Goth in Japan Research Project

John SkeletonIt seems like only yesterday that I left the Land of the Rising Sun, and now I’m about to depart once more, this time for two months. During my stay in the Tokyo and Kansai areas I will be conducting ethnographic research on goth subculture in Japan from a cultural anthropological perspective. I am particularly interested in the meanings of goth for individual participants in goth’s Japanese localization in terms of formation of cultural identity. I hope to post brief updates regularly here at, and I look forward to hearing any comments or criticisms from anyone who happens to drop by! If happen to be in Japan and see me, please say hello and let me know your thoughts on all things goth and/or gothic!

Further details about the project will be posted on the Goth in Japan Project section of the web site.


Modeling for Dark Beauty Magazine with La Carmina!

La Carmina & John SkeletonWhile jet lag is certainly no excuse, I find I’ve been spending more time in my coffin, safely sequestered away from the light, since my return from my conference and research in Goth’s homeland and current mecca: the UK and Germany, respectively. But more to come on that front, for now, I’d like to post some extremely belated photos from a shoot that I did with my dear friend La Carmina in Hong Kong last September.523339_10200344529323634_1055202805_n

After some photo manipulations by our mutual comrade Kanae Hamatsuka, the series of dynamic shots feature the designs of what is perhaps HK’s finest Gothic clothing brand, Spider, against the frenetic energy and neon dynamism of the Pearl of the Orient. As it turns out, the photos have been a hit with several magazines, and even made the cover of Dark Beauty magazine. You can find more details and behind-the-scenes photos on La Carmina’s lovely blog here and here.

You can purchase print or digital copies of the magazine here.

Photographer: Ken Yuen
Assistant Photographer: Jacqueline Kwok (noircorner)
Photo manipulations: Kanae Hamatsuka
Hair: Emma Woodall of Toni & Guy Hong Kong
Wardrobe: Spider by Natalie Lam, Hong KongLa Carmina & John Skeleton

Turning Goth in Japan – John Skeleton Presents at Strawberry Hill!

Strawberry Hill HouseWho would have thought? This week on March 8th and 9th, 2013, I have been honored with the opportunity to not only attend, but also present at an academic conference hosted by St. Mary’s University and Strawberry Hill House in London! Amidst the Gothic splendor of the home built by Horace Walpole (1717-1797), the author of what is considered the first true Gothic novel, I will be sharing the fruits of my nascent research on Japan’s Goth subculture in a presentation titled, Turning Goth in Japan: Behind the Scenes of Goth Subculture’s Japanese Localization. In my presentation, I hope to explore the ways in which the “aesthetics of rebellion,” i.e. fashions, performances, and body modifications, are used as subcultural capital within the unique context of Japan’s localized Goth scene. The two-day conference looks to be a splendid opportunity for learning, and of course I will take the time to sample some of the local dark culture while I am in the city of fog.I hope to report soon on the results of the conference. Farewell for now!

Gothic: Culture, Subculture, Counterculture – A Two-Day Conference 

Strawberry Hill House

Mystic, Fetish, & Gothic Bar IDEA

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.

Photo courtesy of

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.

Photo courtesy of

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.

Photo courtesy of

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.