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

Adorable judo girls still years away from making us scared, already able to make us smile

In a way, small children are scary. Their language skills aren’t fully developed, so you can’t negotiate with them. When they’re angry, their lack of adherence to societal norms means they’re likely to scream at or even bite you. Really, the only thing that keeps them from being paralyzingly frightening is the superior size and strength we have as full-grown adults.

So when we first heard about toddlers practicing judo, which would eventually allow them to use our strength against us, we assumed they must be terrifying. Then we watched this video, and learned that they’re somehow even more adorable as a result of their training in Japanese grappling techniques.

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Eight Japanese words we’d love to import into English

Recently, we talked about how Japanese, while a tough language to learn, isn’t quite as difficult as some horror stories make it out to be. Still, if English is your native language, certain Japanese grammar rules, like saying “wa” and “o” to mark the subject and object of your sentences, can seem like a major hassle.

With practice, though, these things start to become automatic. Even better, the Japanese language is filled with incredibly handy phrases that we’d love to import into English.

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Five reasons nerds make great boyfriends: Japan’s geeky otaku list their pros

As cultural attitudes continue to evolve in Japan, some groups that have spent decades being socially ostracized are finally seeing the tides turn in their favor. For example, while the covers of most men’s fashion magazines are still plastered with photos of incredibly slender guys, the country has recently been showing some love for heavyset males as well.

One demographic that still tends to have a hard time landing a date, though, are the otaku, Japan’s catch-all term for obsessive fans of anime, video games, computers, and anything traditionally geeky. But could the popular image of otaku as the bottom feeders of the dating pool be a case of women overlooking their hidden merits as boyfriend material?

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Japanese railway sets up literal love seats with special seating for couples

In plenty of situations, Japan’s reliance on public transportation is a life-saver. Need some extra time to study for that test in first period? Pull out your notebook and review on the train to school. Had a few drinks too many? Park yourself in a seat on the subway, take a 30-minute nap, and arrive at the station with just enough power to walk home and get your key in the door.

Now, a railway in Chiba Prefecture is looking to give a hand not just to procrastinating students and heavy drinkers (who are, of course, often one and the same), but to young lovers, too, with its special priority seats for couples. That’s right, singletons, you just got one more reason to hate clingy couples.

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Food, hard liquor, and guns all on the menu at Tokyo’s airsoft bar

When you want to blow off steam, there’s nothing like blowing something away, which partly explains why Japan’s interest in airsoft guns, which fire BB-like ammunition, continues to grow. But even though work is a major source of stress, most people don’t have the time to drive out to one of Japan’s rural airsoft fields (or catch a plane to the awesome urban set-up in Korea) after their shift ends.

Thankfully, though, there’s a way for Japanese professionals who’ve had a rough day at the office to fire off a couple rounds without putting a hole in their living room wall, as we found out at a Tokyo restaurant with its own airsoft shooting range.

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The 11 Cat Islands of Japan 【Photos】

In the never-ending debate as to whether cats or dogs are the superior animal, it’s pretty safe to say felines have the edge as far as tranquility is concerned. For example, an island full of stray dogs is likely to be visited by animal control, whereas an island covered in cats instead gets visited by tons of tourists.

This ability to live in general harmony with the human population means that Japan is filled with places that have earned the nickname “Nekojima,” or “Cat Island.” Today, we take a whirlwind photo tour of 11 of them.

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Our batch of homemade Oreos – Why didn’t we think of this before?

 

Pretty much everyone loves Oreos, and therein lies the problem. Even if you just picked up a pack on your last visit to the grocery store, odds are you, or someone else, has already gone through whatever stock you had in the house.

Case in point: right now we’re completely out of Oreos, and we’re not about to go out to buy more in the downpour that’s drenching Tokyo right now. While some people with less vision (or healthier eating habits) might patiently endure the hardship of no cookies, we decided instead to make our own Oreos from scratch with an incredibly simple recipe.

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Divine prevention – Japan using Shinto symbols to combat litter and public peeing

One of the trickier questions to answer about Japan is whether or not it’s a religious society. On one hand, the ideas of daily prayer, weekly visits to a temple, or consulting religious texts or advisors in times of personal crisis are about as foreign to most Japanese people as playing a game of cricket or eating a plate of grits and gravy.

