Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Jonas in print

Our secretary gave me a printed journal and I asked her why. She said my paper is in there somewhere, so they wanted me to have a copy. I rarely look at printed material anymore, reading papers on screen is more convenient and it is much easier to find and/or get access to the papers using the computer too. But I accepted the journal and found my paper as the first paper in the journal.

The same day I also noticed that there was a photo of me in Poroco, a magazine presenting restaurants and cafes in Sapporo.

Not so speed(y) dating

At the speed dating party I attended because my Swedish friend wanted to try Japanese speed dating, the prettiest girl was a girl I spent most of our short time (2 or 3 minutes?) together talking about soup curry with. She was the star of the speed dating party, with 15 out of 17 men selecting her as one of their favorites.

I told her about me and my colleague going on a soup curry tour, visiting almost all the soup curry places around our university (there are very many around here) during the summer. She told me that she likes going to different soup curry places and then trying to recreate the same flavor at home.

About a week after the speed dating, we met up and had soup curry at a place she recommended (that I had also visited, and liked, during our soup curry tour). I had the soup she recommended, and it was good of course.

She was fun to talk to for longer than three minutes too, and we also talked about things unrelated to soup curry. Apparently she can play any song on the piano after hearing it once, which to me who is not very musically talented at all is very impressive.

It would have been nice to talk more, but my boss had caught up to me when I was trying to leave the office and told me that I had to be in the lab ridiculously early the next morning. We were having guests from Toyota that needed to see our systems (and we tend to show mostly my systems at these occasions; possibly because no one else who is still here has built a system that actually runs and looks interesting on screen). So  I had to get home fairly early and prepare some work stuff and try to get some sleep. When I showed up for work ridiculously early the next day, only our secretary was there. She asked me in a slightly worried tone: "Aren't the people from Toyota coming soon?" so I said that I thought so too, and we were a bit worried that the boss was not here yet. He showed up two or three minutes before the guests, though, so no problem. I had some time to get our demo equipment started too.


Our coop now sells tea with Disney characters on the bottles. There are also letters there. When I passed, the bottles that were next in line to be sold spelled out "kuk", which is a bad word in Swedish. I was thinking of buying one bottle just to make the display show a different word, but it is not really a type of tea I like.

Soup curry ramen

Our student cafeteria has started serving "soup curry ramen" (again). This is ramen noodles were the broth is similar to soup curry soup, and the topping is kind of similar to what you often get in soup curry. Not bad. But I like the soup curry better with rice than with ramen.

Theme of the day: free olives

One of my colleagues is Greek and he thinks that the olive oil that is sold in Japan is a) expensive, and b) crap. He gave me a big can of Greek olive oil of excellent quality.

Later the same day, a woman I sometimes run into since we drink in the same bar gave me two cans of olives. She had received them as a gift from a customer of hers, but she does not eat olives. So she gave them to me.

Ice cream flavored chocolate

Our coop now sells ice cream flavored chocolate. Or more accurately chocolate that has the flavor of the non-ice cream parts of some strange ice cream you can buy in Japan. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Showing your underwear in a Japanese bar

Eel bones. Healthier than chocolate. Probably.

I stopped by the snack bar Ropossa and met several people I know. One of them had brought chocolate from Osaka and someone else had brought dried eel bones, which to Japanese people is more or less the same kind of snack.

There was a new game there were you push a button to make a plastic gymnast spin on the bar, and another button to make him release the bar. The goal is to spin him fast enough and release him at the right timing to make him do a 360 in the air and land on his feet on the mat. This was pretty difficult.

Osaka is famous for funny comedians, and this Osaka souvenir cookie brand (Omoshiroi Koibito, "funny lover") is a pun on a Sapporo souvenir (Shiroi Koibito, "white lover" (Sapporo gets lots of snow, which is white)).

I also happened to meet a girl there that I sometimes run into with whom I ended up having a funny conversation a while back when the rivers where overflowing in the middle of the night. She (and everyone else, since the warning system woke you up every 15 minutes anyway) was on Facebook and said that she was right on the border of the "evacuate because of landslides" area, on the "safe" side. But since the areas kept growing, she was wondering if she should evacuate too. She also said something like "and I am not even wearing underwear", so many people commented that she should probably at least put on underwear in preparation for evacuation.

