Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Soup curry donburi?

Our school cafeteria has started selling スープカレー丼 ("suupu karee don"), which is a mix of "soup curry" and "donburi", food served on rice. Since soup normally does not have rice in it, the name is a bit weird. The food was good, though.

They also have "soup curry ramen" and something called "Furano style omuraisu". Furano is a place outside Sapporo famous for flower fields, and omuraisy is rice with omelet.

Italian food

There is a nice Italian restaurant not far from where I live. I have not been there for quite some time, but two days ago I stopped by with a friend. Most of the staff had changed, but the food was still very good.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Serene countryside, and pesticides

The view from my friends' place is excellent, especially in the summer. The winter view can look white and nice too, but the summer sunset is the best, I think.

During the barbecue, one of the neighbors suddenly showed up and started spraying pesticides on the wheat field. But when he noticed that we were having a barbecue, he stopped.

Japanese pesticide application

Midsummer barbecue

After the Swedish style midsummer dance finished, I was invited to the home of some friends who live around there. They have fields that they rent out to someone else who grows wheat there, and they have what is either a really large garden or a pretty small field for growing things themselves too. They picked a bunch of strawberries in the garden, which made the day feel much more like midsummer than the previous dancing and somewhat Swedish food. The strawberries where excellent.

Rice balls

We then had more food, because the only things I seem to do in Japan is either work or eat. We had a barbecue in their garden. We put things that are normal in Japan on the grill, like rice balls and fish. It was great, of course. It is also nice to have a barbecue at their place because if you want to have vegetables, they just go and dig up potatoes in the garden or cut off some asparagus etc. So you get really fresh vegetables. Their asparagus was "already too late in the season", they said, but it turned out to be great.

In Japan, everything is slightly different. Like not having any actual fire for the barbecue...

Countryside supermarket

I visited a country side supermarket. It looked like a concrete warehouse with some canvas to work as walls in some places. Turned out to be a quite nice, though small, supermarket inside.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Meeting a clown I know at a Swedish festival

I walked past a clown entertaining people in a square. He did all kinds of funny things and made balloon sculptures for children. It turned out to be a guy I know. We often run into each other in a bar where many street performers come to drink, and where I drink because the owner also does some magic. The clown has also been to our magic bar and seen me work there, though he was not in costume at the time.

This was the first time I saw my friend work. He was very entertaining, of course. I was impressed by his ability to communicate without using words. I have a hard time communicating even when using words...

Swedish midsummer in Japan

Outside Sapporo there is place called Sweden Hills, and they celebrate some Swedish holidays there. Usually not on the actual day of the holiday, but still.

This newly wed couple had a wedding ceremony in front of everyone at the midsummer festival.

One of the things they celebrate is Swedish midsummer. This is one of the biggest events during the year in Sweden (possibly second after Christmas, which is number one). Usually you go to a nearby park where there is a May Pole, sit on a blanked and have a picknick, dance around the May pole, and get drunk. This is if the weather is good. If the weather is bad, which is common, you do not do much except complain about the weather and get drunk.

Musicians from Sweden
Someone gave me a wreath of flowers

Swedish midsummer also usually means eating strawberries. Other things that are midsummer food are fresh potatoes (on a good/warm year the first potatoes become available around midsummer in Sweden) and pickle herring.

Raising the May pole by hand

People dancing traditional midsummer dances around the May pole often wear wreaths of flowers on their heads. The dancing is often accompanied by live music from folk music groups.


At Sweden Hills they have people playing Swedish midsummer songs, and they are very good. They also ask some folk dancing group from Sapporo to come and lead the dancing around the May pole. Many people wear Swedish traditional dresses. As I lived in Stockholm, I only know one person in Sweden who owns such clothes. To me it is always a bit weird to see 70 people, all Japanese, wearing such clothes. I had never seen more than three people in such clothes at the same time before I came to Japan.

Japanese player of the keyed fiddle, in traditional Swedish garb

Some Swedes I met in Sweden Hills were surprised by my experiences, though. Where they live (in the countryside in northern Sweden) pretty much everyone has such clothes, and they wear them at midsummer. Sweden Hills has a sister city in northern Sweden, so I guess they think that most people in Sweden behave like the people in that place do.

The dancing around the May pole is fairly Swedish, but they use mainly songs and dances that I never hear when I was a kid (which is when you attend the dancing in Sweden). They also never do the most popular dances, like the one with the frogs. This year, there were lots of Swedish exchange students visiting the midsummer festival, and after the dancing was over, they went over to the musicians and asked them if they could play the frog song. Then they danced this dance too, before leaving. It is not really midsummer without that song, and luckily the musicians knew the tune.

A guy I know

There was also a clown entertaining people at the festival. It turned out to be a guy I know. It was the first time I saw him perform. He was really good, of course. I was impressed by how he can communicate without using any words at all. I have a hard time communicating even when using words, haha.

"Scandinavian plate"
My Scandinavian plate
There was also food available. There was something called a "Scandinavian plate". This was advertised as Swedish midsummer food, and lots of the food you got was kind of Swedish, and some of it was midsummer food. There was bread and cheese, which is common in Sweden. The bread was not particularly Swedish, but at least it was not sweet bread like most Japanese bread. There was a potato, and at midsummer we eat lots of potatoes in Sweden. This potato did not taste like Swedish potato types, and at midsummer you are normally supposed to try to get the "fresh" potatoes (the first potatoes of the year), which at this time of the year are really really tiny in Sweden (like grapes). There was also ham, which is common in Sweden but which is pretty strongly connected with Christmas food. There was also pickled herring, which is midsummer food (though we have it at other holidays too), and which was excellent. All the food was good, but apart from the herring it was not really something I would expect to eat at midsummer in Sweden.

