Less than a month to go before I head off on my annual culinary odyssey to the land of the rising sun and the excitement continues to build.  Unfortunately, this year, the late start to production and my increased Exec. Producing duties (to say nothing of this cursed script) have prevented me from doing much in the way of research for my forthcoming trip.  Hell, this time last year I already had my restaurants booked and was happily perusing print-outs on the various temples, museums, and maid cafes I intended to visit. Still, I think I’ll be alright.  I’ve spent enough time in Tokyo to consider it my home away from home, an awesome vacation destination that offers the best of both worlds: the comfortingly familiar and the adventurously unusual.

And so, in the lead up to my trip, I’d like to offer a series of spotlight pieces on some of the individuals that make Tokyo so damn interesting.

Today, a Q&A with resident Tokyo fashion diva La Carmina…

La Carmina is a travel TV host, author of 3 books (Penguin USA and Random House), and writer for CNNGo.com and Lip Service.  Her popular blog on Japanese Goth fashion and subcultures – www.lacarmina.com/blog – has been featured in major publications (The New Yorker, Washington Post, WWD, Village Voice, Time Out New York, Fox News, LA Times). She’s appeared on The Today Show and co-hosted an episode of Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern for Travel Channel. Recent TV hosting and arranging credits include Dutch Pepsi, Sony Australia, Canal Plus France, and CNN International in Tokyo. She will be the Asia host for educational travel TV series, Project Explorer.

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So how does a girl from Vancouver, Canada end up at the heart of the alternative fashion in Tokyo?  What brought you to Japan and what led you to stay?

LC: I’ve always had a yen for Japanese pop culture. There were Hello Kitty toys on my shelves for as long as I can remember. I first went to Japan with my parents when I was quite young; we traveled around Asia pretty much every summer. I loved the opulent and Gothic fashions I saw in Harajuku, and started dressing in alternative clothing as a teenager.

While I was in law school, I began my La Carmina blog (http://www.lacarmina.com/blog/) to share my love of Japanese youth fashion and subcultures. It led to bigger projects — books, fashion design, TV hosting — which continue to bring me to Japan.

vanity2

So would you consider Japan your second home? Did you face any specific challenges in acclimatizing yourself to life in Japan?

LC: I certainly consider Japan a second home. Many of my closest friends are in Tokyo, and it’s the center of the Visual Kei music and Japanese Goth/Lolita/Cyber fashion we love. I’ve got to say… I’m not a fan of the summer “mushi-atsui” weather (hot and humid). Or the mosquitoes, who feast on me like vampires!

lacarmina2

You’re an author, illustrator, photographer, blogger, a travel TV host, and a fashion designer.  Not exactly the type of life one would expect from a Columbia and Yale Law graduate.  How did your friends and family respond to your decision not to pursue a career in law?  And how have they responded to your success?

LC: Did you know Ben Stein also graduated from Columbia and Yale Law? He’s an actor (Ferris Bueller), novelist, Nixon speechwriter, financial expert, former NY Times columnist and overall funny guy. He’s a great example of someone who succeeds in a creative path full-time, and in a variety of artistic media. My friend and family know that creative pursuits were always of the highest importance to me; it’s hard to imagine me working in a law firm. So it’s not at all surprising that I’m doing what I do.

Has that degree nevertheless come in handy in time?

LC: Absolutely. I think many artist don’t (or refuse to) pay enough attention to the business and legal aspects of their work. As a result, they’re too often short-changed.

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What makes the Japanese fashion scene so unique?  Is there something particular to Japanese society that inspires such inventive counter-cultural display?

LC: Often, too much is read into Japan’s street fashion and its social meaning… Japanese festivals (matsuri) are traditional outlets for letting loose and wearing vivid fashion. Today, young people wear alternative styles for fun and personal expression. For the most part, there’s not much more to it.

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What can you tell us about some of the more colorful fashion sub-groups (ie. Lolita, gyaru, etc.).

LC: The various “style tribes” are associated with certain brands, magazines and lifestyles. For example, Loli fashion is associated with the Gothic Lolita Bible and Kera magazine, designers like Baby the Stars Shine Bright, and cute-retro-elegant activities such as tea parties. In Japan, however, the “tribes” are fluid; many young people mix styles and don’t have any particular “manifesto” about them.

How does the Goth scene in Japan differ from that of North America if at all?

LC: Goth fashion in Japan is much more intricate, with an attention to detail and quality. Think Interview with the Vampire meets Queen Victoria and Marie Antoinette.

luisa

One of your books, Cute Yummy Time: 70 recipes for the cutest food you’ll ever eat, offers up some of the most adorable culinary creations to ever grace a cook book.  What was the inspiration behind the book and how prevalent is “cute cooking” in Japan?  Is it limited to children’s bento boxes or do grown ups delight in chowing down on hedgehog risotto balls and pecan pie turkeys?

