La Carmina is a prominent Japanese gothic icon, travel and style blogger, and TV host. Her influential blog has a huge following and has been featured in major media. La Carmina has flown worldwide to speak and attend events, she has been featured in Vogue, and on the cover of a number of magazines including Vanity UK and Dark Beauty. Follow her on twitter, Instagram and like her on Facebook.
She’s an international journalist, TV host, author, blogger and international fashion superstar, but for the multi-talented La Carmina, Tokyo will always be her first love. We caught up with her to find out how to stay hip in Japan’s most happening city…
Harajuku is the most well-known place to check out Tokyo’s street style. Can you tell us a few of your favourite style tribes who hang out here, and how to spot them by their outfits?
In Harajuku, you'll see creative, flamboyant style tribes that originated in Japan. These include Lolitas, who typically wear modest, ruffled bell skirts and blouses, reminiscent of Victorian or Rococo dolls. I love seeing pastel meets 80s cute-kitsch styles like Cult Party Kei and Fairy Kei. There's been a recent revival of the more extreme gyaru styles, such as fake tanner with spiderweb eyelashes, teased hair, and tiny shorts with droopy socks.
Are there any other neighbourhoods in Tokyo that are hotspots for great street style and fashion stores?
Shinjuku is home to some of my favourite department stores for youth fashion, including Studio Alta, Lumine, and Marui One (the Gothic Lolita and Punk styles are currently moved to Marui Annex). Shibuya has the Jpop gyaru mall, 109. Ikebukuro is also a great place to find accessories and Jrock items. I have guides to the best Tokyo shopping, with maps and more, on my La Carmina blog.
Tell us a few of your favourite shops for clothes and accessories in Tokyo…
Closet Child is my top choice; it's a second-hand store with a few branches, including Shinjuku and Harajuku. You can find barely-worn garments from alternative designers like h. NAOTO, Moi meme Moitie, Angelic Pretty and more. Prices can be as low as $5 US for a punky top.
If you walk down Takeshita Dori in Harajuku and keep to the right, you'll encounter SBY shop. It's full of kawaii gifts like stuffed toy charms and makeup bags, and there's an entire wall of dolly eyelashes. SBY is a terrific place to pick up unique gifts for friends for under $10.
Ikebukuro's Sunshine City mall is the haunt of one of my favourite boutiques, World Wide Love. The mascot is a cute ghost, and the clothes have catchy designs - I picked up a teal top with ghosts down the side. Prices aren't bad, from $20 tops to $200 coats.
Where do fashionable folk go to eat and drink in Tokyo?
My friends and I are obsessed with Kagaya, a hidden izakaya (Japanese home-style pub) that is possibly the most bizarre theme restaurant in Tokyo. The dining experience is packed with surprises: the menus are in crayon, and drinks come with pranks. When the restaurant’s owner is ready to serve you, he ducks into a closet and emerges dressed up in a ridiculous costume! And then he does a performance such as jumping around in a frog suit. Here are posts about my adventures at Kagaya; you can have a meal and drinks for about $30.
Angel & Demons maid cafe is also a treat. Maid cafes are a strange, uniquely Japanese phenomenon. Male customers (often nerdy types) come to be treated like princes by pretty Japanese girls in costumes. This particular cafe has a twist: the girls dress as angels or demons. Customers choose whether they want to be naughty and nice, and interact with them through games. Prices are decent; about the same as any Akihabara bar.
For a taste of Tokyo’s wild fashion and subcultures, Decadance Bar is the place to be. A typical night at Decabar involves pole-dancing drag queens and a domination show by a mistress, surrounded by dancing, rainbow-haired cyber kids. Located above Christon Cafe Shinjuku (a campy church-themed restaurant), Tokyo Decadance bar also serves food to fit the club night's theme. Absinthe is about $5, and a set meal is around $20.
How about clubs – where can we find the cool nightlife areas in Tokyo, and which are the best clubs?
If you're a brave soul, check out the long-running Tokyo fetish party, Department H. You'll see bizarre body modifications, from snake tongues to skin sewing and bagelhead forehead inflation. A lot of people walk around in handmade full-body costumes such as octopus tentacle suits. The night also includes disco dancing and a drag queen parade. Located at Kinema Club, entry is about $35; less if you dress to impress. Here are some photos if you dare.
And are there any other cool hangouts you can tell us about?
Funny enough, my friends and I started throwing ‘Corporate Goth’ parties! In Japan, it's hard to find an event space in a central location for a low price. We hacked this problem by renting out a hotel meeting room, and feigning a ‘business meeting’ that actually was a drinking party. To see how we did it, and the funny photos, check out the post.
I also suggest strolling in Shimokitazawa, the 'hipster' district that is home to many vintage shops and cafes.
She’s so cool we can barely keep up…
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