Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Animal puns

Our university has some signs with a rhinoceros saying things like 安心してくだサ~イ ("anshin site kudasai", please be calm/do not worry), 確認してくだサ~イ ("kakunin site kudasai", please make sure/check carefully). The "sai" part is a polite inflection of verbs to indicate that you are asking someone to do something. The word for rhinoceros in Japanese also happens to be "sai".

My colleague tells me there are lots of videos from Japanese TV with bad animal puns to teach people polite Japanese.


I was looking for some interesting books to use for a magic trick I want to do, and found books and karuta cards (Japanese card game) with うんこ ("unko", shit). Which was not appropriate for my needs, but would be a great gift for one of my friends.

Everyone can get married

In a train I rode there was a notice talking about making "people that cannot get married" into "zero". Sounds like a difficult task.

Birds of prey

When I was out on my lunch break, I saw a guy carrying around a huge and very cool bird. I stopped to take a photo, and he then said: "Ah, Jonas!" and took a photo of me, haha. We met at an event where I did magic. He was going around inside our (enormous) university campus with this bird to chase away the large crows we have many of.

Japanese barbecue and fireworks

Homegrown potato, homegrown dill ("because you are from Sweden"), and chicken
Hotate (scallop?) brought over by a neighbor
I was invited by some friends out in Sweden Hills to come over for some barbecue. They have their own fields, so the vegetables are always extremely good at their place. For instance, they dug up potatoes right before starting the barbecue.
Huge tomatoes
Unknown plant
They also had some Japanese fireworks. And lanterns from IKEA.
Japanese fireworks

IKEA lantern

Sweden Hills promotion

At Sapporo Station there was a promotional animation for Sweden Hills on a giant monitor.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Me on TV again: waiting at a traffic light

Some of my friends told me that I had been on TV. There was a program that showed things from the Bon-Odori costume competition, and even though I did not get a prize, I was featured in the program. They showed me dancing in front of the judges (below), and me waiting at a traffic light (above). I love it that they show a ghost just waiting for a green light, haha.

I did not have a chance to see this show myself. I do not have a TV, and it was broadcast when I was still at work. It would have been nice to know what they were talking about when they showed me. Did they say anything funny? The text overlay just says: "The tradition that people from outside Hokkaido do not know about; costume contests at the Bon-Odori."

Ghostly coincidence

I put up a photo on Facebook saying: "It is O-Bon, the season of ghosts!", with me as a ghost. One of my acquaintances later wrote a comment saying: "My mother just e-mailed me that she saw a superb ghost at the Bon-Odori and that she took a photo. She will show it to me tomorrow. What if that ghost is Jonas?"

I answered that of course it is me. There were no other ghosts there.

The next day, this acquaintance sent me the photo above, which is the photo her mother took. It does indeed look a lot like me. The mother had said: "When I took out my camera, he turned my way and stopped moving, so I could get a good photo!" That is the kind of service I provide, haha.

I remember a woman taking a photo of me in the middle of the dancing (which must be this photo). So I have apparently met my acquaintance's mother.

Returning to the living

When I finally got home, I was glad I had worn a t-shirt under the heavy kimono. It was too hot, but on the other hand lots of the syrup based blood had seeped through the thick layers of kimono, and if this gets stuck in your chest hair it hurts a lot after it has dried... It took me an hour or so to get rid of most of the paint, but sitting at work the next day I found several spots of where white skin (elbow, toes)...

Obake photos in Sapporo

This is actually me putting some of the makeup back on (it sweats away), but it looks like I am jamming a stick into my eye.
Some of my friends thought it would be a good opportunity to take ghost photos in different places and in different ghost like ways when I was all painted up. Here are some of the results.

I ran into a girl I know in this corridor, so she took a photo. Notice that all bars etc. are closed at this time...
Here we tried to get "Normal photo but something strange is visible in the mirror".
This was sent has "Cheers for your birthday" to someone, with a ghost joining the toast in the background.
I suggested we try to get "one person, that person's reflection, and only the reflection of a ghost" in one shot, which is this one. That it is a ghost is not that clear, though.
This I took myself. The only interesting part is that it is a mirror shot where the camera is not visible.
The building where the magic bar where I perform is located in is suitable for ghosts: from the third floor and up, all bars except ours are closed/empty, and the place is dark and full of rust.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Yurei in Ropossa

Yurei eating spaghetti

After the Bon-Odori costume competition, I went to a place called Ropossa to have some food. Several people that I know where there, and they took lots of photos of me. The food was good too.
Ghost participating in the Ropossa magic show
Obake eating gyoza
People taking photos of me
Photo of me
When I left, I did the Japanese "I am sorry, I have to get up early tomorrow so I will have to leave before you. Sorry sorry", gesture. Everyone thought it was hysterical (Japanese people think that it is funny if you do it as a foreigner, even if you are not in costume) to see a ghost do that. So they called me back in and forced me to make the same exit again...
Standing outside Ropossa

Obake style Bon-Odori

Lots of people that I know apparently watched the Hokkaid Bon-Odori costume competition. Some of them snapped photos of me dancing. I dressed up as a Japanese ghost (obake/yurei) and practiced a ghost version of the Hokkai Bon-Odori. The girl who took these photos said that the dance moves also had a ghostly impression. Since it was dark and I was moving (and my friends only use their cell phone cameras), all the photos are pretty blurry.

