Return to Sapporo, November 2006
I now habitually photograph my luggage whenever I check it in for a flight. This turned out to be a good thing, since just like last time my luggage did not go to the same place as me. And just like last time, I received a blue paper instead, saying that two bags are missing. These are in fact the exact same two bags. At least they sell stuff you are supposed to drink with the word "sweat" in the name here. Not really related to luggage, but still brings a smile to me.
Airplane security (20061101)
For some reason you are not allowed to bring a file with you on a plane (I did by mistake ne time and had it thrown in the trash...). Also, you cannot bring drinks without a problem and so on. On the other hand, they give you a knife and a fork of steel when you are in the plane. Go figure. I also had a small knife in my hand luggage (though I thought I had put it in another bag), which made it through with no problems. So why did they take my file?
Japanese living conditions (200611)
I have now moved into my quite cheap living quarters. They seem fine, though the electrical wiring leaves some things to be desired. It is also built in the traditional Japanese style, that is it has lots of holes in the walls and similar, to let warm air out in the hot summer. This is not quite as good an idea in the winter, since then you no longer want the inside to be colder or the same temperature as outside. Which it is. It is still about plus ten or so I guess, so so far no problem.
Since my toothbrush and similar things are still in Germany, I bought new stuff here. I found a strawberry flavored toothpaste and thought it sounded funny. However, it turns out to be quite disgusting. It does actually taste like strawberry, but it feels like your smearing your teeth with melted ice cream. Not a very clean feeling. Thus, I cannot really recommend this toothpaste, even though it is a funny idea.
More food (2006110x)
My room (20061102)
This is where I live. It is about 14 degrees Celsius in the mornings, but came with a broken pillow and lots of stuff for preparing food. Which I never do. The toilet seat was fixed on the same day I complained about it. Now all I need is an Internet connection and I can start to live a full life there.
How to eat in Japan (20061102)
More stuff I do not need (20061102)
Even more unnecessary stuff (20061102)
There is a sign near my toilet saying roughly "you are supposed to flush the toilet after you have used it". I already knew this. Evidently some previous resident never flushed his toilet for one year, to save money on the water bill...
Lufthansa has finally (only three days later) sent me my luggage. There was talk about them "mending" my luggage (thus it took so much time), but it is not mended. There is however a paper to fill out if you would like them to fix the damage to my bag that they believe they caused.
More clothes (200611024
Even more clothes (20061104)
Today I went to Moerenuma park, together with two other people from Sweden, one about my age, one about 6 years old. Moerenuma is a garbage dump converted into an artistically designed park. It is quite beautiful, though we took a sort of long way around to get there involving quite a bit of walking. Later I was also amused by the preferred food of one of my companions, consisting of: rice. And a little soy sauce.
More food (20061106)
This is onsen tamago (hot spring egg), half boiled egg with soy sauce. The second one is a piece of mochi that has been too long in the microwave oven. I was given the egg, but the mochi was eaten by someone else.
I finally managed to get a cell phone. So know I can start to function a little in Japanese society. Everything you ever do requires a phone. Meeting someone, applying for an Internet account, getting your luggage from Germany... It has fewer strange features than my last phone (as far as I have been able to tell so far I have no "how many times have I shaken the phone" and no TV), but comes with six different dictionaries I can use. And I am told it can read pdf-files and word documents. I also got two plastic cups for free with the phone.
The end of an era! (20061108)
Sense of Sweden (20061110)
Today I found a store that sells Swedish vodka. I first tried all the big stores that sell alcohol, and the food floor of the large department stores. They sell only Russian vodka. The place to look for a large selection of vodka is surprisingly enough Bic Camera, that sells cameras, computer, all kinds of electronics. And vodka. Go figure.
The Denmark Cafe (20061110)
The Denmark cafe. Since There is a bridge from Sweden to Denmark, a lot of Swedes have been in Denmark. I have. I never saw anything like the things sold in this cafe there though. Why do Japanese bakers put bacon, potato and broccoli on the type of cake that Swedish bakers would put cinnamon and sugar?
