Wednesday, December 24, 2014

White Christmas

Since Sapporo gets huge amounts of snow, we always have a White Christmas here. We also always work on Christmas, but you can enjoy the view through the window while you are waiting for your software to compile or something.

Japanese Christmas is crazy and weird

Japanese traditional Christmas. Probably.
In Japan, Christmas is not celebrated that much since there are almost no Christians here (half a percent of the population or so). It is considered a great chance to do something fun, so it is celebrated in the way people believe Westerners celebrate Christmas. This belief is mainly based on what people have seen in Hollywood movies.
Christmas food
One common way to celebrate Christmas is to eat Kentucky Fried Chicken. In fact, KFC is so strongly connected with Christmas that you cannot eat at KFC on Christmas without booking in advance. And there are huge lines outside KFC with people who have booked.
Christmas present
An acceptable alternative to KFC is fried chicken in general, or roasted chicken. I had some roasted chicken last night, and it was good. My theory is that the thinking is Western world = U.S.A. American Christmas = turkey, turkey is a bird, chicken is also a bird, chicken = Christmas food.
My friend was dressed as "Christmas Marilyn Monroe". He had also bought an underwear set to wear underneath, but discovered that it was completely see through and decided to wear normal underwear instead. At least in the beginning.
Christmas is also celebrated as a "date night" in Japan. If you have a girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/husband, you should go on a date on Christmas Eve. In general, you should eat expensive Western food, mainly French or Italian food. This means it is impossible to get a table at any good French or Italian restaurant on the 24th; they are all fully booked well in advance.
Another guy, trying to hide his beard. Very ungirly shoes, though.
Marilyn Monroe had managed to find high heels almost large enough for men to wear.
Since this is a night for couples, people who are not part of a couple feel left out. Some places hold special "Christmas party for lonely people", and I went to one last year. I went to one this year too. My friend who works there was very sure that he would not be lonely anymore this year, so they would not be having such a party again, but as things turned out he is still very lonely.
When I showed up, it turned out that every other man in the place was dressed in women's clothing. I am not sure that this is a Japanese Christmas tradition, but then again I am not sure it is not. Lots of men did that last year too.
Some weird Japanese thing going on outside the bar.
Underwear inspection
Another thing that was a bit weird with this party for lonely people was that while there were a bunch of people like me drinking alone at the counter, all the girls that showed up showed up with their boyfriends... So they had obviously missed the theme of this party.
Marilyn Monroe posing outside another bar (and people passing by said: "Ah, so this is a gay bar!")
Yet another Japanese man dressed for Christmas
More people showed up later during the evening, and more people showed up wearing dresses (all men). Later, my friend who had decided not to wear the skimpy underwear on account of it being completely see through (and his dress to short not to wear non-see-through underwear) decided to wear the skimpy things anyway. And to go out and pose in front of unrelated bars looking like that. Japanese Christmas is weird, but pretty entertaining.
"Normal" underwear worn under the see through underwear.

Japanese Christmas present

Yesterday a woman I met in a bar that knows someone I know gave me a Christmas present. She gave me some canned food; teriyaki flavored chicken meat.

Deep fried crackers

Japanese food is said to be healthy, but sometimes I wonder... Last night I was served deep fried crackers.

Cheese shabu-shabu and people with no fashion sense

This glass is a beer jockey that says "whisky" but contains tea.
In Japan you have 忘年会 ("bounenkai", party to forget), a party where you go out with everyone you work with (you can have bounenkai with your friends too) and eat and drink together. I missed the party with my lab this year too, because I had to work that evening (and they always put our parties on Friday evenings, which is possibly the worst evening to use, since that is the only time you can meet your non-work friends; if you have any).
French fries and a glass of honey to dip them in (not the best combination, but not that bad)
I am invited to the bounenkais of my previous lab too, though, since everyone who ever worked or studied there is invited. This lab puts their parties on normal weekdays, which is good because that means you are likely to have nothing else planned on that evening.
Doing shabu-shabu with cheese slices
I ended up meeting the people I used to work with, and a lot of students I had never seen before (the students that were there during my time in the lab have all graduated by now). The food was interesting. There were French fries with honey. There was cheese shabu-shabu. This means a put with stuff in it where you dip slices of cheese until they melt and then you eat this cheese. If you wait too long, it is impossible to get the cheese out of the pot with your chopsticks, though, so timing is somewhat difficult.
The parties in my current lab often end up more or less like work meetings, and you have to talk about work a lot of the time. This may sound boring (and possibly not the most exciting way to spend your Friday evening/night) but at the party of this other lab, people were so bored they were playing games under the table, haha. I had a lot of fund, though.
Baguette with ice cream
One of the new students that just entered my old lab turned out to also be wearing a coat with a fur collar, and a weird scarf. He also wore sunglasses at night in the dark time of year. Everyone thought it was super funny that there were two of us (him and me) that so completely lack fashion sense, and they wanted to take photos of us. The two guys in the back were laughing during every photo.
Me and another guy also lacking fashion sense 

Christmas food... scrambled eggs

In preparation for Christmas, our cafeteria has started serving Christmas scrambled eggs with ketchup. It is red and yellow, which qualifies it as Christmas food.

