October 2007

The joys of overeating (20071001)

photo photo
I was asked to answer a math question, reportedly not related at all to statistics, and since it was on my way to Japanese class I figured why not. It turned out to be a statistics question, but mostly it was a question of biology. Since I know nothing about the subject, figuring out a good answer took several hours and I missed class completely (despite it being 4 hours long). We ended up going for "all you can eat before 22.00", and since we arrived at 17.45, we ate a lot. One of the best points was that the kid with us, who is generally very very excited so it is hard to get anything done other than listen to her and do what she wants, also ate too much. She quickly ate a few bowls of ice cream and then kind of dozed off, leaving the rest of us in a semblance of peace. She later wandered off and sat with some other people she thought seemed funny. They called over a waitress, so we were worried that we would get thrown out, but it turned out they just wanted her to take a picture of themselves with the kid. Japanese people think she looks like an angel, which explains why she is so spoiled I guess.

Not so great (20071002)

I went back to a restaurant where I was about a week ago. At that time I was placed all alone at the counter, and started playing with a deck of cards. That spun off into many of the staffers thinking I am a pro magician, probably famous from somewhere. They recognized me again, and wanted to see more magic. The bartender also became fairly drunk and gave me several packs of chewing gum. With a very strong cinnamon taste. Reportedly, this is very disgusting for the Japanese, though I just found it strange. I tried it on a Japanese colleague and he said it was OK, but other colleagues (who refused to taste the gum) claim he is rather strange and likes disgusting stuff.

Free potatoes, but why? (20071003)

photo photo
Upon leaving an "Italian" restaurant I noticed that they had huge piles of potatoes lying outside. I asked if they sold these things, and the waiter did not know so I caused a whole chain of people to get involved (quite common). It turned out that they did not, but they gave me a bag of potatoes for free. Because the local baseball team, Nippon Ham Fighters, had won the series or something like that. I don't see the connection to potatoes, but perhaps you are supposed to then by ham from Nippon Ham to go with them?

More branding (20071003)

When the most reasonable interpretation is Amino Supli, do you really have a good name?

Millionaire! (20071004)

Since I am moving to a new apartment, I had to open a new bank account. So I withdrew a million yen in cash and walked through the most dangerous part of town with these in my hand to my new bank. Of course, I generally tell people that the reason I have to create new bank accounts from time to time is that the old one is full.

Why? (20071004)

photo photo
In a clothes store in Sapporo they have a Swedish-French dictionary from 1912 for decoration.

Japanese pricing (20071004)

In Sweden you can often buy a set of many things (like ten toothbrushes) for a price that per item is lower than buying just one item at a time. In Japan the normal system is that one toothbrush is exactly one tenth of the price for ten toothbrushes. Weird, but still. This time it is even better. You can either buy two 50 gram chocolate bars for a total cost of 314 yen or buy one 100 gram bar of the same brand for 317 yen... The same is often true for emergency calorie food bars, where buying a pack of four is generally slightly more expensive than buying two packs of two...

Bath jam (20071004)

To me, bath jam does not sound very appealing. Sounds like you would get less than perfectly clean if you pour jam into the tub. I have been assured that this is a strange way of thinking.

A trap (20071005)

photo photo
I was asked if I was free or busy on this Friday night and said I was free. So I got to go and receive two tasty gifts from Taiwan. I also got to do a lot of data input into a database system while I happened to be there and not busy!

Cool cars (20071005)

There is a surprisingly large amount of cool cars in Japan. One (though not this one) belongs to someone in my lab, I am told.

Magic (20071005)

photo photo
Being alone with nothing to do (well, ignoring more database input) I went back to a bar where they think I am some kind of super magician (and that I look like a magician on TV, though he looks very Japanese and I do not). These two were trying to show me beer magic. A waitress also removed one of the rings from the menu to give me something to do a ring magic trick with.

A first (20071005)

Many foreigners claim that Japan is just full of vomit, especially on Friday nights. I have never seen any before, but here is some that I finally found.

Guarantees and gratitude (20071006)

photo photo photo photo photo
I need a Japanese person (with a job, no less, so forcing students into it is not an option) that guarantees that they will pay anything that I run from paying with regards to my new apartment. I finally found one, and as a token of appreciation, I treated her to French food. Very expensive, but also very very good! And close to where I will live.

