Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Some interesting Japanese fashion choices

Here are some photos of clothes I found interesting lately.

Stockings in very strong colors, and different colors for each leg too.

This guy stood out both because he was very tall but also because of his very strongly checkered suit.

From Sapporo to Saitama

Buying crabs in Sapporo
My brother has a Japanese wife, and though they live in Sweden they usually come to Japan for the New Year holidays. They do not come to Sapporo though, so I usually go to Saitama (where they are) to meet up with them.

Leaving a Sapporo with heavy snowfall

Yesterday I went to the Ni-Jou Ichiba (a fish market in Sapporo) to buy kegani (horsehair crabs, a type of crab we have in the sea outside Hokkaido. I went there with my Swedish friends who are visiting Sapporo and we got a lot of crab meat to taste. I felt obliged to buy something in return, and asked them to send three fairly big kegani to our relatives in Saitama. The guy who sold them told me that since it was New Year and the postal system is busy they would reach Saitama at the earliest on the 31st, but it might be later. They say that every year, and every year the crabs arrive the next day (way before the 31st). This year too, so the crabs arrived before I did.

A girl in Tokyo had a bag with a Swedish flag and some text indicating it was a Swedish brand.

My brother still finds it hard to believe that I might wear a coat in winter, and his Japanese wife finds it hard to believe anyone would pay for the type of clothes I like to buy, so they asked me to bring my new coat too. This meant I left a snowy Sapporo wearing a coat, but I put it in my bag when I reached the airport. I did take it out a few minutes before reaching my final (fairly warm) destination, and put it on again, though.

The crabs I bought in Sapporo reached Saitama way ahead of me.
At the airport I ran into a girl I met at the Halloween party at Cafe tout le monde. She recognized me despite my face not being weirdly painted. She almost missed her plane since she was at the wrong gate and was caught up in my (presumably) interesting stories. She noticed that someone with the same name as her was being called for through the airport speakers, though, and ran to her gate just in time.

Upon arriving in Saitama, I started eating almost immediately. Four days of non-stop eating are to follow...

Fried food was available (and extremely good) too.

Miso soup

Cheese cake

Playing with a snake

Snake on my arm

Snake on the counter

Snake in its box
I visited a bar where they have a real live snake on the counter, and you can have it crawl all over you if you want.

Chance meeting with a bondage rabbit

I ended up in a bar called BarBara to fetch a CD with photos of me doing magic. There I noticed that the rabbit I had used in my magic show at the bondage event last month was stuck to the ceiling. A strange chance meeting. I gave the rabbit away at the show by throwing out into the audience vaguely in the direction of someone who said: "I want it!".

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Wearing a winter coat near the equator

Despite living in this close to the equator (Sapporo is on the level of southern France, so by Swedish standards this is very far south), I bought a winter coat today.

It was super expensive, and since I work too much and never have any time to spend my money, this seemed like a good opportunity. My friends who were with me commented: "And the coat also looks very 'Jonas'". Meaning "weird".

It has a python pattern, but is not made out of snake. It seems very warm. My friends who were not with me today reacted to "I bought a coat" with "I do not believe that. Pics or it did not happen!", so here is a photo.

Making things blue again

I recently bought a pair of black jeans with black cherry blossoms. These then started smelling of exploded sea snail after a sea snail exploded and landed in large parts on my trousers. Today I washed these trousers and they no longer smell like that, but they did turn my previously cream colored bath towel into a blue bath towel. Which is possibly even nicer than before, but still...

Green tea (matcha) things

Today we had afternoon tea, and dropped by the Nana's Green Tea Cafe. After having ordered three identical sets in every regard at the Chinese restaurant, I asked the cashier that we wanted to order (and pay) one at a time. I started by ordering their "Christmas green tea Chocolate fondant" with sweet beans ice cream, and a "Matcha Latte". One of my friends asked me: "Did you just order for me?" since apparently she had just said she wanted exactly that. I explained that I had only ordered for me. Then the other two also ended up ordering identical sets, so again we showed how weak we are to peer pressure, haha.

The sweet beans ice cream was nice, the matcha chocolate fondant was very nice, and the matcha latte was as you would expect in Japan (which is pretty good).

