Casey Baseel

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Casey Baseel spent his formative years staring in frustration at un-subtitled Japanese TV programming shown on Southern California’s international channel. Taking matters into his own hands, he moved to Tokyo to study the language, then found work in Yokohama a decade ago teaching, translating, and marketing hotels he can’t afford to stay in. When not participating in the eternal cycle of exercising to burn the calories form his love of Japanese food, Casey scours used comic and game shops for forgotten classics, drags his wife around the country in a quest to visit all its castles, sings karaoke not nearly as well as he thinks he does, and counts the days until the summertime bars open on Enoshima Beach.

All Stories by Casey Baseel

Foreign visitors pick the 20 coolest places in Japan

The users of travel website Trip Advisor recently ranked Japan’s best free sightseeing spots. Of course, if you’re visiting Japan from abroad and in a position to spring for airfare, odds are you’re not so strapped for cash you can’t afford to spend a little bit to enjoy yourself, since you came all the way here.

With that in mind, the site has now compiled the 20 coolest places in Japan, as chosen by overseas visitors, regardless of whether or not they charge admission.

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Mr. Sato’s blonde ambition leads him to look for love from beyond the grave

On a recent evening in the RocketNews24 offices, while the rest of the team was discussing such weighty topics as neuroscience, classic literature, and Gundam-themed cakes, we noticed our most intrepid reporter, Mr. Sato, staring longingly at some reading material with a lascivious grin plastered on his face.

Usually when a man holding print media has that kind of expression, the cause is a photo of an attractive woman, and Mr. Sato’s case was no exception. But he wasn’t perusing some skin mag filled with spreads of F-cup teenagers, but instead a pamphlet for the movie R.I.P.D. Mr. Sato had become smitten by its photos of actress Stephanie Szostak and was determined to meet someone like her, even if that meant facing some paranormal dangers.

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We create awesome cinematic videos in slow motion with the iPhone 5s

September 20 was a special day for Apple fans, as the newest iteration of the company’s smartphone, the iPhone 5s, went on sale. The youngest member of the iPhone clan was an instant success, and while some people were motivated to buy one by the simple camaraderie of hitting the Apple store with a group of friends, Apple also touts a number of technical advantages the iPhone 5s has over older models.

One of the biggest strides lies in the iPhone 5s’ camera, which we discovered can be used to take dramatic slow motion video that looks like something out of a movie.

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10 handy products – The best 1,000 yen you can spend at the 100 yen store

Like many people who immigrated to Japan, for my first few weeks in the country, almost every day involved a trip to the local 100 yen shop. Setting up a new home requires a big investment of time and money, but at the very least, in Japan you can largely outfit your kitchen with a handful of 100-yen (US $1) coins.

And it’s not just dishes and silverware you can pick up on the cheap, but a variety of handy things to make your home life easier, as featured in a recent ranking of the top 10 convenient items from the 100 yen shop.

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Images depicting the life of Jesus in Korea rile Chinese Internet users

There seems to be a long-running debate over whether Jesus was white or African (as opposed, to, you know, Arabic, as most people born in the Middle East tend to be).

Apparently concerned that the squabble doesn’t have enough sides, a participant in a Chinese Internet forum has come forward with images suggesting yet another theory: Jesus was Korean.

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Japanese psychologist explains what the seat you choose in a theatre reveals about your personality

There are a couple things that make going to the movies in Japan different from in the US. First and foremost there’s the price. General admission at just about every first-run theatre in the country is a whopping 1,800 yen (US $18.40).

Helping to take a little bit of the sting out of that, though, is the fact is that all seats are reserved. There are two advantages to this system. First, you never have to deal with the annoyance of one guy, sitting by himself, who’s saving the dozen seats prime seats next to himself for his friends, who will totally be here any minute.

Secondly, the seat a person uses can reveal things that give you a glimpse into their personality.

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Starbucks: More expensive in China than Japan or America, but why?

It’s safe to say that no one you see at Starbucks is there because they want to stretch their java-buying budget. With locations in more than 60 countries (and seemingly every branch in the Tokyo area at maximum capacity every day between 3 and 7 p.m., the Seattle-based chain must be doing something right, but sometimes it’s hard not to feel a bit surprised at the prices they charge.

But the next time you’re sitting in a Starbucks in Japan or America, pretending to sip from an empty mug because you’re not quite ready to disconnect from the free wi-fi but don’t feel like laying out the cash for another cup, consider yourself lucky. You’d be paying a lot more for your latte if you were at a Starbucks in China.

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Japanese man arrested for shouting that he studies English (weird) before  grabbing woman’s butt (illegal)

Police from the Himonya Precinct in Tokyo’s Merguro Ward have announced the arrest of one Keiko Hatano. Mr. Hatano has an unusual given name for a man in Japan, but even more unusual is the crime he is suspected of: fondling a woman’s posterior after explaining to her that he “studies English.”

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Supermarket sculpts anime and video game heroes out of ground meat

If you’re anything like us, ground meat isn’t exactly a tough sell. It requires no prep work, cooks up in minutes, and you can eat it with a spoon. It may be just about the quickest, tastiest protein fix available.

But should you require any extra evidence that ground meat is awesome, check out these amazing reproductions of popular anime and video game characters in meat form from grocery store Uwajimaya.

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How nerdy are you? Use this handy formula to calculate your “otaku coefficient”

Originally a particularly polite way of saying “you,” the Japanese word otaku evolved into a label for anyone with an obsessive, passionate devotion to their hobby. While most commonly associated with anime fans, the term is also applied to hardcore video gamers, technology buffs, and even auto enthusiasts.

