Return to Sapporo, February 2007
Infor mative (20070201)
Chicken in a basket (20070202)
To prepare for my first seminar this time around (I managed to use the word fucking at least six times in English and a few times in Japanese), I ordered "Chicken in a basket" at the most expensive restaurant of the whole campus. It is indeed chicken. In a basket.
Nattou Snacks (20070202)
Nattou (beans gone really really bad, or "fermented" as Japanese always quickly correct you) is good for you, everyone says so. So there are shampoo with nattou, skin creams with nattou etc. This is snacks with nattou. Since it look like you will turn into a cool ninja in a pink mini skirt, I figured why not? Does not taste like nattou. Actually, tastes quite OK.
Drinking problems (20070202)
We went drinking today, to wait for the place with food to get an opening. I never know what to drink, but today I tried something that, like nattou, is reportedly good for you. It is some kind of fruit and soy milk mix. Not bad.
Maid Izakaya (20070202)
We went to a "maid izakaya", which is like a normal izakaya (bar and restaurant, usually without chairs but pillows on the floor) except no one over 25 can work there and all the staff wear French maid outfits. Unfortunately, taking pictures was prohibited. You could have a Polaroid taken with some of the girls if you paid money enough for a dinner for two, though. The food was what is called "normal" in Japan (i.e. somewhat strange), as was the toilet (i.e. also strange).
After the maid izakaya, it was considered a good idea to go to a kosupure (costume play, i.e. wearing naught clothes) store to look for a maid outfit for me. There is a "wear girls clothing and look cute" competition on Sunday. Surprisingly enough, getting into a maid outfit skirt was no problem. Apron is also fine. The top part of the skirt is very very small though, and my chest is way too big for Japanese girl sizes (despite not being of the bra-wearing sex). But I look very cute in a maid outfit, I was told. I also look very cute with only the apron, but since it barely reaches my belts, I am thinking it is too short for me... It will probably be very cold to walk around a whole day in only that.
More English (20070203)
When going a few miles on bicycle today, there was a snow storm, lots of unremoved snow, very slippery and generally not very nice. To top it off, my brakes had frozen stuck, so I rode with more or less full break power applied most of the way. Good for exercises, bad for making good time.
Embarrassing but profitable "customs" (20070204)
Today I was told I had to wear women's clothes. There were two explanations, one was that "this is a Japanese tradition, all men do on February 4th." Strangely enough, I must have met only foreigners today, since I was pretty much the only guy I saw in this type of clothes. The other explanation was that "there is the house festival, we have a transvestite competition; if you do not participate, you are no longer welcome to this house and all friendships are off". So I borrowed stockings, a bra and lots of jewelry. I also bought an apron that came with cat ears, which everyone wears because it is cute. Wearing only the apron was suggested, but since it only covers the front (barely), I passed. After some excellent help with the make-up, I became the cutest in the whole building. I was told I was very "cute" and that it "suited me very well"... probably not a good thing since I am not a girl. At least I had my photo taken together with half of Sapporo, and was filmed by a TV crew.
Time killing entertainment (20070204)
The other contestants were not ready on time, so I was forced to entertain the audience by myself. I did a repeat of last years show, i.e. how to beat the crap out of people. Here I am showing how to smash the throat of someone who touches your breasts at the wrong time, thus throwing them away.
The competition (20070204)
These are the contestants and the first price, which of course was given to me. A hot plate for yakiniku and other things is of course an excellent thing to have. I never cook myself in this country though, but when I move back to Sweden it will come in handy. Extra plus for the fact that our lab's secretary came to see me, saw me, took a picture and quickly sent it to our professor. Great for my reputation I am sure. And people were complaining already at my Friday seminar presentation because I used the English and Japanese words "fuck" and "fucking" (in Japanese: "fakku") many many times during my speech.
Team Sweden (20070204)
Together with the Swedish girl, we are unbeatable. We must have had our picture taken with over 50 people.
