Category Archive for Visual Kei + Music

Satanic Goth Osaka, Japan! Buddhist Hell Temple Senko-ji, Demon shrine, Satanist Gothic metal Bar Midian, Farplane.

osaka japan devil demon shrine namba jinja

I think you can tell I had a hell of a time in Osaka, Japan! Around Halloween, I explored the most Satanic haunts in the city — including this demonic Namba shrine, Senko-ji Buddhist hell temple (there’s a video about my visit here...)

fuki blood j-rock metal band singer bar

and devilish Rock Bar Midian — a joy to reunite with owner Fu-Ki after many years! Read on for my in-depth Goth Satanic Japanese guide to Osaka. 

senko ji hell temple osaka japan

Let’s begin our journey through the underworld at Senko-ji hell temple, located on the outskirts of Osaka! I wrote about Asia’s bizarre hell parks and temples for National Geographic — in a nutshell, these are themed around gruesome-meets-kitschy depictions of Hell, as described in Buddhist mythology. Visitors to Buddhist hell temples like Senko-ji get to preview what it is like to suffer in the lowest realm of samsaric existence.

I descended into this temple of doom with Per Faxneld, one of the world’s leading Satanic scholars (he’s a Swedish professor/researcher/lecturer, and author of books including ”Satanic Feminism”). Check out our journey in this Insta reel as well.

buddhist hell temple shrine japanese devil satan

Although Buddhist Hell isn’t connected to the Biblical Devil, there are a lot of visual and narrative parallels. If you accumulate bad karma in this lifetime, you can expect to be tortured by red-faced, horned demons in the Buddhist version of hell, which look a lot like Satan.

satanic temple osaka japan senkoji address entry

How to visit Senko-Ji Hell Temple: from central Osaka, it’s about 40 minutes by train to Hirano Ward. This historic outskirt of the city seemed to be populated entirely by older folk, which inadvertently gave the area a horror movie vibe!

Address of the Osakan hell temple: 4 Chome-12-21 Hirano Honmachi, Hirano Ward. We entered through this gate found inside the decrepit Hirano Honmachi shopping arcade.

asian buddhist hell park japan king underworld buddha

You can visit other Buddhist hell temples throughout Japan, such as the hell museum at Izu Gokurakuen, and the hell cave at Kōsanji Temple in Kyoto. Generally, they’re filled with dioramas, statues, art, and interactive exhibits that communicate teachings of Buddhist hell — and give you a glimpse of the fiery fate awaiting sinners.

Many of these attractions are on the cheesy side — like these cutaway boards that let you pretend to be Enma or Yama, judge of the afterlife and king of hell! If you’re more of a “goody two shoes,” you can put your finger into the red thread “love knot” that binds you to the enlightened Buddharupa.

hirano senko-ji buddhist devil satan temple park

Senko-ji temple is part of the Kōyasan Shingon sect, and dates back to the Edo period (1603–1867). The popular hell hall was added in 1989. The monks and volunteers that run the temple are good-natured about the hellish elements — the head monk said my Satanic horns were “kawaii!” We bought a 100 yen ticket, which gave us entry to the Hall of Hell.

buddhist heaven or hell mythology asia inferno

We were intrigued by this push button gizmo that predicts whether you’ll end up in Buddhist hell. Answer questions such as “do you waste time and money” to see where you’ll be reborn in your next life!

To enter into the inferno, we had to scan the QR code on our ticket. Ominous doors slid open…

enma japanese hell king jigoku do hell hall

… revealing this rather Satanic scene! That’s Enma or Yama, ruler of Hell, with the”king” kanji stamped on his hat. Stand before him for your judgement and punishment.

japan buddhist hell park asia demons devils

We struck the gong in front of Enma — and it activated smoke, red lights, eerie music, and a glitchy video, much like in a haunted house.