A thing with messages from your fellows

The bookstore "Village Vanguard" sells "A thing with messages from your fellows". Which is a kind of bigger greeting card. A very prosaic product description.

Chinese lunch

My Swedish friends wanted to have Chinese food for lunch today, so we visited a place they were curious about. My friends wanted the "6 types of steamed food" lunch, and I was going to pick something else. The waitress said: "This takes about 20 minutes more than the other foods, is that OK?", so I said, "OK, make it three of that then, so we have our food at the same time", which the waitress found funny.

Then she said we could have Chinese tea or any softdrink we wanted with the lunch. I said "Chinese tea", and one of the others said: "Me too". Then after some thinking, the last of us also said: "OK, I will also have Chinese tea". Then we had to choose which type of tea, and I picked jasmine tea. Then one more said she would also have jasmine tea. And after some more thinking, we ended up with three identical orders...

The waitress came back and said she took the liberty of bringing three different types of tea (each with enough tea for three) so we could try more than one type of tea. It is good that the staff helps you out when you do stupid things, haha. The teas and the food were all very nice.

Hokudai Kijutsu Kenkyuukai Magic Festival

My university has a magic club. I was a member for three years. After three years you are retired. The active members do magic at the school festival, and they do a big Christmas show in the Sapporo Bunka Kaikan, where they rent a big stage.

Yesterday, I went to see this years show. They were very good. Better than last year. This year, a girl was doing the same type of magic I did three years ago, using a sketchbook to produce things that are drawn in the book into the real world. The active members are supposed to have one of the retired magicians as their "mentor" or teacher, and since no one else has done this type of magic recently, she had me as her mentor. She did very well, and even finished with some quick change magic.

The credits page of the program, with something that is almost my name
I was listed in the program, under "other help", but they spelled my name wrong. The correct spelling appeared in the end credit animations the showed on stage, though.

After the show was over, I was waiting around in the lobby for a friend. An old man came up to me and asked me why I was not performing any more (forced into retirement). He told me that he had seen my sketchbook routine three years ago and been stunned. It was the greatest thing he had ever seen, he said. I was also quite happy with that performance, and I think it is my best stage performance so far (though that does not say much, since I almost never do stage magic). Here is a link to the performance on YouTube.



The snowy period seems to finally have started, and it looks like this almost 24/7 now.

Presents from Sweden

My parents sent me some Christmas presents. They arrived when I was not home, but in Japan everything is open 24 hours per day, so I took my bicycle through the snowstorm to the 24h post office that was holding my package and got it around midnight. It turned out to contain licorice (yay!), green tea with licorice (yay!) and dried apples from the family summer house garden. Apparently the apple trees there gave ridiculous amounts of apples (70kg?) this year, so my parents made apple cakes, apple pies, apples as gifts, apple juice, apple jam, and all kinds of things. They also dried some of the apples and sent them to me. They were very good. There was also a cute hedgehog toy animal in the package.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas present

Late at night a met one of my friends and 8 of his friends. One of his friends had Christmas presents for everyone, so I got one too.

Christmas dinner and potato drinks

Christmas chicken

Christmas is the time for having expensive dinner with your girlfriend in Japan. Preferably Western style food. I did not have anyone to hang out with on Christmas (my friends either have girlfriends that they are expected to have romantic dates with, or they work evenings and nights (or both)), but as luck would have it one of my friends had more or less the same predicament. She even managed to find a restaurant with seats for us (the first 4 that I tried and the first 5 that she tried were already fully booked).

Potato cocktail

Potato and pumpkin cocktails! Basically vegetables run through a mixer and then mixed with alcohol.

We ended up in a nice restaurant serving Japanese food, and as their specialty or gimmick they also served vegetable cocktails. We tried potato cocktail (running a potato through a mixer, adding alcohol and milk), sweet potato cocktail, pumpkin cocktail, and something else along those lines. It was a bit like drinking melted ice cream. My friend felt that one was enough (when she had her second one) and then switched to Japanese sake.

