Friday, July 17, 2015

Balancing game and bad puns in Japanese

Recently I was asked to try building a tower of dice on top of a wobbly surface. I was told that someone had built one to the height of 15 dice and I had to beat that before they would let me leave. I managed to get to 20 and take this photo, but the 21st toppled everything. But at least they let me go home, haha.

They also uploaded the above photo of me to Facebook. One man I know commented that my shirt says 恋人募集中 ("koibito boshuuchuu", "taking applications for the position of girlfriend", or more casually "looking for a girlfriend"). I replied that "I have 20 Xs, though". In Japanese, this joke is better, because "X" means a crashed marriage, so "バツイチ" ("I have one X") means you have been married and then divorced once and バツニ ("X 2" or "two Xs") means you have divorced twice (each divorce gives you one "X"). Being "X 20" would be quite impressive in some sense, but also means you are unlikely to be able to keep up a relationship.

Weird school club activities

We have some weird clubs at our university, apparently. This is the poster for the "Exploration Club". I had enough of being naked in the forest when I was in the army, so I think I will not sign up.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Girly socks for free

Yesterday I bought some things at 7-Eleven and if you bought stuff for more than some amount of yen, you got to draw one lottery ticket. I won a pair of really tiny socks for women. Great. I am sure these will be very useful to me.

Monday, July 13, 2015

English words that are used in weird ways in Japan

I have had conversations with my Japanese friends were both parties use the same words, but were everyone gets the feeling that something is wrong with how this conversation is going. This can happen because in Japan people use English (or French, or German, etc.) words to use something similar but different from what the words mean in the original language. It gets extra confusing when the same thing happens in Swedish.

One time this happened to me it was related to the word marmalade. In Japan, this means "orange flavored jam". In Swedish we have a word "marlmelad" which means almost the same as marmalade in English. In Swedish it generally refers to something that is like jam but thicker than jam. It is most often based on citrus fruits, but can be used for thick jams made from raspberries or whatever too. In Japan "marmalade" is a word that describes a flavor (and that flavor is orange flavor). In Swedish, what we call "marmalades" can come with many different flavors, and marmalade is not a word you can use to specify a flavor (but in Japan you can find "marmalade flavored" candy etc.).

Today, our coop sold a product with a similarly confusing word usage. It was "soft serve ice cream flavored" cookies. In Sweden, ice creams (soft serve and regular) come in many different flavors, so describing the flavor of a product (like a cookie) as "ice cream flavored" would be like describing the color of your house as "boat colored". Boats come in many colors, so it is not a good explanation.

The cookie box contained vanilla flavored cookies and ice cream flavored cookies. The ice cream flavored ones turned out to taste of vanilla, but perhaps with slightly more cream flavor. If they had also been called "vanilla flavored", I would not have thought that to be a bad description.

Sapporo Urasando Festival 2015

Me, a friend who works at my university, and her friend who  does bodybuilding. 

Yesterday I went to the Urasando (a place in Sapporo) Festival. It was hot, and a lot of fun. I met several people that I know, and one of them asked me to do some magic for some people that she knows. Luckily, I had an enormous banner saying funny things in Japanese hidden inside my yukata.

Diabolo juggling 
Spinning a ball on top of an umbrella
Plate spinning relay with extremely young participants

There were several types of performances going on at the festival. I saw some jugglers, one of whom I know. I also saw a magician I know. This was the first time I saw him perform.

Floating on a broomstick, Harry Potter style
A very clever and surreal Japanese word play trick

The magic was pretty funny. I found many of the jokes interesting. There was one thing with pictures of cranes and tortoises involving dots on the pictures and the word "game" which was a very clever word play thing that I found great but since the main audience had an average age of around 6 years old, no one else seemed to get it, haha.

I got to see the "ride a broomstick" illusion live for the first time, which was funny. Everyone laughed at this trick. There were many other things going on too, like being tied up and escaping or having coins mysteriously end up inside cola cans.

Cold cucumber and miso, very nice.

Japanese festivals are mainly about food, so I had some food too. And the people I did magic for gave me some wine in return.

 I also did some shopping. I keep buying small toys thinking that "this could probably be used for some magic trick, I had better buy it just in case I later have some great idea".

Two toys from the "all items in the box are 10 yen each" super sale.
A clever wooden puzzle

Buying more weird clothes

I was bored during the weekend and did the Japanese thing to do when not having to work: I went shopping. I ended up buying a pair of shorts with dragon embroidery, that if a Japanese person where to wear them everyone would assume he was a member of the yakuza. Since I am blond, my friends tell me no one would assume I am a yakuza no matter how I dress. But then again, our last secretary at the university assumed I was a criminal based solely on the clothes I wear...

