite graphic, shunga is fun and creative. We saw depictions of LGBTQ+ couples and threesomes, and a tally of erotic toys (above). The genre was suppressed after Westerners arrived in Japan and instilled their morals (boooo!), but shunga is now adored by people worldwide.

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Speaking of bizarre and seductive arts… I went with friends to the new location of Kagaya, our favorite performance / theme / bizarre izakaya. We were saddened to see that the original Shimbashi location of Kagaya closed around the pandemic — but never fear, Mark and his frog-friends are back in action! (Please see my Insta reel for footage of the shenanangans.)

The new Tokyo Kagaya bar / restaurant is located near Hatanodai station — here’s his website and map. Kagaya’s address is: 2 Chome-12-12 Hatanodai, Shinagawa City, Tokyo 142-0064, Japan

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We’ve been going to Kagaya regularly for well over a decade now, and never grow tired of Mark’s performances. His new Hatanodai location is in a spacious, traditional house that gives him plenty of room to entertain and surprise you.

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Mark has a background in traditional Japanese dance and theater, which is why his skits and comedy — as eccentric as they are — are so magnificently executed. I don’t want to spoil the surprise for you, but get ready to encounter funky frogs, world music and weird dances… here’s a preview of the hilarity in my Kagaya Insta video!

Mark’s homestyle izakaya cuisine is also to die for… I’m dreaming of his stewed tofu, kabocha pumpkin, miso eggplant, Japanese curry… Tokyo’s Kagaya izakaya remains our favorite place to gather for dinner and all-you-can drink. Come to the new Hatanodai location (address further up) to experience it for yourself.

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John and I also went to DJ Sisen’s Goth / darkwave event at Decabar Z. Although the Tokyo Gothic scene has changed a lot over the years, its main players are keeping it vibrant as ever.

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I guess Nintendo’s Boo has been looking out for Japan’s Goths. (Didn’t end up picking up the ghost from the crane game, though.)

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I leave you with some photos from Shinjuku — can’t beat the vibe here. Enjoy my Insta video of Shinjuku for a glimpse of the colorful magic.

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Love the contrast between Kabukicho’s flashy billboards and the Zen of Shinjuku Gyoen park.

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I’ve been doing many more reels these days — including this one about the tiny Japanese apartment I rented! My teeny tiny Tokyo rental flat was located in Takadanobaba and only 166 square feet… yet cleverly designed to include a fridge, washing machine, kitchen, desk, bathroom with tub, and bunk bed.

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For more Japan underground / alternative travel tips, follow me on Instagram @LaCarmina.

And if you’d like something from my personal wardrobe, please check out my Depop @LaCarmina — I’ve listed many new items for sale including Goth dresses and kawaii accessories.

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Playtime ahead… Thrilled to be in Europe again, this time with Play Airlines. Here’s a throwback to my skull undercut at Superkilen Park in Copenhagen, 2016.

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And a flashback to my buccal fat era, 2012 in Dubai. (Kids, don’t get rid of your buccal fat, as it eventually goes away…)

For updates, find me on Instagram @LaCarmina — and see you in London, Dublin, Malta, Iceland and New York City!