Thursday, July 31, 2014

Strange coincidences again

Yesterday my phone showed me an icon I have only seen once before, which signifies someone is chatting or sending messages to you using Google+. The message was in Swedish and roughly read: "I know [person I also know, from university, but have not met since 2006]. I too am in Sapporo, until the end of August. Do you want to meet?" I was from some Swedish guy who knows a guy I know.

I am busy in August, so the first available night seemed to be August 12, which is pretty far off. I also asked where in Sapporo he was staying, which turned out to be right where I live! So I said that then we could meet up immediately, to which he agreed.

So we met up went to a bar where one of my Japanese friends works, and my Japanese friend remembered enough Swedish to say: "Nice to meet you. My name is [name]. How do you do?" and to say: "Here you go" every time he served something. He secretly learned Swedish to surprise me and my parents when we visited 4 years ago.

So we sat there and talked for awhile about various things, like why are you in Sapporo (and not Tokyo or Kyoto), and things like that. My Japanese friend now has one more Swedish person in his list of foreigners he has talked to. That list contains almost only Swedes, and it contains almost around 10 Swedes.

My friend once again proved to be good at "giving other people leftovers of things he has started to eat but did not want to finish". He gave me and my brother some leftover convenience store sushi when my brother visited Sapporo, he gave me half of a piece of cake that the customer sitting next to me had given him to try, etc. Yesterday he gave my new Swedish acquaintance one third of an umaibo. He also served us some red wine that another customer had brought with him since he had to buy a whole bottle at the restaurant where he was eating, but could not finish it by himself.

A girl who also goes to this bar a lot also showed up and she gave us some very sour candy to try. She also asked us about Sweden, and my friend the bartender told her that all Swedish people are either crazy or at least lack taste buds. He believes this after meeting several people from Sweden who all like the taste of licorice. To Japanese people, this is pretty much the most disgusting taste they can imagine, it seems.

When we walked home, we were of course going more or less the same direction. I asked where more specifically he is staying, and it turns out he is staying in the same house as one of my magician colleagues! This was quite surprising. Last year he had stayed in the same house, on the 24th floor, he said. This year, they had put him on the 3rd floor, though. Which is the same floor my magician colleague lives on!

I messaged my magician colleague that if he sees a foreigner in the elevator, he should say hello and give him my best regards. He said he would use the only Swedish he knows: "Jag älskar dig". Which means "I love you", and is not really used as a greeting when you run into people you do not know... So I am hoping they will meet in the elevator in the near future.

More moth photos

The moths are still here. All the white dots on these signboards are big white moths.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Moth invasion again

It happened last year too, and now it seems to have started again. Sapporo, or at least the area where I live, is flooded with moths. There are so many that the streets look like there has been a snowfall, since they are covered in dead white moths.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Drinking carbonated vinegar

Our coop has started selling carbonated vinegar again. It says that it is Calorie free and very good for you body, so I bought it a few times. It does not taste that great.

Small Godzilla, giant horse

The new Godzilla movie is advertised with Godzilla models placed in various places. Sapporo horse racing is advertised with posters with gargantuan horses, like the one behind Godzilla which towers over the Sapporo JR tower (the highest building in Sapporo, 35 stories high or so).

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.
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.
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.
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.

Sapporo Beer Garden

During one month in the summer, our Odori Koen park turns into a huge beer garden. The park is huge, and it is filled with plastic chairs and rickety tables. When the weather is good, tens of thousands of people show up during one day to drink beer and eat expensively priced cheap food.
Cold and overpriced yakitori. Pretty good.
This is also often done dressed in yukata. Since I had been talking about my new yukatas, one of my Japanese friends had become interested in wearing a yukata herself too. She invited a bunch of friends to all dress up in yukatas and go to the beer garden. Since I was the igniting spark for the whole event, I was also invited.
Cold but expensive pizza. Not bad.
She said that: "Everyone else will also wear yukata, so that should be fun right? But there are only girls coming, so maybe that will be boring for you?" I figured ending up with a harem of young women would not be that bad, so I also joined them.
The weather was bad, cool and rainy. Which meant that it was possible to get seats even for our slightly large group. We got seats with a tent-like roof over us, so we would not get drenched if it started raining more heavily.
Selfie in the beer garden
It was quite nice. I had to go to our magic bar to perform later during the evening, but the girls were kind enough to tag along and have an after party in our magic bar. They seemed to enjoy the magic too.
Me and a lot of girls.

2014 Toyohiragawa Hanabitaikai (Fireworks)

Right when I got back from Paris, it was time for the big fireworks festival here in Sapporo, the Toyohiragawa hanabitaikai. In Japan, you always watch fireworks dressed in a yukata, so I rushed home from work and threw on my yukata. Luckily, I live where close to the fireworks festival location, so I can walk there. If you try to go by subway, you will spend an hour just trying to get up the stairs, since the subway is extremely packed with people all going to see the fireworks.
A large group of foreigners also wearing yukatas passed by near me.
One of my friends showed up in a yukata.
My Greek colleague's sister also showed up in a yukata.
I got a nice seat and sat around surfing the Internet on my phone. I got there two and a half hours before the fireworks actually started, and that was about the time when the good spaces where all taken. One of my friends and one of her colleagues showed up an hour and half later and joined me on my blue plastic sheet. An hour or so later, my Greek colleague showed up with his sister (who is here on vacation now). She was also dressed in a yukata, which was surprising and nice. She even had an obi (belt) that you have to tie yourself. I asked how she had managed to tie it so well, but she said a woman in a store (presumable the one that sold the yukata) had tied it for her.
Selfie at the fireworks
Heart shaped fireworks
New this year: double hearts
The fireworks were nice, as always.

After the fireworks, we went and had some food in a place run by one of my friends. He recently had to close his restaurant because the whole building was closing, but he reopened in a different building under a different name while I was in Paris.
Raw horse
Pizza with honey
We ordered some raw horse (because that is what Japanese people like to eat) and two small pizzas. One came with honey that you poured on it yourself.
Spicy pizza
Free "newly opened" chocolate

Getting a bloody nose

I visited a place were a woman swallowed a sword. Someone mentioned that I used to hammer nails into my nose, which seems similar (it is not, really). I did not have any nails with me, since I have not been doing this much lately. I was given a toothpick, though. I shoved it up my nose, but it got caught somewhere, so when I pulled it out later it was covered in blood.

When I wrote about this on Facebook, a Japanese girl I once met commented with something along the lines of: "Why would you do that?" I explained that it was for a magic trick and that I used to do it with a big nail. She replied with "I see. So you strain your body."

The thing is, the only time I actually met her, I did the hammer a nail into my nose thing. People tend to remember that after seeing it once. So I commented that "the only time we have ever actually met, I hammered a nail into my nose right in front of you, right?" And she replied that: "Ah, now I remember!" So I said most people tend to remember that part very well, but she said that my zombie makeup had made an even stronger impression and that was all she remembered. Which was a bit sad, since I was not trying to be a zombie at that time... Everyone still thinks it looked like a zombie, but I was going for "broken doll".