Sunday, March 31, 2013

Magical farewells

Saturday was the last day of working in our magic bar for one of my magician friends. He is changing his job, but will stay in the city so we may still meet again. At 5 a.m., after the magic bars had closed, we had a farewell party for him. There were lots of funny stories, and quite a lot of food. Eating deep fried meat and curry rice at 6 a.m. is not so good when you are trying to lose weight, but it is normal for my colleagues who always work night shifts (unlike me).



On Wednesday I went to the "snack bar" Ropossa for the first time in months. The "mama" there does magic, and is very funny. She also gives me extreme amounts of food, and burns flash cotton in huge amounts very very close to you to make you jump in surprise. Lots of fun.

Karaoke Bolta, and a broken Magician Bolta
At Ropossa (which by the way is "Sapporo" read backwards in Japanese, since "sa-[double letter]-po-ro" is "ro-po-[double letter]-sa" backwards here) I also saw another Bolta figure. I mentioned I just got one that is Bolta doing magic, and I was told they had one too but it was broken.

Pasta carbonara
In the middle of my pasta carbonara, a magician in one of our magic bars called me and asked what I was doing. He had just ended up being alone with customers in groups of 2, 4, 2, and 6 people and could not handle that by himself... so if I could possibly come by... immediately? I left some pasta and ran :-) I did some magic and made drinks for three groups of customers, who were really nice customers. Another group of customers asked me to sign a PET-bottle that they had. I have no idea why they wanted my autograph, since I had never met them and did not have time to talk to them this time either, but I signed the bottle and they seemed happy.

Then I went back to Ropossa and met some pantomime artists.


I got a souvenir from Muroran. It is the character "Bolta", who is made from nuts and bolts. Muroran is famous for the steel industry, making nuts and bolts. There are hundreds of different Bolta figures, but the one I got was Bolta doing magic. He is producing a dove from his hat. His hat looks very suspicious though, since it has a huge hole in the bottom. This was the first time I saw Bolta, and he is very cute so it was a nice gift.

Death sauce and pineapples for your lap

Finally, our guests also brought "Death sauce", a very spicy sauce. It physically hurts in your mouth when you eat this sauce. We put it on some strawberries and on some potato chips. I don't like it, it is too sour for my taste.

They also had a can of sliced pineapple. This was because last time they came we were talking about strange food combinations and my boss mentioned he did not like pineapple in "subuta", pork in sweet and sour sauce, a common Chinese dish in Japan. I mentioned that in Sweden it is common to see pineapple on pizza, but he misheard me and thought I said "In Sweden it is common to put pineapple on your lap", pizza being "piza" and "lap" being "hiza" in Japanese. Our guests thought that was very funny, and brought some pineapple for our laps this time.

Cute cakes

Our guests that had brought bear meat also brought cakes. Having chocolate cake and things like that after midnight is not great for my diet, but it is great in general. These cakes were very cute, too. Which was a problem for the girl who had brought bear meat, since she does not eat cute things. She ate around and under the illustrations, and left the illustrations as they were.

One more animal off the list of weird animals yet to eat

Bear in a can

After a waffle party with way too much to eat, I was called over to our magic bar where a regular customer I know was visiting from a far off city where she lives. She had brought food, which was perhaps the thing I least needed after that waffle orgy.

But not only was it food, it was an animal I had never tried before! So I ate quite a bit. She had brought a can of bear meat. It tasted surprisingly good. My friends who have eaten bear tell me it is dry, hard, tasteless, disgusting, or smelly. This meat had a fairly strong taste, but tasted very much like "normal" meat. I liked it.

The girl who brought the meat refused to eat any of it, though. She does not eat cute animals, she said. Feeding other people cute animals is evidently not a problem, though.

Blood and violence, the unexpected result of a waffle party

While I was making waffles, my friends were looking through all my stuff. They found the set with the blond wig, blue stickers to put on your eyelids, and the big "foreigner nose" I bought to dress up like a foreigner for a Japanese Halloween party once. They looked pretty interesting in the fake nose.

They also found some pictures that I got for my birthday that when you look at them from one angle look perfectly normal, but from some angles look like monster version of the same people. They thought that was funny too, and took photos of themselves next to these pictures as well as when wearing the fake nose.

What they liked the most was the can of fake blood I had left from when making blood for my zombie adventures. One of them said that it had always been a dream of hers to put lots of blood in her mouth and let it run down her chin... Presumably she fairly weird dreams.

They asked if they could use some of the blood and take more photos, and since it is easy to make and contains only cheap ingredients, I let them have all the blood they wanted. They took lots of weird photos.

The next day I found fake blood in my kitchen, on the floor, in my bathroom, and in the toilet. That stuff is made with syrup so it sticks to anything and everything.

March 25, Swedish waffle day

March 25 is Waffle Day in Sweden (nowadays, it used to be the day to celebrate the virgin Mary becoming pregnant, thus 9 months before Christmas). Two of my friends invited themselves over to have waffles. We ate way too many waffles, but it was a lot of fun.

