Jonas's travels: Sapporo, February
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.
Scrabble continued (20060201)
Today there was Scrabble again, so I am now 27 times champion, despite not making a very strong showing in either of the two games. It was also decided that for next time, we should look for someone who has a mahjong game or similar...
At lunch some sort of natto based food was ordered. Not for me though. I later decided to try out the Japanese hamburger restaurant Mos Burger. This I am told is the second best (of many) chain. In Sweden, this kind of food is quite cheap, but there is a reason no one pays a lot of money for it... Experience i Japan: slower service (in Sweden you normally have your food within one minute) but they bring the food to your table; somewhat surprised (but not unhappy) to find miitou sousu on my hamburger; they allow smoking in the restaurant in Japan; surprisingly enough, Swedish fries are a lot more salty than Japanese ones.
Preparations for the snow festival has started. If I remember correctly, I am supposed to go there with no shirt, but "I belong to Miyuki-chan" written in lipstick on my chest. I am somewhat sceptical to this idea, though.
Food food and food (20060203)
Today I was shown how pasta should be made. There was also some sort of traditional enormous sushi-roll-like thing, that they tell me is supposed to be eaten in a speed eating competition while facing a wall (unclear as to why). I came in second, but I blame taking many pictures in the start, thus losing valuable eating time. Tomorrow will most likely also be a day of food, since there are at least two parties with free food in my calendar for tomorrow.
Food and culture (20060204)
Today I went to a nice party, where you could make your own traditional food (my first onigiri), learn origami (my first whale), make traditional tea the traditional way (my first macha making experience), write with a big brush (my first pigeon), dress in kimono (I didn't) or make flower arrangements (didn't do this either). As usual, I ate too much. Some friends wanted to make onigiri, but didn't want to eat them, so I graciously volunteered.
More culture (20060204)
On they way home, this poster could be seen amongst posters showing different aspects of Japanese culture. I had no idea what these people are doing, but it has now been explained to me that this is something you do when it is really cold, using really cold water. The point is to show how much of a man you are, or some such.
More food and culture (20060204)
Once back home, it was time for another party. There was plenty of food. I also won coffee in a bingo game (though I don't drink coffee unless I really really have to). There was also singing of traditional songs from various countries, trumpets and flutes being played and salsa being danced.
And more food (20060204)
Since there was too much food at the party, everyone could take more or less as much as they could carry and bring with them. Since I live one floor above the party place, I received quite large amounts of stuff. One pack of wine, some tea and juice, twenty mikan, about 60 pieces of sushi and other things. So I arranged to get the help of four other willing eaters to finish this off, but it failed. There is still slightly over 20 pieces of sushi left.
I spent some time at the snow festival today. I took about 300 pictures...
and food (20060205)
Having about 25 pieces of sushi still left, I was thinking it would be a good chance to even up the score at least a little bit with these people that keep giving me food and getting nothing in return (except my charming company of course). The plan back fired as usual, and I ended up eating lots of other peoples food and reading some funny English.
and ice (20060205)
Snow again (20060206)
Ice again (20060206-07)
And of course I passed the ice festival again, and again.
Food again (20060208)
And some more snow (20060209)
More snow festivals (20060211)
With a refreshing four hours of sleep after the poker game, it was time to go to a snow festival again. This time accompanied by Japanese people guiding Americans around. Also, about half the population of Japan seemed to have gone to the same place. There was a large slide you could ride. Under the condition that you were willing to wait four hours in a very very cold wind. Which we were not, so we departed quite quickly.
Ice cream (20060211)
Weird Japanese candy (20060211)
Wakasagi fishing (20060212)
Today was the day to try wakasagi fishing, which means you sit on top of the lake, on the ice, trying to catch fish through a small hole. People also do this back home, though I had never tried it before. Because of a snow storm and cold weather (not the amusingly large amounts of snow stuck in the hair of the guy in the first picture) this was not as pleasant as expected. All tents were already rented. Some people said that we could probably stand to do some fishing without a tent. The same person the quickly disappeared and hid in the tent of a nice veteran, who also offered some soup, while the rest of us did the actual fishing. After about thirty minutes, a small fish was caught, and we gave up and went to an onsen instead.
Army flash back (20060212)
On account of the driver not seeing where the road was anymore (snow storm, about two meters of not very clear sight) there was a stop in the middle of the road, waiting for better weather. Since none seemed forthcoming, I did the job of running in front of the car, showing where the road was and waving my arms like crazy when oncoming traffic (who also couldn't see anything) or other waiting cars showed up. This gave rise to quite a lot of ice on my face and hair, though a lot had melted when I finally dug out my camera from the snow protected space it was hiding in. Army training in northern Sweden also contained quite a bit of leading vehicles around in large amounts of snow.
The original plan called for making tempura (drowning food, in this case fish, in boiling oil) of the enormous catch. Having caught relatively small amounts of fish (first photo only) it didn't seem to be enough for seven people. We made tempura of lots of other stuff too, to make up for this. The shrimps were a lot crunchier than expected from precious experiences, but according to the cooking chief this is how it is supposed to be... I too joined in the cooking and had my face splattered with boiling oil when some vegetables exploded. This gave rise to red spots on my face, which were "funny". It was also a bit painful. No one took pictures though... Japanese customs are different from back home.