This woman was wearing a kimono and looked like the "mama" of a bar, though she was just a customer like me, so everyone thought it looked funny when we sat next to each other. She pretended to be the mama and pour me beer (which I was not drinking) etc. too. 

Another friend commented that she should put on underwear and evacuate to this friend's house, since it was far from the landslide areas. This friend lives across the street from me, so I added that she could also evacuate to my place, which has the benefit of being on the 9th floor and thus safa against even severe flooding. Also, there is no requirement that you wear underwear here, I added. They thought this was funny, and commented along the lines of "So Jonas does not wear underwear at home". I added that I was in fact wearing funny underwear (Superman underwear), but that it was not a requirement. They thought it was funny and said that the next time we meet I will have to show them my underwear...

So now that we met again, she said: "So, show us your underwear!" And I did.

I was wearing underwear with 10 different playing cards on, which they thought were "cute".

Drunk men giving me flowers

The bar where one of my friends works was closed for a month because they moved to a new location. I went there on the opening night in the new places, and ran into a man I have met before in this bar. He gave me a rose, for no particular reason.

I also met a girl who had also been to a coupling party (speed dating). I asked if it had been fun, but she said there were no interesting men there at all. Not even one. The party I went to had lots of interesting people (also among the men, according to the girl I know who also was there).

I was also told by a Japanese friend that this photo makes me look like a complete narcissist. Having a flower in you pocket makes you a narcissist, having a jacket with any form of decoration or pattern makes you a narcissist, and having a t-shirt with a photo of yourself makes you a narcissist. I can see the point of the last part, but the first two? A narcissist?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Speed dating in Japan

On Sunday I tried Japanese speed dating. Here it is called "Coupling Parties", and the goal is to find someone to get married to (there may be speed dating parties with the goal of just finding someone to date, but during my research I only found ones where the main goal was marriage). Many years ago I thought about trying all kinds of things in Japan just to see what it is like, and speed dating was one of them. Since I am busy with work, I never got around to most of the things, and one of the things I never got around to trying was speed dating.

Since a few weeks back (and for two more days), a girl from Sweden is visiting Sapporo and since we are both born in Sweden someone once introduced us (because having lived in Sweden, it is so exotic to meet other people born Sweden, perhaps?) here in Sapporo. She comes here every one or two years or so, and we usually meet up and go to some Japanese festival or some strange night club or whatnot.

This time, we met and had dinner a week back. I asked if there was something in particular she wanted to do, since at this time of the year there is nothing out of the ordinary going on in Sapporo. She said she wanted to try speed dating in Japan, and that it would be great if I could look up the opportunities for that and if we could go together.

I once heard one of my friends talking about how she met a guy at a speed dating party, so I e-mailed once of the people involved in that conversation and asked for tips. She recommended a company and when I checked their web page they have several speed dating parties every day! There are different themes, like: "People in their twenties" (neither me nor the Swedish girl qualifies for that one), "Men in suits" (I have only one suit, and it is pink with embroidered roses; good for stage performances, not good for 'everyone should look serious in suits'), "People who love outdoor activities" (I don't mind outdoor activities, but ever since being in the army I strongly prefer sleeping in a bed over camping etc.) and much more.

I suggested a few days and times (and the themes at those times) to the Swedish girl and we ended up going together on Sunday evening. The theme was "Wedding plans start at 28 [years old]; men with a salary of 4 million yen [per year] or more and popular jobs". I have a fairly good salary so I earn a lot more than 4 million yen per year (4 million sounds like a lot but one yen is not worth that much), and fit the age criteria of 28 to 40 years old, and would probably pass as 公務員 (government employee), since I work at a state run university (I am in the same labor union as the government employees at least). For women the only requirement was to be between 27 and 39 years old and not married. Not being married is a requirement for both men and women in every party. The price was 4000 yen for men, 2500 yen for women, which makes it one of their more expensive parties. Other parties were 2000 yen for men, 1000 yen for women.