More "French" food (20071006)

Also extremely close to where I will live is a club which is packed with drunk foreigners. I ordered a tortilla, which has the important parts made by the French owner of the place, I am told. It was quite good.

Signs of Sweden (20071006)

I met a bartender in this place too. And he is from Stockholm. And he has lived in Sapporo for 10 years (6 of which he has worked in this bar). Then a Russian guy came up with the old Scandinavian rune alphabet on his shirt. Though he had bought it on Iceland. A strange night (that ended in some other bar with an English guy, a Korean woman, and an Indian/French guy all from the same university as me and the Russian).

Sport festival? (20071006)

On my way home I came upon a guy in only his underwear and an apron with a printed image of a naked body. He was lying in the middle of the street (as in where the cars go), doing push-ups. He then ran around a bit in the street. I tried to take a picture, but he was very lively so it was hard to get a good one. Maybe it was because tomorrow is the "Sports" national holiday.

Nostalgia (20071007)

photo photo
After showing some stupid magic tricks to three cute relatives of one of my friends, I tried to go home by bicycle. This did not work so well, since it fell apart in the rain. I lost a lot of blood, and was nostalgic about it. But when I finally came to my senses and tried to take a picture, most of the blood had rained away.

Unexpected cooking (20071008)

photo photo
I found a funny magic trick on the Internet and figured out a way to do it. But I need kiss-shaped chocolate. So I have scoured the whole city but not found any. I did find chocolate making tools for making lip shaped chocolate though, which I figured was good enough. So I spent the evening bothering some friends with working kitchens into helping me make chocolate.

New lair (20071010)

photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo photo
I moved to a new apartment today. It has an abundance of restaurants on the first floor (a few open 24H), a machine selling hot food, laundry service, postal service, a free gym, an excellent view, comes with TV, laundry machine, bed, two showers, and much more. Is hot inside too.

Be Escort? (20071011)

I found this advertisement for something called Be Escort. Sounds like a prostitution service, and most of the advertisements are along the lines of "five young women in bikinis jumping" or "five young girls in bikinis dancing". It turns out it is a beauty parlour, where women can go to get a face massage or bogus therapies to lose weight. So why that name? Is it something like "become beautiful enough to work as a call girl"?

Swedish design (20071012)

I have slept on an inflatable bed that I bought when my brother visited. For two nights. It turns out that there is some small hole somewhere, so the thing is OK when you go to bed, but when you wake up there is no air, so you are lying on a very hard bed. I went looking for a mattress today (wanted to go earlier, but the huge amounts of paperwork required after moving unless you want to get deported has taken some time). I saw a sign about excellent Swedish bed things, but no actual things.

Japanese people are short (20071012)

Today I tried to use a sink that reached my knees. And I am short.

Top valu indeed (20071012)

I like the slogan "Top Valu".

Crazy foreigners (20071012)

I finally found a mattress. It was huge. 2.1 metres times one metre times slightly more than half a foot or so. I asked if they could deliver it to my home, and they could. Cheap too. Only catch was that it would take two days! Since I anticipated sleeping before then, I said I would just take it with me now. They asked "By car?" so I said "No, by bicycle". They looked at me sort of strangely and pointed out that since it was raining and a storm was raging, perhaps I would like them to wrap it in plastics. Yes please. They also tied ropes around it and helped me get it on my back (no packing things on my bicycle). I took up more space than a car on the road, and would only go quite slowly (except when gusts of wind came from behind, when I would swoop forward at very high speed), so I tried to stick to smaller roads with less traffic. The side walk was too narrow to use. Some road workers that saw me pass just stopped and stared and said "sugoi" (roughly "amazing"). I reached home with no serious accidents, only hitting one car with the soft mattress.

Unnecessary gifts (20071012)

Since I live next door to the bar where the Swedish veteran works, I thought I'd stop by and say hello. I met two quite drunk Japanese construction workers. One of them bought me a beer. Since they were both men and I don't like alcohol, this was a mixed blessing. Since it is rude not to toast with others and to not drink when offered, I downed most of it. They were quite funny, though strange in many ways too. "Do many people in Europe think Hitler had many good ideas? I do." "Well, no, to the best of my knowledge, that would be considered quite rare in Europe"...

