Let us go out this evening for pleasure. The night is still young…
The gibbous moon hangs heavily above the cosmopolitan port city of Kobe, as myriad neon signs and street lamps attempt to compete with Luna’s celestial effulgence. With the Rokko mountain range looming far ahead of me, I make my way across a bustling thoroughfare, progressing northward toward the historical Kitano-chō district that is renowned for its turn-of-the-century Western mansions and picturesque mountainside views of the city and harbor below. The bright lights of downtown are now behind me, and a subdued atmosphere pervades the passages and alleyways before me. I catch sight of a Christian church, and even a mosque, all giving evidence of this area’s rich background as a collection of foreigners’ residences and consulates during the Meiji and Taisho periods of Japan’s history. My goal does not lie with such modern beacons of organized religion. No, I seek a different Mecca, and my pilgrimage is nothing less than heretical.
My path slopes upward, and only a few passersby can be seen, on their way home or back down toward the more lively centers of nightlife that wait below. The street is no different from any other, or so it would seem. Ahead of me I catch sight of the sign that I have been searching for. An ominous shadow stretches menacingly across the sidewalk onto the street: a gargoyle, illuminated from behind above a pitch-black building. No sign announces the name of the establishment, but the heavy studded doors leave no question. This is Kobe’s premier Gothic fetish bar, IDEA.
Stepping inside of a darkened entryway, the subdued lights of a sleek and modern bar glow invitingly from the interior. In time with the dull, thudding bass from within, twilight hues of cobalt, indigo, and crimson alternate across the bar surface dominated by a luminous demonic sigil, the personal symbol of the owner, Midori. On either side of the mark are glass panels that cover baleful beds of gleaming nails protruding upward. The light yet heady scents of incense and leather float cloyingly in the air, and it isn’t long before the mistress of the house makes her appearance.
Attired appropriately in a flowing black dress with her long dark tresses tumbling over her shoulders, Midori is flanked by a blonde leather-clad vixen and a young Gothic & Lolita-type sporting curly ebony locks. Her imposing appearance certainly lives up to the part of a mistress of such an establishment, but upon recognizing me she immediately breaks out a warm welcome in a mellifluous Kansai dialect. I’ve known Midori since her days employed at Club DOMA, another fetish bar in the area, and I make it a point to visit her new establishment whenever my business brings me to Western Japan.
As a talented kinbaku (Japanese rope-binding) artist, Midori opened IDEA on July 4th, 2010 in the hopes of creating her own unique mystical space, and she has certainly succeeded. Midori is the cousin of DJ Taiki, renowned as the diabolical force behind Osaka’s Gothic scene and owner of the occult shop Territory, and it was he who contributed to some of the more detailed aspects of the club’s design. The iron bars behind the counter are divided into three sections of six bars each, and such details extend even to the powder room, where 72 iron bars line the walls to represent the demons recounted in the Ars Goetia. As a nod to more modern horror tastes, a life-size replica of the famous Count in his transformed bat-like state from Bram Stoker’s Dracula (Francis Ford Coppola, 1992) hangs from above.
The split-level design with a high ceiling allows for aerial shows and even suspension performances, and there have been numerous events since the establishment’s opening last year. The aforementioned “beds of nails” are available for more adventurous customers, and the VIP room upstairs includes comfortable couches and a canopied bed. A DJ console has been installed for events, and the musical accompaniment is usually hand-picked by Taiki, featuring hard tech industrial, synth pop, new wave, and aggrotech.
The hours fly by in discussions of the occult, horror films, music, and mutual acquaintances, and before I know it the witching hour is upon us. This would usually mean that the nocturnal rituals are just beginning. Unfortunately, for me it means that there is a train to catch. Nevertheless, I leave behind that unhallowed space secure in the knowledge that there will always be a dark sanctuary for children of the night, nestled between the mountains and the sea here in Kobe.