"Swedish" meatballs

I also bought a plate with "Swedish meatballs". These looked like Swedish meatballs and the taste was very nice. The taste was not the taste of Swedish meatballs, but still good.

Pickled herring
I also bought an extra, very big, container with only pickled herring. The herring turned out to be excellent and to taste like Swedish pickled herring. I was told that someone living in Sweden Hills had made all of this herring herself. Impressive.

Not very Scandinavian food
I also bought the "recommended food" that a young girl recommended me. It was a Japanese crepe with maple syrup, soy milk based whipped cream, and bananas. Not Swedish, but pretty good.

Mask shaped burn mark

Since I am allergic to pollen, I wear a mask when I am outdoors this time of the year. This weekend, I spent most of the daylight hours outside. Before I started using masks, I would sneeze a lot and my eyes would get so itchy that sticking a fork in your eyes sometimes seemed like a good idea, even when taking my allergy meds. With the mask, I have much less problems, even without taking the meds.

Of course, you look like a robber or a crazy person, but since wearing a mask is common in Japan (for allergies, when you have a cold, or in various other situations), no one really reacts here. You do get a weird suntan, though. I was in the sun for too long during the Water Works Festival, and now have a very white line from where the mask connected to my ear...

This only shows what I always believed: getting up early in the morning (i.e. before it becomes dark) is not good for you. Going outside instead of sitting in front of a soothing computer is bad for your health. Now my skin is in pain, just because I a) went outside, and b) went outside before nighttime. Living like a vampire is the healthy thing to do.

Some people suggested using sunblock, but what do they now anyway? Also, Japanese sunblock contains weird chemicals to bleach your skin even whiter, and many of the common ones here are not legal in Sweden (because they are dangerous).


When walking from a restaurant to our magic bar, I passed a line of expensive muscle cars waiting at a red light. There were two Lamborghinis, a few Ferraris, and a Porsche. I took out my camera to take a photo, and noticed that the car right in front of me was driven by one of my friends, one of the guys I went to Las Vegas with back in March. He once took me for a ride in his Ferrari, but apparently now he also owns a Lamborghini.

Ice cream hot dog

I found a place that sold strange hot dogs. They had gyoza (Chinese dumplings) hot dogs and ice cream hot dogs. I ordered an ice cream hot dog to see what that was. It was ice cream in hot bread. Not bad, but a bit hard to eat without getting melted ice cream all over the place.

Water works festival

One of my friends told me that a female magician from Tokyo was going to do magic at the Water Works Festival during the weekend. She suggested we go there together, because she wanted to see one of her friends from Chiba who was going to be juggling at the event. In the end, my friend could not go, so I went there alone.

The Water Works Festival is held yearly, at the Water Works Museum. This is not that far from where I live, but it is up the side of a mountain. Since it was very hot on Saturday, I got there soaking wet from sweat after climbing my way up the mountain. Lots of kids had had the same experience, and were bathing in the water works fountains outside the museum.

Balancing tennis balls 

Juggling three diabolos

I first saw the juggler Yu-ki, who I have seen at the DaiDonDen street performance festival in Sapporo several times. He is very entertaining. He did some yo-yo stuff, balanced things on his head, and juggled.

I ran into two girls from the university magic and juggling club. They did not recognize me at first, which is rare since I am one of the very few blond people living in Sapporo (and the only blond person at the festival).

Magician Kanon

I got to see the magician Kanon do magic for mostly children. She was entertaining too. She was dressed in a very cute Alice in Wonderland costume, and produced silks and flowers out of nowhere. She did funny tricks like the macomical prediction and the hippity hop rabbits with only one rabbit. The kids loved it (I liked it too).

I also walked around and had some food. The deep fried lamb was sold out, but I got my hands on some kiwi ice cream instead. This was nice because it was extremely hot in the sun. I decided to stay around for an hour and then see the two main performers again.

The second performance with Yu-ki was similar to the first, but he changed some parts. He balanced a spinning ball on his finger and then on a very tall pole that he in turn balanced on his face, for example. This was difficult in the strong wind, but he managed to pull it off.

He also balanced on some unstable looking boxes and pipes and did some juggling while balancing there. That also looked very difficult.

The second magic show had almost no overlap with the first magic show, so I was happy that I had stayed around. The second show was fun too.

While watching the second set of shows, a girl I know suddenly appeared and said hello. Her husband is also an entertainer, and he was walking around the festival area entertaining people. She was there to say hello to him. We met by chance a week ago at the Hokkaido Shrine Festival too.

People I know
Contact juggling
I waited around near the stage after the shows were finished. There were huge hordes of children that wanted the autographs of the performers. I just wanted to take a photo with the magician Kanon, but I waited until all the children had their autographs. By then the "Please leave the museum grounds"-song was playing in the speakers and the museum was closing.

The children of course also noticed me, since there were no other blond people around. They talked a bit about me, and the girl I know who was waiting around for her husband told them that my name is Jonas and they could call me that instead of "foreigner". After that the children kept talking to me and everyone said "Bye bye Jonas" when they left etc. Kids are funny...