Crouched next to the fanged red demon is Datsue-ba. As Per Faxneld wrote, she’s “an old woman who’s said to sit by the Sanzu River in the Buddhist underworld, torturing souls as they attempt to cross the river. Datsue-ba is believed to make adult souls strip off their clothes, and if they have no clothes, she strips them of their skin instead.”

asian hell wok japan demon torture sinners

At Buddhist hell temples and parks, the statues are are cartoonish yet graphic: you might see people getting their limbs lopped off and intestines pulled out. In Asia’s version of hell, there’s always a giant wok filled with victims screaming as they are boiled alive in peanut oil — see above!

senko ji osaka japan hirano demon statues theme park

We watched a 10-15 minute video that expresses the terrors of hell, especially the creative punishments awaiting those reborn into the lowest Buddhist realm of existence. At the same time, leave it to Japan to add some cuteness to the experience… The exit sign looks like a round, kawaii demon.

japan weird bizarre shrine put head in rock hole

Outside, you can also stick your head into this rock to hear the sounds of sinners screaming in “Hell’s Cauldron”. (Watch my reel on @LaCarmina Instagram about my Senko-ji visit, to see what it was like!)

buddhist heaven cave senkoji osaka japan strangest temples

Ironically, the realm of the gods is located underground at Osaka’s Senko-ji. We descended the stairs into a cave lit up with a giant LED rainbow mandala surrounded by Buddha statues. Take off your shoes, sit cross-legged and feel the power of chi.

buddhist hell demon statue shrine osaka

Senjo-ji also has this koi pond with a fierce statue of Ippon Fudoson (Fudō Myōō, the wrathful destroyer of evil). The watery mist at his feet add a theatrical element to the hand-washing ablutions.

japanese satanism temple osaka senko ji

I wore my devil horns and Satanic Bar Midian t-shirt to the temple. Senko-ji isn’t a popular tourist attraction, so there were only a few other Japanese visitors on the grounds.

If you’re curious about the evolution of Asian hell gardens (first built next to Buddhist monasteries to communicate concepts of hell) and how they evolved into massive, kitschy theme parks, check out my article in National Geographic.

buddhist heaven hell park osaka japan buddhism

The “heavenly” section has peaceful Buddha statues wrapped in red cloaks… but there’s a demon lurking in the shadows!

fire rituals buddhist satan devil monks

If you’re intrigued by the Satanic side of Osaka, come to the Jigokudo or “hall of hell” of Senko-ji! I’d love to return to see the monks perform a fire ritual.

japan satanist temple shrine hell parks

As Per Faxneld put it, “It’s well worth the trip, offering a fascinating glimpse into the multifaceted ways that Buddhist groups may attempt to offer lessons in morality.” Watch our Instagram reel of SenkoJi to see video footage of this fascinating hell temple!

no face statue parco shinsaibashi osaka spirited away

Speaking of Japanese Satanists… I rode the train with No-Face (from the Spirited Away anime film) at Parco! This photo spot is located at Donguri Kyowakoku (Studio Ghibli Store) on the 6th floor of the Shinsaibashi department store. There’s also a photo area with Totoro holding an umbrella.

kaonashi no face spirited away sculpture osaka parco ghibli store

Per Faxneld and I fit right in with this naughty spirit. (If you haven’t seen the Spirited Away movie, it’s a must.)

Namba Yasaka Shrine lion mouth osaka

If you need more proof that Osaka is Satan-friendly… Here’s the devilish Namba Yasaka Jinja! The 1975 design of the Shinto shrine is retrofuturistic fierceness.

shinto ema wood plaques lions osaka

Although the shrine looks like Lucifer’s maw, Namba Yasaka actually represents a roaring lion. You can purchase themed special ema, or small wooden plaques, and write your wishes and intentions on the back.

Namba Yasaka jinja osaka demon face eating mouth Shrine

Rowrrr! I’m wearing an “ANOEL” faux fur shrug that I got at Laforet Harajuku because… well, how could I not.

fanged shrine demonic osaka swallow demons evil spirits

Osaka’s famous lion looks a bit like a dragon or demon. Legend has it that the fanged guardian deity swallows evil spirits (somehow, Per and I survived).