Still, spiritualism is a big part of life in Japan. Most visitors to a shrine might not spend more than a few seconds reflecting on their place in the universe, but they’ll still toss a coin into the collection box in hope of pleasing the deity said to make its home there. Even as many Japanese people claim to have no religion, most homes include an alter with a place to hang photos of deceased relatives and offer incense.

The vagaries of theology in Japan are now being turned to in an effort to curb a growing problem in many neighborhoods, as people are putting up small versions of the torii gates that mark Shinto shrines to prevent people from illegally dumping waste, whether produced by their lifestyles or bodies.

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Two Attack on Titan animated feature films on the way – first to open this year

With the upcoming live-action Attack on Titan having found its lead actor and filming location, fans assumed they were going to have to wait until the film’s scheduled release in 2015 to see humanity’s desperate struggle against the monstrous Titans come to the big screen. Right on the heels of those announcements, though, comes another surprise from the franchise known for its twists and shocks.

Two animated compilation movies are coming, and the first will be in theatres before the end of the year.

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Swanky Sailor Moon styles selling now at Tokyo department store

With three months to go until the delayed beginning of the long-awaited new Sailor Moon TV series, fans have a lot of time on their hands. Some have filled this with dressing their dogs up like characters from the hit anime, while others have undressed to reveal their Sailor Moon lingerie.

But what if you want not just anime-themed underwear, but outerwear as well? If that’s the case, one Tokyo department store is ready to be your one-stop shopping destination with a whole store of clothing inspired by the pretty guardian herself, Sailor Moon.

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We try the adorable Krispy Kreme chick donuts convincing Japan to love Easter

Japan has wholeheartedly embraced Christmas and Halloween, but Easter is a different story. In a way, this is kind of surprising, as a holiday that gives people an excuse to dye eggs in pastel colors, eat chocolate, and even dress up like a bunny if they’re so inclined seems like it would hit the Japanese trifecta of cuteness, desserts, and cosplay.

But while Halloween and Christmas have become mainstream cultural events with decoration going up months ahead of time, Easter comes and go with such a lack of fanfare in Japan that some years we’ve completely forgotten about it until after the fact.

Thankfully, donut emporium Krispy Kreme is looking to up the celebration ante with its new chick-shaped Easter donut.

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Japanese gamers dominate tournament, win back portion of money they’ve pumped into arcades

Even as the number of gamers worldwide continues to grow, video games remain a regular scapegoat for poor social skills, low grades, and neck beard-level hygiene. This holds true even in Japan, where parents and educators commonly voice their fear that without a strict curfew or school rules requiring pupils to head home straight after class, they might give in to temptation and –gasp!- stop off to play a few games at the arcade.

Game fans in Japan are finally getting some good press, though. For starters, studies show that playing Nintendo’s perennial hit Super Mario 64 can improve both your memory and sense of direction. And if your pursuits are more monetary than mental, mastery of fighting games can even earn you a nice-sized chunk of cold hard cash, like it did for the Japanese competitors who dominated the recently held Id Global Tournament in Korea.

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Live-action Attack on Titan film casts lead role, sets filming location and start date

Despite being filled with man-eating giants and heartless bureaucrats, people around the world can’t get enough of smash hit anime and manga Attack on Titan. But while fans wait patiently for the rumored continuation of the animated TV series, production is moving ahead on the franchise’s live-action theatrical feature, which now has a filming location and an actor chosen to play Titan-hating protagonist Eren Yeager.

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We learn about the deep-sea armored isopod, then eat one 【Video】

Last month, we brought you word about a special event at an aquarium in Yokohama where guests were going to be able to eat deep sea armored isopods, which are known in Japanese with the somewhat more descriptive name of ogusokumushi, or “giant armored bugs.”

We all had a good laugh at the zany idea for a publicity stunt, and our chuckling continued right up until the moment our boss said, “OK, one of us has to go try them.”

