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

From Russia with love (for J-pop), we present trilingual cover band Pudra

It’s taken several years, but as anime and computer generated vocaloid songs continue to grow in popularity abroad, Japanese pop music has solidified a passionate overseas fan base. Go to YouTube and do a search for the opening or closing theme of a major recent anime hit, and you’ve got a decent chance of finding a foreign fan doing a cover, either while strumming a guitar or with the vocal-less karaoke mix from the song’s single playing in the background.

But that’s not good enough for Russian band, Pudra (meaning “powder”). This quartet of teenage girls goes all out with their anime song performances, with full arrangement and polished videos. And while many foreign cover artists rewrite lyrics in their native languages, Pudra sings all of their J-pop renditions in their original Japanese. Read More

Japanese mom shows daughter how it’s done with awesome old-school gaming notebook

Every generation, something comes along that people are just sure is going to ruin kids’ minds. Recently it’s social networking websites. In the 1950s it was blue jeans and rock ‘n’ roll. If you had a time machine, and for some reason got tired of riding on the backs of dinosaurs and decided to instead interview cavemen about the parenting issues they faced, I’m sure you’d find some of them complaining about how the young whipper-snappers in the neighborhood are wasting all their time with this new-fangled “fire” thing.

When I was growing up, the big menace was video games, but just like all the things listed above, they turned out to be mostly harmless (but watch out, blue jeans become quite a bit more dangerous if you combine them with fire). Video games have now been around long enough that some hardcore gamers have kids of their own, such as the mother of Twitter user maki_pq, whose enthusiasm for the Dragon Quest series far outpaces her daughter’s.
Read More

We devour a mountain of ramen (toppings)

By far the plainest, most bare-bones name for a guy in Japan is Taro. Look at just about any sample application form in the country, and nine times out of ten the applicant’s name will be listed as “Taro.” When coupled with a girl’s name like Hanako it’s the equivalent of “Dick and Jane,” showing up in children’s stories and textbooks.

Nonetheless,the name Taro is something of a classic, and a common choice for first-born sons. But change the first kanji character Taro is written with and you get “Jiro,” meaning more or less “second son.” Jiro doesn’t have quite the cachet of Taro, as it has a perpetual little brother-like ring to it.

Restaurant chain Ramen Jiro doesn’t play second fiddle to anyone, though, especially with creations like this.
Read More

How transparent is acceptable for a girl’s pants? This much, according to one Chinese high school

As we head towards the end of May, there are a few tell-tale signs that summer is on the way. The sun sets later, the temperatures gets higher, and schools and office workers switch over to the lighter, breezier uniforms for the warmer months to come.

One high school in China may have gone a little overboard in its uniform design, though, as it seems to have given priority to keeping cool rather than keeping students’ underwear hidden. Read More

Japanese band with American singer wants to turn music industry on its ear with free downloads and gigs

There are a couple of standard job categories most foreigners working into Japan fall into. You’ll find plenty of English teachers and IT professionals, along with some financial service providers and executive recruiters. A few of the best-looking even end up as models, actors, or writers for RocketNews24 (thankfully the boss forgot his contacts the day he interviewed me).

But American expat Nelson Babin-Coy is aiming for something a little different: indie rock star. Read More

Pigs fly (in broth form) as ANA serves up in-flight Ippudo ramen

Japan has earned plenty of foodie cred over the last few years. Tokyo has topped multiple lists of the best cities in the world to eat out in, morning talk shows showcase delicious, hole-in-the wall restaurants and bakeries almost every day, and this month even provincial Hiroshima got its own Michelin Guide.

But even with a nation of enthusiastic diners and gastronomic craftsmen ready to serve them, airline food is, for the most part, nothing to get too excited about. Unless you happen to be flying ANA internationally, that is, where you can now get Ippudo ramen. Read More

Silly Pun Leads to Great Dessert – Special Strawberry Shortcake Available Just Once a Month at Japanese Convenience Store

In almost every company in Japan, payday is on the 25th of the month. While this means every month feels a little like Christmas, it also means that if you’ve been partying a little too hard for the last 30-odd days, around the 22nd, your bank balance might be looking pretty dismal.

But no matter how much you try to cut back, man can’t live on bread alone. Looking to treat yourself to the most meager luxury possible, you might stumble into a branch of the Japanese convenience store Lawson, where there’s a special treat to brighten your day that’s available only on the 22nd of each month. Read More

Original Evangelion Design Portfolio Gives us Ripped Robots, Smiling Shinji, and One Unbelievable Plot Divergence

The anime/merchandising franchise Evangelion is one of the few animated series, like One Piece or Gundam, to have achieved true cultural mainstream status in Japan. Even people who have never watched an episode of the TV series (or seen an installment of the movie, or read a chapter of the comic, or played one of the pachinko machine adaptations, or shaved with one of the Eva razors, or eaten one of the Eva burgers… like we said, franchise) can recognize its iconic characters and giant robots.