Hokkai Bon-Odori costume competition

Every August there is one week of Bon-Odori (O-Bon holiday dancing) in the Odori Koen park in Sapporo, ending on August 20. The last day always sees a costume competition. Having a costume competition on the last day of the Bon-Odori  is apparently a Hokkaido only tradition, it is not done in the rest of Japan but done in many places in Hokkaido.
A kid I thought had a great costume
O-Bon is the holiday when the dead come back to visit their living relatives, so I figured it would be appropriate to dress up like a Japanese ghost. There were 72 teams participating in the competition, totaling 182 participants. There were three categories: kids, single participant, and groups. I participated in the single participant section.

A man dressed as Bon-Odori
At 17:30 you registered and got white pieces of cloth with numbers that you had to stick to your chest and your back. I managed to find someone else who looked like they were also participating in the costume competition and asked them to pin my number to my back, which they kindly did. The actual competition was to start at 19:00, so you could join the kids Bon-Odori or just wait around, or put on your makeup, if unlike me you had not walked all the way through the city in costume.
Everyone in Japan thinks Moomin are Swedish (they are Finnish)
While waiting around, lots of people came up to me and asked if they could take photos of me or together with me. Even more people took photos without asking. In total, I must have been in several hundred photos... One woman came up in a very nice summer kimono and asked if she could take a photo and then looked at me with a slightly surprised look. I recognized her too. She worked in a shop where I bought a bag and some yukata obis a while back, and she recognized me even through all the blood and makeup. She said that she would go check if there was a "spectators' prize" that she could vote for, and if so she would vote for me, haha. There was no such prize category, though.
Very nice predator costume
Mario and Luigi were very friendly
At 18:45 you had to line up in a different section of the park and wait for your turn (I was participant number 130). One of my friends showed up and helped me pass the time. Two women in line in front of me (no. 127 and 128) were also pretty funny. One of them had her daughter with her, and the daughter thought I was very scary. In the end, she started crying... When it finally was your turn, you danced all alone to very quiet music in a big circle with a huge number of participants. At one end of the circle, 7 or 8 judges sat and looked at you when you danced by.
Freddy Kruger was also good
Doraemon had the best poses and the funniest dance moves, except maybe for the guy dressed as Michael Jackson that I never got a picture of.
After passing the judges, you were sent to another section of the park where the normal Bon-Odori was open to everyone. The last day is always super crowded, but people in the costume competition are expected to dance in the outermost circle, and normal people are expected to go into the inner circles, so people watching get to see the costumes.
My favorite team
I had practiced a ghost-style variation of the Bon-Odori, and some of my friends that were there and saw me said that it was very appropriate. There were also old Japanese women cheering me on that shouted that they thought it was funny that I danced like a ghost, every time I passed the place they were standing.
Me after 90 minutes dancing in a hot kimono a hot summer night
The golden woman got a special prize
After 90 minutes of dancing, which made parts of my water solvent facepaint melt, it was time for the prize ceremony. There was a prize for best kid costume, 4 special prizes, and then a countdown from place 5 to the overall winner. Of these 10 prizes, I did not get even one, haha. Two went to kids (the kid prize and one of the special prizes), two went to individuals (two of the special prizes), and the rest went to teams. 
Sitting around during the prize ceremony
A bunch of On-chan characters and a TV presenter listing the winners
The kids and the people in the individual category were very good, as were some of the teams. There were also many other costumes that were extremely good but that did not get any prizes. I liked the predator and the Japanese "no cameras in the cinema"-character team, that even danced like that character.
Toy, tea, and "Samurider" energy drink
Smart phone toy
After the competition was over, you could get some "participation prize" (consolation prize). You got two small cans or bottles with tea or energy drinks, and you could choose between a huge amount of tissues or a smart phone toy. I took the toy, since I get huge amounts of tissues in my mailbox for free anyway. The smart phone toy was one of the projection mapping boxes in the series that I bought myself a week or so back. This was a different design than the ones I bought, so that was pretty nice.
My new costume competition friends, 127 and 128
After getting my tea and energy drink, I ran into numbers 127 and 128 again. They said that they were surprised that I did not get any prize, but that we should definitely do costume competitions together some other time. Apparently the city of Mikasa has a grand prize of 500,000 yen in their Bon-Odori costume competition. That probably means there are many very good costumes so going there just to watch them would be interesting. My new-found costume friends said that we should meet again, but since neither them nor I would recognize each other again when out of costume, this may be difficult. They asked me for my business cards, so I gave them some that have my e-mail address, though. 
Beer given to me by unknown woman in the street
I was sweating like crazy and my legs were tired, so I sat down and check my e-mails for awhile. A drunk Japanese woman that had talked to me before the competition came up and asked if I had won. I said I only got the consolation prize, and she was upset. She thought I had the best costume. She asked me: "Do you drink beer at home?" I said that I usually do not. She said that she had lots of beer cans with her and that she would give me some beer as a prize, since I had the number one costume according to her.

Some photos I got of some of the winners:
The team that took  the first place
A 10 year old girl dressed as Funasshi got a special prize
The small Japanese person in a huge costume got a special prize
Special prize winners
A team that got fourth place (?)
Team leader of the team that got third (?) place
Team that got second place