Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Walking around with a caricature of yourself

Months ago a girl I know who draws caricatures for a living asked me if she could use drawings of me to show off her ability to draw non-Asians in some caricature contest or whatnot. I said sure, and she wanted to take a photo of me to practice with. I did a funny pose, and she said: "I dislike people like this"... So in the end she took a photo of me in a non-funny pose.

Later, one of our common friends mentioned something about a drawing of me, which I said I had never seen or heard of, but after some searching, I could see the caricature result in the background of a Facebook photo of someone we both know.

Later, when I ran into the caricaturist, I was told that this caricature had been very helpful. This was the only drawing of a Westerner at the whole event, so all the foreigners there had no idea what the results would be like at the other caricaturists, and my friend thus got lots of foreigners that bought her services, she said.

Apparently, the other people she had used as models had received their caricatures as gifts a long time ago, but I had been forgotten. Yesterday (a month or so after being told about there being a picture of me too, and that other people had received theirs as gifts), I got my caricature.

I was drawn wearing a shirt that says: "I am not Japanese". I own such a shirt, but the spelling is different and the letters are written from left to right instead of top down as in the drawing. I thought my friend had seen me in that shirt (I wear it often), but she had drawn it based only on rumors, she said.

When I walked home, I stopped by a convenience store near my place to buy some bread for breakfast. The convenience store clerk said: "I see you are walking around with a caricature of yourself. It looks very much like you." The same clerk often comments on strange things he thinks I do (mostly he talks about how weird my t-shirts are, for instance the one in the drawing is based on). So I am doing my part in keeping up the Japanese stereotype of all foreigners being complete weirdos.

Here is a picture of me wearing the shirt. In this case, parts of the Japanese text are covered, so it says: 本人ではありません ("honnin deha arimasen", "I am not the actual person" (as in I am a look-alike or something along those lines) instead of 日本人ではありません ("nihonjin deha arimasen", "I am not Japanese").

Interdigital webbing

Interdigital webbing is the new fashion statement.

Also, people put buns of bread on their drinks.

A big cup of tea

My friend got a huge tea cup. It did not contain tea, but instead had a teddy bear and a bunch of flowers.

Japanese penis proverbs and Japanese penis cookies

A friend of mine collects "Japanese penis proverb cards". These come from some Okinawan souvenir set, and they are ordinary Japanese proverbs where one word has been exchanged for the word "penis". Like "biting the hand that feeds you" becomes "biting the penis that feeds you". She says there are around 50 different cards but she only has 12 different ones (and two extras of some card she already had).

Since she wants to collect the full set, she tells everyone she knows that they have to buy the "chinko sukou" Okinawa souvenir cookies if they go to Okinawa. These are penis shaped cookies that are similar to the "chinsukou" famous Okinawan cookie (which sounds similar to "chinko", which means penis), and each box of cookies has one of these cards.

Two days ago I met a young woman who had been looking around at the Okinawa souvenir shop for these, but had been to embarrassed to ask the staff things like: "So where do I find the penis collector cards?" In the end, she found them and bought three boxes.

These cards are quite useful for Japanese practice, I guess. You learn some common proverbs that all the natives know.

Really tiny pineapples

A friend of mine gets lots of flowers. She showed me one set that contained "really tiny pineapples".

Clothes for warmer days

On my way to work, I saw a guy walking around in only his underwear in the big park I pass through. It was not really that hot, and other people were still wearing jackets.

Coca Cola with your name on it

My local supermarket sells Coca Cola bottles with names on them. They did not have my name, but they had the names of several of my friends.

Sheep at the computer science department

This week there are lots of sheep milling about outside the computer science department.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Sometimes I just don't understand Japanese culture..

Sometimes I just don't understand Japanese culture. This was one such time.

Why would you for instance wear glasses on top of a mask that does not have holes to see through?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Engrish of JR Hokkaido

I spent 15 minutes waiting around at Ishikari-Futomi station, and there is not much to do there late at night. I read some posters, and noticed that the English translations were not very good. Which is somewhat surprising for a big company like JR Hokkaido.

From top to bottom the English reads:

"Be aware of a train coming in, going out, or passing through. Watch your step so as not to fall from the platform."

"Wait a train behind the Braille blocks or the white lines."

"It is danger to walk on the platform edge. Walk behind the Braille blocks or the white lines."

"When you drop something onto the tracks, contact our station staff or train crew."

"Be aware of the gap between the train and the platform while getting on and off the train."

"Be careful walking on the platform while listening to music or using a mobile phone."

My Japanese friend suggested that: "Maybe these are written with the goal of having English that Japanese people find easy to understand?" I suggested that Japanese passengers could just read the Japanese text instead.

Sushi socks

I bought two pairs of socks that when rolled up look like sushi.

Manly shoes

One of my friends came to work wearing these shoes. I had heard of these from other people since he had come to work wearing these shoes once before and they thought the shoes were strange for a man.