I was invited by the Bulgarian guy who sits next to me in my lab to come to a birthday party for a Bulgarian girl. I know only one Bulgarian girl in Sapporo (and only a few more in Bulgaria), and of course this was her party. She had recently had a bicycle accident and hurt her hand (almost back to normal again). Of course this was with the bicycle I gave to her when I moved back to Sweden... Today there was a karaoke party with about 30 people. Since I cannot sing (people go home if I do) and do not like to drink, this is not my number one entertainment, but it is something you have to do in Japan. It is sometimes quite enjoyable, like today. Though people smoke a lot indoors in Japan, so you smell bad if you participate. Sweden (and many other countries in Europe) has outlawed smoking in places where people work (so they do not get cancer from their work), which is very nice for me who do not smoke.
Tomorrow is the first day of sale for Playstation 3. So tonight (this was a few minutes before midnight) nerds are lining up to buy one before they are sold out. The line was already quite long, around the corner and of out of sight. And it was cold by Japanese standards. If I had had a TV to plug it in to, I would have lined up with them (I am still a nerd, but I went back to my lab instead).
Signs of Sweden (20061111)
Manly hobbies (20061111)
Today I went to study Japanese at my volunteer course. Of course, last week they gave me a note saying "November 11, cancelled", which I promptly forgot. Today there was instead some kind of cooperative Japanese food making (which I missed since I slept at the time) and then origami doll making (which started when I arrived, so I was Shanghaied into doing this). These are my dolls. Evidently they make a good gift to potential boyfriends... Best question from one of my old teachers who was there: "Why?!" "Why what?" "Why are you in Japan?!"
Today I made gyoza. I was not the only one, though, so the monstrosity that looks like a hamburger is not my fault. Some Chinese people came by and laughed at the crazy way Japanese and other foreigners make gyoza, which is a Chinese dish.
Back in business (20061111)
Today I went to the store that sold me my magnificent pants that I broke during badminton. They had some reasonably similar pants there, so I bought them. The store attendant also recognized me. Evidently there are not that many Swedes shopping in his store. Someone asked me why I buy so strange clothes here. The explanation is quite obvious. In Japan it is important to fit in. So I try to dress like everyone else here. Thus I buy this kind of clothes, because everyone wears this. When I wear this I of course blend in perfectly, because nothing else (hair color, language, fatness) separates me from Japanese people...
Bicycle and weather (20061112)
This is my bicycle, that already has a strangely shaped basked. There is also snow on the seat today. Today was not a very good day to ride the bicycle, it was a storm, there was lots of rain, a bit of hail and then some snow. I became very wet. This is facilitated by Japanese roads being really really bad. For instance, there are enormous lakes of rainwater here and there. On a bike, this means you get wet feet. If a car passes you at high speed (which they always keep if they pass you), you get wet up till your nipples or so. Snow is much better, though when it melts the same problem appears again.
Ramen side order (20061112)
Today I went out to eat ramen. One thing that I find strange in Japan is that very many restaurants provide something for you to read. Also, the selection of this reading is quite strange. There is of course huge amounts of manga, with topics of violence or graphic sex being quite common. There are also things such as the paper I found today. This is the first page of the story titled "3 popular porn stars cook food with no clothes" or so. There was not so much story, but plenty of pictures. These are available in the normal restaurants. There are of course more exotic places to go to too, for instance in Susukino where I lived (or close to) last time in Sapporo. Susukino is Japan's second largest red light and entertainment district.
English slogans (20061112)
Doing laundry (which I tried to to yesterday) in Japan is so much worse than in Sweden! And it is not much fun there either. In Sweden I had a superb washing machine, where you shoved in three or four weeks worth of laundry and waited a little less than an hour and you had clean clothes. The you shove all this into the superb dryer and wait about 45 minutes and everything is as dry as Swedish generation X humor (very dry). In Japan the washing machine uses cold water (evidently clothes are broken by hot water, or so I have been told) so there is always the suspicion that the result will not be very clean. The dryers I have seen are a joke, though a colleague tells me he has a dryer that dries small amount of clothes very dry in only 2.5 hours. Since I live in a room that keeps to about 15 degrees Celsius, my clothes seem to take some time to get dry... I even bought this contraption to hang socks and similar things, though they were still wet this afternoon (24h later!). Maybe I will stop doing laundry and just throw dirty things away and buy new stuff. Since everything is cheap in Japan (compared to back home) this is feasible. However, I am once again foiled by the supremely bothersome garbage disposal system.