Unhelpful straw

I recently went to a Tai restaurant where I got a tiny straw with my lychee juice. The straw was just barely longer than the glass was deep, which made it very difficult and impractical to drink through. It was also very thin, so you had to suck really really hard to get anything at all to go through the straw. At least it forced you to pace yourself, since you could not drink very quickly through this straw.

Cookie, and a lot of wrapping

One of my friends wanted to bake me a Christmas cookie as a Christmas present, but being Japanese she ended up having to work more or less 24 hours per day every day in December, so she did not have time to bake even one cookie. She instead bought me a cookie. It came in a plastic bag, which contained a plastic Christmas wrapping bag, inside of which there was a soft cushion packaging so the cookie would not break during transport, inside which there was a small plastic bag, containing a paper wrapping and a cookie. The like wrapping things in this country... The cookie was good (and unbroken).

Christmas presents from Sweden

I got home and found a not in my mailbox saying that someone had tried to deliver a parcel larger than my mailbox (which is tiny) and had put it in one of the larger mailboxes that are intended for situations just like this. So I found a large parcel full of Christmas presents from my parents.

I got dried mushrooms, chocolate, licorice, a kitchen towel with descriptions of edible parts of animals, a cheese slicer, and more chocolate. The cheese slicer is nice to have, since things like this are not sold in Japan. On the other hand, cheese is only sold in super small quantities, so you cannot really find any cheese to use it on either.

I also received something labeled "reindeer poo". I tried to eat some of it (who wouldn't?) and it turned out to be chocolate.

Marmite and chance meetings at One Star Bar

After the El Mango party I stopped by a bar where one of my friends works. He asked me if I was hungry, which I was not (the El Mango party had lots of very good food). He was insistent, though. It turned out that he had some guydon (rice with thin slices of beef) from Yoshinoya (famous for having extremely cheap guydon) that he had started eating but could not finish, so he wanted to get rid of the leftovers.

Me, two years ago

One of the other guys working there decided to try some marmite that I had brought from Oxford. They had tried it before and decided that it tastes horrible. He tried it with the guydon, to see if that would be good. It was horrible.

Guydon, lots and lots of rice, and trace amount of beef

Later, a woman came to the bar and mentioned that she had probably met me before. She showed me a photo she had in her phone of someone with a bloody face and a zipper glued to the face. It was me, of course. We had apparently met two years ago in a different bar.

Marmite, does not go well with guydon (or anything else, really)

Ghostly magic show at El Mango Christmas Party

I did a magic show at the salsa club El Mango again. I was there for Halloween, and I was there in November. As this was the third time in only three months, I was running out of new material. I can do hours and hours of table magic, but I do not do that much stage magic so my choice of magic that goes over well is more limited. I ended up doing stuff that I had never performed before for about half the show this time, which is always a bit nervous.

Apart from my magic there was also food. Lots and lots of free food. Very nice food.
Winner of the costume competition
There was a guy wearing a shirt that said 下ネタ王子 ("the prince of dirty talk") who was presented to me as "here is a guy who just like you wears clothes that normal people would never wear". The girl in the angel outfit came second in the costume competition.

There was also a costume competition. I was asked to show up in costume and decided to use my wig from Halloween with my ghost costume from O-Bon. My costume was popular, but I did not win any prize. They mentioned the three top costumes in the competition, but mine was not among them. All the top three candidates were girls in short skirts. Neither was the girl in a short skirt I thought looked best, though.
Stunt fighting
Break dance
More break dance
Rock band
People almost storming the stage during the band's performance
There were also lots of other performances. The stunt fighting group One-Ones was there, a rock band was there, and a break dancing group was there. They were all good.
Multiple participant janken (rock-paper-scissors) game
Rock-Paper-Scissors winner
There were some games, like a janken (rock-paper-scissors) game where the winner got a very nice present.
Passing presents in a ring
I first got something that looked like a PET bottle with tea, but the game started again and I passed this along
There was also "present exchange". This is common in Japanese Christmas parties. Everyone brings a gift, and you stand in a ring passing your gift to the person next to you, and receiving a gift from the person on the other side of you. After some time, this procedure ends and you get to keep whatever gift you are holding at that time.
I finally got Swedish marshmallows
This was the present that I brought
I received a bag of Swedish marshmallows. This is quite unexpected considering this is Japan. Two of my Swedish friends who were here visiting Sapporo also came to the party and I ended up with one of the presents they had brought.