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

Kiki’s Delivery Service side story being written by original author – online now and free!

Recently, my wife and I went out to see the live-action Kiki’s Delivery Service. As we waited for the film to start, we swapped impressions of the 1989 anime version of the story, which like the live-action version is an adaptation of author Eiko Kadono’s 1985 children’s novel of the same name.

My wife mentioned that one of her favorite characters was Osono, the owner of the bakery where witch-in-training Kiki boards. Osono’s actually got quite a few fans, due to her tough yet kind personality and mature outlook on life.

How exactly Osono managed to acquire those admirable traits is the subject of a new serial by Kadono, a coming of age story focused on the baker who would eventually serve as Kiki’s mentor.

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Beautiful Disney princess greeting cards fit for any regal occasion

Japan still hasn’t gone all-in on the concept of digital communications, and in many situations there’s still a lot of value attached to physical, paper documents. Sometimes this can be puzzling, like the time I applied for a job at a prestigious technological institute which required a hard copy of my resume, as email applications weren’t acceptable.

For personal relationships, though, it’s nice to see so many people in Japan still willing to put pen to paper in order to write a heartfelt message to a friend or loved one. Many even take great care in selecting the perfect stationery, and those looking to add a touch of classic femininity to their correspondence will be hard-pressed to find a better choice than these elegant Disney princess greeting cards.

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Is cola-flavored soy milk the answer to our prayers? We find out

A while back, food conglomerate Kibun and soy giant Kikkoman announced a couple new flavors for their popular Tonyu Inryo line of soy milk. In and of itself, this wasn’t too surprising, as new varieties are regularly swapped in and out of the Tonyu Inryo lineup.

One of the new flavors caught the eye of our junk food loving team, though: healthy cola. Ordinarily, the words “healthy” and “cola” are in such direct opposition that we expected the package to be contain a paradox-induced black hole, or to at least be completely empty inside. To our surprise, though, Kibun was indeed able to develop its healthy cola soy milk, and we wasted no time in trying it.

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Costume of Sanrio’s newest character lets you look like a fish without smelling like one

In its never-ending quest for new, cute things, Japan sometimes latches onto things that the rest of the world might not apply the adjective to. It’s understandable when someone sees Hello Kitty or Totoro and squeals “Kawaii!, but by some twisted criteria, The Nightmare Before Christmas’ Jack Skellington and the rabbit Usavich, with his creepy drugged-looking eyes, are als considered “cute”.

So perhaps it’s not too surprising that you can now get a costume that turns you into the latest character from adorable mascot king Sanrio, despite that character being a filet of salmon.

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Horror bar Sacrifice has spirits of both the haunting and drinkable kinds

I’ve never fully understood the appeal of horror movies. After all, what’s the point in paying good money for something that’s going to make you want to pee your pants? On the other hand, purchasing beer always seems like a wise financial decision, despite its similar bladder-assaulting properties. Now, there’s a place where both fright fiends and fans of fermented barley can get their fix, the horror bar Sacrifice.

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Fan sews amazing felt versions of Totoro, Sailor Moon, Final Fantasy Black Mage and more

As someone who learned to drive a car before he could ride a bike, there are a couple of things that slipped through the cracks on my path of acquiring basic life skills. Sewing, for example, is still an arcane art to me. After all, why go to the hassle of making my own clothes, when there are plenty of stores perfectly willing to take my money in exchange for a new shirt or pair of jeans?

But maybe I’m missing the point. After all, knowing how to sew doesn’t just mean you can design your own wardrobe, it also means you can create awesome anime and video game figures made entirely of felt.

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New ultra-stylish, extra-traditional Shinkansen has tatami floors, foot baths

The Shinkansen is already a pretty cool way to get around Japan, as it whisks travelers from the country’s cosmopolitan urban centers to its more traditional rural locales.

But what if you want to experience a bit of authentic Japanese culture while you’re zipping across Japan at 200 miles per hour? Fear not, Japan Railway has just the thing: a bullet train with tatami reed flooring and a Japanese-style foot bath.

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Super Mario taking on a new platform: candy!

One of Japanese confectionary maker Morinaga’s biggest hits is the Hi-Chew line. The soft, chewy candies come in a variety of fruit flavors, such as grape, strawberry, and green apple.

Morinaga also occasionally shakes things up with limited-edition flavors. Recently the special versions have been golden pineapple and pink grapefruit, but this month they’re joined by another unique offering, Super Mario Hi-Chews.

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French pastry maker celebrates Japanese culture with line of special éclairs

Although it hasn’t been that long since its first U.S. retail outlet opened, French gourmet food supplier Fauchon has had a presence in Japan since the early 1970s. The company is best known here for its line of high quality teas, but they also offer pastries to well-heeled shoppers with a sweet tooth in the dessert section of a number of upscale department stores.

After so many years of success in Japan, Fauchon has decided to tip its hat to the country by releasing a line of éclairs with decorations and ingredients inspired by Japanese culture.

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New online manga service features 200 titles, three selectable languages, and no fees

Kadokawa, one of Japan’s largest publishers, is almost ready to roll out its new online manga service, dubbed Comic Walker. There’s so much to like about it that we’re having trouble picking our favorite part.

The voracious media consumer in us is attracted to the large library of titles, some of which can’t be read anywhere else. The ability to instantly translate dialogue into English or Chinese is a plus, too, especially for those time when you’re not up to the challenge of leafing through your Japanese dictionary so you can read the kanji for “particle beam cannon.”

But perhaps best of all is that Kadokawa’s digital manga service is absolutely free.