This time, he said the reason he wore the shoes (that, he explained, are not even his, but actually belong to his girlfriend) were that he had worn his own shoes when he went out, but since it rained and his shoes had holes in the soles, his socks and feet became very wet. He then borrowed the flower shoes from his girlfriend (who luckily has the same shoe size).

He later also explained that he wore these shoes because the rest of his clothes today (jeans and a white shirt) were so plain that he wanted to put some color into the outfit. How this statement fits with the story about being caught with no proper shoes in the rain, I am not sure.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Weird ice cream series: Tomato and Carrot

A while back I saw some American mention on the Internet that "in Japan they have all kinds of weird flavors for ice cream" and he exemplified with two Häagen-Dazs flavors: tomato and carrots. He also said he wanted them to start selling those flavors in America so he could try them too.

I figured that since I am in Japan, I should look for these. Yesterday I saw both flavors in the convenience store across the street from my home. It seems to be a series of vegetable ice cream flavors called "SpoonVege".

The tomato and cherry flavor was not good. It was not as disgusting as the "cream stew" ice cream I tried before, but it was not good.

The carrot and orange one was better, but I would still not pay money to eat that flavor again.

Burnt avocado with wasabi

Yesterday I had dinner with my colleagues. One of them suggested ordering "burnt avocado". Which was served with wasabi, and quite good.

Inhuman eye color

I got a mountain of cold ramen and accessories

This week I stopped by the magic "snack bar" Ropossa again. It is always lots of fun. By chance, I ran into the woman who also owns a t-shirt with a pig eating pork again. She was hugely disappointed that I was wearing clothes that were: "completely normal". And I was wearing a pair of red trousers with silver cherry blossom embroidery, a pink t-shirt (also with cherry blossoms), and traditional Japanese sandals. Which is not "normal" even in Japan.

I got two hot dogs, though they were tiny (4 cm or so)

For some reason, the "mama" started talking about my eye color. She wondered what color my eyes are (it is a bit dark in the bar, so it was hard to see, apparently). I showed a photo and then they took photos of other peoples' eyes and checked them too. Looking at some of the photos of my eyes, the mama said something along the lines of "but humans too can have that"... As surprising as it may sound, I am in fact human too... which one girl who also works there pointed out. They are funny.

My non-human eye color

Not buying shoes

I have managed to ruin two pairs of shoes in a short time, so I have no shoes (except some that are made for severely cold winters and thus not appropriate now). I went to the ARIO shopping mall to find some new shoes, but I came home with two new belts and a pink t-shirt with flowers... So I still need shoes, and currently walk around with a kind of traditional Japanese sandals. I am very happy with the belts, though.

One minute of magic illusions

When I went to the Sapporo ARIO shopping mall to look for shoes, I noticed that there was something going on in a big open space there. It turned out to be a magic illusion act. Sawa Shinya-san (who I have met a few times; we were on the same TV show, for instance) was doing two shows that day, and I was there just in time to see the last 1 minute of the last show...

Real Life Mario Cart

When I was out enjoying the spring weather during the weekend, I ran into 8 people dressed up and driving cars similar to Mario Cart characters. I have seen a few of them before, and they drive around Sapporo quite often, I think. I had never seen this many at once, though.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014


To top off a day of almost non-stop eating, we also went to a place called Sahabi.

It is a cafe that is famous for its doughnuts. They also had lots of Starwars figures lined up in the windows and on shelves. There were also Gundam figures, Lupin III figures, and Beatles dolls.

The doughnuts were very good, and came with mountains of whipped cream and other things on top.

I also ordered something called "coconut soda". It (not unexpectedly) turned out to be a carbonated drink that tasted very strongly of coconuts. Much stronger than say actual coconuts milk.

What to do after five hours of eating? Go and have some Turkish food!

After the five hours or so of unlimited eating and drinking, I met a friend who I had not met in months. She wanted to go to a Turkish restaurant, so I had a surprisingly large dinner considering all the barbecue stuff I had stuffed myself with.

Hanami (cherry blossom viewing and barbecue) in Maruyama Koen

In Japan, "hanami" (花見, "flower watching") cherry blossom viewing is a big thing. In Sapporo the cherry trees usually come into full bloom in the second week of May, but this year they were a week earlier than normal.

During the very short time the cherry trees are in bloom, you go to sit under the trees and barbecue things. You also drink copious amounts of alcohol.

This year I went to the Bottom Cafe hanami-party in Maruyama Koen (the park which draws the most people during the hanami season) and had five hours of unlimited alcohol and unlimited food. Which was too much food, of course. The weather was not great, it kept raining on and off. The people attended where nice, and the food was good, though. The cherry blossoming was pretty much over, and there were not so many petals left on the trees.

Near the shrine there are booths selling candy and food

I also took a walk up towards the Hokkaido Jingu shrine, also so located in/next to the park. There is a cherry and plum tree park there that is very beautiful.

The path leading up to the shrine is also lined with cherry trees
The entrance to the shrine