 The Royal Park Canvas Osaka Kitahama boutique hotel japan

I got to encounter more majestic lions at The Royal Park Canvas Osaka Kitahama, where I stayed. The hip, boutique hotel seemed designed for me: the lounge played disco music, and guests can pick up free moisturizing face masks and hair elastics, as well as enjoy a free drink for each night’s stay.

hotel room review The Royal Park Canvas Osaka Kitahama

After a long day of exploring, I was glad to unwind in my spacious room with lion pillows and a deep bathtub. The Royal Park Canvas Osaka Kitahama strikes the perfect balance for travelers — you get a cosy and artful experience at a great price.

Japanese hotels breakfast buffet The Royal Park Canvas Osaka Kitahama

The hotel is in a quiet but central location in Osaka, right by a subway station and next to a convenience store. And be sure to enjoy the breakfast spread, which included eggs, curry, and miso soup. Cheers to The Royal Park Canvas Osaka Kitahama for a marvelous time. #pr

satanic bar midian osaka fu-ki blood singer

Time to throw the devil horns at Rock Bar Midian in Osaka, a favorite watering hole for Japan’s Satanists and heavy metal headbangers! I was pleased to reunite with Visual Kei rock star Fu-ki, the former vocalist of Blood.

osaka satanist satanism bars heavy metal midian

As you can tell from the black-red color scheme and devilish decor, Midian is our type of bar. We listened to heavy metal (and watched music videos on the TV) next to Dracula wine bottles and Baphomet statues. Anyone can request a hard rock or metal song, and Fu-Ki will cue it up – and maybe belt along to it the music!

bar midian visual kei jrock metal bars osaka

Midian has a wide range of cocktails with Satanic names — I adore the Diablo, a black currant liqueur, lime and ginger beer mix.

black veil territory taiki dj satanist satanic bar midian osaka

Bar Midian also pays homage to Taiki-san, the wizard of Osaka’s Satanic Shop Territory and overlord of Gothic club Black Veil. Taiki sadly passed in 2022, but the subculture that he cultivated has continued on. While his shop Territory is temporarily closed, it will re-open and people can purchase occult / bizarre / dark talismans from the website. Taiki’s Black Veil parties also live on — there was recently a Halloween edition.

bar midian alcohol osaka rock bars

Once again, even in an ominous Satanic space, we get some cuteness mixed in. (Funny story — I learned that several of the tattooed Gothic customers were hardcore fans of Miffy the cute bunny, like me!)

japanese satanist club bar midian osaka shinsaibashi

Rock on, Fu-Ki, for welcoming us back to Bar Midian. He speaks English, so I hope you’ll come to sit at his counter and bond over heavy metal!

osaka heavy metal bars music satan beer

Order a Satan or Devil’s Beer, and enjoy the rock metal gothic vibe at Midian. It can be a little hard to find, so look for the sign on the left, and head up to the 2nd floor. (Address: 10-16 Doyamacho, Kita-Ku Kano Dai-1 Leisure Bldg. 2F, Osaka)

farplane bar parco osaka fetish club

One more alternative bar before we go…. This is the fabulous Farplane. I went to the new location in Shinsaibashi Parco, but there’s also one in Amemura.

disco club bar osaka japan

Farplane puts you in a fetish cyber psychedelic space-age universe, with upbeat dance music to match.

latex fetish bars osaka weirdest bar

The bar is an extension of Farplane Night, a long-running Osaka party that draws in an alien-cyber-alt crowd. (Think colorful hair and latex dresses).

farplane night club nightclub osaka japan

Farplane started as a small alternative boutique in 2005. Although their universe has expanded, it says true to its cheeky-sexy roots.

osaka red light district clubs bars

The Farplane Parco bar (located in the basement) encourages you to get your freak on.

