Shinjuku Visual Kei Jrock music stores, Kabukicho Goth bars! Psy, Deathmatch in Hell, Ni-choome Eagle Blue drag nights.

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We’re back to blogging, babes! So much to share from my month and a half in Japan — from celebrating Halloween with friends, to covering Goth / alt subcultures in Tokyo, Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto and more.

Let’s start with a deep dive into Shinjuku’s best Visual Kei / J-rock shops, Goth bars, and drag nightclubs.

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The trip was made possible by Japan Tourism Board, who flew me there and gave me a Japan Rail Pass. Felt so good to be back at Shibuya scramble and my other haunts.

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If you’ve been following my Instagram @LaCarmina, you’ll know that Yukiro and I have been serving Halloween looks all over Tokyo for spooky season. (Here’s a throwback to the time we wore saris from our hijra friends — the third gender — to the Taj Mahal in Agra, India.)

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For spooky season, we’re living our best lives in Japan. Read on for our tour of Shinjuku’s Visual Kei / J-Rock record stores, as well as a Goth alternative and LGBTQ nightlife guide!

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Halloween is of course my favorite holiday, so Japanese nail salon Glam Nail Studio glammed me up with ghosts, mummies, bats, pumpkins, and eyeballs. Based in Richmond, BC (near Vancouver), this award-winning salon has been doing my nails for years. Kana hand-painted the spooky kawaii creatures of the night, and added sparkles.

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My friends and I love to hang out in Shinjuku — it’s a center of alt and pop culture, and there are plenty of shops, restaurants, game centers, rock bars, and other quirky attractions to keep us entertained.

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I always recommend that people stay in east Shinjuku (San-Choome) or Kabukicho, as this location is near the subway and within walking distance of all the fun. The Godzilla-themed Hotel Gracery is a great choice for accommodations (here’s my review and look inside the theme hotel).

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Ah, that iconic Shinjuku skyline… Perhaps you recognize the egg-shaped skyscraper from scenes in TV series Aggretsuko (the character works in this district). That’s the Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower, an educational facility.

prega shinjuku rave cyber fashion shop

Yukiro and I spent an afternoon shopping in Shinjuku. We hit up all the subcultures shops like Closet Child, which I’ve written about many times before. This time, he also took me to Prega, a rave / clubwear shop in Shinjuku Subnade (the underground shopping hall).

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These sneakers are made for walking on the moon! The selection of intergalactic fashion at Prega is out of this world.

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They have everything you need for a catwalk in outerspace.

tokyo alien ufo store

Governments are now admitting UFOs are real… We’d love for the aliens to beam us away!

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If the aliens look anything like this Kasa-Obake mural in Shinjuku, I’ll be happy. (Kasa-Obake is a traditional Japanese ghost/spirit, or yokai — an umbrella that comes to life and hops around, with one eye and a lolling tongue).

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We went around to Shinjuku’s J-rock / heavy metal / Visual Kei music stores. Japan is futuristic in some ways, but old-school in others. For example, floppy disks and fax machines are still in use here..

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… and VHS tapes still have a market! We couldn’t believe the number of shelves containing old adult videotapes. Some were selling for $100 and up.

shinjuku visual kei music stores record shops

If you’re looking for VKei albums and merch, head to Pure Sound Nishishinjuku and Jishuban Club. These (and other small Jrock/metal record stores) are located near each other in West Shinjuku.

kamijo cds japanese jrock shops record store vk

CDs are still popular in Japan. Kamijo has a strong selection (you can find Versailles, Malice Mizer, and other VK favs).

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These record stores also sell The Cure magazine, and other band goods including signed posters and rarities.

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Nostalgia for the 2000s when Visual Kei hair and makeup were everything!

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I don’t keep up with VK bands these days, but it was fun to pop into Pure Sound and Jishuban to browse the latest records.

japan visual kei jrock flyers concerts tickets tokyo lives

Yukiro and some of my friends still go to Visual Kei / Jrock lives, like the recent Schwarz Stein show. You can get tickets and info about upcoming shows at these music stores too.

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When night falls, Shinjuku turns into a neon synthwave jungle.

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Here’s the vibe of Kabukicho — flashing lights, sounds, and skyscrapers everywhere. Advertising trucks like this one zip by, blasting frenetic Jpop music.

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My friends and I will never say no to a nightcrawl in Shinjuku. We hopped around to a few alternative / Goth / metal bars — starting at our longtime favorite, Bar Psy.

