Monday, 18 October 2010

Suburban Sapporo Food: Halsanchi

This one probably won't be of much use to anyone, but it was a nice place and it seemed worth mentioning because, who knows - maybe there are English speaking residents of Shin-Kotoni that don't know about the place!

Shin-Kotoni being a suburb up North from Kotoni itself, about half an hour from the centre of Sapporo and on precisely no-one's list of 'must see places' in Sapporo. Nevertheless it's not a million miles away from where I'm sitting right now and so, driving back from someplace or other, hankering for nasi-goreng, we went to Halsanchi.

Halsanchi is a nicely shabby (I trust that isn't an oxymoron to anyone) bar/restaurant that looks to have been named for the owner's dog, Hal. The name is a compression of Hal-san's House, and there were dog pictures and knick-knacks all over the place, along with a zillion other pieces of decor that looked to have accumulated on the walls with minimal consideration given to design. There's a hand-painted portrait of Hal on the wall and, sadly it dates from 2000. I'm no good with dog years, but I'm thinking that if he was full-grown in 2000, Hal probably ain't with us anymore. It's sad, but the restaurant is a nice memorial for him.

I would recommend Halsanchi to people who like home cooked food from practically any country in the whole damn world. Their slogan is something about food from many different countries and they aren't kidding. Chinese, Italian, Mexican, Turkish, Vietnamese, Indonesian... a whole bunch of national adjectives from all over the world basically. Hell they even had fish and chips. For the most part it's the famous dishes that they serve, but the sheer variety of the menu made me want to make multiple repeat trips just to see, for example, what their pizzas were like.

We had a Thai chicken soup thing, that nasi-goreng we'd been craving, some kind of Korean chijimi and fried chicken done in the style of some Asian country or another (I think it might have been Thai again). It was all good, satisfying food, done in a simple home-cooked style. Everything was made by the incredibly harassed-looking Master who was running the entire place single-handedly when we arrived. Oh! I just remembered they had carrot cake too! Carrot cake! The first time I think I've ever seen it in Japan, although to be honest, it wasn't much like any carrot cake I know. It was, however orange, and that must count for something.

I'll mark it on the map, and I'm curious to see where it actually falls - y'know geographically. I don't reckon many people will be making the trip out there, but I liked it, and I'll be going again.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Trends in Japanese Beer Commercials

I, like probably ninety seven percent of the heterosexual male population of Japan, kind of dig Dan Rei in those Suntory Kin-Mugi commercials.

(Rough translation: she's running, running, RUNNING through the park to tell you something, but when she reaches you she forgets what she was going to say.)

At first I thought I liked them because it was a beer commercial and she was actually acting drunk. I mean, that should be a no brainer - it's gotta play a pretty big part in motivating people to drink beer - but it's incredibly rare to see anyone actually acting believably drunk in any kind of alcohol advertising. From acting tipsy it's a slippery slope to vomiting and vehicular manslaughter I guess.

(An aside now to point out that Kin-Mugi isn't even, actually beer, but happoshu, something that wikipedia describes, mouthwateringly, as a "tax bracket of japanese liquor", and a "beer like beverage." It's cheaper than beer, that's for sure, but my main feeling whenever I'm drinking happoshu is: man, I could really do with a beer. I tried to like Kin-Mugi, for both Dan Rei and my wallet, but... no dice.)

Then of course, I realised it was because she was drunk and talking directly to the camera as if you (the viewer) are her boyfriend. Or date. Or at least some dude she's willing to flirt with in the park. Of course this isn't new, but I do think that the fun, light, and... somewhat inebriated tone of the Suntory Kin-Mugi CMs is pretty eye-catching and, in a way, unique.

That is, until Asahi noticed how succesful the commercials were and got smart to advertise their new happoshu, Kutsurogi-Jikomi <4VG>:

(Rough translation: "Want a kutsurogi?" Short and to the point I suppose.)

What was it that Bill Hicks said about gum ads? If you want, you can check out the accompanying Asahi website too, and pretend that you're actually in that appartment... ah... I mean your appartment, with Kitagawa Keiko. I warn you though, there are no pictures of you, only her, which is kind of vain when you think about it.

