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

Can’t wait for Sailor Moon Crystal? The original series is now streaming for free on Hulu!

Sailor Moon Crystal, the remake of anime’s most successful magical girl series ever, is set to premiere on July 5. Most people would say this is pretty soon, but for truly dedicated fans of the franchise it’s not nearly soon enough.

If you fall into the second camp, you can now make the waiting a little easier by catching up on the original Sailor Moon series, which you can watch right now for free on video streaming site Hulu.

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Japanese pop singer’s arrest on drug charges delays Hayao Miyazaki Blu-ray collection

Having grown up in Los Angeles, where celebrity drunk driving arrests are only slightly less common than rainy days, I’m generally not shocked when I hear about an entertainer being in trouble with the law. Things are very different in Japan, though, and whether it’s because those in the public eye are better behaved, more skilful at covering their tracks, or have a cozier relationship with the mass media, stories about major transgressions by performing artists are few and far between.

So when pop musician Aska was recently arrested, it sent shock waves through the country. Of course, if you’re not a fan of Japanese pop music from two decades ago, you probably think the 56-year-old singers legal problems are none of your own.

That’s not the case, though, if you’re a fan of Studio Ghibli anime.

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How to make McDonald’s four-patty burger diet-friendly: Hold the everything

A lot of people in Japan start to feel down in the dumps in May, as the excitement of the new jobs and school years they started in April gives way to a daily drudgery with the next public holiday months away. For us, though, May has suddenly become the happiest month of the year so far, with the return of McDonald’s Japan’s massive four-patty Mega Mac on May 19.

Here at RocketNews24, we try to stay one step ahead of the latest burger trends, however. Sure, everyone’s excited about having extra meat now, but what if the next big thing is less meat? Could we order our Mega Mac with no meat, or anything else, for that matter?

As it turned out, not only was McDonald’s willing to indulging us in our minimalistic burger experiment, they even got in on the process by offering us some advice.

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Extreme Japanese bargain hunting – We buy a car for 10 bucks

Japan has an image as an expensive country, but with a little searching, you can find some pretty good deals. For example, the other day I went out and got a haircut, bought a shirt, and had a pretty good sushi lunch, and none of those three expenditures cost me more than a thousand yen (US $9.80).

Still, my bargain hunting skills can’t compete with those of our Japanese-language correspondent Go, who with 980 yen just bought himself a car.

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Elementary school’s morning greeting is so intense it almost makes us miss long division

In Japanese schools, it’s customary for the students to start the day with a formal greeting. The teacher walks in, the students stand, bow, and say good-morning. It’s a fairly somber ritual, in keeping with the general attitude in the country that education is serious business.

One elementary school, though, does things a little differently, with a morning greeting that’s packed with more energy than most people show all day.

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McDonald’s Japan’s eight-nation World Cup menu kicks off next week

Japan loves cheering on its sports teams in international competitions, and with the World Cup just a few weeks away, soccer is set to dominate TV programming, advertising, and the national consciousness in general.

If you’re not personally a fan of the Beautiful Game, you might feel a little left out of the conversation for the next couple weeks. So since you won’t be using your mouth for talking, why not stuff it with some of the 14 new World Cup-themed menu items McDonald’s is rolling out in Japan?

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Dragon Ball master’s Hawaiian shirt is here to meet your mature cosplay needs

With Japanese animation’s pantheon of teen protagonists, in physiques rending from slender to buff, your cosplaying options drop off considerably once you pass a certain age/body fat percentage. Many fans are just too old or out of shape to pull off wearing a school uniform or form-fitting martial artist’s outfit.

It can be a sad day when you look in the mirror and realize it’s time to retire your Son Goku costume. But as you’re dumping out the two-gallon bucket of hair gel you bought for this summer’s anime convention season, take heart, because even if you can’t dress up as the hero of Dragon Ball, with this shirt you can cosplay as his master.

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Smartphone game’s virtual tour of Japan lets you win real-world watermelons

As someone who grew up playing video games that let you throw fireballs, suplex trains, and slay dragons, I’m a little confused by the appeal of some of today’s simple, low-key smartphone games. In particular, any game where you run around having to harvest food baffles me, since I always assumed the best part of farming and agricultural distribution was actually getting to eat something when it was all done.

Thankfully, the makers of the upcoming title Gochipon seem to agree with me, and are rewarding the best players with honest-to-goodness fruit.

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Sucks to be sausupō: The trials and tribulations of Japanese lefties

I was born a lefty, but apparently somewhere along the way I decided that there must be something to this right-handedness thing, since 90 percent of the world was doing it. I made the switch to using my right hand for most things around the time I started kindergarten, and ever since, the unusual transition has been my go to excuse for never excelling at sports that favor precise dexterity over running into people as hard as you can.

Had I stuck with the cards life had dealt me, though, my daily life might have been different in a number of ways, as shown by this list of troubles left-handed people in Japan run into.

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Daihatsu shows off the Copen, its sporty new convertible with room for (barely) two

The town of Hakone, located high in the mountains of Kanagawa Prefecture, is one of Japan’s most popular tourist destinations. Visitors come to enjoy its soothing hot springs, beautiful views of Mt. Fuji, and art museums focusing on outdoor sculpture installations and Venetian glass.

Hakone also happens to be home to some of the best driving roads in east Japan, too, which is why Daihatsu picked the site to show off its new compact convertible, the Copen, to fans and press.