The after party (20070204)
For the party after the house festival, I decided to go for a more discreet look. With pants (and finally out of the painfully tight high hell shoes), the cat ears and a cute t-shirt, people would still not stop touching my breasts. Even without bra and stuffing, I had a bigger chest than most girls at the party.
New make-over (20070204)
Before going home, some people figured, why not do one more make-over? So I was turned into something they thought was in the style of Mary Poppins in the 50-ies (?) or possibly a current old lady style. Mostly this gave of a "creepy" feeling, not a big hit.
Ice festival preparations (20070204)
Tomorrow is the first day of the ice festival and the snow festival.
Why not (20070204)
Vasaloppet, again (20070208)
Snow festival (20070210)
Cold feet (20070210)
A pun! (20070210)
The snow festival also has a returning pun. It is the "smocar", which is a car for smokers. An actual pun, by Japanese, vaguely related to English (though probably mostly by chance). The Japanese "smoukaa" means smoker, and "smouk" means smoke and "kaa" means car.
Ice festival (20070210)
Japanese people often tell you you are good at stuff, probably to be polite though it seems weird to you when people more or less tell you things like "oh, you can eat without help, so good!". Well, yeah, most grownups can? So many foreigners apparently see it as insulting that Japanese have so low expectations on you that they feel it is appropriate to comment. "You can eat beans? Wonderful." Yeah, it is difficult but I mastered the basics... One thing I usually classed as this kind of comment was "Oh, you can use chop sticks!??" But I have now done a survey and found that 75% of the Swedes I know live in Sapporo use them as either garden scissors, a knife or in generally weird ways. So maybe it is actually surprising that I can more or less fake it (if no one looks too closely).
A great car (20070212)
Sweden hills (20070212)
Today we went 4 crazy Swedes (by now it has been confirmed, not even one is even close to normal) to Sweden hills. A place where all houses are built in "Swedish" style, are painted red with white corners etc. Very surreal. Also closed on holidays, such as today. They have a nice Italian restaurant though.
Fit right in (20070212)
The benefits of garbage (20070212)
Today we returned to Moerenuma, an old garbage dump converted into a huge art project. It is also a good place for sleigh riding in the winter. But you get lots of snow inside your pants and ice in your hair. Still fun, though. The stuff that looks like dirt on the lens are the people who are too chicken to ride from the top and only ride the last 30 meters.
Valentines day (20070214)
In Japan, Valentines day is celebrated in more or less the opposite way to the rest of the world. Here women are required to give chocolate to their colleagues (called "duty chocolate") and can optionally proclaim their love for some special man by giving him chocolate of the non-duty type. No one seems to like me that much, and most people I know who could be in the duty category are foreigners (so they would if anything expect to receive chocolate), so I did not receive very much. In fact, one Japanese woman tried to convince me that the Japanese custom has changed since last year, and in fact I was supposed to hand out chocolate, but not even I am that gullible (see below). One student kindly put forth a box of chocolate for everyone in the lab, and our secretary offered expensive French sounding cakes to everyone that showed up for English practice. I also got a box of chocolate from a girl I have been teaching Swedish to. Unfortunately, this too was proclaimed to be giri-choko... The good part is that the rules are that you have to return the gift on howaito dee (white day, March 14), which in my case will be cheap, since there are so few people to hand out stuff to! Of course, I am super rich anyway, and have many kilos of Swedish chocolate filling up my room, but I still try to see it as a positive thing.
On a vaguely related note, I was coached by a female acquaintance who thought it was a laughably small pile of chocolate. The faults with me seem to be (many, but for instance) partly that I am honest. Women may claim to believe this to be good, but it is not true, so I should stop this and lie more. Especially about stuff other people find important. Also, I should stop believing that people in general and women in particular say what they mean, or even mean what they say. Evidently, they normally do not but instead say tactically sly things to hedge their bets. So if I just lie more, stop believing what people say to me, I might stand a chance, since I am rich (by Japanese standards at least). Of course, she has told me she sees it as a challenge to get me deported from Japan, so trusting her in all things may not be such a smart move.