More interior decorating (20071013)

I bought an extension cord and similar things to get my computer things up and running already on the first day, but not until today did I buy a mouse pad. The desk is too glossy for even my "super laser" mouse to work properly otherwise. For once, it seems the English is not broken.

God (20071013)

Odin is not only the boss of the Norse gods, it is also a stock broker in Sapporo.

Neighbor (20071013)

Almost next door is a shop called America-do. They sell things whose general connecting theme seems to be "foreign" and "weird". You can buy magic toys, super expensive ugly t-shirts, American potato chips, German candy, sex toys, and many many other strange things.

Sheets (20071014)

I bought card patterned sheets and pillow covers earlier, in anticipation of the excellent new apartment. It turns out that the pillow case is a little too small for the pillow, though with some violence it is OK. The sheets have one part that is just the perfect size and one which is half the size needed. Which is strange since they were a set and presumable are to be used with the same bed. I went out and bought my first ever Yves Saint-Laurent thing to fix this. A white sheet. But very fancy, I am sure.

Robots (20071015)

I ordered robots for my research earlier and they arrived on the day I moved. But I have not had time to assemble the parts until today. They can move and speak, and are the number two cutest robot design on sale in Japan.

Snooping (20071015)

Someone has installed what looks like a spy camera in the elevator in my home.

Scandinavian fair (20071017)

photo photo
There was a Scandinavian fair in Sapporo, which was fairly surreal. I don't know which was the strangest, that there were Swedish children's books in Swedish on sale (who buys that here?) or that there were Swedish children's books in Japanese on sale. Evidently, there were even Swedish people working there, though I did not notice.

Be juicy (20071021)

I had dinner with an old acquaintance who now lives in Tokyo. So it was time to be juicy.

Working hard (20071024-29)

photo photo
For a change, I turned out to be extremely swamped with work all of a sudden. I needed volunteers to listen to my little robot tell jokes, and then tell me how funny they thought the jokes were. I bribed them with chocolate. First day, I bought chocolate with my research funds, and the cashier asked if I was sure I could use this money for chocolate. I said "of course, it is my money". Next day I was called into the administration office, where I was told to cancel that order since no one can spend research money on things that are edible. Bribing people with pens or whatever inedible thing you may want was fine though. I just bought chocolate with my own money instead. I ended up spending 10,000 yen on chocolate, but the cashier never showed any facial expression indicating she thought it was weird to buy such huge amounts of chocolate day after day. And not gaining weight by it.

Sitting in the student house/cafeteria and trying to get people to listen to a robot was fairly embarrassing at first, but I got used to it quickly. The first day I spent two hours and only managed to get 10 people. A surprisingly high number of people started running when they accidentally made eye contact with the weird foreigner. Next time, I got 17, then in three hours on Friday I got 29. Finally, on Monday I got 34 in two hours. Either I looked friendlier day by day, or the rumour was spread that the crazy man was not actually dangerous, but instead funny and gave out free chocolate.

Often (20071026)

photo photo
I have now been to this restaurant/bar often enough that the whole staff followed me out to the door and posed for a picture at five in the morning... Could also be because they wanted to close, but still.

View (20071027)

More photos from my balcony.

Swedish Halloween (20071028)

photo photo
Today I overate in an "all you can eat until we close for almost no money at all" restaurant. We went there four Swedish people together, though one is Canadian by birth. For once, not everyone thought I was married to the rest of the company and father of all children. There should be more men in the company when I go out, I am thinking. Also, just saying "shouldn't you go and say hello to the kids at the next table" to the kids seems to make for a lot calmer dinners. Somewhat disappointing was that people kept saying "so cute, we want to take picture together", but they rarely referred to me...

Birthday presents (20071029)

photo photo photo
I spent most of my birthday in Japanese class, in a seminar, and in the cafeteria trying to get people to listen to my robot. But in the late evening I went to a bar where someone I know a little claimed to work. She did indeed work there when I showed up. When people learned it was my birthday they gave me free honey toast with ice cream, free weird cocktails from a show shaped bottle, and the customer next to me ordered take-out kebab from some other store and gave to me!

More weird pizzas (20071031)

Pizza with egg, potato, and lots of other weird stuff. Tasty though.

Tokyo trip

Jonas is in Tokyo, so no updates for awhile