Monday, January 26, 2015

Extreme packaging

Since the sake museum gave me lots and lots of alcohol for free, I felt that I should at least buy something in the souvenir shop they have. I bought something called "blueberry pie". It was a huge box, but like with many products in Japan, it felt super light when you lifted it.

Even some of my Japanese friends said: "Are you sure this is not just a display element? This box must be empty!" But it did contain small souvenir cookies.

Someone really likes Hatsune Miku

I saw (what looked like) a private car which was fully decorated with Hatsune Miku.


My friend, still female, Japanese, and skinny, wanted to have some takoyaki after the ice cream, hamburgers, croquettes, strawberry desserts, etc. So we had some very nice takoyaki before going home.

"L'Oro Rosso" looks like an encoding error when written in Japanese: ロロロッソ

Yesterday we passed a place called "L'oro rosso". This is written as "ロロロッソ" in Japanese. Since the first three letters are just squares, it looks like you have a font encoding problem.

The place was small, and quite nice. We had some good wine, and some heated strawberries with cheese.

Sasebo Burger, good enough to travel from Australia to eat?

There is a show on Japanese TV called ”Why did you come to Japan?".  I don't have a TV so I have never seen this show, but many of my friends, both Japanese and foreign, watch the show. They look for interesting looking people in the airport and then follow foreigners around on their travels in Japan.

A place serving Sasebo Burgers

In one episode they met an Australian guy who came to Japan to eat "Sasebo Burger". He had been in Japan before and tried it and loved it. He returned to Australia and worked for years to save enough money to go to Japan again, and now he was here to eat Sasebo Burger every meal, every day.


My colleague thought this was interesting, and wanted to try this burger to see what would make people travel all the way from Australia just eat a burger. He found out that there is one place in Sapporo that serves Sasebo Burger, and my colleague went there and tried it. He has told me this story several times.

Yesterday, I also happened to pass by this place here in town, with another friend who had also had this conversation about Sasebo Burgers with my colleague recently. We decided to go in and try these almost mythical burgers.

How to eat a burger-instructions

They turned out to be very large, but other than that they were surprisingly normal. Good, but not very different from most other burgers. There was an interesting explanation showing you how to eat hamburgers, which was quite educational, though.

My friend, who is Japanese and a girl and thus very skinny, also wanted to order pumpkin croquettes in addition to the huge burgers. How do Japanese people stay so skinny?

Japan, not always very punctual

I passed a place that was closed but said that they are open from "around 18:00" to "around 2:00". For a country where the trains are rarely more than a few seconds late, this is a very loose schedule.

Sake museum; free sake, not so much museum

We have a museum called the Chitose Tsuru Sake museum here in Sapporo. There is also a place called Chitose, where our international airport is located, but the name of the museum is unrelated. It is named after the sake making company Chitose Tsuru (the "One thousand year crane").

Models illustrating sake making
There were even English explanations. Understandable, but not very grammatically correct.

The place is called a museum, but is very small for a museum. It is just one fairly large room. There are some exhibits, like small models showing how Japanese sake has been made traditionally, old tools used in sake making, and my favorite: the old posters trying to sell sake. The posters are nice because you can see the change in fashion (clothes, hairstyles, etc.) over the years.

Apart from the small exhibits, there is also a lot of souvenir shopping. Mainly different types of sake. Some types that you can basically only buy in the museum.

The crane design is nice
The expensive stuff

You can also try alcohol for free. The let you try pretty much anything they sell. We tried the super expensive stuff too (the second most expensive one was sold for 2000 yen per small glass in a bar my friend went to, she said). I also tried some umeshu (Japanese plum wine) made from sake (normally it is made from shochuu). One had blueberry flavor, which was quite nice.

Extra good water

They seem to give you any amount of sake you want, and my friend said she was pretty drunk when we left (at three in the afternoon). You can also have as much water as you want, from a spring with what everyone believes is the best water in Sapporo (which is the stuff they use in the sake making). Since most water in Sweden is really good, I rarely get impressed when people say: "This water is so great, you have to try it!", though.

Sake-kasu ice cream

I also had ice cream made from waste products from the sake production. So my lunch was sake and plum wine, with some ice cream. Very healthy, I am sure. We then happened to pass a bar where my friend spotted someone she knows, so we stopped by there and had some wine. Later, I ended up helping out in our magic bar where people kept buying me vodka.