Today the preparations for traveling to and climbing an active volcano has begun. Of course, it is forbidden to climb this volcano the day we are planning to go there (and the rescue crew that comes and saves you if there is an eruption has their day off), but since this is the first time ever I do this kind of thing, it will probably be all right. Since the shoes have a high risk of being ruined during climbing, I have found a pair of boots I can borrow. The weather seems to be OK, with no snow and maybe 5 degrees above zero. Also, since it is an active volcano it will probably be warm anyway, right.
More English slogans (200611xx)
Here is a brand, "Colour farm", of fry pans that for some reason has a slogan written on the bottom. "It is shining brightly on the farm. The sun has given many colours to many fruit[sic] and vegetables. Do you know that there is no colour without light?". Very appropriate for fry pans.
This guy was lying outside my door this morning. I also met and spoke to one of my human neighbors for the first time today. Surprisingly enough, he is also from Sweden. Also from Stockholm, also attending Hokudai, also receiving money from JSPS, also for two years and he too has stayed about 6 months total in Japan.
Passing through downtown Sapporo late at night is interesting. Night time traffic is about 90% taxis (in this shot, 100% though). As was explained to me, this is because it was decided that the subway and buses shall only run until midnight. If they continued on through the night, the taxi companies would not make any money (but of course it would be convenient for every one else).
Free stuff (20061116)
I received my free monitor today. Why they give you a monitor for signing up for Internet access is not entirely clear. I do not really want one, but since it was free I figured I had nothing to loose. Unfortunately, I also received huge amounts of packaging material and other garbage. Getting rid of garbage in Sapporo is a pain... I am thinking of giving this screen away to someone, since I do not really need it. Most of my friends probably have no need for a monitor either, so I have also been thinking of having some sort of competition here on my web page where the price will be the monitor. Considering I have maybe 1 reader or so, this will perhaps not be very exciting. Other suggestions can be sent by mail (address at the bottom of the page).
Help make the world a better place!
Since, as everyone knows, research helps make the world a better place, helping researchers with their research is a GOOD THING. I would like to find collections of jokes or similar types of humor. If you know of any in Japanese, English or Swedish, please send tips by e-mail to j atmark dr-hato dott se. Let us all make the world a better place, for our grand children! Examples of what I would like include one-liners.
Disturbed at work (20061117)
Today a student was sleeping in his space, which is close to mine. Unfortunately for him, I had set my noisy phone to remind me that I had to go home and wait for NTT to come and activate my Internet connection. So he was brusquely woken up by some crazy foreigner.
English help? (20061117)
While waiting for the NTT guys I rummaged around in my pile of instruction books for stuff in my room. I found one in English describing the heating thingamajigs. It appears to be quite simple to understand. It also appears to describe some kind of model that is not present in my room...
The Internet has arrived (more than two week after I moved in... in Sweden you can get it on the same day you tell them you want it). The people installing the stuff had a super small printer and a very very robust laptop. Very cool.
Countryside style (20061117)
After riding a train for two and a half hour I arrived in the town of Mori. The first stop was at the city hall to claim a key opening the road to the forbidden mountain of Koma, but stop two was the more important visit to a restaurant. The toilet facilities looked a little less than comforting when it came to country side style... A hole in the ground with a cover that you lift off.
Sleeping quarters (20061117)
We arrived in the intended base camp late at night. Too late it seemed. The person in charge had gone home a long time ago. By phone we had asked if they could write in an understandable way where we were supposed to stay, but had been assured that this would not be necessary, she would show us when we came. This did not happen. Some rooms were occupied by sleeping Japanese researchers, and seemed to have the names of the occupants written on the door. There was one room with "Exchange student, parent and child" written. My guess was that this was intended for us, though we are more or less the same age and not related as far as I know. At least we are foreigners, and two. So we took this room and one that looked empty. The place is cheap (100 yen per night or so). It looks like the creepy places in Japanese horror movies, very dark and narrow. The toilet is of the "hole in the ground in a cold as outside room"-type. There is something that looks like it was a shower in an earlier life. There are also anime dolls for you to play with, and magazines of questionable kind. But this one is surely for researchers since the half nude girl is showing the interior of space ships. Something for my physics student of a brother perhaps?
