Sunday, 23 September 2007

Rainbow March / Dinosaurs / The Truth About Soup Curry

The phenomenon of Sapporo Soup Curry got slightly more sinister for me the other day. There are soup curry shops everywhere here, and it's touted as being a Sapporo speciality, and it's mostly delicious. However in talking to Sapporo residents it seems that all of these places suddenly sprung up about five years ago, and before that no-one had even heard of soup curry! Could it be a conspiracy? A tasty, tasty conspiracy?

Last weekend I marched in the Sapporo Rainbow March, Sapporo's equivalent of Gay Pride. There were lots of outlandishly dressed folks, and though I'm not actually gay (ssshhh!) I'm pretty sure that there were lots of other people marching in solidarity too. Being openly gay is a lot less accepted here than it is in the UK or America, so it wasn't a huge event, but it was important, and it was big enough to be great fun and involve a marching band and several floats full of drag queens leading a big mass of people around the centre of Sapporo. As we reached the end of the march we all released our rainbow coloured balloons and cheered, and then the marching band struck up on a big bandstand in Odori and it turned out that our friend knew some of the biggest, gayest queens there.

Today I sat for a while and watched some local unsigned bands banging away for a while on that same bandstand in Odori . There was a technically accomplished guitar and drums duo who lost me when the vocals turned out to suck balls, and a fantastically indisciplined three piece with girls on guitar and bass, and a guy singing lead and playing drums. They were great, and the whole thing reminded me a great deal of a lot of the shows I played where the audience is mostly the other bands and a few drunken elderly guys dancing badly at the back.

Also last weekend I went to a barbecue on the University of Hokkaido campus being held by some students of a friend. It was great (even though it rained a little) and it was right in the middle of the campus, literally on one of the grassy areas between buildings. But it was also next to the university museum, and I kept rabbiting on about how I'd read that there were dinosaur skeletons in there and no-one really believed me. So today I met up with Jon, who lives nearby, to check it out. We got there late, and by the time we left they were locking the door behind us pretty much, but it was fun in the end. It was pretty confusing though, because it's a big, old, western style, redbrick building which is still clearly full of professors and classrooms, and they've decided to create a museum that stretches randomly and crazily through it. The ground floor looks super modern and has all the information about the founding of the University and lots of quotes from Williams S. Clark, one of Hokkaido's favourite Americans (several Americans were integral to the founding of Sapporo, and thus the development of Hokkaido in general in the late 19th century, kind of like Tom Cruise's "The Last Samurai" but in this case, with cows and ploughs rather than rifles). The most famous quote is:

"Boys, be ambitious. Be ambitious not for money or for selfish aggrandizement, not for that evanescent thing which men call fame. Be ambitious for that attainment of all that a man ought to be."

Which is a pretty great quote really. After you've made your way through that though it's not really clear where you should go next, so we climbed some stairs towards the gift shop and found that that was the next section of the museum. The 1st floor had some human bones, lots of dead birds and fish, some science experiments going on, a quiz about strange ancient scientific devices and a frankly bizarre bookcase with no books, but a backlit sheet with a photograph of a full bookcase stretched over it. From there, again it was almost impossible to work out where to go next, so we climbed up further to the top floor where it turned out the museum did actually continue. The top floor infact was the beans, with lots of rocks and minerals, animal skeletons, bugs, a special exhibition about Japan's nobel prize winners Hideki Yukawa and Shin-Ichiro Tomonaga, and of course dinosaur skeletons. There were a couple of herbivores and an absolutely kick-ass prehistoric crocodile that was probably 20 feet long or more. It looked super-duper-sweet and OF COURSE my phone had run out of batteries so I couldn 't take any pictures. I also couldn't take any pictures of the Space Invaders style arcade machine that had been set up in the street which I passed on the way home with a couple of guys gathered intently around it. You'll have to take my word that I wasn't dreaming any of this.

Afterwards we walked around the campus, which was beautiful except for the fact that wheeling clouds of crows kept freaking me out. At one point we were walking between two tall buildings when we heard a noise above us, and looked up to see dozens of crows silhouetted against the sky and looking down at us over the edges of the buildings. Their bony claws skittering against the cold metal that they perched upon. Waiting for their chance...

Ah, the British/US balance of foreign teachers here is tipping. This week two new teachers arrived in Sapporo, both from the UK, and I think both of whom attended the same interview I did way back in February or March or whenever the hell it was. So that makes, I think, 5 British & 5 American teachers here now. Evens the odds a little bit. Y'know, if it comes to a fight.

It's late now, but at midnight tonight I'm meeting Yuka in town to go and see her boyfriend play what she describes as geeky electro music at some strange bar. No sleep for me my friends! Electronic music, she be my master tonight!

The Rainbow March, about to turn right past Sapporo TV Tower. Please note the freakin' awesome time on the clock, a total accident mind you

Before the Rainbow March we went to this place for the best soup curry I've had yet. Almost all soup curry places have questionable ethnic, hippy or reggae decor, but this was the best yet. A photoshop nightmare of the worst psychedelic compilation album cover in the world ever!

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