Jonas's travels: Sapporo, March
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.
Since someone was waxing the floors today, there was a towel in the elevator. Presumably to wipe your shoes, so as not to destroy the hard work with dirty foot prints (there was a sign with unfathomable explanations in Japanese that I did not read). A somewhat unexpected image on the towel, though not particularly unexpected in Japan maybe.
Eating utensils (20060301)
Something I am sometimes thinking about is why restaurants can never provide knives. If you ask for knife and fork (as my dinner company did today) they are more than happy to provide you with spoon and fork. No knives though. Why? There must be a knife in the restaurant, I guess.
Bulgarian traditions (20060301)
Today I received a Bulgarian good luck charm of sorts. It is traditionally given to other people on March first. Then you wear it until you see a tree blossoming, then you tie it to the tree (at least that is how it was explained to me). I also received one of these in an e-mail today. My Bulgarian connections seem strong.
Party party (20060303)
Today there was a farewell party for people leaving our lab in the near future. Everyone leaving had to make a speech (including me). There was as usual lots and lots of food. For instance the quite raw beef. The place also had a somewhat surprising (for university business, not for being in Japan) sign ("snack" in Japan has a different meaning from what I learned in English class back home). After this I had been invited to another (smaller) party with some other people.
Japanese traditions (20060305)
Surprising people who think I never do anything serious (who are quite many), I spent the day cleaning and doing some Japanese studies (ok, so this one require a very generous definition of studies, but anyway...).
To compensate my seriousness, I spent the whole night more or less in the red light district. True to form, my ears are now ringing, I am quite tired, I have blisters on my feet and my right knee is busted. I'm beginning to think I should change my way of dancing. Especially the knee tends to be troublesome. As can be seen in the photos, not only where the people I barely know, who I was out with tonight, there. Also a previously encountered guy who cooks excellent Vietnamese curry was there. The last photo shows what people do after going out, i.e. waiting for the subway. It stops when people start to go out (at twelve), so no one can get home before a quarter past six, when the first train leaves. It has been explained to me that the reason for this is so that taxi companies can make more money...
I was offered a free dinner today (free in the sense that I had to help preparing it and doing most of the dishes, but anyway). Not being one to say no to free food, and having a busted knee making walking to a restaurant sort of unappealing, I accepted. It turned out to be Japanese food, in the sense of natto (fermented beans that for unknown reasons are considered food). Most normal people think natto is disgusting, for the simple reason that it is disgusting. It looks disgusting, smells disgusting and tastes disgusting. This I already knew. I also learned that it gives rise to a quite disgusting feeling in your mouth when eating it, and it sticks to various parts of you and other things in the vicinity. It turns out though, that either I lucked out by having my cold worsen through the all night dancing, or the smell was less than expected. The smell is bad, but very mild. The taste is also bad, but there is almost no taste at all, so it is not a big problem. There is however no escaping the fact that it looks disgusting (even my camera wouldn't look sharply at the darned things) and that it feels bad in your mouth. And it sticks to everything. All in all, not a bad dinner.
Today I noticed that they are selling licorice just around the corner from where I live. OK, so it's a German version which is likely less tasty than Swedish (or even Finish, which was offered by a Finish exchange student here) licorice. But still. In Japan. Huh.
Having trashed my latest bicycle too, I was allowed to borrow an excellent bicycle from a friend who thinks the weather is too bad for bicycler riding. It turns out to contain a grain of truth, since you get enormously dirty by riding this bike in this weather. I even had large amounts of sand in my hair when I came to the university.
Curry party (20060311)
Based on the success of the previous Indian curry event, another one was organized. Very nice. I increased my reputation as the unbelievably strange foreigner from a faraway land by eating some read thing which was supposed to be very spicy.
White day (20060314)
Today was white day, the payback day for Valentine's. I solved my problem by running away to a conference in Yokohama. To be on the safe side I deposited two boxes of chocolate to be handed out by the lobby staff to suitable people.
Three men and a little bed (20060314)
The first night in Yokohama saw me and two, after a quite long party somewhat drunk, Polish guys sharing a room in a hotel which at least was close to the conference place. There was however more or less just one bed (and no room for anymore), and freezingly cold. When it was explained that by sleeping without clothes tightly together is a good way to keep warm and one person turns on the air conditioning, making it unbelievably cold, I started to think "hmmm...". Then came stories of Brokeback Mountain, and the discovery of "Eroica" (maybe Japanese for erotic squids?) brand after shave handed out for free in the room. Hmm indeed.
