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

Senpai Club, Swedish-made, anime-inspired, Japanese-speaking animation, is back! 【Video】

Last month we laughed along with the Swedish animators Olivia Bergstrom and Eric Bradford as we watched the first scenes of their anime-inspired creation Senpai Club. Now the pair, collectively known as makebabi.es, is back for another round of parody featuring dangerously pointy anime chins, ostensibly handsome upperclassmen, and just maybe even more stealthy bilingual gags with Senpai Club Episode 1 Part 2.

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Osaka man caught after teaching junior high for 15 years without a license

Back when I was applying for my first Japanese work visa, there was a thick stack of paperwork I had to submit. Most of the items made sense, but one that struck me as weird, though, was my college diploma. I knew that Japanese law required a college education for the visa I was applying for, but wouldn’t sealed, authenticated transcripts make more sense than a personal diploma, which could be easily forged for 20 bucks at any print shop, or even with a high quality home-use printer?

Nope, I was informed, it had to be the diploma. That’s the paperwork they give you when you graduate, right? After all, from the standpoint of honest and by-the-book Japanese society, who would be so dishonest as to provide false educational credentials?

How about a man in Osaka, who taught junior high school for 15 years without ever obtaining his teaching credential.

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Take notes in the name of the moon with new line of Sailor Moon pens

As fans the world over continue to wait for the upcoming newest installment of the Sailor Moon franchise, merchandising giant Bandai has been releasing a steady stream of goodies from the hit anime. Recently, we’ve seen compact mirrors and even lingerie inspired by the twin-tailed magical girl and her cohorts, and now comes a line of Sailor Moon pens.

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Evangelion license plates sure to add visual impact to your ride

The very first time she came over to the swinging bachelor pad/pitiful bunker I used to live in back when we were dating, my wife immediately noticed that the one and only interior decoration I had was a California license plate mounted on the wall. To me, the blue on white design is immediately nostalgic and reassuring.

In Japan, though, ordinarily the only thing that differentiates plates issued in different parts of the country are the kanji characters written across their tops, so they don’t provide quite the same immediate visual shorthand of local pride. Unless you happen to live in the city of Hakone, where motorists can show their love of their hometown and giant robot anime all at once with new Evangelion license plates.

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Square Enix announces new Romancing Saga project! Don’t fire up your PS4 just yet though

Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest may be video game developer Square Enix’s two biggest series, but the Saga franchise could make a solid case for the company’s third-most important intellectual property. While the initial title in the series was the Game Boy’s Makai Toshi Saga, or Devil World Tower Saga, the more eloquently named Super NES follow-up, Romancing Saga, is where the series really took off, and 10 games are now counted as part of the Saga saga.

2014 marks the 25th anniversary of the Saga franchise, and in celebration Square Enix is collaborating with a partner that’s at once completely unexpected and totally obvious: Saga Prefecture.

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In wake of nuclear disaster, world’s largest floating wind farm being built in Fukushima

The Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011 and subsequent Fukushima nuclear accident have made many in Japan rethink the country’s reliance on atomic energy. Investment in alternative, renewable energy sources is looking more and more attractive to some, and the sentiment is particularly strong among residents of Fukushima Prefecture itself.

Those seeking a less volatile source of power may be getting their wish with the proposed development of what would be the world’s largest-output floating wind farm off the Fukushima coast.

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Tokyo hamburger vending machine has a human touch

Japan is a wonderland of vending machines, and in many ways they’re great. They’re well-maintained, almost always take bills on the first try, and never judge you as pay for a bottle of hard liquor entirely in 10 yen coins.

Sometimes, though, doing a complete end run around human contact can make the purchasing process feel a little lonely. So when we heard about a restaurant where the vending machines had a human element, as well as delicious yet cheap hamburgers, we knew we had to check it out.

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Mr. Sato shows us how a real man opens his snacks 【Video】

The intense competition in the Japanese snack food market means that every week some product is getting kicked off convenience store shelves to make room for another one. Somehow, though, the puffed corn snack umaibo has remained consistently popular for over 30 years.

Umaibo’s biggest fans are elementary school kids, and the tasty little cylinders were a major component of some of our writer’s childhood diets. Recently we came to the realization that it’s time for us to grow up, though. Not by giving up our umaibo, of course, but by learning to open our snacks like a man.

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Bar with all-you-can drink beer and sake + no time limit = limitless bliss

In my time in Japan, I’ve been asked to leave numerous drinking establishments. Don’t get the wrong idea, though. It wasn’t because I was causing a disturbance (well, except for that one time in college), or because I was charming all the women and not leaving any for the other male customers (well, except for….wait, no, that really didn’t ever happen).

The polite requests for me to exit bars come from the wonderful system called nomi hodai, where you pay a flat fee and are served as much booze as you like. The standard time limit is two hours, although some places have budget priced 90-minute plans, and others are more generous with three-hour deals. It’s always a downer when the wait staff tells you your time’s up, but after all, they have to cut the customers off at some point, right?

Not at a new bar in Tokyo, where paying the entrance fee gets you an unlimited amount of sake and beer with no time limit.

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Why do Japanese people wear surgical masks? It’s not always for health reasons

Like kimono and T-shirts with English writing (sometimes vulgar, sometimes comical, always unintelligible), the number of people you’ll see in Japan wearing surgical masks is pretty surprising. Sure, Japan is a hard working society, and the spread of productivity-sapping sickness is always a concern at schools and workplaces, but that doesn’t seem like reason enough for the proliferation of facial coverings that sometimes has Tokyo offices looking more like an operating room.

Health concerns are only part of the equation, though, as recent studies have revealed multiple reasons people in Japan wear masks that have nothing to do with hygiene.

