Category Archive for Nightcrawling

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!

horiyoshi iii famous japanese tattoo master artist stick poke

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).

japanese bondage art paintings sorayama kinbaku shibari

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).

hajime sorayama horiyoshi iii controversial japanese contemporary artist exhibition

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.

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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.

kagaya izakaya bar new location hatanodai address restaurant

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!


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

shinjuku instagrammable locations tokyo instagram photography spots kabukicho signs

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.

visual kei shopping guide shops meet greets

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.

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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…