Jonas's travels: Sapporo, December
Atrocious spelling ahead!
Since I use a laptop (weird keyboard layout and really small keys) with Japanese keyboard layout (even weirder than normal), many typing mistakes are made. If you feel the need to impress me with your proof reading skills, feel free to send e-mails to the address printed further down.
Today being a Thursday, I spent most of the day trying to learn Japanese. This did not go very well, but it was fun. First there was the class at the department of engineering at Hokudai, then there was the volunteer course in the house where I live. People keep giving me candy when studying here. I don't know if it is a Japanese custom or if I just have a charming personality. Though considering that it was probably about as charming when I was in Sweden and never received any candy...
The law (20051202)
Student habits (20051202)
Japanese students work habits. Who nows if they work so hard they pass out, or if they have the more relaxed Swedish attitude of "university: a good place to catch up on some sleep after a hard night of partying".
A lot of people were speaking quite loudly in Chinese today. Since I didn't understand what they were saying, I took a photo. I like the "blowing nose and doing the peace sign" photo, but they said they liked the group posing better.
Scrabble update (20051202)
Mochi tsuki taikai (20051203)
Today I learned how to make mochi, which is sticky rice cakes that have almost no taste, but can be eaten with various types of food. You basically pound rice with a large club, and then shape the gooey stuff into cakes.
Movie production? (20051203)
More mochi (20051204)
I have lots of mochi, which I got from the mochi making thing. But I don't have anything to eat with the mochi, or any way to prepare them. Note to self: eating mochi ice cold from the fridge is not tasty.
I was watching some TV today, and for once I understood almost all that was said. Turns out they were speaking Norwegian for 1 hour on some TV show. Unfortunately, the whole show was about a new kind of crab that has moved into Norwegian waters.
The Polish people in Sapporo are incredibly well organized. Every week they have some sort of secret lunch, and this week I was invited. Though my comprehension of Polish lags far behind even my poor Japanese skills, it was still nice.
Today I noticed that the engineering building, which is quite large, contains not only many restaurants and small convenience stores, there is also a barber shop. That is sadly lacking in the building I work in at my Swedish university.
Technical Japanese (20051208)
Too hot (20051209)
Usual Friday (20051209)
This weeks Friday consisted of me being beaten in badminton, eating Taiwanese snacks and winning in Scrabble. This week I broke the 200 points barrier and scored 45 points for a triple word bonus "acquit". But they tell me that next time, for sure, there will be a new champion.
Today I spent some time doing the Japanese number one spare time activity: shopping. These trousers were funny and cheap (and the colors on the back side are even worse). Since my masculinity had been put to the question with regards to the fox strap I have for my phone, I also bought a small switch blade for my phone (actually a key ring, but close enough). Very manly, and cheaper than the fox.
Other clothing (20051210)
On account of it finally being weather that made me feel like home, I went out tonight. Other people were wearing very cool things that made me think the previously mentioned trousers will not be considered very weird... And it turns out that evidently it is considered strange to ride a bicycle in a short sleeved shirt at 5.30 in the morning. Which also may have had something to do with the fact that a snow storm had started by then.
Early mornings (20051211)
This being a Sunday, I was scheduled for some badminton early in the morning. Some additional planning might be needed in the future to avoid the "coming home filled with tobacco smoke and basically going straight to badminton" syndrome.
Sales people (20051211)
People often ask me what my arbaito (part time job) is, do I maybe teach English? Being somewhat on the lazy side, and being from Sweden which is even more expensive than Japan so I consider this place quite cheap, I neither have nor want a job. However, the very cool Christmas uniforms may get me to reconsider.
Treasure find (20051211)
I was trying out my 300 yen leather jacket, since the weather is a bit wintry and I have a long way to go on bicycle each day. I found a 100 yen coin in one of the pockets, so the jacket was not an expensive 300 yen jacket but in fact a quite cheap 200 yen jacket.