When we arrived, we were asked to fill out profile sheets. The basic info was name, age, what part of the city you live in, if you live alone or not, what part of the city you work in, what type of job you do, blood type (used for horoscopes in Japan), star sign, how tall you are, siblings/parents, if you smoke, if you drink alcohol, if you have been married before, if you have children, if you have pets, what days of the week you do not work, and within what amount of time you want to get married (6 months, 1 year, 3 years, "decide after we start dating").

Then there were bigger fields to fill in: what you do on days you do not work, music you like, what you see as ideal in women, how you would describe yourself (your personality) in one phrase, and a field for hobbies/certificates/abilities out of the ordinary.

Men also filled in their yearly salary, while women filled in "the food I can cook best".

Since the Swedish girl lived 4 years in Sapporo she understands spoken Japanese very well, and speaks fairly well (though she does not use Japanese much so sometimes she has problems finding the words she want to use). She lived her when she was a kid, though, so she does not read nor write Japanese. So she asked me to fill out her profile sheet too. Since I write at something like one tenth of the speed of Japanese people (when writing Japanese) I was stressed for time with just my own sheet already, haha. I know how to write my star sign in Japanese (since people ask me about it a lot), but I had no idea how to write her sign. A dictionary look-up with the cellphone solved that, but took more time. She later told me that she had been complemented by lots of people on how good she was at writing difficult kanji like 獅子座...

I wrote down "magic" under hobbies, but after the first person I talked to asked the obvious "And what country are you from?", I figured I should have written that down too somewhere. There was nothing that obviously fit, so I put "Speaking Swedish" as one of my skills out of the ordinary (hopefully people did not take it to be a hobby of mine). I put "house work" under what I do on the one day of the week I do not work (I have to do it sometime and I have no time any other days, so I clean and do laundry on my day off). Lots of people thought that was funny.

I showed up in trousers with black cherry blossom pattern on black, a little weird but not that strong colors, and a t-shirt with the Facebook "Like"-button (thumbs up sign) and いいね (the Facebook "like" in Japanese) written on it. This is considered a funny (but weird) shirt to move by Japanese people. I figured that if people are looking for someone to marry and having no fashion sense is a deal breaker for them, I should let them know right from the start so we would not be wasting our time unnecessarily. Hiding your flaws to get a good start at something that is doomed to fail eventually was what people recommended me to do, but I did not think that sounded like a good long term plan. Or nice to the other people.

Once the actual party got started, all the women sat on one side of a long row of chairs, and the men on the other side. You were assigned a number and sat on the corresponding chair. You handed over your profile sheet and received theirs in return, so you could quickly scan that for any deal breakers (if you cannot stand people who smoke, for instance) and to look for ideas of things to say. I looked at the "hobbies", "what I do on my day off", "pets", and "food I can cook" mostly. I do not think I ever even noticed the age of anyone. And why would you check how tall someone is when they are in front of you and you can see that (though perhaps not in as much detail)? The field for "describe yourself in one phrase" was sometimes interesting too.

You had about two or three minutes to read the profile and talk to this person. Then there was an announcement that it was time to move to the next person, and all men switched to the chair to the right of them, and the process started over with a new person in front of you and three more minutes to talk to them. After an hour, you had talked to every person there. There were 13 women and 17 men, so at 4 occasions I ended up with an empty chair in front of me. That was actually great, because it meant you finally had time to jot down some comments about the people you had already talked to. Without that, I would not have remembered much about the first people, or who had talked about what.

