Category Archive for Tokyo + Japan

Skincare & beauty routine! Vancouver Pure Light Laser IPL skin clinic, HigherDose LED mask, ULike Air 3 hair removal.

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I’ve recently been getting kind feedback on the state of my skin (you can see recent photos/videos on this blog, and @LaCarmina Instagram). Quite a few people reached out asking for my skincare routine — specifically, how to achieve an even tone and healthy, hydrated glow. If you’re curious about my skin and anti-aging treatments, then read on… as I reveal all!

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In addition to high-tech treatments like lasers, I drop my day/night beauty routine further down, so keep reading. (Hint: being a sun-avoidant Goth is key.)

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What has made the biggest improvement to my skin health? Undoubtedly IPL, or intense pulsed light therapy! For years, I’ve been going to the lovely Rita Moldovanos at Pure Light Laser Clinic in Vancouver, BC. She has over 20 years of experience as a laser technician, and was recommended to me by both a local dermatologist and plastic surgeon — so I knew she was someone I could trust.

Rita provides a variety of laser treatments for the face and body, using top-of-the-line equipment. Her Pure Light Laser clinic is bright and spotless, and she always welcomes clients with a relaxed, kind presence. And she offers free 45-min initial consultations, which are a great way to get to know her services, space, and approach.

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Rita has a top-of-the-line Cynosure Icon Laser, which can safely deliver higher pulses if they are appropriate for the client. People with Asian skin can react differently to lasers, but because of her decades of expertise, Rita has always known the best IPL settings for me (I’ve never experienced burning, or any negative effects after seeing her).

I go to her approximately once a year for IPL photo-facials to zap brown / sun spots and broken capillaries, and stimulate collagen production. You lie down in the chair with light-blocking goggles, and she zaps problem areas (the pain level is nothing more than a rubber band sting).

Thanks to her treatments, my skin has never been so clear and even — I couldn’t have achieved these results without Pure Light Laser Clinic in Vancouver! (Address: 777 W Broadway #606, Vancouver, BC V5Z 4J7)

Ulike Sapphire Air 3 IPL Hair Removal Device at home laser body

I’m also a big fan of at-home laser hair removal, which works remarkably well for people with light skin tones and dark hair. I’ve been doing DIY laser hair removal for over 10 years now, and the results have been beyond expectations: I simply do touch-ups a few times a year (on the couch, while watching shows).

Home laser hair removal devices have come a long way since they first came onto the market. I was thrilled to upgrade to the current gold standard: Ulike Air 3.

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The sleek ULike Air 3 Sapphire IPL hair removal device is high-powered and safe. The latest incarnation has a handy AutoGlide Mode: you simply slide the head across your skin, and the laser automatically fires. The device also delivers a sapphire ice cooling effect after each zap, making the process painless, and comes with a razor and light-blocking goggles.

The ULike Air 3 has been the most seamless and sophisticated at home laser hair removal I’ve used — people generally experience a 90% reduction in body hair in weeks! (If you have questions about the ULike or any tech item mentioned in this post, leave me a comment.)

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Can you tell that I love scientific skincare treatments? In recent years, more studies have come out showing the effectiveness of red light LED masks. This convinced me to try the HigherDOSE red light face mask — and the Halloween vibes are an added bonus.

As with any skin device, I urge you to research alternatives carefully, and avoid some cheap version or knockoff. For at-home red light therapy to be effective and achieve results close to what you’d get at a clinic, you need a well-designed mask with greater irradiance. As this company’s name suggests, your skin gets a higher dose with this top-end mask.

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HigherDOSE’s red light therapy mask uses LED lights to deliver red (630 nm) and near infrared light (830 nm) to your face. Research shows that this rejuvenates cells, stimulates an anti-inflammatory response, and support collagen production: perfect for combatting red, uneven and blemished skin.

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The flexible, silicone mask charges easily, and attaches to your head with adjustable Velcro straps. HigherDOSE suggests wearing it for 10 or 20 minutes, a few times a week: the wavelengths of light are safe and don’t deliver heat or UV rays. (I like taking this time to zone out with a podcast… and I’m into the spooky vibes!)

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Have you heard of LED / red light skincare masks, or tried any? I’m excited to add HigherDOSE to my skincare repertoire to combat fine lines, boost collagen/elastin, and increase smoothness and glow.

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While lasers do the heavy lifting for me, I also use topical products — the most important being mineral sunscreen and prescription tretinoin. Here’s a run-down of my daily routine:

MORNING: Wash face with cool water, moisturize (see products below), and apply Cosrx advanced snail peptide eye cream. And mineral sunscreen before going out (see SPF details after the next photo).

– I use a variety of moisturizers, depending on the weather and need. I use La Roche-Posay Lipikar lotion (which is heavier/creamier), and The Ordinary NMF Natural Moisturizing Factors (which is lighter). After a bath/shower, I apply La Roche-Posay Hyalu B5 hyaluronic serum on wet skin.

NIGHT: Cleanse, moisturize (see moisturizers above), and apply prescription tretinoin (details below).

– I double-cleanse with an oil cleanser (I like Japan’s Kose Softymo Speedy Cleansing Oil) and then a gentle cream cleanser (currently The Saem natural daily avocado cleanser). No need to spend big bucks on cleansers, as long as they don’t contain irritating ingredients.
– I’ve worked my way up from retinol to prescription tretinoin 0.05%, which is the well-researched gold standard for building collagen and reducing wrinkles (you can get it through telehealth and legit online pharmacies, or over the counter in some countries like Mexico and India). Be sure to start slowly at the lowest percentage and work your way up, as retinol / prescribed tret can make you peel and purge.
– About once a week, I gently exfoliate with Biologique Recherche P50 PIGM, a non-abrasive toner that contains niacinamide and lactic/mandelic/salicylic acid.