I also ended up buying two new obis.
I found a pair of shoes that looked like Hokusai ukiyoe prints.
I am thinking of giving this fan away as a present.
I also bought a jinbei (Japanese summer pajamas) that looks very much like the yukata I bought earlier this year.

Cute food

I bought a bunch of cupcakes because they looked very cute. The yellow one was extra special (only sold there) they told me. Bot only were they cute, they also turned out to be delicious.

Not a dog

I noticed a store selling t-shirts with English text and illustrations not illustrating what was written. There was for instance a shirt that said "dog" and had a picture of a snake. And a shirt that said "sushi" but had a picture of Japanese curry. I assume they are being funny on purpose, but it was still a bit weird, haha.

Toppings and more toppings

I had dinner at Kuroiwa Curry Hanten and tried the "katsu curry". I also added vegetable topping and cheese topping. I met a guy there who often comes to our magic bar who said that I had too many toppings. And that my clothes looked weird. But the food was great.

Free drinks and cute women

When I passed through our big park in the middle of Sapporo, some girls were handing out Monster Energy drinks for free. I stopped and got one.

While I was drinking my Monster Energy, I noticed a crowd nearby. Once the crowd dispersed, it turned out to be the magician I saw in the park a week ago who had been doing a show there. I said hello and took a photo of his stuffed dog toy.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Strangers admiring underwear again

Fashion coordination: underwear and t-shirt with Facebook-related jokes.

While still at work, I got an e-mail asking if I could stop by a bar where friends of mine work, since someone who wanted to meet me was there. I said I was still at work, but a few hours later when I got home, I asked them if they were still there, and they were.

When I got there, lots of people that I know where there, some of them had come there together, but many of them had showed up alone, like I usually do. One of the first things that were said to me was: "OK, so show us your underwear"... Just another day in Japan...

I was complimented on the fact that I had coordinated my outfit so the underwear and the t-shirt matched. And not on anything else.

People I had never seen before, that have now seen my magic and my underwear.


Two friends from Sweden are in Sapporo now. They brought some licorice for me!

Not impossible shapes

There is a Japanese researcher who has built software that can create 3D models that when viewed from a certain angle will look like "impossible" items. In my lab, someone had brought papers that you could cut and fold to make something that looks like this:

Beard discount

I went to a soup curry place called 髭男爵 ("hige danshaku", "beard baron") with my Greek colleague. They had excellent food. Good selection and large amounts of vegetables. The sausages in my soup were nice too. Next time I will ask for half sized rice serving, though. It was a bit too much food.

They also give a 100 yen (about 10%) discounts to anyone who has a beard, so my colleague paid much less than I did.

Receiving a bento from a girl!

On Wednesday a girl I know mailed me and said "I am bringing you a bento for lunch today, so don't buy any food!". In all the Japanese romantic movies and anime, giving someone homemade bento is of course one way girls show affection.

It turned out that that was not the reason, though. I was told that "there were stacks of leftover bentos from a drug company presentation today, so anyone could take as many as they could carry and I thought it would be a shame to let them go to waste". But hey, free food :-) The bento was pretty good.

Magic on tanabata

July 7 is "tanabata" in Japan, though since Hokkaido is usually still pretty cold in the beginning of June, here tanabata is celebrated on August 7 instead. I figured that since I am not from Hokkaido, I can celebrate it in July and put on a yukata and went out to find some food. I found some in the place where one of my friends work, but they were very busy and asked me to wait until things calmed down a bit. Which it did three hours later...

The food was excellent, though. Somen noodles and vegetables. While I was waiting, I was asked to do some magic for a newly wedded couple. I did a trick I sometimes do at weddings, were Japanese alphabet cards spell out "And live happily ever after!". Which in Japanese is luckily only four letters long.

I then had lots and lots of photos taken of me, and I guess most of them were sent to the poor newlyweds, who are probably not that interested in photos of me...

When I was just waiting around and had nothing to do, I took some selfies and put them on Facebook, explaining I had to take them using the timer on the cell phone camera, since I was all alone. Some people commented that that sounded very sad and lonely, some that they found this instructive ("how to have fun when alone"). Some said "tanabata is in August in Sapporo, you should do this again in August". I said that since I don't really have any friends that want to hang out with me, I would probably be drinking alone in August too. Then two people replied with "Hurray!"... Which sounded a bit coldhearted to me.

Okonomiyaki bread

I found this in a bakery. It was called "okonomiyaki style pizza". It was bread with okonomiyaki toppings (okonomiyaki sauce, bonito flakes, etc.) and an almost cooked egg. Very good.