It wasn’t always like that, though. When Evangelion (or simply Eva, as its fans call it) began airing in 1995, its robot designs took some getting used to. Whereas most anime robots were inspired by a body builder’s physique, Eva’s machines had an almost gangly appearance, with lanky limbs, stooped posture, and what appeared to be tennis shoes. Their fragile look would turn out to be a perfect match for the psyches of their teenaged pilots, but things didn’t start out that way, as shown in Eva’s early planning portfolio. Read More

We Use Lotteria’s Ramen Burger to Make a Bowl of Ramen Noodles, Restore the Natural Balance of the Universe

On May 17, Japanese hamburger chain Lotteria’s ramen burger went on sale in the Tokyo area. Comprised of a slab of seasoned pork and a handful of noodles sandwiched inside a bun, with a cup of broth on the side, the sandwich is a collaboration between Lotteria and the popular ramen restaurant chain Musashi.

Representing the convergence of two of fast food’s all-stars, the ramen burger has been a hit, with lines stretching out the door when it went on sale. But our stomachs are fickle masters, and we decided to tear the two star-crossed lovers apart once again by using the ramen burger to make a bowl of ramen noodles. Read More

With Title “Happiest Place on Earth” Already Taken, Amusement Park on Cebu Island Makes Its Claim to Be the Sleepiest

When you’re a kid, theme parks are a place where your dream can come to life. Wouldn’t it be great to feel that excitement once again?

In search of that childlike wonder, one of RocketNews24’s reporters recently visited the Lecian Grand Carnaval amusement park in Mandaue City on Cebu Island, in the Philippines. While it doesn’t have the high-tech animatronics and pyrotechnics of Disneyland, it offers plenty of old-fashioned attractions like a tilt-a-whirl and haunted house, plus a life-endangering roller coaster and very lenient napping policy. Read More

Japanese Electronics Company Releases Camera Glasses for Under US$100

With the general release of Google Glass still several months away, Tokyo-based electronics maker Thanko is already offering gadget lovers something that shares one function with Google’s wearable computer for a fraction of the price.

On April 11 Thanko released its mita manma megane, or “just what you see glasses” video camera, designed like a pair of eyeglasses. Read More

Simple Arts and Crafts Kit Produces Beautiful, Shiny Balls of Mud

Some things just don’t quite translate culturally. For example, in most parts of the West, horses aren’t really considered food, while some Japanese consider horse meat a delicacy, particularly if you don’t mar the flavor by cooking it before eating. But whether it’s a hamburger or a stallion skewer, at the end of the day they’re both ways of satisfying a meat lover’s cravings.

Likewise, kids in Japan might reach for some dango dumplings instead of a slice of cake, but they’re both just treats for someone with a sweet tooth. Which brings us to another fundamental human condition: children love to make things out of mud, and while Japanese kids don’t make mud cakes, they make mud dango.

Now, writing supply maker Shachihata is putting a new, shiny spin on mud dango. Read More

Kanagawa Junior High School Friends Set Out on an 80-Kilometer Adventure to Hakone by Skateboard 【Video】

Located in Kanagawa Prefecture, the city of Hakone is a popular weekend travel destination for people living in the Tokyo area. The town’s numerous open-air hot springs and traditional inns, several with spectacular views of Mt. Fuji, attract visitors both young and old.

Most people headed to Hakone take the train, although the mountain passes that wind through and around the town make it a popular destination for drifters, too (the kind with cars, not the kind with bindles). One group of recent Kanagawa junior high graduates thought it would be more fun to bypass motorized transportation and headed out for Hakone by skateboard, taking their video camera with them. Read More

Trapped in a Glass Cage in the Philippines, Mario Has No Mouth with which to Scream – The Shocking World of Knock-Off Plush Dolls

Recently, one of our correspondents was strolling through a shopping mall in Mandaue City on Cebu Island in the Philippines. As he passed an arcade, one of the attendants flagged him down, asking if he wanted to try to win a stuffed doll in one of their crane games.

Intrigued by the offer, our reporter peered into the machine’s glass case, at first thinking he saw popular Japanese anime characters Doraemon and Testuwan Atom (also know as Astro Boy internationally). Closer investigation though, revealed that the arcade was filled with cheap, yet somehow incredibly endearing, knock-offs.