Japanese clothes (20051212)
On one (of quite a few) traditional "drink yourself unconscious" holidays in Sweden, there was a quite unrelated party here too. In traditional Japanese style it consisted of large amounts of food for very little money, and the for a Swede unbelievable two hour free drinking for almost no money at all. This was followed by two more hours of free drinking at another place, but I fell into my habitual way of going home and sit in front of my computer instead.
Good luck (20051215)
Christmas gift (20051216)
Tonight the traditional Scrabble game was unusually close, with me lagging behind most of the evening. I claim the initial draw of crappy letters was partly to blame. In the end I got a lucky twin double word combination with a double letter "k" which pushed me to the top and there was still no change of champion.
Today it was snowing. This makes going by bicycle more of a physical exercise than usual. I don't know if I should be glad for this or not. Some people here in the building keep mentioning that if you (as I do) always eat at restaurants, you will more or less swell up like a blimp, which is not good. But I'm sure they mean it in a kind way...
International dance party (20051217)
Today there was an international dance party in my building. It consisted of free food and drinks, impressive shows of different dances and a chance to try out some dances. Once again I passed the Bon Odori test of not knocking anyone else unconscious, and once again I was mostly doing something else when the rest of the room was dancing salsa. To quote one of the kind people from my building: "Has Jonas started on some new dance already? That isn't even close to what we're supposed to do, right?". Some people here are almost as cold hearted as my friends back home. There were a lot of people that I had met before at various unrelated events here. So now, more or less everyone I know around here know I suck at dancing. Everyone also had their picture taking with the smallest and cutest of the dancers, and so did I. Despite there not being a single Swedish flag to be seen, I ended up in the "sorting and other boring things" of flags group.
Japanese night life (20051217)
Tonight I met an Australian musician who does work for the Swedish technical flag ship Ericsson, ate chicken buritos, wore some weird head gear (mandatory, they told me) and did other (in Japan) normal things. I also got delayed by about 90 minutes on my way home, by trying to help a guy home who didn't want to go home, didn't remember his own address (nor did anyone else know it), and couldn't walk by himself. This involved fending of drunk Canadians who wanted to take him drinking even more (though plainly he had had enough), being nearly strangled (by this quite strong and heavy guy), requesting and getting help from some very kind Japanese passerbys, borrowing a sled and finding the mobile phone with a home number. It also involved slipping on ice and falling several times, balancing three times your normal weight is harder than walking by yourself. Although I had canceled the early badminton game, I still got very little sleep, since the reason it was canceled was an early party. Coming home at 6 doesn't suit me, I guess. Luckily, tomorrow is a work day, so I can get some rest.
Technical Japanese party (20051218)
Today there was a party with Nepalese songs, Japanese songs, enormous amounts of food and origami. I made a crane and a cube. We also learned that it is important to get similar sounding vowels correct in Japanese, least you present yourself as a 娼婦 (shoufu, prostitute) instead of a 主婦 (shufu, housewife).
Fan mail? (20051219)
Today I found an envelope in my mailbox. It contained no information as to who it was from, but it contained three nice photos. A general theme in content can be discerned by careful study... Well, at least I seem to have won the "most colorful pants" competition at the dance party. If I received unsigned mail with photos of myself back home in Sweden I might believe I had my first stalker (just in time for my imminent TV debut too!). Unfortunately, since I was very much present when these photos were taken, I think I know who they are from, so I will still have to wait a little bit more for my first psychotic fan. Actually, I might already have plenty of stalker mail back in my mailbox in Stockholm, I guess.
Health food (20051220)
Picture party (20051221)
Today I was seduced by the lure of free food and tea and went to the last counseling meeting of the year. It was quite nice, we were drawing pictures of the past year and the year to come and then telling the other ten or so people what in the world the pictures were supposed to show. Well, at least thats what my limited drawing ability made me do. Many other people drew quite well.
