Friday, January 29, 2016

Swedish chocolate

In Sweden people eat chocolate. My brother recommended a new product from the Swedish chocolate maker: chocolate with salty almonds. It was great.

You can also find chocolate with licorice cream inside. This is great too.

I also stumbled across a store selling common chocolate bars but with non-standard text on the wrapping. These say "congratulations", "hug", "kiss", and "make out".

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Swedish fashion at H&M

Swedish fashion is famous in Japan. Swedish design in general is considered great. H&M recently came to Japan, and people stand (or stood, not sure how it is anymore) in line just to get into the stores. In Sweden, H&M is everywhere and it is considered nice clothes at a cheap price.

I bought a pair of H&M underwear, which I guess guarantees that people will not consider them "weird" (like most of my other underwear, or clothes in general).

Swedish pizza

In Japan, pizza is considered Italian food, and since Italian food is considered fancy luxury food, pizza is also considered fancy and expensive food. So pizzas are small, come in refined taste, and cost a fortune. In Sweden, pizza is one of the few types of food that is cheap. They are big, unhealthy, and delicious. I try to eat pizza at least once every time I go to Sweden.

Funny props

These coasters that also become face masks when you hang them on your nose are also available in Japan.

During my stay in Sweden, I saw some funny props that I bought in the vague hope that I can use them in some magic trick in the future. I saw even more items that I did not even buy. But many of them seemed like nice products if you had a larger baggage allowance on the flight.

These were some magic props on sale, and the famous "hard to open plastic box". There was also a LEGO set with a female magician.

Smoking salmon in the back yard

My friend since forever had recently bought a smoking machine, as in a machine to smoke whatever food you think is best served smoked. We decided to go for something fairly standard, and smoked some salmon. The result was fantastic.

The process was quite simple. You put the fish on something flat and add salt (or whatever flavoring you prefer). You also put some wood chips on a plate and shove these into the tube shaped smoker.

Then you turn it on and let it be hot for 30 minutes or so. Then you turn it off and leave it for another 20 minutes. Then the food is done.

While waiting, we also put some potatoes in the oven and fried some mushrooms that my parents had picked in the forest.

The resulting smoked salmon was great. The rest of the food was good too, of course.

Best hamburgers in Stockholm

I have a friend in Sweden who I first met when I was too young to remember (maybe 3 years old or so?) and we still keep in touch. We like the same types of movies, the same types of music, the same types of food, etc. He told me he had found the best hamburger place in Stockholm, so we went there for lunch. They indeed had great hamburgers.

They also served ice cream. And the servings were pretty large...

My brother's new home

Closing in on my brother's new place

My brother recently moved, so when I visited Sweden I wanted to see the new place. At the time, they were not yet fully installed in the new home, but they kindly showed me the place anyway. It was very nice. It was also quite big. They had several bed rooms, each of them larger than my whole apartment in Japan...

They were redoing the kitchen walls and were not quite finished yet.

They have a small garden, which is fun for their dog.

They also have a small balcony, which our parents' dog found interesting.

Pig shaped Dalahäst

Their dog has already found a space he likes.

Blood pudding (black pudding/blood sausage)

In Sweden we eat something that in Swedish is called "blood pudding" (in English it would be called black pudding or blood sausage, perhaps?). It is made from blood, and is quite popular. I remember most people being happy the days when this was served as school lunch. Not everyone likes it, though. My father likes it, but my mother does not.

All my Japanese friends that I have had visit Sweden have in general loved Swedish food, but no one has liked this dish. They all think it tastes of blood. One said that if no one had told her that it was made from blood it would have been OK, though not "great", but once you know it is made from blood it no longer remains as something you would want to eat. Considering all the weird stuff people eat here in Japan, they seem surprisingly squeamish.

Since this food, nor anything similar, is not available in Japan I often end up eating it when I am back in Sweden and have dinner with my father on some day when my mother has something else to do.

Japanese business cards in Magic Bar Stockholm

When I visit Sweden, I try to find time to go see some magic. I learned magic after moving to Japan, so I have no idea what kind of magic is popular in Sweden and I don't really know any Swedish magicians. Since I have now been watching magic in Sweden quite a few times, I guess I do know a few magicians and have some idea of what magic they usually perform.

In Stockholm there is a place called Magic Bar Stockholm where you can see magic. They also serve food. The food is usually very good. This time it was great. On weekdays someone will come to your table and do some magic for you. On weekends they also have a stage show.

When I visited Sweden in October I got to see Isidor Olsbjörk and Martin Hansson. Isidor was presented as the Swedish champion of magic, if I remember correctly. He did some very impressive coin magic on stage. He also did some funny card and blood magic.

Me and Isidor Olsbjörk
The magician Martin Hansson had been mentioned to me before, since apparently he often comes to Japan to do magic. He was very funny on stage. He showed a fork up his nose and then licked the fork after he pulled it out, which was pretty gross. He did the Gypsy thread mystery with a balloon to the music "Let me entertain you" by Robbie Williams, which was hilarious, haha.

Me and Martin Hansson

He had his name in Japanese on his business cards, which I guess is not very common in Sweden. After the show he sat down and talked to me for quite some time. He was very nice. Turns out we grew up in the same area and went to the same high school. He also trains/teaches aikido, and said he has a standing invitation to come to Sapporo to some aikido dojo here. I also spoke quite a lot to one of his aikido friends who was there because she did a short skit in his magic show on stage.

Me and Michael Halvarson

I also spotted the magician and pick-pocket expert Michael Halvarson who was in the restaurant with his family. I asked if it was OK to take photo with him and he kindly agreed. He worked as a pick-pocket with Circue du Soleil and has been on Swedish TV quite a bit.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Swedish autumn

This is close to where my parents live. On a good day, it looks like this. Most days during the autumn the sky is grey, it rains, and it is cold, though.

Mushrooms and bread

My parents pick a lot of mushrooms. Many of these are types of mushrooms that you cannot find in Japan. They serve them in many different ways, but one breakfast/lunch we had was fried bread with stewed mushrooms, which was very good.

Good food and puns at Minh Mat

My brother and his wife wanted to take me out to dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant they had found. The restaurant is called "Minh mat", and Minh is presumably the name of the owner. It also happens to spell "My food" in Swedish. The menu was full of "Minh's recommendation"/"My recommendation" type of word play.

We ordered a few starters and three main dishes and shared all of it. That turned out to be a huge amount of food, but it was all good. I ordered frog legs because it was the strangest (most exotic) thing on the menu. They were not bad, but the other main dishes were even better.

I was also given a big bag of licorice products. Licorice candy, chocolate, tea, and much more. In Japan, everyone hates licorice, so it is not sold here. In Sweden everyone loves licorice, so whenever I am in Sweden I eat too much licorice.

"Japanese" things in Stockholm

Japanese restaurant

During my trip to Sweden I noticed that Japanese culture seems to be even more popular in Sweden now than when I lived there. There were quite a few restaurants serving Japanese food (it used be only sushi, but now there were other things too). I also saw a karaoke place that seemed to be similar to how karaoke is here in Japan (small private rooms so you only sing in front of your friends).

Ni hao (Chinese for "hello") is a strange name for a Japanese restuarant
A place called "Japan photo", whatever that might be.