Bicycle problem 1 (20070214)
Bicycle problem 2 (20070215)
Today we had a graduation party for the students who are leaving the lab. As usual, Japanese houses turned out to have low ceilings. After going home by bicycle at 3 in the morning, getting up to meet my brother in the morning was not so great.
Genghis Khan (20070221)
Japan, where everything is opposite (20070221)
In Japan, everything seems to be opposite to back home, people drive on the opposite side of the street, sentence structure is more or less the opposite of Swedish, people never laugh when they think jokes are funny, only when they are bad, etc. And the elbows bend the wrong way.
Reverse moon (20070222)
What my brother does in Sapporo (20070223)
Since my brother has a cold, he spends most of his time in Sapporo sleeping. At least this might explain why my friends here think he is so normal and I am so weird. I actually go outside and try to have fun. Normal people only go outside to work.
Sweden party (20070223)
Tonight there was a party where everyone except one person could speak Swedish. In total, over 10 people were there. There were some photo shows (mine was of course the funniest, despite the lack of exciting pictures of moss...). Again, everyone seemed to think my brother was a fine young man, and that I am a weird monster or so. I should stop showing my brother to other people. And he keeps bad-mouthing me too!
Valentine's chocolate (20070223)
Today I also received Valentine's chocolate, from someone who is raised with a tradition where women receive chocolate (and evidently has a very vague idea of what day Valentine is). A loaf of chocolate.
Making your ass colorful (20070224)
Today we went snow-boarding. Since both me and my brother suck at snow-boarding (this is not surprising, since it was the second time for both of us), we kept falling to the amusement of all the snotty little kids swoshing by. Once I fell at high speed and landed badly on a spike of ice, which made my ass very colorful.
We met up with some of my friends at a Chinese restaurant (a friend from Taiwan was praised for her nice pronunciation of Chinese, which is a mixed compliment for a native speaker I guess...). Everyone kept talking about how good my brother's Japanese is and how normal he seems, unlike some other people present that just kept eating the pepper fruits.
Today four brave Swedes rented a car and went to Jozankei. This is a tiny village where you can go to take a shower and a bath. In hot water. This is fairly unspectacular, but seems popular with the Japanese. They also have statues of "Kappa", which I am told is a turtle like mythological creature. When your little sister drowns, your parents will tell you she "married the Kappa and is living happily in the water". In Sweden we have another mythological creature that drowns people in rivers, whose name can be loosely translated as "the nude guy". He is, unsurprisingly, nude. And plays the fiddle.
Since it is the thing to do in Jozankei, we took a bath. You go inside to remove your clothes, then you go out naked and sit in a pool outside, in the snow. The water is too hot though, so you get tired. I was not allowed to take pictures, so I took a picture of a picture that someone else had taken. The two funny things about taking a bath was that since my ass is purple from the snow-board accident, people were staring a lot, and I met a friend from Sapporo by chance while walking around naked.
This is strangely enough the remote control for a toilet. So if you want it to spray water on your ass or to change the temperature of the seat, you do not have to reach all the way to the toilet. Why you would ever want to do that when the toilet is not in reach was not explained...
More accidents (20070225)
We continued on to a deserted ski slope. There was an old man working there but no other people in sight (rare, in Japan). We asked if this was the place where you could rent sleighs, and it was. He told us that they only had sleighs in kid's sizes, since they were for kids. Since we had a kid along, we said "yeah, we know, we have a kid with us". Then we borrowed two sleighs, one for me and one for my brother, the kid had to go on her skis. My camera got filled with snow when I tried to record a movie of our adventures in the sleighs, so all photos for the next hours were very blurry.
Nice English (20070225)
Unfitting shirt (20070226)
Swedish party (20070228)
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.