I had a lot of fun. There were lots of interesting people there. I talked to one girl who complimented my t-shirt and had written "cake" as the dish she was most confident in, who seemed funny. I talked to another who liked travelling, and when I asked where she had had most fun she said Bulgaria! I have been to Bulgaria twice, and had fun too. So we spent most of our (really short) time talking about Bulgaria. Another girl had written "soup curry" as her best dish, which was interesting. We talked about soup curry a lot since I had spent the last two summers doing a soup curry tour with one of my colleagues, visiting lots of soup curry places. She said one of her hobbies was to visit soup curry places and then try to imitate that particular taste at home herself. Another one that was funny specified that in the summer she plays golf and in the winter she is hikikomori. This might be close to "hibernating" or isolating yourself. It is a funny way to describe yourself. She hates winter sports, she said. Another girl and I talked about visiting Paris and the Louvre, and she had a good job and told me she even had a master's degree in something else too. One woman asked me if people in Sweden get stiff shoulders (a very common problem in Japan). I said that I think so, but perhaps not to the same degree as here. I suggested that it may be because in Sweden we work only 8 hours per day and only 5 days per week, and actually have vacations too. (My Japanese friends average around 10 hours per day, six or seven days per week, and use perhaps two vacation days per year.) One girl told me she has a cat, a dog, and a pet turtle. She also wanted to learn how to say "hello" in Swedish, and then said "Hej!" to me every time we met anywhere (the corridor, around the buffet table, when leaving, etc.). Another girl had listed "marimo" under pets. Marimo is an aquatic ball of algae. I asked if this is actually a pet, and she said that it is a pet anyone can take care of. This struck me as a great thing to list under pets.

When I ended up in front of my Swedish friend, I asked her how it was going. She said that most people did not speak much English, so when she could not find the Japanese words the conversation was somewhat lacking. She also said that pretty much everyone asked: "So, you are from Sweden but you live here?" "No, I am here on vacation." "Then what on Earth are you doing at a party like this?!" Which is understandable, I guess, haha.

In general it was very stressful since you had just a few minutes to talk to each person, and no breaks in between. After just one hour of this, I was completely drained. You get about one minute to learn enough about the other person to make a decision and one minute to give them enough information to base their decision on. What can you say in one minute to achieve that? I should have thought more about that beforehand, perhaps. But since I spend several nights per week talking to random strangers and entertaining them with a large amount of talking involved, I am fairly good at quickly adjusting to other people in the conversation and finding funny things to say in response to what hey are saying or doing, so I think I did OK even if my Japanese is not good enough to make me really good at this here (I would probably be much more impressive to people speaking Swedish, or even English).

Once everyone had talked to everyone, you filled out a card with the numbers of the people you would rank as your number 1 to number 6. I had 8 women that I found funny and interesting. My number 1 and 2 were pretty clear. Then 3 and 4 were pretty evenly matched, and 5 not far behind. Then there were three more that could all be number 6. So there were some difficult decisions there.

These notes were collected and the information put into a computer and you got a personalized result sheet back. It told you the computer's idea of your chances with the 6 people you had chosen (probably based on if they chose you in return, what positions they and you assigned you to, and how popular they were with other people, and whatnot). My number one was listed as a 69% match, and the rest were around 20%, and the last two around 13%. Not that great.

You also got information about your top 3 choices. It specified how many other men had chosen them, and there were also text descriptions of their popularity (perhaps based on the positions all these people assigned them to). My number on choice had been chosen by 14 other men. So 15 out 17 chose her. A tough competition. My second choice had 11 other competitors and my third had 13... I guess at least this disproves the theory that all of my friends have that I have bad (or not the same as Japanese men) taste in women and go for only weird ones, at least.

You also got a list of the people who had chosen you as one of their 6 choices, and any of them that you had chosen yourself were helpfully underlined. With 14 women making 6 choices each and 17 men to choose from, you get an average of almost 5. I got a disappointingly low two people that were kind enough to list me. One of them I had chosen myself, though.

Armed with this information, it was time for 15 minutes of "Free Time". There was sushi, some light snacks, small sandwiches, sweets, and drinks (tea, orange juice, beer) on two tables and you could eat as much or as little as you wanted. The idea was that you would go and talk to people that you wanted to know more about or that you wanted to try to make a stronger impression on. I spoke to another man for awhile because he wondered if I ate sushi and if could use chopsticks etc. Then I also thought that since I was there with my Swedish friend, who looked a bit lonely at the other table, I should at least check with her how she was doing. She said she was having fun too, and she found lots of sushi and sweets that she liked. The girl who learned how to say "Hej" in Swedish came up to us and said "Hej!". She also drank all her beer quickly and then saw that there was no more beer on the table, so she took the initiative and went back stage somewhere and asked around for some staff member (they were busy with inputting things into the computer) to ask if there was any more beer. There was more beer, so she came back with lots of beer. She was funny. I was thinking of going over to my number one choice to say something, but she was deep in a conversation with someone else and I did not really have anything more to add to our previous (very entertaining) conversation. Then the Free Time was suddenly over.