Really though, the top rated youtube comment on that advert says it all. I'd translate it for you but I don't want to be needlessly crude and... it's pretty much stating the obvious.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Sapporo Food: Cous Cous

Well this is how it went: we were going to go to a restaurant recommended by a friend of hers, that was meant to have really great nasi goreng. But when we got there we didn't really like the look of the place, plus there was no nasi goreng evident on the menu stuck to the wall. So we thought, well lets go to Stanley Market, the popular pan-Asian place near here (we don't talk like that, this is just an efficient summary of events, with added colour, for spice). But Stanley Market is popular, so when we got there they could only seat us at this tiny, tiny table and the smoke was so thick that it positively stung the eyes, so we thought: fuck it, let's just go somewhere we always go, and left.

But on the way there, in the drizzle we spotted a couple of weird restaurant things wedged down an improbably narrow alley, so we went to one of those instead and it was really, really good.

Cous Cous is in Odori, South 2, West 5, hidden down a dark alley and yes, they serve cous cous. That might not sound so exciting, but really - the dearth of cous cous in Japan has been a constant puzzlement to me. What!? They have rice so they don't need cous cous? Well, y'know, blasphemous as it may be I prefer cous cous, lovely little cloud dust that it is.

The place was great, small and welcoming and intimate, and while we had to wait a while for our food, I can imagine that's because they're making everything back there to order, in a pretty cramped little kitchen so I didn't begrudge it for a moment. Plus they had this great Shel Silverstein book to read while we were waiting, and when the food came (we shared the above lamb curry and cous cous, a sea food chijimi - korean pancake - and great tuna & avocado maki sushi) it was all delicious, satisfying and unpretentious. Which is kinda what I look for in a restaurant.

Pretty cheap too, so if you're downtown and don't mind a little searchin' I recommend the place. My map might (no promises) help.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Sapporo Short Fest 2010

"In Dome!" As they like to say here from time to time.

Yet again I was trying to remember that Sapporo Short Film Festival was on its way, but utterly forgot about it 'til the whole thing had started. Ah well, I'm kinda sick and exhausted and so-on this year, so I might have to settle for the one selection I saw last night. It was a pretty strong one, and unlike previous years there was nothing that made me think - God I wish this guy hadn't decided to make a short film, but since he did, couldn't he have made it a little... shorter?

But that dome! Yeah, check it out:

This year's main program is going on in that white geodesic business there in front of the TV tower. I was, let's say sceptical. A big, big part of my enjoyment of going out to watch a movie is the actual ambience of a cinema building, and I've gotta say while the dome setting certainly didn't suck... it wasn't as good as previous years which were mostly in the TOHO Plaza in Tanuki Koji. Then again, how often do you get to watch movies in a screen that has actual trees growing inside?

The sound was great, and though the picture wasn't from time to time, some of that might be down to the problems with film quality that I assume comes along with some of the submissions they recieve. I really don't know what made them use the dome, perhaps they couldn't use the TOHO Plaza and this was their best option (I'm pretty sure it's the same thing they use for the Jazz Festival). So, I don't want to be too harsh, but... I was kinda looking forward to being in a cinema. That's just me being pouty though. It wasn't too cold, or too uncomfortable or anything, and the selection of six films, while being bookended by pieces I didn't much care for, was really pretty strong.

I would guess that when you set about making a short film, a short, comedy thing with an obvious punchline would probably be the most reliably... pull off-able. And certainly the most crowd pleasing. So I feel a little guilty that I thought the two best films in the selection I saw were the two short, sweet, comedy ones.

That was 'Born and Raised' directed by Eelko Ferwerda, which was great, probably especially for music makers, and the other was 'True Beauty This Night', directed by Peter Besson:

Two trailers there of course because, since they're short flicks putting them on youtube, while tempting, would be like... Well actually I don't know what it would be like. The world of short films is a fascinating enigma to me. I presume none of the festival fare kinda movies end up on the big video sites like youtube because the directors don't want to give their work away entirely for free, and thus cheapen it or whatever. Plus there is a trade for short movies that... I mean I have no idea about that either though, but there's a short film market going on to coincide with the festival, so I guess people are buying and selling them, but I have no clue where they end up. It doesn't seem to me that there are vast, unwashed mobs clamouring for the latest 5 minute Norwegian thought-provoker, and yet put one of these movies on youtube and it would reach a far, far (far) greater audience. But then, it would just feel like a five minute diversion and not... a 'film'. I really can't be bothered to think my way out of this little intersection of ideas, but I'm almost curious enough to do some research and find out what the short film world thinks about their future.

I have spent even longer ruminating on video art, believe me, and I'm pretty sure I'm never gonna make any.

Anyway! Sapporo Short Fest! Fun again, I wish I had the time and health to see more. But the Norwegian '2023' wasn't very good.