Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloweekend--Part II

Halloween in Japan just keeps getting better and better. The amount of fabulous costumes (and people in them) seemed like it tripled from our first Halloween here 3 years ago! As someone who thinks that this is the most wonderful time of the year, I'm happy to see Japan moving in the right direction!

There are pretty much two places in town that throw the best Halloween parties, the first being TK6 (the bar and restaurant where Jacob works):

Yup, I recycled the 'ol Gaijin (foreigner) registration card again from two years ago (replica of my Certificate of Alien Registration card that all foreigners in Japan must carry with them at all times!). I've never before recycled a Halloween get-up, but besides being a sweet costume (if I do say so myself), I figured the only place it could get its Halloween propers was in Japan. Plus, I'd be lying if I didn't say that it helped me save money for my upcoming trip to South Korea as well!

Poor Jacob, though, had to work his tail off in the hot kitchen all night. Just so you know, hot kitchens aren't conducive to masks or melty face paints. I suppose going as "Crystal's husband" is scary enough for most folks anyway:

Back to the awesome costumes:

After TK6, we headed to the club A-life for the biggest Halloween dance party in town! There was blood. There was sweat. There were drag queens. Plus, I won 4th place in their costume contest! It's doesn't get any better:

The happiest of Halloweens from the far East, everyone!

Halloweekend--Part I

Once a month, the Otaru Brewery (lovingly owned and operated by a German and an American) hosts Beer Club in Sapporo. It's all-you-can-drink of their delicious hand-crafted German-style beers...a super rare treat in the land of weak Japanese lagers. A few of the Japanese guys wear lederhosen and carry large German beer steins, and the "kampai" ("cheers!' "prost!") is done through a German song. It's a great end of the month treat, one that we've been able to enjoy on and off during our years here.

As a part of this year's Halloweekend (because, as we all know, Halloween deserves more than one day to be fully celebrated), we had a hearty Oktoberfest at Beer Club with a little spookiness thrown in for good measure:

Internationalization rears its head once again here in Hokkaido!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

First Snow!!!

Everyone (by "everyone," I of course mean me) hopes that it's just a fall fluke, but we actually woke up to our first snowfall here in Sapporo this morning...

Last year, our first snow was in December. Could this be a sign of things to come?

One to Remember

Our 3rd year wedding anniversary this year consisted of a whole lot of surprises, including, but not limited to, eating a huge ugly rare fish and sharing it with a Japanese pro-wrestler!

But first thing's first...flora! The day started off with surprise flowers from Jacob sent to my work. In the Japanese workplace two of the most embarrassing things you can do/have done is to 1. receive romantic flowers from someone and 2. display family photos. Needless to say, a lot of people were confused by the gesture, which I suppose just made them that more special:

Along with a lovely gift from the South African ALT at my school (complete with yummy SA beers):

And, a bottle of delicious Australian wine from one of the regulars at Jacob's restaurant:

That night, with the help of a Japanese-speaking friend, Jacob set up a surprise dinner for us at a restaurant named Uni Maru. "Uni" is Japanese for sea urchin, and is a fairly expensive speciality here in Hokkaido. The restaurant was Japanese style, consisting of tatami-floored rooms, sliding paper-screen doors for "privacy", and food brought out in successive courses.

After being led to our private dining room and being seated, we noticed that there were three complete settings directly across the table from ours. Were we eating alone, or did we have guests coming? Jacob was as clueless as I, so we sipped on hot tea and waited.

Pretty soon, we got our answer as Tanabe san and his younger friend (a Docomo cell phone rep) appeared. Tanabe san is a regular at TK6 (where Jake works) and is a huge fan of Jacob. He owns property in Australia and Japan, as well as is in charge of some sports teams, so needless to say he is quite well off. He is so, so generous with his money and likes to treat others to fine food and drink...we've been at the receiving end of that generosity quite a few times, and this anniversary dinner was one of those times as well. I like to joke that he's Jacob's reality, both him and Jacob have a huge amount of respect for each other despite barely speaking the other's respective language. is Tanabe san, along with the huge bottle of shochu (crazy Japanese alcohol) from Kyushu that he bought for us:

The meal itself was so, so good! I lost track of how many courses it was at about 8, but most of the dishes consisted of uni, tuna, and crab...some of the most expensive seafoods that you can get here.

Halfway through the meal, we had our third and final surprise guest: a Japanese pro-wrestler named モハメド (Mohammed) who fights with the Noah's Ark Wrestling Team (which Tanabe san manages). The plethora of irony in all of that is just too great, and that's why I was sure to get one of his business cards:

And then the motherload...motherfish...mother of all Japanese-y things to eat came out. This was the star of the night: an extremely rare, super deep-water fish that was pretty freakin' ugly if you ask me. But awesome nonetheless. Apparently, this was the ONLY fish of its kind in Hokkaido. Seriously, the only one...Tanabe san had it ordered up from Honshu (Japan's largest island) and sent directly to this restaurant to prepare for us. Whoa.

Gratuitous photo taken by a very confused taxi-driver:

So, while this year's anniversary wasn't the expected romantic dinner for two, it was pretty darn unforgettable on so many levels. Forget the traditional/modern 3rd anniversary gifts of leather and glass! Fish heads and shochu are TOTALLY where it's at!