Finally, you wrote down your current top three choices (in order), possibly the same as before, and these were put into the computer again. You could also write some feedback to the organizers. I wrote down that the girl who was directing everything ("Now it is time to go to the next chair!", "The people with number 13 please stand up so everyone can see you and your number again!" etc.) was too good looking, so she stole the attention from the women paying to be there.

You could also write up to three messages with your contact information, one line of free text, and the number of the person you wanted to receive that message. This would then be collected and put in an envelope with any other messages from other people and given to that person when they left. I sent my contact info with a short personalized and hopefully funny line to my number 1 and 2 choices, and a message to the girl who has a pet marimo moss ball congratulating her on having had the most memorable pet (or other information) that really stuck in my head.

Then the party was over and they presented the results. They said that no less than 8 couples had been created this time. So 8 men and 8 women that both had chosen each other as one of their top 3 candidates had been found. This is pretty impressive in a group of 14 vs. 17. We were told that when we left we would get an envelope where the message slips and a note specifying who if anyone you had become a couple with. I got an envelope that contained no couple information and no message slips, but had five flyers for other parties organized by the company. Themed Christmas parties etc.

If you were paired with someone, the men (who all left first) were supposed to wait outside for the girls to come out and then approach them. The idea was that you would then go and have dinner right then (it was about dinner time) or set up a meeting for some other day.

My Swedish friend had the same result, I think, so we went to Starbucks and had some matcha green tea and talked about the experience. While it is a bit sad to get picked by only 2 out of 14 people (less than half the average), get 0 messages, and fail to be paired, we both agreed that it had been a lot of fun. That people would not choose someone who lives in a city 16 hours by airplane away or a crazy foreigner with strange clothes is not that surprising, I guess. I got to talk to many interesting women, and my friend said that there was a wide spread among the men too. She had talked to someone in the health business, a guy who worked at a gym (he got paired with my number 1 choice, we noticed when we left the building), a guy who had his own rice fields, and many more.

The guy who sat next to me during the whole first session also leaned over towards me during one break and asked: "You are a magician, right?" He said he has been to our magic bar several times. I said that the next time I will probably remember him, since it was surprising to meet under these circumstances. If not, he could just say "coupling party" to jog my memory. When he left (with my number 2 choice, that he was paired with), he said he would come to our bar again soon. He seemed nice and funny. He was constantly laughing and seemed to enjoy the party as much as I did. The girl said "Hej!" again, and then they disappeared.

Having been slightly disappointed with the unimpressive results, my spirits were lifted a little in the middle of the night when my number 2 choice messaged me. The message just said "Hei" in Japanese. But then there was another message saying, "Ah, this is number 11". Which was still a bit unclear, but after awhile it clicked in my head and I figured out who this unknown phone number must belong to. She then asked me if I had been paired with anyone and when I said no she suggested that if I had done magic in front of everyone during the free time I would probably have been the star of the party. I said that I would probably have been thrown out for ruining the talk time of everyone, but if not, probably yes, haha. But while doing magic does impress people (at least if you do it well), it rarely makes them want to date you. My experience is that people that watch and are amazed by magic together bond, while the magician seems more and more as someone outside the group.

So, I was somewhat back in spirits that at least one of the three people I sent a short message to got in touch with me. At lunch the next day I got another message that said: "Hi, I am the one who has a marimo moss ball". And then in the afternoon I got an e-mail from the last girl too. So these message cards seemed to be really useful.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Mr. Thumb's up and his "gil"

I went to Starbucks with woman from Sweden yesterday. I wore a t-shirt with the Facebook thumbs up button, and the Japanese text that goes with it (いいね). The guy we ordered our matcha lattes from thought the t-shirt was very funny and complimented me on my choice of clothes today.

When we got our matcha cups, mine had a thumbs up drawing and いいね written in katakana (イイネ). This was pretty easy to figure out, but the other cup said "GIL". My guess is that it means "girl", which I guess is an accurate description of who it was for. Though not that discriminative, there were many other girls in the same Starbucks.