Sea snail before exploding

Sea snail remains after exploding
The food was great. She had set us up with the "whatever the staff recommends" course. This is good because she is hopelessly indecisive, so the less decisions there are to make about what to order the better. We got some fish stew type starter, pumpkin salad, roasted chicken (Japanese Christmas food), shabu-shabu, shell fish to grill ourselves, sushi, cake and ice cream. It was almost too much food to eat, and I am still not hungry (almost 24 hours later). We also had three hours of unlimited drinking, including the potato cocktails that were probably also close to being food.

Fishing out things you do not like from your cocktail.

While grilling shellfish, one of the sea snails exploded and sent boiling hot sea snail liquids mixed with boiling alcohol all over my arm, jacket, and trousers. This kind of exciting things tend to happen when my friend is around, though it is never her fault. This time, she also did almost no crazy things, though she did use her chopsticks to fish out things from her drinks, which is a bit unconventional.

 Not only did my friend find a restaurant, she also brought me a Christmas present (I did not bring one for her...). This was a set of candy for kids, in a very cute metal box.


Baumkuchen inside an apple cake

My professor came by on Christmas. The first time he came by he said: "Ah, by the way, our budget got cut even further, so your pay will be cut by 30% next year"... Merry Christmas. Then he came by one more time, asking: "What are you doing during the New Year holidays? There is a deadline for a paper I would like someone to write, so maybe you could do that during the holidays?". Merry Christmas.

Then he came by a third time, and that time he brought an apple cake with baumkuchen inside. Putting baumkuchen inside apple cake is a strange idea, but the result was very nice.

Christmas lunch

Today was Christmas, so I ordered the "Christmas chicken" in the student cafeteria. It was pretty good but very small. There was a small piece of broccoli (green = Christmas), two star shaped potato based things, and a tiny piece of chicken covered in herbs.

Christmas Magic Show at Bottom Cafe

Yesterday I did a magic show at Bottom Cafe. This went very well, and I had a great Christmas Eve.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


Today (December 24) is the biggest day of celebration in Sweden. You gather with your family, eat extreme amounts of very nice food, and get presents. In Japan, it is a normal working day, and I am of course at work doing my normal work things. At least the weather is nice, though.

Christmas party in a mini-skirt

My (male) friend

One of my Japanese friends works in a bar called One Star Bar. He told me that on the evening of the 23rd they were going to have an event called "Sabisinbo Night", the night for lonely people. In Japan, Christmas is the season for going on romantic dates with your girlfriend/boyfriend, so this party was for people like him that do not have a girlfriend.

He promised he would be working in a Santa costume, one made for girls. He also asked that I show up and perform some magic.

The (male) boss
When I showed up, my friend was indeed wearing a mini-skirt Santa outfit, and a blonde wig. His boss was also wearing a sexy Santa costume, and had a rope and two bells attached to his groin. They were a smaller version of the rope you use to ring bells at Shinto shrines in Japan (to make the gods aware of your presence so they can see your donation and hear your prayer). You could pull the rope and ring the bells if you wanted, without making any monetary offerings.

When I was asked to do some magic, my friend also said (after a few tricks): "The rest is non-free! Who is willing to pay?" One guy offered to pay 2000 yen to see more, but my friend jumped in and started negotiating the price, so people ended up putting all their small change on the counter instead. Six or seven people pitched in, and together they got up to 767 yen... After starting at 2000 yen. My friend's negotiating skills are not great. I gave all the money to my friend (he charged me that amount for a drink he figured I had ordered for him to drink).


My Swedish friends who come to Sapporo several times per year are here again. They will stay for Christmas and New Years. They brought me tea from Sweden. They brought several different teas, but they all have licorice mixed in with the tea! Great for me, bad for Japanese tea drinkers.

White Christmas, with a Swedish touch

White Christmas
We have a very White Christmas here in Sapporo. The three day weekend (the 23rd is the Emperor's birthday and a public holiday) saw huge amounts of snowfall here.

Home made Swedish bread
Swedish made Swedish ginger snaps 
Chocolate covered peanuts

I spent the Emperor's birthday out near Sweden Hills, visiting some people I know. Two of my friends from Sweden were also there. We had some Swedish bread baked in the Sweden Hills Swedish style bread oven, and some Swedish ginger snaps baked by one of the other Swedes.

There was also a lot of other food, and I even got a Christmas present! The present was a brush to clean your computer screen, which is handy. I was also forced to wear a Santa hat.