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

Why is Studio Ghibli’s latest movie struggling at the box office?

We recently made the trip to our local theater to watch Kaguya Hime no Monogatari, the latest full-length feature from anime powerhouse Studio Ghibli. But while we felt the film delivered the same high-quality we’ve come to expect from the studio, we were also struck by how different it is in style and tone from what audiences have become used to in Ghibli’s anime.

As a matter of fact, the shift from the norm seems to be a little too jarring for many fans, who aren’t filling seats in the same droves they ordinarily do for Studio Ghibli’s offerings. The situation is severe enough that one Japanese film critic is already condemning the movie’s opening weekend box office numbers as a financial failure.

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Butterfly visits penguin enclosure at Japanese zoo, whimsical chase ensues 【Video】

You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t like penguins. Between their flightless wings and pudgy physique, there’s something inherently funny about them, which is juxtaposed and amplified by the way they look like they’re constantly dressed in formal tuxedos.

But perhaps the most comical thing of all about the monochrome birds is the stubborn dignity they show by standing at silent attention, even when surrounded by onlookers at a zoo.

Unless, that is, there’s a butterfly to chase.

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Overload on overloading! 66 photos of vehicles and people carrying way too much

As someone who’s never owned a car with a back seat, I’ve had to get creative when packing for a weekend trip or doing an especially extensive round of Christmas shopping. Between some Tetris-like loading of packages into the trunk (and occasionally having my passenger hold something on his or her lap), I’ve been able to haul some impressive loads. But I’ve got nothing on the crazy carrying capacity of these vehicles.

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Five hobbies that prevent guys from getting a Japanese girlfriend

There’s less than a month to go until Christmas Eve, the most romantic night of the year in Japan. As the special night approaches, lovelorn single men throughout the country are scrambling to up their game in order to attract a date before Santa starts his rounds.

As a handy starter guide, Japanese women in a recent poll listed the top five hobbies that are immediate deal breakers when judging if a guy is boyfriend material.

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Too lazy to get up and go to the trash can? Robots garbage collectors will come to you (video)

Sometimes, in the course of crafting a story for you, our fine readers, I have to scribble things down on a notepad. “Check spelling of botryococcus;” “Confirm if Bulbasaur eventually gains the ability to shoot poison;” “Find photo of Sir Mix-a-Lot.” You know, the sort of memos you’d naturally expect to find in the workplace of a Pulitzer hopeful.

Unfortunately, the nearest trash can is several steps away from my desk, and I’m not a good enough basketball player to make the shot. As the day goes on, the mound of crumpled up papers next to my chair grows and grows.

If only our office had one of these new robot trashcans that can detect trash on the floor, then walk over to where it is.

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Parents create amazing Studio Ghibli mural for daughter’s nursery before she’s even born

As a kid, I remember watching reruns of Mighty Mouse on TV with my dad. It was a fun little show, but what made it really special was knowing that he enjoyed it when he was growing up, and that he was sharing his memories and at the same time he was making new ones with me.

Likewise, it’s been a couple decades since Japanese animation gained a steady foothold internationally, and we’re starting to see overseas fans of the medium having kids of their own. But how to pass on that anime passion to your kids? You could go the direct route and administer a severe beating each and every time they ask to watch say, Disney’s forgettable 2000 CG film Dinosaur instead of something with more artistic merit, like Hayao Miyazaki’s Laputa: Castle in the Sky.

Or, like one couple, you could go with the gentler option of painting an awesome mural of Studio Ghibli characters in the nursery, letting their quality speak for itself.

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Tokyo Motor Show 2013: Cars! Crowds! Comely models! 【Photos】

Like a migratory bird made of carbon fiber and engine blocks, every two years the Tokyo Motor Show returns to give us all a glimpse at automakers’ visions of the future. RocketNews24 visited this year’s event, and we’re here to share with you our impressions and photos of the massive crowds, newest concept cars, and hottest current models (both automotive and female).

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Up all night? Tokyo-area late-night restaurants are standing by with ramen, donuts

For about 17 hours a day, urban Japan’s public transportation system seems like the greatest thing in the world. Clean, punctual, well-mannered, and convenient, it’s the perfect way to get around major cities like Tokyo and Yokohama.

But sometime after midnight, the trains, subways, and busses all stop running. Sure, you could always hop a taxi home, but cabs in Japan charge a special surcharge late at night. So unless you feel like shelling out the 5,000 to 10,000 yen (US $50-$100) for a ride to the suburbs, you’re either spending the night in a capsule hotel or hanging around somewhere until the trains start up again around 5 a.m..

The almost complete absence of street crime in Japan means you’re unlikely to get hassled or mugged, even in the seedier parts of town. You will, however, eventually get hungry. Thankfully, when you do, these awesome late-night eateries are ready to serve you.

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Scientist says he can end Japan’s energy woes by turning algae into fuel

Japan is often thought of as an exporting juggernaut, thanks in no small part to the country’s high profile automobile and consumer electronics companies. However, the nation has to turn to importing for much of its energy needs, particularly as it increasingly looks for ways to reduce its reliance on domestically produced nuclear power following the events at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in 2011.

However, one scientist claims Japan could eliminate its need to import energy entirely by turning algae into fuel.

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Suzuki CEO tells reporters that only poor people buy his company’s cars

The last couple of years haven’t been particularly kind to Suzuki Motor Corporation. The company’s US division filed for bankruptcy in 2012, and the automaker announced that it would be halting sales of passenger cars in both America and Canada.

Suzuki still sells cars in its home market, but recent moves by Japanese politicians looking to scale back tax breaks for the compact cars the Shizuoka-based manufacturer specializes in have put it in a precarious position. As the man in the hot seat, Suzuki CEO Osamu Suzuki has come up with a bold and unorthodox plan: openly insult his customers.