Bunny girls

The chain of "girls bar" (bars where girls work and drink with you and you pay for their drinks) called Million has as its gimmick that everyone working there is dressed in a bunny girl suit. They have expanded aggressively in Sapporo, and one of their places has just opened a second floor area on top of one of their previous bars. It has a glass wall, and lots of people were standing below taking photos of the girls working up there. Since everyone else was taking photos, I took one too, to blend in with the crowd.

Japanese toilets: lots and lots of buttons, but not one of the flushes the toilet...

When I visited my friends visiting Tokyo, they asked me about the toilets in their hotels. There were lots of buttons, and some of them they understood, some of them they did not. There are buttons for playing sounds (so no one can hear any embarrassing sounds you might make), buttons for controlling the temperature, pressure, location, etc. of water spraying you from below, buttons for adjusting the temperature of the heated seat, and more.

There is, however, no button on this control panel that actually flushes the toilet. Which is perhaps the function people are most often searching for. This is usually done by a lever cleverly hidden on the back of the toilet, or a button hidden somewhere marked with the Chinese character for "flowing". It could also be a touch sensitive panel somewhere in the room. Or there could be no button at all; some toilets sense when you leave and flush automatically.


In Fukuoka I wore a t-shirt and thought it was too hot. In Sapporo it started snowing when I was about to go home (photo taken after an hour or so of snowing) and kept snowing for two days. There was a foot of snow on the ground for a few days, but then most of it melted.

My Free Food winnings from Halloween paying off!

After drinking tequila all night, sleeping in the plane, going straight to work, working hard, I had a dinner meeting with my Sapporo colleagues. We often go out for hamburgers. This time they wanted to go to H's Cafe, that has excellent hamburgers. This was perfect for me, since I had won a "Free food all November"-card from H's Cafe at their Halloween party. So I got my hamburger and my drinks for free! Yay.

A horde of Japanese children sitting on the floor

On my flight from Fukuoka to Sapporo there was also a group of high school students going to Hokkaido for a school trip. So the plain was completely full and it took forever to get everyone boarded. They sat on the floor while waiting, for some reason. The chairs behind them seem empty and perfectly fine.

Beautiful Japanese toilet signs

This could be the most beautiful sign for explaining which toilet is for men and which is for women that I have seen so far.

Darts and Tequila in Magic bar Red Carpet

After visiting Nishioka, Hiro and I returned to Red Carpet. There I got to see another magician called Nishi do some magic. He used a Japanese 500 yen coin, which later turned into a clear glass version of a 500 yen coin. Which then kept growing and growing to larger sizes.

There were other guests there as well, and Hiro also did a big show at the counter. He did his normal impressive stuff, but he also started doing strange tricks like producing unlimited numbers of small rubber penises and making them light up. When I asked to take a photo of them, he brought out a paper bag with lights that shone along the same theme, and the camera was overwhelmed by this light so you cannot really see the magicians in the photo either. They thought that was great, but the girl sitting next to me thought it was not great, so she suggested taking another photo. The result is the top photo of this page (fairly normal).

Me and a girl I ran into 3 times in Fukuoka (during 2 days!)

This girl was one of the girls from the night before, who was there again. When all the other guests left, Hiro decided we should all play darts, in teams of two. He and Nishi are really good at darts (perhaps they spend the time when there are no guests there playing with the darts machine), I suck at darts, and the girl was very drunk and not that good at darts when sober either (she said). So as luck would have it, I was paired up with her, and we of course lost badly. The losing team then had to take shots of tequila. Then we changed teams, and repeated the process. No matter what team I was in, my team always lost, though.

After drinking lots of tequila, we changed to card games instead. We first played "babanuki" (which means almost the same as "old maid" in English, and the rules are the same as for that game). This is mainly a game of luck, so I was worried that I would be stuck with even more tequila, but I got out safely very quickly. Then they changed to games based on skill, and I was safe for the rest of the night. They thought it was impressive that I could clear the table in memory games after having lost that many times in the tequila darts games, but it was not that much alcohol, and keeping track of cards is not that hard.