LC: The interest in cute charaben (character bentos) probably peaked a year or two ago; there aren’t as many cookbooks or tools displayed in Tokyo any more. However, it remains a recurrent theme in Japanese cuisine — you’ll typically see cakes with kawaii bear faces, or ice cream decorated to look like a cat. People of all ages enjoy cute food.

Another one of your books, Crazy, Wacky Theme Restaurants: Tokyo is a guide to some of the city’s most inspired theme restaurants, from Alice in Wonderland to the Vampire Café.  Do you have a favorite?  In a city where you can sample anything from crab ice cream to fugu sperm tempura, I imagine an adventurous eater such as yourself has tried pretty much everything.  What was your most memorable meal in Tokyo?  The biggest pleasant surprise?  And is there anything you wouldn’t eat?

LC: My Theme Restaurants book (http://www.lacarmina.com/tokyorestaurants.php) has photos and stories from over 30 maid cafes and bizarre theme restaurants; it’s hard to pick a favorite. I always have a great time with my friends at the Alice in Wonderland café, which is charmingly decorated and offers Cheshire Cat sundaes and pizza. Here are photos and a video from our last visit to Tokyo Alice: (http://www.lacarmina.com/blog/2010/08/pepsi-tv-show-fun-places-in-tokyo-japan-alice-in-wonderland-cafe-shinjuku-karaoke-singing-harajuku-fashion/)

I try to stay open to any experience, but I’m quite certain I’d never eat a cat, dog or other animal companion… The horror.

luisaviaroma

What can you tell us about your La Carmina line?  What kind of people wear your clothing?

LC: I most recently did a T-shirt collaboration with Akumu Ink, which you can see here: http://www.lacarmina.com/main.php Anyone who appreciates Edward Gorey, Japanese scary-cute girls and Scottish Fold cats might enjoy these designs. Quite a few people have told me they’ve seen La Carmina shirts at anime conventions and Visual Kei (Jrock) concerts.

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Put on your travel TV host hat.  What kind of itinerary would you put together for an adventurer who only has one day in Tokyo?

LC: I also do fixing (local production coordinating, scheduling, arranging) for TV crews that come to Tokyo, so I’ve had quite a bit of experience with taking people around to my favorite pop culture underground spots. Typically, we begin with shopping in Harajuku and visiting wild Gothic Lolita Punk stores (here are maps and my Tokyo shopping guide http://www.lacarmina.com/blog/2009/04/tokyo-gothic-lolita-shopping-guide-sweet-and-goth-harajuku-stores-where-to-buy-clothes-in-japan/). Then we might stop by a game center and eat cheap conveyer belt sushi. Popping into a cat café and a theme restaurant are musts. And the adventure isn’t complete until we’ve partied all night at my favorite Goth/Fetish/underground nightclubs! (Here is a list with directions to my favorite clubs. http://www.lacarmina.com/blog/2009/04/japan-goth-club-nightlife-guide-tokyo-decadance-dark-castle-midnight-mess-gothic-lolita-heaven/)


Where do you see La Carmina in twenty years?  What else has she accomplished? Is she still in Tokyo?  Is she still cute cooking, laced up, and hitting the Harajuku scene?

LC: The legendary “Yellow House baba” hasn’t stopped — 25 years later, the elderly lady is still partying with Japanese rockers and designing clothes in Harajuku. I feel like I’ve only begin this journey; I am always striving to push things further in every arena. Stay tuned to my blog http://www.lacarmina.com/blog/, as I’m about to announce a new business venture and more exciting projects!

xxx

† LA CARMINA †
blogger. author. tv host. designer.

URL – http://www.lacarmina.com
EMAIL – gothiccarmina@gmail.com

Twitter        http://twitter.com/lacarmina
YouTube       http://www.youtube.com/lacarmina
MySpace       http://www.myspace.com/la_carmina
Facebook   http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=10225211197 and http://www.facebook.com/pages/La-Carmina/7168818462

34 thoughts on “October 15, 2010: La Carmina!

  1. Hi,

    Everyone is invited to visit my SGU Season 2 news post at http://abbaskarimjee.wordpress.com/2010/10/08/stargate-universe-season-2-current-information/ for the latest news on the current season, international schedule info for the entire season , descriptions of upcoming episodes, promotional trailers/ sneak peeks for upcoming episodes, photos, episode discussions, polls, weekly trivia and much more! Also feel free to share your thoughts on coverage related to the second season of SGU in the comments section of the post.

    Thanks!