Read More

The Secret Slang of Japanese Cabbies

Like many people who moved to Tokyo in their youth, most of the time I’ve spent in Japanese taxi cabs has been directly preceded by heavy drinking. In the country’s urban centers, people primarily get around by train and subway. However, both of them stop running around midnight (for now?), at which time you can see a mass of people stumbling towards the station like Cinderella if she’d spent less time on the dance floor with the prince and more at the ball’s open bar. Once the trains stop, they don’t start again until about five in the morning, and since staying out all night drinking only seems like a good idea until your buzz wears off at around 2:30 a.m., if you missed the last train the only way you’re getting home is by taking a taxi.

Like taking a cab ride anywhere else in the world, the drivers use radios to communicate with the dispatcher and other cars in the fleet. I could never understand what Japanese taxi drivers were saying to each other, but the reason why isn’t because I was liquored up (OK, so it wasn’t only because I was liquored up). It turns out cab drivers in Japan have a whole set of jargon and code words that you won’t find in any textbooks. Read More

Japanese Electronics Shoppers Create Works of Art on Floor Samples

With nearly all of today’s graphic, comic, and animation design work being digital, any serious artist needs a graphic tablet. These are large LCD screens that can be drawn on directly with a stylus allowing for easy uploading and computer editing of the created image.

Like most electronics chains in Japan, Yodobashi Camera has sections of its stores where customers can try out the latest products, graphic tablets included. Most of us would probably be content to scribble a few lines, doodle a stick figure, or maybe add a splash of color. But like finding a novel filled with dozens of fleshed-out characters and a gripping narrative left on Word in the laptop section, seriously talented artists have been creating true works of art on Yodobashi’s graphic tablet floor samples. Read More

Korean Remote Controlled Turtle Project Making Slow But Steady Progress

One year when I was in junior high school my parents gave me a radio controlled car for Christmas. It was the perfect gift for a young boy right in the middle of dealing with the most awkward, confusing psychological change that comes with puberty (no longer thinking riding a bike is cool, but still being too young to drive a car). I loved that R/C car, so much that I kept playing with it outside as it started to rain one day, eventually frying the circuits so that it never ran again.

But things would have been different if my parents had been researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, or KAIST. First, everyone would have been surprised by how two Korean scientists ended up with a Caucasian son with blond hair. And next, they could have hooked me up with a controllable water-resistant reptile, like the remote controlled turtle KAIST is currently developing. Read More

Hungry for Justice (and Bento), Alleged Kobe Thief Turns Himself In

Hyogo Prefecture has a bit of a reputation for culinary excellence. Besides being the home of Kobe beef, it’s also famous for French and Chinese cuisine, along with boasting some of Japan’s best octopus. But could Hyogo’s food be so good that alleged criminals would give up their freedom for it?

On May 12, police at the Nagata Ward Precinct in Kobe took a suspected thief into custody. The unemployed 32-year-old man, whose name has been withheld, turned himself in, saying, “I want to eat the tasty food Nagata Precinct serves prisoners in its holding cells.” Read More

Vietnamese Trade Ao Dai for Anime-Inspired Uniforms and Collars at Ho Chi Minh City’s First Locally-Owned Maid Café

One of the most enduring images of Japanese pop culture in the past few years is that of the maid café, where customers are served by waitresses with personalities to match the careful craftsmanship of their cute, frill-covered outfits. Maid cafes have become something of a cultural export, popping up in the U.S., Canada, and, as RocketNews24 previously showcased, Russia. The phenomenon has also reached Southeast Asia, as showcased by reporters from website Post Seven who recently visited a maid café in Vietnam.

Read More

Let It Rip with Japanese Company’s Stress-Relieving Notepad

The company Edit, based in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward, produces a variety of notebooks. Most of them come with specialized forms on each page, such as a cooking notebook with separate boxes for ingredient names, amounts, and cooking directions. The company’s more unique offerings include a pitcher’s notebook with a three-by-three grid to mark each throw as high or low, inside or outside, and a horse racing journal to record bets, wins (hopefully), and losses (inevitably).

The pages of Edit’s newest big seller are completely blank, though. What’s more, if customers follow the instructions for using it, they’ll never be able to refer back to what they wrote, because the pages are designed to feel good as you rip them into shreds. Read More

  1. 1
  2. ...
  3. 289
  4. 290
  5. 291
  6. 292
  7. 293
  8. 294
  9. 295
  10. 296