Much like “geek,” otaku was initially a derogatory term, but has lost a lot of its sting and become largely co-opted in recent years. Still, it’s important to not let yourself get too wrapped up in your hobbies. Conveniently, there’s now a mathematical formula to determine if your otaku-ness has become too much for your own good.

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Self-Defense Force hopes people will answer the call of duty (and cute anime girls)

Given the less assertive role of the Japanese Self-Defense Force compared to a conventional military, it’s natural that the organization’s recruiting tends to be on the low-key side. The JSDF does indeed do invaluable work in disaster-relief and humanitarian missions, but the pitch to recruits is less hunting down the world’s villains and more holding the fort and being ready to lend a hand when people are in need.

Accordingly, the JSDF Coordination Office for Kagawa Prefecture, located on Shikoku, the smallest of Japan’s four main islands, has decided to go with showcasing the soft power-look of cute anime girls in its recruitment efforts.

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Highway video from Southeast Asia shows three crazy motorists, one crazy scooter

What’s the first thing that pops into your head when you hear the word Vespa? A stylish mode of transportation for your date with an incognito princess? The perfect way to ironically get to the office if your workplace is too far away to commute to by fixed-gear bicycle?

Well, for a lot of people across Southeast Asia, Vespas and other scooters are simply an inexpensive, practical way to get around town. They’re so ubiquitous that just riding one in and of itself doesn’t make you stand out. To catch people’s eyes, you have to do something really outlandish, like creating a custom ride that puts not only your life in jeopardy, but also those of a couple of your friends, as shown in this video.

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The last thing you want doctors to find when examining your 2-year-old son: a fetus

For many parents, one of the hardest things to accept is that their children are growing up. Every milestone on the path to adulthood seems like it comes too soon, whether it’s finishing school or moving out of the house. Perhaps there’s no greater shock than the day a doctor tells you your child is carrying a fetus. Especially if your child is two. And, especially, if your child is a boy, as was the case for one family in China.

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Can you spot the shocking hidden image in this plate of curry and rice?

There are certain customs restaurants in Japan follow when serving dishes that originated overseas. Fried rice should come on an octagonal plate. Steak must be accompanied by a few wedges of carrots, steak fries, and corn.

When it comes to curry and rice, the roux should never completely cover the grain. Ideally, it should be poured over half of the plate, allowing the customer to enjoy mixing the two together in whatever ratio they feel is best.

Trying to keep with the spirit of this tradition caused problems for one Tokyo restaurant, though, when its special plate of three kinds of curry ended up containing an unfortunate and unintentional hidden image.

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Photo showing Attack on Titan’s giants out on a date is sweet, intimate, and terrifying

In an industrious society like Japan, work comes first. It doesn’t matter if your job is selling insurance, building houses, or hunting and eating tasty little humans like the towering creatures from manga and anime hit Attack on Titan. When duty calls, you take care of business.

Of course, even the hardest working among us need a little rest and relaxation, and the titans are apparently no exception, as evidenced by a photograph that surfaced on Twitter showing a pair of the fleshless monsters enjoying a romantic date.

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Japanese businesses anger universities by offering jobs to their students

Recently, a number of Japanese college students irked their universities when posts about their rule-skirting shenanigans showed up on everyone’s favorite social network for immortalizing bad decisions, Facebook.

But underage drinking is almost universally accepted in Japan, and colleges here lack the animal mascots that are prime kidnapping targets in American institutions of higher learning. Just what kind of shameful, inappropriate behavior had these kids been up to?

They’d been getting job offers from A-list companies.

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Dating tip for morons: Don’t try to impress your girlfriend’s parents with shoplifted desserts

So what’s the biggest gift-giving faux pas you’ve committed? Forgetting to take the receipt out of the bag before you hand it over? Re-gifting something to the same person who originally gave it to you?

Well, don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re still a shining example of etiquette compared to one young man who decided to steal some merchandise to give to his girlfriend’s parents. And that’s not even the worst part.

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Linguistic complications of melon bread cream puffs can be reduced to a single word: delicious

Despite its pronunciation in Japanese coming out unnervingly close to “shoe cream,” choux crème does not, in fact, refer to a product to keep your wingtips looking their shiniest. More commonly known in North America as cream puffs, choux crème are one of the many non-indigenous desserts popular in Japan.

In similarly confusing fashion, the popular chain Beard Papa sells neither razors, lawnmowers, easy chairs, nor any of the other trappings assorted with fatherhood and/or having facial hair. Beard Papa is instead Japan’s most prolific choux crème bakery, and for the next two months they’re bringing back their popular melon bread-inspired cream puffs.

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Sony uses radio controlled helicopters to record epic footage of massive reservoir drainage 【Video】

In April, we tagged along with a team from Sony on a trip to Gunkanjima, mecca for urban explorers and movie villains alike. While there, Sony’s engineers used the company’s new Action Cam video camera, mounted on a radio controlled helicopter, to film the island’s ruined ghost town from the sky.

Sony is at it again, this time using this technology to get up close and personal as Hokkaido’s enormous Hoheikyo Dam discharges two tons of water per second. This really is quite the sight.

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Angry landowner fights tree-loving boy band fangirls with the ultimate weapon: More trees

Due to the unique nature of Japanese advertising, you haven’t really arrived as an entertainer until you’ve appeared in at least a half-dozen commercials. The symbiotic relationship is amazing to behold, as the general trust for domestic celebrities and corporations means that when, say, a popular actress appears in an ad for energy-efficient plasma TVs, viewers tend to come away feeling more positively about the product because of the endorsement, and at the same time more impressed by the endorser because of her growing career portfolio.

But sometimes commercials can be a little too effective, as Japan Airlines is finding out with one of its recent TV spots featuring popular boy band Arashi.

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