  2. I had no idea who La Carmina was…I feel a bit enlightened…and…jealous. I mean, how does a person manage to do all of that? I have trouble just keeping my brain together juggling my rather mundane routine of housekeeping, work, spirituality, and the like. For instance, today went something like this: woke up late at 8 am (’cause I went to bed at 1:30 am :P), got dressed, did my morning chores (dishes, straightenedup,made the bed, fed the cats, did some yardwork, and cleaned up after kitty’s bout of projectile vomiting… 🙄 ), finally ate ‘breakfast’ (leftover pizza) at 11 am, tackled some paperwork (for Mr. Das’ small business), off to work-work at 3 pm, worked until 7 pm (taxes, balancing the checkbook, filing, accounts receivable stuff, and some other things), chatted briefly with my visiting cousins, came home and finally ate dinner about 7:30 (more quickie leftovers – I was starving!), and now just settling down to tv and maybe some reading. I’ll probably fall asleep before 10. 😛 AND I still have dinner dishes to do, and the kitty pan to clean, and…awww…just screw it! I’m calling it a night!

    But before I do, Joey, I hope you manage to get that script together. I suspect that you have other things on your mind lately, I mean with the start of the new season (and how the show is doing), dining out every 3.3 seconds, visiting family back home, puppy problems, and thoughts about your upcoming trip…perhaps you just need a quiet weekend to get things sorted out. Seems that in recent weeks – much like your last trip to Tokyo – you’re having trouble pacing yourself. Hell, I can’t even keep up with everything you’re doing, and you’re probably only sharing a fraction of it here on the blog. So just find some quiet time so that you can focus long enough to get that script monkey off’a your back.

    Okay…I’m shutting up now before I sound too much like the mommy. 😛

    das

  3. Joe, such a neat different Q&A, now I won’t worry about you having something to do in Tokyo late at night…
    Lacarmina is a cutie and very talented and her cat is adorable.

  4. Okay, Joe, so the Lucian Alliance is going to attack Earth… is this going to happen before or after your trip to Japan??? Since you know so much about their attack (which has been in the works for months), and consequently during those same months you & Ivon have been planning the Japan trip… is there some kind of connection here??? Is North America about to go bye-bye in the next couple weeks and the only warning you’re going to give us is a “Thanks for all the memories” dolphin song? Should I be placing my order now for an Acme underground bomb shelter?

    On a totally unrelated topic: Happy Birthday!
    I’m glad your episode brought the ratings up… it’s been the best yet (the whole season has)!

  5. Hey, just thought of a blockbuster book you should write, Joe:

    “How To Survive an Alien Attack”

    Like the best-selling book, “The Zombie Survival Guide” but w/ an off-planet twist. Different chapters on how to survive against different types of aliens. Definitely include the different Stargate aliens (Goa’uld, Ori, Wraith, Blueberries, etc.) but think of all the others that exist in the world of movies & comics… you’d have enough material to choose from for several volumes.

    …or is that what Rob Cooper is off doing these days? 

    Oh, I almost forgot to ask, when you saw Robert Picardo in Montreal was he wearing his Wraith hair from Persons Unknown? It was a great look for him!

    Take care!

  6. So, being in Canada, I just finished watching “Awakening”, and I found myself slightly disappointed with it to be honest.

    The discovery of the seed ship by itself, along with Rush’s comings and goings was enough of an episode for me, but to introduce this new alien race I thought…took away from alot of the episode, and just created alot more questions.

    We’re still learning lots about the Destiny itself, but all we really learned about the seed ship in the episode, was that it produced stargates, and it had the power to send them back to Earth, and that’s it. Being the type of construction ship it is, it would appear to be the closest thing to an orbital spacedock. I was kinda hoping to see it use its abilities to patch Destiny up. As a construction ship, i’m assuming it has more of those ‘robots’ that we saw used in an earlier episode.

    The blueberry aliens seemed to have a helluva time trying to board the Destiny yet this group boarded a seed ship. No internal defences?

    And just how do the seed ships get stargates down to a planet? No shuttles to drop them off..and no Asgard type beaming technology.

    I hope that we’ll learn more about these ships in time..as well as Telford’s fate…because I was really liking the idea of him being ‘back’ so to speak.

  7. Happy Birthday Robert C. Cooper on October 14th and
    Happy Birthday Joseph Mallozzi on October 16th!!
    My two top favorite Stargate Creator, Director, Producers, and Writers.

  8. Maybe they didn’t board the seedship – but have always been there!
    Meanwhile, went very close to being able to help with the ratings! The official ratings people knocked on our door this morning. Just two minor sticking points.
    They were for Radio instead of TV and I’m in Australia not US/Canada! 🙁

    Joe – or anyone else interested – have you watched The League? I’m loving it.