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Donguri Kyowakoku, the store with nothing but Studio Ghibli anime items

Shopping for anime merchandise isn’t always as easy as you’d think in Japan. While any toy store will be stocked with goodies from currently airing, elementary schooler-targeted TV series such as Pokémon or Precure, what if your tastes run towards more sophisticated fare, like the animated classics of Studio Ghibli?

If you’re looking for stuffed animals or accessories inspired by the films of legendary anime director Hayao Miyazaki and his cohorts, you can’t go wrong with a trip to Donguri Kyowakoku, a whole chain of stores that sells nothing but Ghibli items.

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Nature photographer in Hokkaido captures beautiful sun pillar 【Video】

This winter brought record snowfalls to the Tokyo area, causing residents to alternatively let their creative sides run wild and panic-horde groceries.

Meanwhile, residents of Japan’s northernmost island, Hokkaido, sat back and chuckled at the weather-based hijinks of their urban cousins in the capital. After all, this sort of thing is no big deal in Japan’s coldest prefecture. It takes something really special to make people in Hokkaido stop and take notice of the snow. Something like an angelically beautiful pillar of light.

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Why settle for a radio-controlled car when you can have an RC toilet instead? 【Video】

Before moving to Japan, I got to dip my toes in the overseas lifestyle by spending several summers at a U.S. military installation in Yamaguchi Prefecture. The base was a long walk from the nearest train station, making bicycles an attractive way of getting around town. Even if you didn’t want to shell out the money to buy one, you could always get one for the day at the local bike rental shop.

Unfortunately, the rental bikes tended to be old, heavy, and not always in the best state of repair. The locals referred to them as “banjo bombers,” since benjo is a Japanese slang word for “bathroom,” and the rental bikes were pieces of…feces.

Little did I know there was another vehicle even more deserving of the benjo bomber title, a radio-controlled toilet.

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Tokyo luxury hotel offering special Galaxy Express 999 anime guestroom

While his heyday predates anime’s big break in the English-speaking world, manga artist Leiji Matsumoto is still the creator of some of the medium’s earliest titles to be translated into English, including Space Battleship Yamato (known overseas as Starblazers) and Captain Harlock.

One of Matsumoto’s most enduring hits is Galaxy Express 999 (pronounced “three nine”). It’s been entertaining fans for decades, and now true devotes of the epic sci-fi odyssey can further their ambitions to eat, sleep, and breathe 999 by spending the night in a special anime-themed room at a luxury hotel in the middle of Tokyo Bay.

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We don’t care about the calories, just give us our Gundam donuts!

Despite the traditional image of anime fans as couch potatoes whose consumption of junk food is only rivaled by their consumption of panty-flashing animation sequences, it’s only recently that gastronomy and Japanese animation have officially combined forces. Recently we heard about the giant, 10-patty Attack on Titan burger, but what if your tastes run less towards towering monsters and meat and more in the direction of giant robots and sweets?

If that’s the case, maybe you’d prefer a Gundam donut.

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Our impressions from the live-action Kiki’s Delivery Service film

At the same time that director Hayao Miyazaki’s drectorial swan-song, The Wind Rises, opened in wide release in North America, the live-action version of Kiki’s Delivery Service was released in Japan. The coming of age story of a young witch in training is best known internationally for the 1989 Studio Ghibli animated film of the same name, but how does the new version, from production company Toei, compare with the anime classic?

Eager to see if Kiki was better left in two dimensions, we checked the film out for ourselves.

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Life-size Attack on Titan monster to appear in projection-mapped form in Kawasaki

For such an ordinarily listless bunch, hit anime Attack on Titan’s titular monsters sure have been busy lately, collaborating with hamburger chain Lotteria, appearing in their first smartphone game, and even helping one fan get a job.

But now comes literally the biggest Attack on Titan promotion yet, as a life-size recreation of the 60-meter Colossal Titan is set to menace Japan in projection-mapped form at a shopping center in Kawasaki.

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New dating simulator’s heroine is a doll….literally!

Dating simulator video games are only now starting to build a fan base internationally, but digital romance is such an established genre in Japan that it’s already evolved into several even more segmented sub-niches. Unsurprisingly, most early titles revolved around a high school boy with a harem of willing lasses circling around him. As time went on, dating simulators for girls caught on, resulting in the otome (“maiden”) game where gallant suitors compete for the leading lady’s affections.

Regardless of the protagonist’s gender, though, there have been so many dating simulators released in Japan that you have to do something pretty unusual to stand out from the pack now. We’ve seen titles where the love interest is an alpaca or pigeon, but now comes a romantic video game starring a girl who’s been transformed into a traditional Japanese kokeshi doll.

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Cheeky TV ads for ninja booby video game get full marks for honesty and humor【Video】

Even though it was first released way back in 2012 in Japan, the rest of the world is only now getting its first taste of video game Senran Kagura Burst. The Nintendo 3DS game saw a North American release last November, and was finally made available to European gamers just days ago.

But for an 18-month-old title to attract buyers who could be playing with their shiny new PlayStation 4s and Xbox Ones, Senrann Kagura Burst’s European publishers have to be very clear about what the game excels at, which is just what they’ve done with their tongue-in-cheek ads that make no bones about the game’s most distinguishing feature: gigantic bouncing boobs.

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Seven reasons to eat sushi (other than because it tastes great)

Sushi already has a lot going for it. It’s tasty, one of the quickest, most easily accessible contact points for Japanese culture, and with its extensive use of raw fish, a boon for those who can’t cook anything without burning it.

Even better, almost every ingredient that goes into or is traditionally eaten alongside sushi is bursting with health benefits, right down to the cup of green tea of green tea that generally caps off the meal.

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