Lucky in love? (20060212)
We rounded of the night with card games, here a game where it is good to have high cards. According to the adage "lucky in love, unlucky in cards", I should have quite some love coming my way in the near future...
Home sick (20060213)
A neighbor managed to damage his leg when playing ping pong (a notoriously dangerous sport...). This gives rise to fond memories of the fencing I used to do in Sweden. Those were some good times. Here you also get the benefit of women running to your room, calling you offering donuts and crazy Swedes taking pictures (though this is the same as in Sweden) when you get hurt. Though these cold hearted women seem to be mostly laughing at the injured party (which of course also reminds me of home).
Valentine preparations (20060213)
In Japan, as opposed to basically the rest of the world, on Valentines day, women give chocolate or cakes to men. To boyfriends and the like, but also to all men at work and so on. This is the preparations made by one of my neighbors. Having neither a job nor a girlfriend at the moment, it seems likely I will receive very little. Though I think the benefits of not having to work outweighs the not receiving cakes stuff. Also, men are supposed to return the favor one month later.
Red, the color of... (20060214)
Today saw the first shedding of blood related to my fencing practice in Japan, which was certainly about time. Of course, it was my blood, but a very tiny amount. Not really enough to make me feel like in the good old days. Nothing says "manly" more than getting beaten up buy small Japanese girls and whining about almost invisible amounts of blood (as a side note, no one showed up with food in my room when I got hurt... see above for comparisons to other people).
S:t Valentine, the old bastard (20060214)
Today was Valentines day. The Japanese are as in so many other areas completely weird compared to other parts of the world. As mentioned, girls give chocolate or cakes to boys, which seems like a fine if somewhat unexpected tradition (since I am on the receiving end). It was however explained to me today that the expectation is that on March 14 boys return the favor tenfold, so it is more of a one month 1000% investment from the girls... It still looked like I could get away cheaply for long parts of the day, since I even ended up cooking my own food (first picture, quite appalling). I then received some things, even from another boy if I understood correctly (always unlikely though)... It might turn out to be an expensive March, though I still have hopes for playing out the "but I am in Tokyo that day" card.
Free food (20060217)>
Today there was a party for new exchange students and exchange students who are finishing up. There was the normal endless parade of speeches followed by free food. Since it was both my welcome and farewell party at the same time, I felt I should probably eat twice as much as other people. This worked so-so. There were quite a few people from my lab, and more than fifteen from my student house (two of which stole most of the cakes I had managed to gather before the hungry hordes attacked the cake collection).
Giving Sweden a bad reputation (20060218)
Today I spent about one and a half hour talking about Sweden in Japanese. Most things I tried to say were probably true. People seemed to be quite happy, despite me giving out liquorice, infamous among Japanese acquaintances as the most horrible food-like substance in existence. People even asked for more after the presentation.
More snow related festivals (20060218)
After my bad mouthing Sweden and insulting the proper pronunciation of Japanese, I went to Otaru to watch snow lanterns. It was quite nice, but too cold for some in the company, so we only watched about half of the festival.
The same woman then wanted to have something sweet to eat, and luckily I had received some Japanese sweet things after my presentation earlier. Why there are flowers and leaves on the cakes, I don't know, but you are supposed to eat them.
More free food (20060219)
Today I once again had to get up early in the morning, since my regular Sunday business had to take place before a somewhat long symposium regarding foreigners in Sapporo. At the end, there was free food, including meat balls, the Swedish specialty (though these did not taste like the ones in Sweden).
While shopping for clothes for my fencing presentation, I ran across a sign in Swedish. The same message as in Harajuku, and the clothes being sold are also similar. Maybe there is something in this Swedish message that I don't understand, because to me it seems completely unrelated to selling clothes and restaurants.
There was a store selling licorice, which some of my Japanese acquaintances think is possibly the most disgusting thing on earth (though it is quite popular in Sweden). The candy here was about four times more expensive than candy is where I lived in Sweden though. This is surprising, since most things are cheaper in Japan than back home.
Today was relatively unspectacular, photowise. I held a presentation about Swedish in Japanese at the university, played badminton with hordes of Chinese people and waited (and waited and waited) for a late student of European martial arts, for some preparations for the house festival. I ended up eating this bread for dinner.
House festival (20060226)
Today was the house festival. I had some pictures from my presentation of Sweden printed and put on a wall. Nearby there was a presentation of Finland, which was way more ambitious and included (ammoniac based) candy and bread. So Finland may have won the poster presentation today, but Sweden won the ice hockey final... Apart from this there were many interesting things do eat and see at the festival, such as a crazy Swedish guy flying through the air and hurting himself on the stage (most spectacular entrance award goes to me, though). There was also yosakoi dancing, Finnish trumpet music, Taiwanese singing, mochi making, tea ceremonies, origami, and many many more things to do.
After the festival, there was a party. I was interviewed in front of everyone, in Japanese. Always fun to make the foreigners embarrass themselves, I guess. There was also two live sushi chefs and the usual huge amounts of food and a bingo game (I had no luck what so ever though). There was also free alcohol, which made some people change the color of their faces.
The second party (20060226)
Since there was still time and food left, we continued with one more party a few floors above. More food, more alcohol and a lot of card games. I also received some rice, in a sort of girly shape, since I have an empty fridge and no one else could fit more rice in their fridges. There evidently is such a thing as too much free food. But there does not seem to be such a thing as too many tea leaves when making tea...
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.