Every year they used girls in kimonos on the posters
Three years before I was born, and two years before I was born
One year before I was born, still kimono. And then, the year I was born something happened, and then they wore non-kimono for a few years (now they are back to kimonos again).

My favorite among the sake models

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Funny underwear

This week, a girl I sometimes run into in bars said she was disappointed with my underwear (not being funny). Before, she has said: "So, show us your underwear" in front of lots of people we do not know in some bar here in Sapporo. It all started when her house was in danger of being hit by a landslide. Japan is a strange country in some ways.

Anyway, she likes my t-shirts, and often comments on them if I am wearing something funny. I have one with the Facebook "Like" icon that says "Like" in Japanese. She sent me a photo of underwear with the same Facebook "Like" icon, but slightly different writing.

The original Facebook Japanese for the "Like" button says いいね, "ii ne", which means "good" and a particle for "I believe we think the same". So "Good, as you said!" or "Good, right?", depending on context. The underwear says いいよ "ii yo", which is "good" followed by the particle for "I am informing you of something". So "Tonight it is OK" or "This here is good, just so you know", kind of.

I learned that you can buy these at Amazon and ordered some new underwear. I also got one pair that says "This is just a small/trifling gift" and looks like Japanese gift wrapping, and one pair that says "What ever you do to me, I will return twice as much" (a phrase that is popular on TV recently).

My colleague at the university asked me why you would need so many funny underwear. Who are you going to show them to? A Japanese friend asked the same. I said that people often tell me to show them my underwear in bars, and asked if that never happens to them. Apparently, it never does.

I also suggested that it might be possible to come up with a magic trick where for some reason you end up having to take off your trousers.

Update: Today I also received a message from another Japanese girl (my friend's friend's girlfriend) that said: "Next time, we will have you show us these funny underwear".

The mystery letter arrives

The letter that the post office did not want to deliver to me has finally reached me. The sender was indeed my first guess of who might have chosen to write my name with Japanese Kanji. My friend who got married last year had sent me a New Year greeting with thanks for attending the wedding.

My name written in a way that will not be delivered.

Since he wrote my name with Kanji, the post office did not believe that it was for me and refused to give it to me even after I explained that that is what my name would look like ("lake" and "mountain") if you translated the Swedish words to Japanese. So the post office sent the card back to my friend. He came to our magic bar and handed it over by hand this weekend.

Fake yogurt

A few days ago I went out to eat Mexican food with a friend. We then went to a cafe for coffee afterwards. On the menu there I found something called "Fake yogurt". Not knowing what that might be, I decided to order that.


It seemed like the girl working in the bar also did not know what fake yogurt was. She started reading some cocktail manual (and there was no one else in the place ordering things at that time). She then produced a cocktail shaker and started shaking things.

In the end, I received something that tasted like someone put ice and Yakult in a shaker and shook them. I was also given a huge amount of syrup. Add as much as you like.

There were other funny things on the menu too. One detail I noticed was that the juice list had all options written in French on the left and then the Japanese name on the right. Except the last one, which was written in Japanese on the left and with Latin letters on the right. Why this special treatment?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


Today I wore white, so no one can find me. I need to find some white shoes or boots.

My clothes: too little and too boring

The other day, I dropped by the bar Ropossa and ran into a girl I know. She asked me if I was wearing funny underwear (last time we met, she forced me to show her my underwear in the middle of the bar). I was wearing (fake) python underwear, which she said was a huge disappointment.

Speaking of clothes, I mentioned that one of my friends recently put up a photo where she was wearing a knitted black and red shirt with strange designs and a pair of fairly normal looking trousers. Next to her was some young guy also working in the same office, who was wearing exactly the same look. A month or so ago, she uploaded a photo of herself in a weird blue/red/yellow checkered shirt and very strongly light blue trousers, next to some other guy in her office also wearing exactly that.

Both times, this was just a random coincidence. But a very strange coincidence, since the clothes were quite out of the ordinary. I made a funny comment, and she commented back that she believes something like this will never ever happen to me (since my clothes are so weird and no one else would ever wear anything similar). The people in Ropossa agreed that this was very unlikely happen to me, though one said that she does own a pink t-shirt with pigs eating pork and looking sad. I often wear a shirt like that. The girl show said she also has one clarified that she only uses it as her pajamas, and would never wear such weird shirts outside her own house, though...