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And I’m the sunscreen queen… There’s no point to do any of these skincare routines if you aren’t shielding yourself from UVA and UVB! I wear mineral sunscreen year-round, even in cold and gloomy places (as UVA rays still penetrate through clouds). I also wear sunglasses and hats all the time (I might take off the hat for a photo, but put it right back on in sunny weather).

Above is what I wore for a boat day with Granville Island Boat Rentalswatch our reel here to see our speedboat adventure in Vancouver, BC.

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My current sunscreens: Supergoop mineral mattescreen and La Roche-Posay Anthelios mineral tinted SPF, layered for extra protection. I prefer physical UV blockers (zinc and titanium oxide) over chemical sunscreens, which can have hormone disruptors and produce negative environmental effects.

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I also take some supplements that are backed by research to support skin health. I put a scoop of Organika collagen  (flavorless hydrolyzed collagen peptides) in my morning coffee, matcha, or tea. I take hyaluronic acid pills to help the skin retain moisture (an effect proven by studies, particularly in Japan). And in the winter months, I supplement with vitamin D3.

And don’t forget to exercise, eat well (lots of nutritious whole foods, protein, veg, fruits), sleep a lot, and reduce stress as best you can!

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Do you know anyone as committed to skincare as yours truly? The effort truly pays off… If you have any questions, let me know in the comments.

Outfit: my Goth Y2K era continues with a handmade crochet bolero / shrug, baggy cargo jeans by Kuwalla Tee, and a linen corset by Windsor Store.

Photos of me by Joey Wong at Henn Na Hotel New York; see more photos from our stay here.

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I buy a lot of my skincare and makeup in Japan, as the products are well-formulated and scientifically sound, yet inexpensive. I tend to go to Don Quijote (the everything-store with many locations), which has shelves of products — bring your passport so that you can take advantage of tax-free shopping.

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Many people in Japan get into skincare from a young age. Sun protection is also emphasized here: it’s not unusual to see people shading themselves with parasols on hot days, which keeps their skin looking young and sun damage free.

Naritasan Fukagawa Fudōdō temple tokyo fudo myoo

Speaking of ageless witches… I realized that I had still some Japan 2022 photos with Mistress Maya in my blog drafts! We had a magical day at a fierce Buddhist temple and alt-Goth boutique Kikirara Shoten — so I figured it’s better late than never to share the story.

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Mistress Maya took me to Fukagawa Fudoson temple, dedicated to the fierce Shingon Buddhist deity Fudōmyō-ō (who scowls in his determination to protect and liberate all beings from suffering. Also known as Fukagawa Fudou-dō, the complex is located at 1 Chome-17-13 Tomioka, Koto City.

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Also known as Acala, the immovable protector tends to be pictured holding a sword or stomping on evil spirits.

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We watched the Goma purification ritual, a performance that would put a heavy metal band to shame. The monks engaged in powerful taiko drumming and guttural sutra chanting, and burned sticks over huge blasts of fire!

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Outside, these giant straw sandals warn evil deities that the temple is protected by giant guardians (imagine the size of someone who could wear these flip-flops!)

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We weren’t allowed to take photos inside, but you must go into the inner gallery to see a giant Buddha statue — as well as scroll paintings depicting the fiery torments of Buddhist Hell. (Remember when I went to the Osaka Senko-ji Hell Temple?)

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Love visiting Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines whenever I’m in Japan. I recommend avoiding the most famous tourist-packed ones, and going to lesser-known but fascinating ones like Tomioka Hachiman Shrine (located right across from Fudomyoo’s temple).

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Of course, the hanging wooden wishing boards (ema) had kawaii drawings and art on them.

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There’s a Yokozuna Rikishi Memorial Monument (dedicated to the highest ranked sumo wrestlers) at Tomioka Hachiman Shrine.

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Thank you to Mistress Maya for always taking me to offbeat, otherworldly spots in Tokyo.

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She also took me to visit Kiki, fashion designer and subculture icon. She’s the creative mind behind Kikirara Shoten, an haute couture artwear label inspired by Goth, carnival, vintage and alternative aesthetics.

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I felt like Alice in Wonderland, as I took the tiny elevator down into her lair filled with treasures.

Kiki is known for her handmade coffin boxes — I had to get a small one, which I use as a jewelry holder!

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Kikirara Shoten boutique is designed to feel like a dark fairytale.

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So many roses, ruffles, corsets, bonnets, tutus, and other decadent fashions — all hand-crafted by Kiki!

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The selection of crosses and candelabras is sure to appeal to any Goth.

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Address: Find Kiki’s boutique at 1 Chome-17-1 Minamirokugo, Ota City, Tokyo

If you aren’t able to make it to Kikirara Shoten in Japan, you can browse her webshop (she ships overseas).

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And don’t forget you can shop my closet on Depop @LaCarmina! I’m letting go of this mermaid holographic rave backpack, and other fun Goth / alt / mermaid fashion. Check out all my listings on Depop @LaCarmina and email me (gothiccarmina at gmail dotcom) if you’d like anything (no need to use the app if you prefer to do a direct sale).

PS: Student Pocket Guide interviewed me about travel and food writing. I spill the tea on my favorite destinations, content creation and social media.

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Coming soon… more of my new NYC offbeat / kawaii art explorations (here’s a throwback from 2017). And I’m now off on a new trip, including to my seventh World Wonder — can’t wait to take you along for the ride! For the latest videos and snaps, add me @LaCarmina Instagram.


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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!