Going to the 69th floor sight seeing place costs 1000 yen. Using the elevator to the 70th floor inside the hotel instead is free, so we picked that one. Possibly, the hotel is only for very rich people. At least, the cheapest dish at the restaurant on the 70th floor is a 15000 yen course. At 68 floor we found coffee for only 650 yen, but since I don't like coffee it felt a bit expensive and we returned downstairs. There we followed some quite and very very expensively dressed women to what was probably the banquet hall. Where we were most likely not welcome.
Yokohama by night (20060315)
Todays party consisted of people who all spoke Polish for various reasons, some Japanese scientists discussing hard to understand things in a hard to understand language, and one poor guy from Sweden. At least it was expensive, thats always something.
My own room (20060315)
Today we changed hotel. My new room was about twice as big as the previous one and had a distinct lack of strange Polish people. Who of course suggested that we meet naked in the sauna instead, and pointed out that the name of the hotel is written with the kanji for sperms.
Bulgarian customs (20060316)
Actual work (20060316)
I also did some real work (though I didn't take very many pictures of that). I had my own presentation, for instance. Where only one microphone worked, so some poor guy had to run with the mike between me and other people when there was question and answer time.
Swedish sayings (20060317)
In Japan they have cigarettes for girls that supposedly doesn't smell. This is not strictly true, but they smell less than normal cigarettes. Japanese people by the way smoke very very much. Which is annoying.
Tokyo clothes (20060318)
Having a rest (20060318)
Almost like home (20060318)
Today was the first time I ever saw a Japanese person speak on the cell phone in a train. Which is different from back home, where very many people spend their entire subway trips speaking on the phone.
I received strict orders to bring back diamond necklaces for three people (the White day chocolate was not enough) and Pigeon omiyage. But on the other hand, I received what might possibly be described as egg shaped omiyage from a friend who had also been to Tokyo and back.
I also spent some of all the Japanese money which I soon won't have any use for on some fun stuff from stores in Tokyo. Such as a t-shirt which it took people 30 minutes to figure out might be a bit strange.
Another presentation (20060318)
Asian customs (20060318)
Other games (20060324)
Martin's farewell (20060325)
Luckily cheap yakiniku (20060326)
Today I went for some yakiniku. Having an ambitious person making the ordering decisions there was enormous amounts of stuff to eat. Luckily, the same person then did some interpretation between Chinese and Japanese for another rich customer, so the staff cut our price by 70% or so. Very nice.
The day of celebrating Jonas (20060329)
Today was the name day for "Jonas" in Sweden. This was celebrated in Sapporo too, first by having lunch with the people who want to learn Swedish, then by having a super celebrity show up at Sapporo Station and finally by having a pizza/cake party. I bought the cakes myself though, which is not the traditional way in Sweden (other people should make and give you cakes).
More cakes (20060330)
More badminton (20060331)
(April) Fools (20060401)
Since this was the last day before I went back home to Sweden, I was quite busy with cleaning my room etc. I did sneak away and take a picture of the Japanese volunteer course I used to go to a lot, though. There was also a celebration at the French restaurant one minutes walk away from my room. Evidently, since they are finally getting rid of me, it was an occasion for joyous celebrations. Hmm...
Last breakfast (20060402)
There was a last fare well breakfast today. One nice girl offered home made bread (and this was a lot like bread, not so much like Japanese "bread"). Other people offered natto... Something of a "please don't return to Sapporo"-feeling.
Travel preparations (20060402)
Some people were evidently worried that I might just be pretending to go home, and decided to follow me to the airport to make sure I did not stick around and disturb poor Japanese people anymore. We also met some other people from our building by chance. They were sending someone off to Tokyo.
Signs of Sweden (20060403)
Thanks to the plane from Korea being late, I did not have to spend so much time in Paris. Somewhat surprisingly I saw what looked suspiciously much like my own luggage being loaded on the correct plane to Stockholm.
Final gifts (20060404)
I received some parting gifts, here are some things from Chinese aquaintances. There is also something that I received as a Christmas present from my university in Sweden. It turns out to be a thermos.
Other pictures (20060407)
Since I am no longer in Sapporo, there will be no more pictures here. There will however be pictures of Swedish customs instead. Click to see blood pudding and similar things.
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.