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Centuries-old Japanese cookbooks give a peek at the dinner tables of the samurai

One thing that surprises many recent arrivals to Japan is that chefs put as much effort into the presentation of their food as they do the flavor. This has got to be a recent development though, right? Being able to take the time to delicately craft your meal into a feast for the eyes is a luxury that must be born out of the ease and convenience of a stable, technologically advanced, modern society.

It turns out, though, that Japan’s appreciation for the aesthetic qualities of cooking stretch back hundreds of years, as proven by these dishes made from centuries-old cookbooks.

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Tokyo confectioners create delicious sweets that look good enough to….wear?!

In some ways, stylish accessories and desserts aren’t so different. Just as no one actually needs more sugar and frosting in their diet, jewelry and brand-name bags don’t really perform any practical function.

Still, one can’t live by bread alone, and the occasional indulgence isn’t likely to ruin your health or bank balance. Choosing which way to reward yourself can be a tricky endeavor, however, which is why today we’re sharing four Tokyo confectioners where you can get sweets that look like high fashion.

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Japanese zipper maker and British artist team up to create futuristic headwear/terror

On the surface, Japanese zipper manufacturer YKK occupies an enviable position. The company’s global market share is estimated at as high as 90 percent, and until technology finally makes good on Back to the Future II’s promise of self-attaching apparel, future demand for the company’s products is likely to remain strong.

That said, zippers aren’t the most glamorous field to work in. As with any manufactured good, there’s obviously a tremendous amount of engineering and logistics talent at YKK, but it’s not hard to imagine the company wanting a moment in the limelight, something that demands a little more attention.

Well, YKK’s collaboration with British designer Ava Rajcevic is sure to get plenty of attention, at least for as long as people can look at it without the horror warping their minds.

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Mario welcomes the PlayStation 4 to Japan like a gang leader protecting his turf

Despite electronics giant Sony being a Japanese company, its PlayStation 4 video game console sure has taken its sweet making it to stores in Japan. The next generation system was released in the U.S., Canada, and Europe last November, since racking up over five million units sold, but Japanese gamers still have a few days to go before the PlayStation4 becomes available here on February 22.

The upcoming big day hasn’t escaped the notice of rival video game maker Nintendo, which has decided to welcome Sony’s competing product by cutting prices on its own titles.

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Tiny Suzuki scores one for the little guys by pulling huge big rig out of the snow 【Video】

As someone who grew up surrounded by full-sized American automobiles, I admit I chuckled a little when I first came to Japan and saw the country’s kei cars. As time went by though, I began to see how these super subcompact cars meshed with Japan’s transportation needs, as they sipped gas and slid easily down the country’s narrow roads.

But it turns out that kei – meaning “light” – cars aren’t just practical. The right one might even get you out of a jam, as this video of a heroic Suzuki saving a truck stranded in the snowstorm that hit the Tokyo area last week.

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Despite having so many maids, officials say Akihabara really needs cleaning up

While Japan’s capital does indeed have the giant TV screens and vivid neon signs that Hollywood movies use as shorthand for “Tokyo,” a lot of advertising in the cities comes from plain old-fashioned legwork, particularly in the entertainment and red light districts. Opening a new restaurant? Trying to drum up business for you hostess bar? In either case, you put an employee on the street, flagging down prospective customers and giving them your establishment’s sales pitch, and even guiding them to the entrance if need be.

However, officials are looking to shut down this face-to-face marketing practice, known in Japanese as kyaku hiki (literally “customer pulling”) in one of Tokyo’s biggest tourist draws, the anime and video gaming mecca of Akihabara.

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It’s high time for a knee-high sock smartphone game

Japan’s got a somewhat unusual obsession with knee-high socks, with enthusiasts having come up with no fewer than two days a year to celebrate their love of thin-covering legwear. Of course, the country has the other, less unusual fetish of exposed skin.

But what about smartphone users who can’t pick between the two? Isn’t there a way to satisfy both their cravings at once?

Why yes there is, with a new app that lets users swipe the screen to make a model raise or lower her socks.

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Samsung, IOC deny asking iPhone carrying Olympic athletes to cover their Apple logos

The Olympics gives the world’s most talented athletes a chance to show their abilities to people all over the globe. It also gives the world’s most wealthy marketers a chance to show their products to that same audience.

Among the Games’ biggest sponsors is Samsung, whose Galaxy Note 3 was granted the title of official phone of the Sochi Olympics in thanks of its manufacturer’s generosity. Some reports are claiming that the Korean electronics maker isn’t showing a respect for healthy competition, though, by asking athletes with iPhones to make sure they cover the Apple logo when on-camera.

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Changing attitudes about remarriage help create a new Japanese word: maru ni

Wedding planning is a big deal in Japan, where it often involves a ceremony, formal reception with coworkers (including your boss, who’s expected to make a speech), an informal after-party after the reception winds down, and in many cases a second after-party that may stretch on until the next morning when the trains start running. Putting the whole thing together can be costly and require a lot of work, but it’s all worth it when everything goes smoothly. And besides, getting married is a once-in-a-lifetime event, right?

Well, actually, that’s not always the case. As in many modern, economically prosperous societies, the divorce rate has been rising in Japan, and along with it the potential number of remarriage candidates. In an attempt to keep up with these changing cultural norms and values, one of Japan’s largest wedding planners has gone so far as to coin a new term for those who remarry: maru ni.

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Move over itasha, here come itachoko – anime chocolates!

In recent years, itasha, cars emblazoned with admirably detailed yet painfully nerdy vinyl graphics inspired by anime and manga, have been getting more and more mainstream attention. But what if you’re not old enough to drive, or you just want to express your admiration for your favorite 2-D character without spending hundreds of dollars creating a car that your friends or date will be too embarrassed to ride in?

In that case, why not turn to the world of itachoko, chocolates decorated with anime character likenesses?

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