The forbidden mountain (20061118)
An early (very) morning getaway (so no sight of the person in charge this time either) saw us reach the mountain. There were quite a few signs saying "Climbing forbidden because of volcanic activity" and such. Also many locked gates. But we had a key, so no problem. The plus five degrees Celsius I was lead to expect did seem unlikely given that most of the mountain was covered in snow. Which would also make finding lots of plant samples slightly more annoying.
The dangers (20061118)
In order: active volcano crater, though only spewing smoke, no lava or cool stuff; cameras checking the volcano area, but probably not only to catch foreigners being in forbidden places; deep fissures, mostly hidden under the snow. There was also strong winds and cold temperatures. But we survived.
The crater (20061118)
The goal (20061118)
The view (20061118)
The luxury (20061118)
Plan for day two, find the Shikabe geyser park. Good signs 9 kilometers away. No signs when closer. Marked in the wrong spot on the map. Much smaller than expected (one normal looking house). Very hard to find. Apart from one geyser also included a foot bath. Being a foreigner allowed me to go about this completely wrong with no nasty comments. Reminded me of the night before, when we went to an onsen (kind of a hot spring spa). I was under the impression I needed to bring only my face towel (the use which is still unclear to me). In fact at this place (and I guess most) you also bring your own soap and similar. So I had to beg some poor old man to give me some of his. A kid also asked me if I might be a foreigner. "I knew it!" he said when I confirmed. Very sharp eyes that kid...
Even in the countryside people have creative solutions when it comes to parking. Did not seem to be that limited when it came to other places to put the cars though. A volcano evacuation warning super loud speaker was also placed next to the photographer in this shot. It started making a very very loud noise. Probably some sort of practice or something, because at least half the people around us did not seem to evacuate at the sound. So neither did we.
Signs of English (20061119)
Vending machines (20061119)
Christmas decorations (20061119)
Wedding preparations (20061119)
Shopping with biologists seems much more fun than shopping with my negative brother. "Are you nuts? Of course you cannot buy that." This time it was more along the lines of: even if you tie this necktie around your head, no one can claim you are not wearing a necktie. Besides, if the ceremony is boring, you can play tic-tac-toe. The wedding preparations are coming along nicely.
Not ice cream (20061121)
Strange customs (20061121)
I had been lead to believe that I would receive my first payment from the scholarship people today. I did not receive any money, though. Luckily, Japan is quite cheap to live in so I am still living quite comfortably on some money I brought with me from Sweden. However, today I was forced (ordered) to buy pizza and give it to some of my "friends". This was some Japanese custom that I was not previously aware of and which was not very clearly explained. The fact that I had already had dinner was irrelevant, and I had no say in what type of pizza. Mainly my job seemed to consist of paying. One thing that is not cheap in Japan is pizza. They are tiny but still three times more expensive than Swedish pizzas. And evidently they are consumed with fancy wine in fancy glasses.
To my great disappointment (but as expected) I noticed that about two kilos of Jonas has gone missing since I came to Japan. To try to protect what precious little Jonas there is left, I acquired large amounts of Calorie rich stuff and turned back home for an energy conserving night in front of the computer (mostly because no one wanted to hang out with me, offering excuses ranging from the plausible (going to visit a friend in another town for four days) to the less flattering (going to study instead, since tomorrow is a holiday)). However, wise from previous experience of Sapporo I have little hope, especially since it is snowing quite a lot tonight. This makes getting around by bicycle akin to going to the gym.
Today was a good day, I got my first payment (for me huge amounts of money) and I got my alien registration card. Back in Sweden I have seen lots of signs with "Aliens not allowed" (usually because of military sensitive stuff being placed there). In Japan I have never seen anything like that, you are just supposed to carry around a card with a picture of yourself looking like a dork. Since this is my normal appearance, this was easily achieved.
Clothing experiments (20061123)
Today I was planning to take a photo of my jacket etc. so my staff of people who tell me what new stuff I must buy for the wedding has something to base their decision on. Note the discreetly shown stack of money. Lesson learned: get better background for this type of pictures, get better (smaller) jacket. Also, jacket and shirt is too hot in my room in Sapporo (really cold) so it will likely be unbearable in Tokyo (really hot).