In the end, it was a lot of fun, but every time I was about to leave someone would say: "What? It looks on your face as if you are about to leave. You cannot leave NOW of course!" Always for some fairly unconvincing reason. In the end, I got back to my hotel just in time to have one hour of sleep before having some hotel breakfast and going to the airport. Luckily, the flight from Fukuoka to Sapporo is quite long, so I got a lot of sleep on the plane. And then I went straight to our university to work the rest of the day too.

In the plane, I ended up sitting in the seat next to one of my colleagues also going back to Sapporo from Fukuoka. This was by chance, but not that much of a coincidence since there is pretty much only one flight to use for use in this situation, and unlike the Sapporo-Tokyo route where they fly 777s, between Fukuoka and Sapporo they fly 737s, which have much fewer seats.

In Magic bar Nishioka with another magician

After the dinner, work was finished, and I got back to my hotel at around ten in the evening. This was earlier than I had expected, but later than I had hoped. I went to say hello to magician Hiro in his magic bar Red Carpet. He suggested we should do something somewhere else first, and then come back to his place (which was still pretty empty).

We first went to a hostess club where one of the girls I had met the night before was working. She was there and was happy to see us. We got to talk to lots of hostesses, who sit next to you and drink with you and laugh at your jokes if you try to be funny. Hiro did some magic for some of them and asked me to show some of them some magic too.

I was holding a transparent plastic film in my hand when this photo was taken, taken with my own camera, no less. When we checked the photo later, there was a two of diamonds there instead.

After that, I said I was thinking of visiting another magic bar to see other magicians do magic too. I said I would go to Red Carpet and meet him there again later, but he said we could go together. So we went to the magic bar Nishioka together. All the magicians there know him, of course. I have been there once before, one and half year ago, but they still remembered me. There was a new young (well, 32 years old) magician there that neither Hiro nor me had seen before. He was very nice, and he did some fun magic. We also got to see some classics of magic done by a magician who said he is 70 years old, and some magic that is just incredibly difficult to not be fooled by even if you are a magician done by a magician who taught Hiro magic when he was starting to learn magic. Very impressive.

Kyushu University new campus

By riding the subway to the end of the line, changing to a train for an even longer trip, and then getting on a local bus, I finally managed to reach the new campus of Kyushu University, where our meeting was to be held. It was a very nice campus, and you could see beaches from the train on the way there (no one was swimming in November, despite it being like a cool summer day in Sweden, when lots of people swim). They were still reconstructing the shape of the mountains to erect more buildings.

Our meeting was the usual, people from the other groups in our big project where we cooperate reported on what they have been doing recently (and we did the same, of course), and everyone talks about who should do what in the future. I had to do a presentation too, but since I have not really done anything relevant to this project lately I had been asked to show the same thing I showed to the same people last time, which always makes me feel like I am wasting their time. I tried to show some new things, but there was not that much to show.

There was also a dinner, with buffet style Italian food. The pizzas were great. The pasta was good. The rest was also good, actually. I ate way too much. I talked to several researchers that I have been in the same room with before, but who I had never really talked to. One of them used to visit Stockholm (where I am from) several times per year to discuss cell phone standards many years ago, he said.

Sumo wrestlers taking the bus

Fukuoka has a fairly good subway system, but lots and lots of people also ride buses. I was planning to take a bus to the place of our meeting, but there were too many others with the same idea, so I would not get there on time by bus, I was told by the old man helping people. I saw some sumo wrestlers getting on a bus, though.

Meeting Shinpei Ogawa in Magic bar Red Carpet

Me, Shinpei Ogawa, Hiro

Before going to sleep I also visited the magic bar Red Carpet. Magician U in Fushigiya had called magician Hiro in Red Carpet to talk about me. When I said I was from Sapporo he thought that maybe I knew Hiro, since he visited Sapporo (and we met at that time). I have met Hiro several times, and he is good friends with the owner of our magic bar in Sapporo. I visited Red Carpet last time I was in Fukuoka too.

When I got there, the magician Shinpei Ogawa was sitting at the counter. He is very famous in Japan. I do not know why he was visiting Fukuoka (he lives in Nagasaki, I think), but he and Hiro are friends. We talked for a while, but he was about to leave when I got there, so we did not have that much time. He showed me a card trick, and I tried to do my usual thing with the broken iPhone plunger. I asked if it would be OK to take a photo together, so we did that.