Midnight udon

After Hiro-san finished up in his magic bar the Red Carpet, he took me to eat udon at 3 a.m. Perhaps not the best way to lose weight, but it was very good udon. It had ginger (not common) and lots of meat.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Japanese weird food, the logical next step after raw fish: live fish.

The fish before dancing, just swimming around.
After working from 9 in the morning until 7 in the evening, we also had a dinner where the work related talk continued. This time the people from the Fukuoka group had picked a very nice (and quite expensive) traditional Japanese restaurant. It was also right in the fairly short time frame when you can have the Fukuoka specialty "shirauo no odorigui" (シラウオの踊り食い), which roughly translates to "dancing fish".

We got a big dinner with many dishes, and many of them included the shirauo fish that they apparently only get between February and April. The main event was the dancing fish dish though.

This dish sees you getting a big bowl of water in which the tiny shirauo are swimming around. You get a ladle to catch some fish with, and then you put them in your own little bowl. In this bowl you also have a vinegar based liquid. Vinegar is probably quite painful to swim in and get in your eyes, so this makes the fish move very energetically. You then take all this fish and vinegar into your mouth and savor the feeling of fish swimming around like crazy inside your mouth.

Traditionally, you then swallow the fish like that (without chewing or in other ways killing the fish). The lady explaining this dish to us at our restaurant said that if you do not chew the fish you do not get the taste of the fish, so she recommended chewing on them before swallowing. I tried both ways and I didn't think it tasted much of anything except vinegar either way.

My impression was that the dancing fish dish was more of a fun happening than something you would order because you think it tastes good. My boss was ecstatic about how great he thought it was, though. He had had it before, of course (since he is Japanese), but then he did not chew on the fish and the taste was not so exciting he said.

For me, the main problem was that it felt quite cruel to eat the fish like this. I guess it is not that great to be killed in other ways either, so dying in the stomach acids or being chewed to death is perhaps not worse than the more normal ways of being suffocated to death that I guess happen to most of the fish I eat, but the vinegar thing to make them move extra much felt mostly cruel. I figure these fish have too small brains to reflect much on pain, so if you plan to be cruel to something that is alive, this might be on the milder side of being a bad person, at least. Much in the same way that I have very few qualms about killing insects that just happen to lose their way and end up in my apartment.

So, to summarize: quite fun, an interesting experience, would recommend anyone to try it once, would not order it again since it is expensive and not that tasty.

The rest of the dinner was very good too.
Our restaurant is the house on the left that is lit up.

Magic bars Nishioka and Red Carpet in Fukuoka

Hiro of Red Carpet, with a real live mouse that appeared mysteriously.
On the night I arrived in Fukuoka, I had nothing special to do, so I visited two magic bars. One is called Nishioka and is one of the bars with the longest history in Japan. It has been running for over 40 years they told me. It had a very long bar counter, and the night I was there there were three magicians performing. They all came and performed for me when I was there alone (I was early so there were no other customers there at first) and then I looked on from the side when they performed for a group of people sitting next to me later.

The son of the founder of Nishioka told me that he was not ready and had not put on his photo smile when I took this photo, he wanted me to say "1, 2, 3..."
This is the photo when he was ready... not a huge difference.
They were all very nice and funny. They were good, of course. They did many of the old classics of magic, which is a good choice I think. For the group sitting next to me, at least two of the magicians did a watch steal, and since only one girl in the group was wearing a watch, she had her watch taken several times without noticing anything. The second time that I saw, she said: "Oh no, not again!?" when the magician produced her watch from some strange place.

I also went to the magic bar Red Carpet, which is just 1 minutes walk from Nishioka. The owner of Red Carpet is a friend of the owner of our magic bar in Sapporo, and I had met him before when he was visiting Sapporo. There was only one other guest there when I arrived, and he also did magic apparently. Hiro, the master of Red Carpet, did a full magic show for the two of us anyway, which was very kind of him. I went back the next day too, since Hiro said we should go out and have something to eat together after he finished in the magic bar. The next night the place was full, and I watched the show from behind a line of other guests. He did a lot of funny and impressive magic tricks.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Fukuoka tower far away.
Fukuoka tower far away, at night.
On my first ever visit to the Kyushu island, I did not have much time to spend freely (work related trips are like that for us). I did have some time to walk around during the nights, and during the lunch break.

A heron or something flying above one of the many rivers.
A boat and an umbrella in a very old and traditional style.
Fukuoka was warm, and full of rivers. The public transportation was super convenient. The airport is located at one of the subway stations, and the subway takes you from the airport to the big train station in 10 minutes, from there on to the entertainment district in another 10 minutes, and then 5 minutes more and you are in the shopping district. The subway can also take you to the big sightseeing spots (that I did not have time to visit) like parks and the Fukuoka tower, and to the harbor if you want to take a ship to Korea or Osaka.

Our meeting was close to the Yahoo dome, some baseball thing.

Fukuoka also seems to have a nice climate. I was told that it is even less hot than Sapporo during the summers, and it is never cold during the winters. The food was good too.

Ramen, famous in Fukuoka

The entertainment and redlight district.