Christmas package (20051222)
More midnight madness, or at least Scrabble (20051222)
Whilst reading the excellent description of what eating natto is like (and other interesting food stories), I got a phone call. The title of Scrabble champion was at stake. The outcome lead to a total lack of surprise for many of the involved. There were also interesting reactions to Swedish candy and other things.
Emperors birthday (20051223)
Today is a national holiday, the Emperors birthday. I celebrated by playing badminton, being beaten in table tennis and shopping. I've been informed that the Christmas party the day after tomorrow is a dress up event. Seeing as how my cold hearted "friends" called me a Don Johnson wannabe last time I put on a jacket, I decided to get a shirt. Getting a shirt matching the weird trousers turned out to be somewhat problematic though. But I bought a nice scarf. Today I noticed that not only Japanese women wear short clothes with regards to the legs, it is evidently ok for men too. Though apparently not at our party, they tell me...
Phone functions (20051223)
I think I may have found most functions in my phone so far. This far I have: a phone; e-mail; 2 megapixel camera with optical zoom (can of course also shoot movies); twistable upper half, if you want to take pictures of yourself; voice recorder; e-book reader; Internet capability, web surfing etc.; built in TV and radio (can record and do frame capture); watch (with alarms, timer, stop watch etc.); calendar; barcode scanner; text scanner; compass (3D); some sort of IR capability; music player; calculator; shake counter; a pen light; note pad tool; games; slot for memory cards. Well, this is all I've found so far, I think.
Today I and a friend went to a nearby newly opened Little Spoon restaurant. When leaving everyone got to draw a bead from a contraption. I got a green bead and my friend a white. White meant he got a spicy rice cracker (also on sale for 50 yen). Green meant I got a lunch box. This may not be the best thing that has happened to me so far (considering I have basically no use for a lunch box when I always go to restaurants), but I guess I can always give it as a Christmas present to my brother or something.
Having now seen some of the cooking that is going on in this building I stand fast in my decision to always frequent restaurants.
Today was Christmas eve, which started with a few hours of not finding a bug in my computer program, followed by four hours of Japanese lessons. After this I ended up in a very nice restaurant, with an excellent view, good (and of course cheap, since this is Japan) food and with excellent company from the same Japanese course. And then I ran in to a Korean friend from the same course. Some somewhat cold slipping in the snow covered park followed.
Upon coming back I found a kitchen party. It consisted of staging photos for someones new camera, eating Swedish cookies, banging your head against a wall after eating Swedish "strange tasting" candy, dancing to Maria Carey songs, listening to violin music and looking at photos (for instance of people with cat style make up).
Christmas dinner (20051225)
Today I woke up too early, fixed a bug in one of my computer programs and played badminton, all before I found my camera. Then it was time for dinner. There was nice piano playing, food (such as the cheese fondue that is being eaten with a spoon in one picture), company and view.
Strange clothing (20051225)
To my great delight I found out that I was not the only one wearing clothes that made other people say "what in the world is wrong with you" (well that was at least the meaning, I believe, my Japanese is still sadly lacking in strength). There was a nice heavy snow fall to cool you down after having been indoors in the surprisingly hot Japanese buildings. Before coming here people told me it would be freezing cold inside, so far I have only found one such place.
The killing of Swedish songs (20051225)
Many Japanese like karaoke, so we ended up in a karaoke room with some acquaintances. The two first pictures show the most entertaining performer of the night and the best singer of the night (about two seconds before the entertainer, in the background, assaults her with some more snow, which was more or less needed for the photo, since too much snow had been removed already before the camera was procured from the protective depths of clothing it was nestled in). Since I can't sing without causing more or less bodily harm to other people, this is not one of my greatest hobbies. It doesn't help that everyone (except two people I know in Sweden) I know sings very well. An interesting trend emerged tonight: after I "sang" a Swedish song, some people said, "well, I have to leave now, there is a TV program I would rather see". After my second appearance, everyone went home... To make the trend more apparent, one can consider these quotes from people leaving early: "Well, Tabuchi san, this was nice, let's do this again. Maybe at New Years". "Well, Jonas, let's do something else next (unspecified, though to be fair, I will be in the Kanto area instead for New Years) time". Hmm... Maybe next (if there ever is one) time I should follow my instincts and do what some of the other (though only guys) did, shut up the whole evening. At least karaoke places provide magazines of varying quality (though none in a language I can read) and live fishes to watch.