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Four ways Japanese isn’t the hardest language to learn

It seems whenever a list of the most difficult languages to learn is released, Japanese sits near or at the top. We can see why, as the language does have quirks and peculiarities that can occasionally make you wonder how anyone, even native speakers, manage to communicate with each other in Japanese.

If we’re being completely honest, we’d love to use one hand to pat ourselves on the back for our Japanese/English bilingual capabilities, while using the other to pat ourselves for surviving in what some are calling the most dangerous country on earth. But that would tie up both hands and we’d be unable to write this article. So instead, today we’re going to explain four ways learning Japanese isn’t nearly as bad as some other languages.

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After 30 years, mother of Dragon Ball’s Goku finally set to appear in new comic chapter

Goku, the protagonist of smash-hit anime and manga franchise Dragon Ball, is one of Japan’s most iconic fictional characters. Even decades after his 1984 debut, he’s still instantly recognizable and almost universally loved by comic and animation fans.

With 30 years of stories, there’s been plenty of time to flesh out the spiky-haired martial artist’s backstory. Still, Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama has kept one bit of his most popular hero’s life shrouded in mystery until now, as Goku’s mother will appear for the first time in a special one-off manga.

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“Sausage bread boys” – The heavy-set men set to become Japan’s most eligible bachelors

For the past several years, the three most fashionably ideal body types in Japan have been ‘slim,’ ‘slender,’ and ‘easily tossed about by a light spring breeze.’ And while like most societies, Japan generally casts a sterner eye on women than men with a higher than average body-fat percentage, this “skinny is best” mentality has largely applied to males as well, as any guy who’s tried on a pair of pants at a fashionable Tokyo retailer can attest to.

Recently, though, a shift seems to be occurring, with a rise in popularity of heavier women who have been dubbed “marshmallow girls,” who’ve even formed an idol singer unit now and won legions of fans.

Next, it seems like Japan might be poised to show some big love for big guys, with one magazine heralding the upcoming age of what it’s calling “sausage bread boys.”

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Simulation shows the chaotic consequences of walking in Shibuya while staring at your phone

In recent years, Shibuya’s scramble intersection has shot to international fame as a symbol of the sheer energy and extreme congestion that can be found in downtown Tokyo. The five-road nexus is one of the busiest crossings in the world, and it’s not unusual to see as many as 1,500 people making their way across it – usually in opposite directions – when traffic in all directions stops.

With such a massive amount of pedestrians trying to get to the other side, navigating the scramble intersection without careening into anyone can be a tricky affair, especially with three giant video screens and several times as many mini-skirted legs pulling your attention away. But what if we added yet another distraction, in the form of every single person staring at their smartphone as they crossed? How many collisions would we see then? 10? 20? 50?

Try hundreds.

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Are Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and The Little Mermaid all dating the same prince?

If we’re going strictly by the Disney versions, most people could tell you that the respective heroines of The Little Mermaid, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White are respectively Ariel, Aurora, and Snow White. A tougher trivia question, though, is to name their three princes.

As the most recent of the bunch to appear on the screen, Ariel’s Eric might not be too hard to recall, but how many remember that Aurora’s betrothed is named Phillip? And as for Snow White, we never learn the name of the man who wakes her with a kiss, as not once in the movie is he referred to as “Prince Charming.”

Actually, if we go back further, to the original fairy tales these Disney classics were based on, many times the male lead is simply called “the prince.” While it’s possible this is because of their relatively small and interchangeable roles in those stories, one mother in Japan has another theory: the same prince stole the heart of the Little Mermaid, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White.

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Cat shoes – so you’ll always land on your fashionable feet

With feline-inspired marshmallows, lattes, and confectionaries, you could actually spend the whole day in Japan consuming nothing but cat-shaped treats. But while that diet would easily help you meet your recommended daily requirements of cuteness, there’re also a lot of calories in those feline-inspired delicacies.

Still, there’s nothing wrong with the occasional indulgence, as long as you also get enough exercise to balance the scales as opposed to tipping them. Going for a nice, after-dessert walk can be a great way to burn off some of those calories you just took in, and it only makes sense that if your love of cats is what got the cycle started, it should be there with you for the next step, too, with these cat-shaped shoes from online retailer Rakuten.

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