farplane bar osaka latex fetish fashion

If you’re in Osaka for Farplane Night, it’s a must — an enormous fetish party that might involve burlesque, pole dancers, eccentric performances, and S&M.

eyeball cocktails weirdest japan bars osaka strange

I tried the eyeball apple cocktails, to fit with the neon pop theme at Farplane.

osaka goth gothic fashion shops clothing shopping alternative punk boutiques

Some final Osaka Goth travel tips — check out the cute/Gothic/Lolita clothing stores at Hep Five and Umeda Est, as well the vintage fashion in Shinsaibashi. For more photos and guides to shopping in Amerikamura, see my previous post here.

osaka gothic stores shinsaibashi amerikamura goth vintage clothes

I encountered some devilish clothes in Amerikamura, and horns in Dotonbori (the street food district).

dotonbori osaka neon lights eater essential 38 restaurants guide

Dotonbori is known for its iconic neon sights like the Glico running man. This area can get packed with tourists, however…

.. which is why I spoke to Yahoo and Huffington Post about visiting less touristed destinations in Japan. I also wrote about unexpected items travelers should pack for Fodor’s, drawing from my experiences in over 70 countries.

hokkaido soft serve ice cream osaka snacks street food

Soon, I’ll be publishing an Essential Restaurants food guide to Osaka for Eater! Of course, I ate my weight in takoyaki and okonomiyaki, as well as Hokkaido soft serve… I love Kansai cuisine.

weird alien purikura filters strange japanese photobooth sticker pictures

I’ll leave you with the most Satanic Japanese thing of all… purikura! I think our filtered AI faces are more frightening than any of the devilish places in Osaka.

If you have any questions about Gothic Osaka or Japanese Satanism, let me know in the comments. And for more photos and videos/reels from Osaka, add me on Instagram @LaCarmina!

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.

taj mahal drag queens fashion shoot india hijra third gender

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.)

shinjuku famous skyline skyscrapers neon lights

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!

cute halloween japanese nail art kawaii nails pumpkin ghost spooky goth glam nail salon vancouver

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.

gracery godzilla hotel tokyo kabukicho statue

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).

shinjuku egg building cocoon tower aggretsuko location tokyo

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).

tokyo japan sneakers store streetwear kicks

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

tokyo ravewear club fashion clothing store

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!

Kasa-obake mural japanese umbrella ghost spirit yokai folklore

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).

japanese pentagram satanist heavy metal mejibray

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..

shinjuku vhs tapes video stores vintage videotape

… 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).

cure magazine visual kei japanese rock stars

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!

visual kei band posters hair makeup rockers

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.

bar psy shinjuku rock bar tokyo bars

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.

bar psy heavy metal music bars tokyo japan

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.

tokyo metal bars rock bar kabukicho psy

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

tokyo goth gothic bars cocktails hell satan satanic drinks

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

japanese rock music bars tokyo coolest bars

Hail Japan, at Bar Psy!

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

rock bar mother shinjuku bar hopping

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

skinny puppy japan music bars

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.

eagle blue gay bar bears ni-choome

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

rupaul drag race screening tokyo ni choome drag queen shows

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

leather bear bars tokyo japan eagle blue gay nightlife

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.

drag queen clubs gay lgbtq nightclubs shinjuku tokyo japan

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.

golden gai weirdest bars gothic goth shinjuku death match hell

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

666 yen cocktails japan horror film kitsch nerd bar

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

golden gai bars no cover deathmatch in hell

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

golden gai shinjuku bartenders tiny bars guide

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

weird hostess bars tokyo kabukicho

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

hostess club ads shinjuku tokyo signs ladies bars

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

japan hostess girls red light district tokyo

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.

myanmar shwedagon pagoda buddha statues temple

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.

palais faraj fez morocco fes architecture wes anderson

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

national geographic travel journalist writer submissions magazine clips nat geo

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.”

vancouver content creators top bloggers blog bc the georgia straight music interview

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…