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Shinjuku has bars for every theme or niche imaginable. Bar Psy attracts a Gothic and underground clientele — many industrial and metal bands come here for drinks after a show.

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Cevin Key of Skinny Puppy is a regular here — his band’s poster is up on the wall.

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I tried the Hell Machine blood red cocktail and… let’s say it lived up to its hellish name!

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Hail Japan, at Bar Psy!

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Onward to some other Shinjuku bars that fit our dark aesthetic…

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We went across the street to basement rock bar Mother. The skulls and blood-dripping fonts indicate this is the place for us.

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Order a drink, and you’re able to make a song request at Mother! Pick a band (like Skinny Puppy, which was misspelled), and the bartender will hand you CDs to choose tracks from.

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Even in a hard rock environment, Hello Kitty and her kawaii friends reign (this is Japan after all).

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We requested Klaus Nomi – yass!

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For a taste of Tokyo’s LGBTQ nightlife… strut over to Shinjuku’s Ni-choome district.

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Nichoome has LGBTQ bars and nightclubs for everyone. We’re fond of the inclusive Eagle Blue, a friendly bear den.

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Yukiro (as drag queen Nattmara) runs events here, like RuPaul’s Drag Race screenings and performances by local queens.

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We always have a bear-y good time at Shinjuku’s Eagle Blue club! There’s a more old-school Eagle bar around the corner too.

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Yukiro’s Goth drag house, Haus von Schwarz, often takes over the stage at Eagle Blue — here’s Angel Heart in pentagram finery. (Check their Insta page for upcoming shows — like the upcoming Fresh Meat.)

deathmatch in hell horror movie bar golden gai

Finally, Shinjuku is home to Golden Gai, or several alleys packed with tiny, gritty bars (some only can seat about five people). We were drawn to the new Death Match in Hell, which has a B-horror theme.

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Inside, you’ll encounter kitschy horror posters and demon-skeleton-bat creatures!

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Fittingly, all cocktails are 666 yen (hail). I went for the ginger one.

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We crammed into Deathmatch in Hell, which has tributes to dark pop culture like Twin Peaks, Chucky, and Nightmare on Elm Street.

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In the background, the bartender played offbeat cult films (he personally loves Wayne’s World).

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And of course, Shinjuku’s Kabukicho is the red light district — the place to find host / hostess bars and adult entertainment.

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Speaking of aliens… these purikura filters are over the top.

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If you partake in any adult / hostess clubs, exercise diligence since you might encounter unexpectedly high prices and other sketchiness.

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But don’t worry — Japan is super safe, and you can walk around the red light district at all hours without issue.

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Look for the red Ichiban-gai, the main entrance to Kabukichō off of Yasakuni-doori.

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Shinjuku at night is my happy place. (Don Quixote, the general store that sells everything from costumes to makeup to Tenga, is on the right).

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Kabukicho night photography by Joey Wong. We’re so happy to be back in Japan for Halloween… I’ll be bringing you loads of new content this fall from Tokyo and beyond, so stay tuned to Instagram @LaCarmina and my other social networks @lacarmina.

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You can look forward to fashionable new adventures with Yukiro… Here’s a redux of the time we went to Myanmar (“it will always be Burma to me”) and explored the golden Shwedagon Pagoda filled with Buddhist monuments.

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Throwback to Wes Anderson vibes at Palais Faraj in Fez, Morocco. Where in the world should La Carmina go next?

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I’d love to check out the hardcore hell parks in Thailand and Singapore… I wrote about Asia’s bizarre Buddhist hell parks for National Geographic! Check it out here on Nat Geo — “Found across Asia, these popular theme parks began as temple gardens that warned visitors of Buddhism’s many levels of hell and the gruesome fates that awaited them there.”

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And here’s a fun interview I did with Vancouver’s alt/indie paper, The Georgia Straight. I wax on about visual kei by Malice Mizer, disco, Army of Lovers, yuzu and what’s in my fridge!

If you’re enjoying my Japan content, please add me @LaCarmina on Instagram for a deluge of photos and reels there from my trip, including a yokai parade that went viral…


  1. Nikki_boagreis
    Posted December 4, 2023 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

    Shinjuku look’s amazing, i love the dark pop culture like the Waynes World hat and the florescent neon lights Shinjuku night life has. Hope you have a safe and happy holiday season and best of luck in your travels.

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