Swedish and violence (20061125)
Watching trains while naked, a Japanese tradition (20061125)
When the Swedish related things were almost over, I got an e-mail stating: Sapporo station in 40 minutes, be there, bring mini-towel. It was almost impossible to go from Shinkotoni to Sapporo Station by bicycle in 40 minutes, everyone agreed. I accepted the challenge and even managed to pick up my pastel blue (the most manly color they sell here) mini-towel on the way and be there in 30 minutes. Very sweaty but on time. Half the other people arrived 20 minutes late though... Then we went to a hot spring, which means you sit naked outside, this time watching the trains go by. I also ate a hamburger with a mostly raw egg there too. Very Japanese. It is, as far as I understand, impolite to take photos when everyone around you is naked, so the most exciting picture is of the outside. On the side where the naked people are not seen. But I received a very thorough instruction in what you are supposed to use the super small towel for. It is, as suspected, more or less a silly thing.
Abusing the system (20061126)
Everyone seems to pretty much agree that I am too weird to true, but still exist somehow. One Japanese girl has the courage to chat with me over the Internet, but refuses to meet me (frankly, quite a reasonable strategy). The lure of Swedish chocolate is very strong though. But not strong enough to actually meet. So other plans had to be made. So today, by a lucky coincidence I found a box of Swedish chocolate that someone had dropped at Sapporo station, which I of course turned in at the Lost and Found. It turns out that the person who dropped it was my chat acquaintance who could thus later pick it up there, when I had safely left town.
Swedish shopping (20061126)
Okonomiyaki mean roughly fry what you like. You get a heated table and some kind of pancake like stuff filled with squids or whatever strange part of the local fauna you like to eat, and then fry it yourself. Since it is too healthy with some squid and mostly vegetables (and egg and ...) you also add mayonnaise on top. Tasty, but it gets very hot at the table, since it is ... well, hot.
More clothes (20061126)
Today I went shopping for clothes (Japan's number one hobby), mainly with the wedding ceremony in mind. Since I have (apparently) no taste when it comes to clothes either (food is another area), I brought a real Japanese who could tell me if this was totally inappropriate, vaguely inappropriate or OK (usually uninteresting for me). So I bought a pair of shoes and a jacket. I considered buying another jacket for 76,000 yen with cool decorations. It was a very big noo no, though. Too Mafia-like. Might go back and buy it anyway. I liked it. The shoes were also quite nice. I asked for ones that makes you slip easily, which apparently is the opposite of what normal people buy this time of year, though the only surface my non-slip shoes do not slip on is indoors, where I sometimes would like to be able to slide around... But they had a pair for me which are supposed to make you slip very easily. Cheap too. There was also an update form Sweden today, that my favorite shoes, thought to be lost forever in the "Mom mistakenly threw them away thinking they were girly, thus hers, but ugly"-incident. They have been found by chance and are being sent to Japan. Whohoo.
Almost like work (20061127)
Today I spent the morning helping another Swede with understanding dental super computer x-ray related Japanese. My help mostly consisted of "OK, they want us to wait here, which is why they are pointing to this chair" and "they want us to put bags and clothes in this basket here". Then people started saying things like "technical word technical word technical word technical word technical word tooth technical word technical word". "Not understand, sorry". "OK, technical word technical word technical word technical word metal technical word technical word technical word". "OK, I get it". "technical word technical word technical word technical word technical word tooth." "Sorry, no understand again"... "You leave, now", "OK". While waiting outside the super ultra magnetic x-ray room it occurred to me that leaving my computer in there might not have been the best idea ever. Later I returned to the university where I was given a piece of cake in exchange for the promise of checking some English paper later in the week. Back in Sweden I seem to remember people asking me to do such things without offering cake. Maybe I have been seriously missing out?
I am currently hard at work removing unfunny parts from a randomly
collected file with hopefully mostly funny things. Here are some of
things I learned today:
New motto: Live forever or die trying!
New religious idea: Confucious say: if you want pretty nurse, you got to be patient
Lifestyle choice: I'm not into working out. My philosophy is no pain, no pain.
Beaten again, but still pretty (20061127)
Complaints should likely be sent to Jonas. If you would like to have a high resolution copy of one of these images (or some other you suspect I have), please feel free to let me know.