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Born in Stockholm (Sweden), now live in Sapporo (Japan). Hold a Ph.D. in computer science and work with computers during the days, perform magic in a bar during the nights (and weekends, for kids). Also used to teach historical fencing back in Sweden.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Not going to the Otaru Ushio Matsuri festival

Every year, one of my friends who grew up in Otaru (a city close to Sapporo) takes me to the Otaru Ushio Matsuri festival. There are stalls with food, stalls with games, dancing, people in yukatas, and a fireworks festival.

This friends is the friend who got me to wear yukatas. He explained to me that Japanese festivals mean you have to wear a yukata. He always does, and the friends he brings with him do too. My friend even dyed his yukata and painted the designs on it himself. He also has a weird hairstyle (which he cuts himself), that is also dyed a strange color.
Waiting
This year we were to meet at the Sapporo station at 14:00 to take the train to Otaru. At 14:00, the only one there in a yukata was me. At 15:00, another guy showed up. At 15:30, my friend who was organizing this also showed up and told us that there was one girl coming too.

The girl had woken up at 13:00 when he called to wake her. She had woken up and looked around and said: "Where am I?" Apparently she had been drinking quite a lot and fallen asleep in the last place where she was drinking. She was still sleeping there in the afternoon when he called. So she had to go home, change into a yukata (which is a lot of work for girls, for men the yukata is really simple to pu ton), and then go to the station. This meant she was quite late, so we got on a train that left the station at 16:30 or so.
People who managed to buy raincoats before they sold out
Two girls completely drenched (white yukata is nice, but becomes transparent in rain)
Once we got to Otaru, there were signs saying that the fireworks (the biggest attraction) were cancelled because of the very heavy rain and the almost hurricane like storm. We decided to make a run towards the festival area anyway, but as soon as we left the station, the storm winds were so strong that we lost two umbrellas (the broke) and got drenched to the bone. We ran to the closest other building, a big department store, and checked if they sold raincoats. There were several big stores that usually have huge supplies of rain coats, but they told us they sold out ours ago.
Waiting for noodles
We gave up on the festival and went to a soba noodle place that my friends from Otaru knew to be good. We had some very nice food there.
Noodles
Then, we made a 1 minute run for the roof covered shopping arcade, once again getting completely drenched. My Otaru friend said that one of the few things to see near the Otaru Station is a cafe that serves "Pudding a la Mode", which we should try. Even in the roof covered arcade, it was very windy and lots of rain kept blowing in from the sides.
Cafe
We found the cafe. My friend who recommended the pudding a la mode ordered something called "Royal Pudding", which was pudding with whipped cream. The pudding a la mode came with fruits and ice cream. The girl with us ordered that, but asked for it to be made without melon. I am slightly allergic to melon, but I ordered "Pudding a la mode; keep the melon". It was OK.
Pudding a la Mode
While we were eating all this pudding, one of the friends of my Otaru friends, who still lives in Otaru, called and said that he was in the festival area but that everything was closed. They were dismantling the tents because everything was threatening to fly away in the very strong winds.
Taking a photo of a girl taking a photo of a guy taking a photo of a photo.
Souvenir shopping
We decided to take the train back to Sapporo and have dinner there. My Otaru friend suddenly decided that he should by Otaru souvenirs, so we ended up walking around the souvenir shops for 30 minutes and ended up missing two trains.

When we got to Sapporo, my friend said that to him, festivals mean okonomiyaki, so he wanted to eat that. He called one of his friends who runs a bar and had a conversation along the lines of: "So, you have okonomiyaki in your place, right? We will go there soon. 4 of us. Okonomiyaki. ... I can't hear you very well, but we will be there soon. For okonomiyaki. I think I saw an ad in a paper where you said you had okonomiyaki, right? See you soon." They have never served anything even close to okonomiyaki there, but it might be worth a try, he figured.
Grocery shopping
When we got off the subway, we stopped by a supermarket and called the same place again to ask if there was by any chance some ingredient for okonomiyaki that they did not have in the bar; we could buy some and bring it. We listened for awhile, and to briefly summarize what was needed: everything. So we bought okonomiyaki flour, eggs, meat, seafood mix, mayonnaise, okonomiyaki sauce, and the other things necessary.
Raw liver
Roasted duck (excellent!)
Raw fish (very good)
Once we got to the bar, we handed over the grocery bag and ordered some other food too. In the end, the staff were kind enough and made us two types of okonomiyaki. It was very good. My friend said: "I am sorry to bother you with all of this, but Jonas is a foreigner and he really really wanted to have some okonomiyaki. Him being a foreigner, he does not know Japanese culture and just had to have his own way, even in a place like this where you do not serve okonomiyaki"...
Friend making okonomiyaki for us
I said I thought it was he who wanted the okonomiyaki, but he said that "You said you could eat anything. That includes okonomiyaki." Who can argue with that? So I apologized profusely for being such a spoiled brad to the guy who made the okonomiyaki (who I know quite well since before). He laughed a lot.
Okonomiyaki

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