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Nissan’s endurance racing team combines PlayStation training, hybrid power, crazy design

Most if the time, video games and sports cars are two of the more trivial things in life. That said, sometimes it’s those non-productive luxuries that give us the recharge we need to be industrious in our daily grind. Some people draw energy and inspiration from an afternoon spent with a good book or favorite album, others get it from a few hours working a PS4 controller or rowing through a crisp-shifting gearbox.

Competitive gaming and motorsports are getting another boost in legitimacy this summer, as the first has led to a job for some talented virtual racers, and their team’s car is helping pave the way for cleaner, more efficient engines.

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Five things about male friendship that confuse Japanese women

Having grown up in a family of three boys, the male psyche never really seemed like such a complex thing to me. The three major pillars of proper conduct were sticking up for yourself, keeping your car clean, and watching as much football as possible, the virtues of which all seem pretty self-evident to me.

Still, from the feminine perspective, there’re a number of mysteries of the male mind, as evidenced this list of puzzling aspects of male friendship that’s been making its way around the Japanese Internet.

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Japanese women reveal six pitfalls to watch out for on your ramen date

Up until a few years ago, ramen joints were more or less the bottom rung of the Japanese dining scenes. Sure, the food might have tasted great, but they tended to be so crowded and dirty that many women refused to set foot inside one.

Recently, though, ramen restaurants have been cleaning up their act, sprucing up their interiors, and attracting more and more female customers. With more and more women appreciating a steaming bowl of Japan’s favorite noodles, some couples are even heading out on ramen dates.

But just as ramen restaurants had to meet certain criteria before they could win over the fairer sex, so too are there missteps a ramen-loving boyfriend has to avoid to keep from spoiling the mood.

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In the kitchen with Kiki – We whip up some Ghibli-inspired rice porridge

Recently, our Japanese-language reporter Hotaru has been a little down in the dumps. She’s not sure if she’s come down with a cold or is just feeling the doldrums of the dreaded Gogatsu-byou, but either way, she needed a boost.

Realizing that good health and a good mood starts with good food, she headed into the kitchen to whip up a batch of porridge. But not just any old porridge would do for helping Hotaru shake off her funk, she needed to recreate the porridge that picks up the heroine of classic anime Kiki’s Delivery Service.

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Need another reason to drink green tea? How about preventing dementia?

There’s quite a lot to be said for green tea. It has no calorific content of its own to speak of, and doesn’t need sugar or cream to taste great. A steaming cup can warm you up in winter, or you can drop a couple of ice cubes in and cool off with a glass in midsummer.

Now, new research suggests that aside from keeping your body trim and your palate pleased, a daily cup of green tea can help keep your mind sharp by warding off the onset of dementia.

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We get our hands on some “Booby Ice Cream” from Kochi Prefecture

Aside from tasting great, ice cream conjures up all sorts of happy mental images. While it’s pleasing your taste buds, the frozen treat can bring back reminiscences of childhood family outings or innocent high school dates in the park.

Or, in the case of one brand of ice cream from Shikoku, sucking on some boobs.

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Terrible advice for making college friends involves cold shoulders, weird stockpiles

Academically speaking, most Japanese students don’t have that much trouble with the transition from high school to college. University entrance exams are notoriously difficult, and compared to the diligent studying they had to do to get into college in the first place, most find their educational workload, especially as freshemen, to be pretty easy to handle.

Making friends, though, can be tough. Rural Japan isn’t peppered with college towns in the same way some other countries are, and many students have no choice but to move far away from home to one of the nation’s big cities to pursue higher education. And while many students abroad can look forward to meeting new people in their dorm, very few Japanese universities provide any kind of student housing. Even in the rare case that they do, having a roommate is unheard of.

So it’s no surprise that many students are keen to pick up pointers on how to make interpersonal connections in their new surroundings. Unfortunately, not all advice is good advice, as one Japanese freshman recently found out.

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Panda and tiger face packs protect endangered species while they beautify your skin

It’s kind of ironic that face packs, which are designed to make your skin healthier and more beautiful, actually look pretty ghoulish when they’re in use. Often, the price of eventual beauty can be spending a half-hour or so looking like either The Phantom of the Opera or Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s Leatherface.

Stepping up with an alternative is a Japanese company that’s selling face masks that promise to temporarily transform their wearer into a cute panda or tiger.

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Elsa comes to the world of Minecraft in Japanese fan’s shot-for-shot Frozen video

Years after its first version was released, Minecraft is still captivating gamers around the world. By giving players access to a plethora of Lego-like building blocks, plus a consistent set of rules for how materials interact with one another, the title simultaneously challenges and inspires its fans, who’ve gone on to recreate both real and fictional locations within the game.

Now, one Minecraft enthusiast in Japan has combined his skills in the game with his love of Disney by recreating an entire scene from the animated hit Frozen.

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Company’s smoking regulations cover all bases with math, technology, psychology, and courtesy

While progress has been slow and begrudging, anti-smoking movements are finally starting to gain traction in Japan. For example, smoking is largely banned in train stations, except for in designated enclosed smoking spaces, and even many of those are being removed.

Likewise, when smartphone advertising firm Adways moved into a new office, management saw it as a chance to rethink how to make the workplace more comfortable for nonsmokers, and came up with a solution that uses a mix of technology and simple common courtesy.

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