Despite December 26 being a public holiday in Sweden, I spent the day at the university. This was the day I had promised to come and pose in my Japanese pants so a colleague could take pictures of what normal Swedes look like. With impeccable timing, this day also later turned into the day of the personal meeting discussing important matters with my professor. As icing on the cake, riding a bicycle in these pants turned out to be quite chilly today. Though of course some people are always trying to be worse, like the guys setting up a tent in agricultural departments experimental field in the middle of the snow storm today.
The first step to fulfilling my dream of not having to do any real work (though it has been said that that would not be much different from the current situation) and instead living on fame alone, has now been taken (I am not adverse to marrying money either, so if you are rich and interested in a lazy husband, let me know. Being a woman, and beautiful, a big plus in ranking of applicants). I received a bunch of copies of the newspaper I was interviewed by. So soon the fan mail (don't forget to include cash, right!) will start pouring in, I guess.
Chinese recommendations (20051228)
Today I went to a restaurant that a friend had recommended. A friend of this friend plays music there. The food is also good, though the price is high for Japan (though still not expensive compared to back home). The problem is getting there, since there was a snow storm today. This means that there was about half a meter of snow on the road, since nobody seems to be interested in removing it. Going there by bicycle was maybe not my smartest decision yet, though it was certainly good exercise.
Today I was bored, so I went and took a "before" and "after" picture in a Japanese hair salon (which interestingly enough is pronounced almost the same way as hospital). Then I bought a pair of shoes for very little money. This was caused by my previous shoes more or less disintegrating during todays bicycle ride in the snow storm.
Evening activities (20051228)
This evening being a Wednesday, I played some badminton. The game was interrupted by huge amounts of free sushi, which was very nice (despite me eating some natto sushi more or less by mistake). The badminton game then continued with four more players, which was fun, but painful. The plans for going to the most dangerous part of town (at least as far as I've heard) were canceled in favor of a Scrabble game. It turned out to be very tense, with a 6 point only win for team Sweden. Actually, Japan would have won if Taiwan had played as they should, everyone agrees, haha.
Noticing a sad lack of breadlike photos lately, I promptly went and bought some lunch of the almost bread category. While the croquette filled sandwich was something of a surprise, the taste was pretty normal. The tuna filled sweet cake was more of the "exotic" kind.
I spend my days either trying to ride my bicycle, which is like going to the gym (i.e. not something I enjoy), or walking, which is a bit like ice skating in my shoes (i.e. quite fun). Why don't I get this kind of service? (OK, so this sled might be a little small for me, but still...)
Snowball fight (20051229)
Today at one o'clock (the scheduled time) three guys gathered for a snowball fight. On account of the rest of the participants being girls, the fight was delayed about twenty minutes. Todays learning experience: hiding in a phone booth doesn't help. There was also some posing for photos before the fight, after the fight and whilst trying to brush of snow from clothing. When searching for clothes not filled with snow in my room I met a pigeon, which is always nice.
King of cooking (20051230)
Today I went to Chiba to spend New Years with a family I know. I learned how to make gyoza, the left half is made by me. This brings up the interesting point that by continuously eating at restaurants (since it is so cheap in Japan), I have lost a lot of weight. The natural conclusion seems to be that I am an expert cook, resulting in too tasty food and weight gain when I am cooking at home in Sweden.
Too hot, as usual (20051230)
Japanese culture (20051231)
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.