  9. Oh, and since i has been the 16th for 15 hours already here – Happy Birthday!

    May you get all the chocolates and ratings you deserve!

  10. Wow Joey,
    Good timing for this blog entry, makes me want to arrange for a visit to the land of the East.

    It also reminds me that I will have to find that thing that I will excel at in life to afford going and doing those things. Hopefully before I get old.

    All in all Joe, it was pretty neat getting that interview.

  11. Hi Mr M!

    Belated birthday greetings to Mr R C C.

    Interesting post from La Carmina. I would love to go to Tokyo. As I’ve said before on here, it strikes me as almost a different planet….

    Hope the Birthday Festivities have been good and that the Birthday Weekend is in full swing.

    I also hope my card and (small) gift got to you in time.

    Best to all The Bridge.

    S’n’T

  12. YYyyyyAhhhhhhh

    ♫ ☼ JOYEUX ANNIVERSAIRE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ☼ ♫ !!!!!
    C’est déjà le 4ème anniversaire que je vous souhaite, ça passe tellement vite!

    Lalalala super!!! J’attend ce jour depuis 1 ans!!!!
    J’ai vu que vous avez reçu mon cadeaux!!! Je suis vraiment contente :)…vous avez lu le message à linterieur ?!!!

    Bon il faut que je réfléchisse au cadeau pour l’année prochaine lool!!!

    J’espere très bientôt venir à Vancouver pour vous voir!!!

    JE VOUS ADORE TRES FORT!! Profitez de cette journée!!!

    Gros bisou =)

  13. A BIG P.S.

    Hope you have a wonderful HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!
    how many is it, hmm, yeah I remember, its 29.
    Have a super day!

  14. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! Thanks for writing 3 of my most favorite shows of all time, and thanks for the blog, which keeps me laughing (I’ve really needed a good laugh this year!). Sending love and hugs from MT.

    LJ

  15. Happy Birthday Joe! The WooHoos send you lots of love and hope you have an awesome one 🙂

    Jumble xx

  16. Hi, everyone!

    I am way far behind on reading this blog due to having both my desktop and my laptop computers zapped by lightning a few weeks ago (and yes, they were both on surge protectors). It’s taking forever to get everything recovered, caught up, reinstalled, etc.

    But I did want to take a moment to say, “Happy Birthday, Joe!”

    Be well, everyone.

  17. HAPPY BIRTHDAY JOE!

    Guess you can celebrate by knowing your episode was the highest watched episode of season 2! 🙂 Hope the uptick continues.

    Couple questions

    1. Will the Aliens/Telford/Seedership story be further explored later this season?

    2. The mystical elements have been so well done on season 2 so far. That said, will we see/learn more about Franklin and the faith planet this season?

    3. MGM is starting to get their act together and greenlight projects (the hobbit just got greenlit)… any more rumblings on the movies yet?

    4. Besides the atlantis alums and Dr. Brightman, will there be any more characters from the older shows in season 2? I heard a rumor that Daniel might show up again? Could you comment on that?

    5. SPOILERS for UK! When exactly in awakening was that VFX extravaganza you were talking about? Was it at the end where like 30 aliens are closing in on Telford?

    Thanks so much,
    Major D. Davis

  18. Happy Birthday Joe! And a late salute to you too Rob.

    Interesting Japan Goth info. I had a coworker from STTE that was into that. She is very talented in the art field as well. Here is her website….
    http://www.c-ko.org/index.html
    She is very nice and pretty, and would often come to work in strange clothes and colored hair.

  19. Hi Joe,

    Just stopping by to wish you a Very Happy Birthday!!!!

    Hip Hip Hooray!
    Hip Hip Hooray!
    Hip Hip Hooraaaaaaay!!!!

    SBS

  20. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU
    HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU
    HAPPY BIRTHDAY DEAR JOEY
    HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU

    So yeah, happy birthday! Hope you have a good one!

    By the way, Awakening was Awesome! Although, I did feel that it was a little rushed, but that could be because I didn’t want it to end! I hope we see more seeder ships in the future, particularly one where the Stargate is being actively made; that’d be pretty cool.

    The aliens were cute, even after they turned slightly evil. 😉

    Glad to see all the threads and themes going through each episode; Rush continues to feel guilty about what his knowledge of the Bridge has done; Young continues to lose people and spiral into alcoholism, and the LA continues to get stir crazy and annoyed while their Milky Way brethern continue their threatening of Earth. Awesome.

    Also, good news on the ratings! Going up is always good, but this is just the beginning. I will continue my twitter retweeting campaign come Monday and Tuesday and hopefully it’ll help in some tiny way. The show must go on!

  21. Happy Birthday Joe.
    Best Wishes.
    Also I’m not late saying it. Not that I was last year on here.
    Tanjoubi omedetou!

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