Friday, June 18, 2010


From this week's edition (June 14, 2010) of Nikkei Weekly...

Having been raised in Beijing, Sara Arai acquired the ability to combine the cultures of China and Japan --- sweeping dynamism and delicate beauty --- to create original fashions. ... In [her latest collection for autumn/winter 2010-2011], Arai used a traditional Japanese dying technique called yohenzome, which gives color a unique characteristic. This little-known technique is said to have its origins in the early Heian period (794-1185). Yohenzome-dyed fabrics seem to change color when light hits them from different angles. ... Under fluorescent light, a yohenzome article that is red under the sun changes to black.

I wanna see her collection in video, not in photos, as photos cannot express the changing-color feature of yohenzome (陽変染). Unfortunately, the video of her latest collection doesn't seem to be available online. (The photos are here.)

This is mind-blowing. The technique dating back to more than 900 years ago is revived to add a 4th dimension (time) to the three dimensional world of fashion with the color created by fluorescent light beyond the imagination of the original inventor of this technique more than 900 years ago.

I love this kind of attempt to broaden one's imagination.

The official website of araisara is here.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Flat-hunting in Stockholm still continues...

Although I just moved in to the current apartment two weeks ago, I have to keep looking for the next apartment to move in because I have to move out by the end of September.

Today I view one apartment in Kristineberg, the area I've never heard of before. It's located at the western edge of Kungsholmen (perhaps the least fashionable---the most laid-back, in other words---district of central Stockholm). It's a very quiet area with lots of green space. On the way to the apartment from Kristineberg metro station, I only see one supermarket in front of the station.

However, somehow it feels different from other uninspiring (sometimes even depressing) suburbs of Stockholm. After viewing the flat, I explore the area a bit. Just a few minute walk takes me to a good view of Tranebergsbron (an arch bridge connecting Kungsholmen and the area called Traneberg). Then, totally out of blue, I find a Tanzanian restaurant called Jambokula. Unlike usual eateries in a suburb of Stockholm, the decor is very neat and, when I'm browsing the menu at the entrance, a very tempting smell of foods floats into my nose. This is very, very unusual in Stockholm, I must say. When I think about it, I've almost never had this experience in this city. Swedish cuisine doesn't smell anything. All those trendy cafes and restaurants never ever tempt me by smell (even if food is actually good). It's such a shame that it is about 3 pm when I'm not hungry...

Then I walk down to Kristnebergs Strand, an unpaved footpath on the edge of the island of Kungsholmen. The view of Ulvsundasjön bay is beautiful. I'm told during the summer people barbecue here. That would be very nice, indeed.

I keep walking and enter the area known as Hornsberg, a former industrial area where urban redevelopment projects are ongoing. Red-bricked factories appear to date back to the early 20th century, judging from the presence of ornaments on the facade. It even looks beautiful. There is a well-designed skateboard rink, too. Post-industrial chic. That's what I miss in Stockholm. Finally, the missing piece for my image of a city is found here.

Then a massive shopping complex called Lindhagen where a branch of the major supermarket chain ICA, probably Stockholm's biggest, spans two floors of the spacious building. For every consumer good, all the brands available in Sweden seem to be on the shelf although, for some reason, the meat section is rather small (smaller than the entire section for sausages or for cheese), and they don't sell my favorite Nuremberg sausages. The shopping complex is far away from any metro station. Bus 49 stops in front but every 20 minute at best. Unless you have a car or live really close by, there's no point of visiting this place.

If I live in this area, Fridhemsplan is the closest busy area. I have lunch at a French-influenced cafe called Et Encore, located inside Grandpa, a well-known hip boutique. The menu is different from other standard cafes in Stockholm. A toast sandwich is fine, but the accompanied salad of not very fresh tomatoes, cucumber, and lettuce (a very typical salad in Stockholm) makes everything collapse. What's worse, their coffee is Caffe Monteriva, which I hate. By the way, they forget serving me with coffee. When I claim it after finishing the sandwich, a shop attendant gives me a macaron for free (which tastes good), telling me with a smile, "It's French, not Swedish." It seems a pure quality of Swedish sweets is what some Swedes also notice.

In Fridhemsplan, there are two big supermarkets. On the way home, I shop at one of them, DagLivs, which turns out to be one of the best supermarkets in Stockholm.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Extra charges for low-cost airlines

Although a low-cost airline is a great way of traveling in Europe, you always feel ripped off when you book a ticket. This is because the amount you pay is always higher than the price you first see on the booking webpage.

To reduce this psychological pain, I take note of how much I need to pay more than the price shown immediately after the search, for four low-cost airlines that I often use, if I need to check in luggage, want to take the desired seat, and pay by credit card.

Ryanair: 29 euro (20 for 1 check-in luggage up to 15kg, 4 for priority q, and 5 for credit card payment).

EasyJet: 29.75 euro (11 for 1 check-in luggage up to 20kg, 9.5 for speedy boarding, and 9.5 for credit card payment)

Norwegian: 21 euro (8 for 1 check-in luggage up to 20kg, 8 for seat reservation, and 5 for credit card payment)

Air Berlin: 5 euro (for credit card payment)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Coffee in Stockholm

One thing I don't like about Stockholm is the taste of coffee. Swedes, the world's second most coffee consumer in per capita terms (after Finland), seem to like sour coffee with a higher amount of caffeine than the average in the world. This taste preference extends to espresso, too.