Later, Hiro showed me some tips about doing the plunger trick in a different way. Some of it was very clever, some of it was very funny. Suddenly a lot of very drunk people came in and wanted to see magic, so I moved to a table and they got to occupy the whole counter. Hiro did magic for them, and I ended up talking to two girls that said they come to Red Carpet very often. They were very funny.

They really like magic. By chance, someone had taken them to Red Carpet and then they had just been blown away and started coming there all the time. They watched the magic Hiro did at the counter, and I saw most of it too. Cards, cigarettes, eggs, drawing duplications, all kinds of fun magic was performed, often to music.

Hiro suggested that the next day we could go and visit the place where these girls work, but one of them said she was not working the next day. I said I had no idea if I would have time (sometimes our meetings seem endless, and my flight the morning after that was really early). I left and said I would at least stop by in Red Carpet and say hello the next day too.

Broken plunger

A guy who saw me do a magic trick with my little iPhone stand plunger managed to break it by furiously sticking the plunger to all kinds of things and ripping it off. I have more (and they are cheap), but I have only one more in this color (my favorite color), and I had only brought one to Fukuoka. A magician friend of mine lent me some glue, which made it stick well enough that you can do the trick I use it for, but if you stick the plunger to the table it will come apart again because the plunger is stronger than the glue.

Santas fixing the lights

I passed by a group of workers decorating giant Christmas trees. They were all wearing Santa-suits.

Magic bar Fushigiya and Casual bar Alice Style

Me, an Alice, and three people I had never met that were very friendly

When I travel I try to find time to go see other people do magic. I like magic, and it is also educational to see how other people present standard tricks or see original things they may be doing.

In Fukuoka there are several magic bars. I had been to two of them before and decided to go to another one for a few hours before I had to get back to my hotel to be able to get up early for work the next day. I went to Fushigiya, which means "the place of strange things".

The first challenge was to get through the door. Many magic bars have weird doors that do not open the way you would think, so you have to solve a puzzle before you even get in. I am told some do this on purpose so they can avoid getting people who are too drunk to be interesting as customers. I find it mostly annoying, but the intention seems to be a clever and funny puzzle. I have had to navigate through doors where the handle is on the wrong side of the door and you have to push on the other side, a door that opens only in the middle of what looks like a door, etc.

For some reason, there is a lifelike doll in the bar that has different clothes every time you visit (unless you visit too often in a short time)

Once inside, I met one of their regulars and the magician U. He showed me some magic and his style was quite different from most other magic bars. He also used pretty original props. He showed me some cigarette magic, some cup and balls stuff, some rope magic, and a trick with an egg. We also talked about magic and magicians.

A real (but dead) bat

After a while he said that since no one else was coming, we should go downstairs to the newly opened bar Alice Style, which he also owns (if I understood correctly). Right then, three new customers showed up, but in the end we brought them with us too, and we all went down to Alice Style to see the magic there instead.

Me and U

In Alice Style there was a young girl dressed as Alice in Wonderland who turned out to be from the same small village in the middle of nowhere as the three people we had come there with, so they talked about that for a long time. We also got to see quite a lot of magic, and there was a guy who does magic as a hobby drinking in the bar too. U asked him to show something, and he did. Then I was asked to do something, so I did two tricks that went over very well (they usually do). Later, another hobbyist came and he was also asked to show something.

Magician U of course did most of the magic, though. He did the cup and balls with cups of potato chips again, he did some magic with tissues, with chopsticks, and more. It was a lot of fun. The girl dressed as Alice was cute and funny, and the other girl working there was even cuter (no idea if she was funny; she was busy talking to a customer at the other end of the bar the whole night), and the bartenders working there were very nice too. Magicia U was funny and nice. And the place looked nice. And the other guests were nice too. The only downside was that one drunk man was so impressed with a small plunger prop (an iPhone accessory) that I used that he played with it too furiously and it broke. I have more of them, but only one more in that color (the best color), and had of course only brought one to Fukuoka.