When leaving, the "mama" of Ropossa said that I should wait a few more minutes, since she was closing and she lives across the street from me. When passing in front of her house, she said that I should wait there a minute or so while she ran up to her apartment. She came back with a pair of gloves for me. She thinks I do not wear enough clothes in the winter. These gloves were very nice.

Sapporo bicycle parking

This is the designated bicycle parking area, and if you put your bicycle in some other place, people will get angry with you. The convenience of bicycle parking at our university this time of the year is debatable...

Curry with and without things in it

My food

Our school cafeteria has started selling a new dish called shrimp cutlet curry, so I tried that the other day. Usually, the cafeteria curry has one or two pieces of potato or meat in it but when it was my turn the big batch of curry that they had was pretty much finished. So I got all the nice stuff that was left on the bottom. Then they brought in a new batch of curry, and my colleague who was behind me in line and ordered the same thing got what we usually get, just curry with nothing in it.

His food

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Tea from my barber

Today I went to get my hair cut. My barber who is over 80 years old gave me some tea leaves too.

Here are two before and after photos too:


Today it is snowing in Sapporo. And windy. When the wind really gets going, it is hard to see more than a few meters.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Sports chanbara?

Apparently our university has a "Sports-chanbara" club. Chanbara is Japanese for sword fighting, more specifically sword fighting in adventure movies. So it is not realistic fighting but the type of thing you see in the cinema. And apparently this can be done as a sport.

Things you can do with spoons

Yesterday I visited Ropossa for the first time in a long time. There you can see spoon bending in the regular show. I also noticed some sculptures made from bent spoons, a rabbit and a sheep.

I was also asked to solve a Rubik's cube with a hole in the middle and one with only one layer (surprisingly difficult, but not actually that difficult). I was also given some New Year gifts, a small towel (2015 is the year of the Ram, so it has sheep) and a 5 yen coin (this is a Japanese pun on ご縁 ("goen", "fortune") and 五円 ("goen", "5 yen").

Eccentric bicycle parking

This style of bicycle parking is a bit strange. But it beats having your bicycle buried inside the snow, which is also common here.

Mysterious black food

I went to a pizza place to have a nice pizza (which I got), and they gave me some black things to eat for free. It turned out to be raw squid in squid ink.This makes your teeth, lips, chopsticks, etc. pretty black.

Not bicycle friendly, and no mail

On Friday, I found a note from the post office saying that they tried to deliver something to "湖山鳩", at my address. Since the name on my post box is not written like that, it said that since they could not confirm that such a person lived there, they took whatever they wanted to deliver back with them to the post office and said to get in touch with them.

Those three Kanjis are "lake", "mountain", and "pigeon". My last name is Sjöbergh, which is made up from the Swedish words for "lake" and "mountain". "Jonas" comes from the Bible and means dove, as in a symbol of peace, in Hebrew. So if you were to write the meanings of my name with Kanji, that would be how you would write it.

Presumably, one of my friends had sent me something and decided it would be funny to write the name in Kanji.

I went to the post office and explained all of this to them, that basically that strange name was actually me. They asked me to show them some ID, and said: "The name on your ID is different". They then checked rules and regulations for 15 minutes or so and came back and said that since the name was different, they could not give me whatever it was that they had tried to deliver. They would send it back to the sender.

I asked if they could tell me who the sender was, so I could get in touch with them and tell them that unless they write my name with Latin letters, post will not reach me. (Sometimes things come through with my name in Katakana too.) They disappeared for another 10 minutes or so and came back and said that since the problem was that they could not confirm that this was meant to reach me, they were also not allowed to tell me who the sender was.

I asked if I could write a message that they could stick to the thing before they sent it back to the sender, to explain how they should get this thing to me. Again, after some more checking, the answer was no. They said that they would explain that "this name is wrong" when they returned it, though.

So I left empty handed, with no idea what they had tried to deliver or who might have sent it. Or, I had some ideas of who might have sent it, since not that many of my friends know my address, and not many of them think that the Kanji thing is funny.

The post office that takes care of these matters is pretty far from where I live. It is open 24/7 though, which is convenient. But since it is so far away,  I took the bicycle there. Parts of the way is not great for bicycles in winter. The photo for instance shows that the bicycle lane (center of the photo) is very much blocked on the other side of the street.