Here's the typical experience of me drinking espresso or cafe latte in Stockholm. The first taste is pretty bad. But as I spend some money for this cup of coffee, I cannot really throw it away. So I keep drinking. By the time my tongue gets used to (or paralyzed by) the taste, my head starts feeling dizzy.

After three years in Stockholm, I almost dislike coffee.

But finally, finally I encounter a good cup of coffee in Stockholm. I visit Mellqvist Kaffebar on Rörstrandsgatan, the street known as little Paris (which I rather strongly disagree with), on the early Saturday afternoon. Just like other popular cafes in Stockholm, the cafe is rather small and, of course, packed with customers. The seating is not designed for a long stay, however. By the time I get a cup of single espresso, a counter table facing the window to the street gets vacant. I sit down and sip the espresso. A taste with several layers spreads within my mouth. This is a rare experience in Stockholm. What makes coffee fascinating is the mixture of different flavors which cannot be immediately verbalized. Coffee in Stockholm is easy to verbalize: sour. This one is not. When I look up, a board on the wall tells me that the coffee beans at this cafe are a blend of Brazilian Carmo Sitio Grota Sao Pedro (Google suggests Sítio Grota São Pedro is a famous coffee farm in Brazil) and Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Gibi Natural. And the beans are roasted by Haugaard (whose blog seems to be this one). Although its brie and salami sandwich is not perfect due to hard-to-bite bread, it seems I finally find my favorite cafe in Stockholm.

Kate Gilmore (2009) "Blood from a Stone" showcased at Crystal Palace

Instead of Magasin 3, which is already on summer vacations (see yesterday's post), I visit Hudiksvallsgatan, known by some as Stockholm's Chelsea, referring to the area of New York well-known for the clustering of art galleries. (For details about this area, see the post in my other blog Stockholm4Foreigners.)

Crystal Palace, a gallery that only recently moved to Hudiksvallsgatan, showcases video installations by a New York-based artist Kate Gilmore. Her work entitled "Blood From A Stone" catches my eyes. (A clip of this video can be seen on the artist's website.)

The video begins with the dark grey wall with ten shelves (also in dark grey) at the height of a person's head. The artist herself, dressed in a red top and a white skirt with little pink patterns at the hem, starts putting a white cubic box on one of the shelf. By watching her struggling to lift up the box, we learn she's trying to do a job that appears to be too tough for a woman. Once she manages to place the box on the shelf, white blood splashes at the back of the box and flows down the dark grey wall. She keeps lifting up white heavy boxes, one by one, and every time she places it on the shelf, white blood splashes and flows down the wall. She repeats this ten times until all the shelves are complete with the white box. The video ends.

Her movement in this video essentially goes against two laws of nature: gravity and the fact (or the artist may say everyone's perception) that female human beings are born to be physically weak. Each time she overcomes these two challenges, white blood splashes as if it suggested going against nature would hurt. But she places white boxes against the grey wall, and the color of blood is white, not red. It seems what she is doing is morally correct if the color of white represents purity

A few walks away, Galleri Andersson Sandström features another New York-based artist Barton Lidice Benes. His 2005 work entitled Painting attracts my attention. It consists of five picture frames in green, blue, brown, orange, and purple, respectively, which showcase dozens of tiny items the artist collects around the world, ranging from a fragment of a banknote of some country (a recurrent motif in his works) to a tiny toy doll, from a used condom package to a case of drawing pins. Since each item's color matches the picture frame's color, each set of junk looks very pretty as a whole. This is perhaps a nice way of displaying your own tiny, junky objects that you accumulate over your life.

Hudiksvallsgatan really appears to be Stockholm's Chelsea this weekend.

Friday, June 11, 2010

It's already the summer vacation period in Stockholm...

I feel worn out every day this week. I feel like being stimulated by unexpected contemporary art works. From all the pieces of information that I gather, Magasin 3 appears to be the best contemporary art gallery in Stockholm. Why not visiting Magasin 3 this weekend?

So I visit its official website for what's on right now, only to find that it's already closed for the summer.

I knew this place closes down during the summer vacation period, which typically spans from mid June to mid August. But it's still the first half of June!

I really don't understand this city...

Saturday, June 05, 2010


By reading The Nikkei Weekly, the English version of Japan's financial newspaper, I've learned one recent fad in Japan.

A website called Bijin-tokei features a photograph of a Japanese bijin (good-looking girl) showing the current time written on a chalk board. It automatically renews the photo every minute so the website does work as tokei (clock). According to the Nikkei Weekly, the website attracts 370 million hits a month.

It's also available as an iPhone app, a Google gadget, or a Dashboard widget for Mac OS.

This is very Japanese. I just laughed out loud when I read the Nikkei Weekly article about this website.

What's more, the website recognizes where you are on the earth. I'm in Stockholm and the bijin shows the Central European time instead of the Japanese time.

If you are an anti-sexism Swede, don't worry. There is a male version called Binan-tokei as well. :)

Friday, June 04, 2010

Swedish House Mafia

Although I'm not particularly into house music, the name of Swedish House Mafia has reached my ears. Initially, I thought they were British or some other nationalities using the term "Swedish" without any reason. The Wikipedia reveals that that's not the case. They are Swedish, or at least living in Stockholm.

If I go to the nightclub in Stockholm where they play on the DJ deck, therefore, it should be the world class nightclub party. I check their DJ schedule. For the next three months, they have no plan to play in Stockholm.

It seems I should really forget about nightclubs in Stockholm.