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New island created in Japan by volcanic activity

Japan is a crowded place. There’s just no way to get around it. The vast majority of good jobs and schools are found in the major urban centers, which are themselves located on the scarce patches of usable land available in this tremendously mountainous country.

Although few people particularly enjoy living in such dense population centers where you find yourself surprised when you’re not pressed against your fellow commuters on the train in the morning, what can you do about it? It’s not like Japan itself is suddenly going to start getting any bigger, is it?

Actually, it that’s exactly what’s going on, as newly released images show that a new island has recently formed in Japan’s waters.

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Gotta run from ‘em all! CG Pokémon fan art turns adorable Bulbasaur into frightening behemoth

When you stop and think about it, the Pokémon series of video games ought to be terrifying. Sure, on the one hand, most of the pocket monsters the player controls are drawn with chubby cheeks and eyes whose size is equaled only by their cuteness. But at the same time, those rolly polly creatures do battle with each other by unleashing lightning storms, fireballs, and tornadoes. From a design standpoint, they shouldn’t look like Bambi’s woodland friends. Pokémon should look like something that could take on Godzilla.

In other words, they should look something like the frightening CG image here.

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Finding the heroine’s panties: The most difficult side quest in newest Final Fantasy role-playing game

While in recent years opinions have become increasingly divided on the gameplay in long-running video game series Final Fantasy, there’s not much room to criticize the franchise’s artistry. New installments of Final Fantasy are consistently among the most visually and aurally pleasing games at their time of release. Each title has a huge team of designers and software engineers who spend untold hours making sure the cut scenes are gorgeous, the interface slick, and the soundtrack stirring and crystal clear. And also, apparently, that the heroine doesn’t inadvertently flash her panties.

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Fake news site issues statement that its story about UNICEF developing invisible park toilet is fake (for real)

While there are genuine differences between Japan and the West, oftentimes you can find cultural equivalents with just a little searching. Japan may not have ice cream trucks, for example, but mobile food exists in the form of sweet potato vendors who cruise the streets of residential areas. Christmas is Japan is usually spent on a romantic date or partying with friends, but then everyone goes back home to spend time with the family over New Year’s.

Likewise, satirical website Kyoko News exists as Japan’s counterpart to The Onion, running stories that almost seem plausible, but never actually happened. Nonetheless, it seems the United Nation’s Children’s Fund (UNICEF) either didn’t get or didn’t appreciate being the subject of one of Kyoko News’ recent jokes. The organization eventually got the retraction it was seeking, but not without seeing the complications involved in asking for one from a website that states upfront that what it’s saying isn’t true.

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We pick up a new good luck charm at the Tori no Ichi Festival in Shinjuku

Japan’s urban and rural areas alike are dotted with temples and shrines, but there’s no practice of attending regular services at them. Instead, visitors primarily come to offer a few yen as a donation, say a quick prayer, and pick up one of the plethora of good luck charms and amulets sold there, many of which have specific purposes such as passing an important exam or finding a new love.

But every member of our team is already out of college, and so popular with the opposite sex that we’re starting to feel bad about not leaving any for the rest of the populace. Looking further down our to-do list, we noticed that “build mansion with supermodel grotto” was preceded by “achieve economic success,” so we decided to head to our local Shinto shrine for Tori no Ichi, Japan’s annual festival for buying good luck charms for success in business.

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Heart-shaped lemons from Hiroshima make sour a little sweeter

We’ve talked before about the booming trend of latte art in Japan, in which baristas create intricate pictures in the foam atop your coffee. But what if you prefer to get your caffeine fix from a cup of tea instead of a mug of java? Does Japan have anything cute to brighten your beverage?

Why yes, it does! And if you like a little citrus in your tea, you can spruce up your drink with a slice of lemon grown in the shape of a heart.

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Time to start potty training! Chinese speculators buying up diapers in Japan

Despite policies designed to keep the birth rate in check, China remains the most populous nation on the planet. That many people means a lot of new babies every year, and the digestive tracts of babies in China have as busy a schedule as infants anywhere.

What we’re trying to say is that China has to deal with mountains of baby poop every day. And since some Chinese parents have a penchant for keeping their kids dry with Japanese diapers, consumers in Japan have been reporting shortages of Japanese brand Merries, as Chinese speculators in Japan buy up the local stock.

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Mercedes Benz measures the brains activity of Zen monks to evaluate their new car【Video】

Given Mercedes Benz’s reputation for luxury, it’s tempting to dismiss the automaker’s cars as being strictly for trust fund sorority girls or high-flying lawyers who just made partner.

Mercedes does have quite a bit of performance cred too, though, particularly for its extra-sporty cars that bear the mark of AMG, the company’s in-house tuning and motorsports division. But while you can find plenty of driving enthusiasts who get excited by the cars coming out of Stuttgart, in a new video Mercedes tries to stir the hearts of a new demographic: Zen monks.

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15-year-old genius revolutionizes cancer detection with 3-cent test

So what was your biggest achievement when you were 15? I was pretty proud of getting my learner’s permit. I also made a couple nice tackles on the football field, and came this close to finally winning a round against my friend Eugene in Street Fighter II. All in all, not a bad year.

Of course, these accomplishments don’t seem like much compared to those of Jack Andraka, a high school student from Maryland who just made the biggest breakthrough in pancreatic cancer detection methods in more than half a century. This is simply too cool not to share.

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23 wacky inventions from Japan and abroad – most useless, all ridiculous

Sometimes it seems like all the ideas for good inventions have already been taken. The wheel. The light bulb. The Internet, and with it access to some of the greatest sources of knowledge known to man.

Nevertheless, we salute those individuals still pushing the innovation envelope, even when reality pushes back with the harsh truth that no one would ever use their creations.

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