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

Original Japanese Kirby Was Even Less Hardcore

No discussion of the pantheon of video game heroes is complete without mentioning HAL Laboratory’s Kirby. Including his recently-released 20th anniversary collection, the adorable pink puffball has close to two dozen appearances under his belt, which is an impressive feat for someone who lacks a waist.

Kirby has also gotten a bit of free publicity from website TV Tropes, with its “American Kirby is Hardcore” entry, which catalogues how the images of Kirby and other fictional characters are “toughened up” in marketing to make them more appealing to U.S. audiences.

In recent years, Kirby’s earned enough gamer goodwill to be as cute as he wants to in any market. Even still, we’re guessing he would have had a tough time of it initially in overseas markets if HAL had stuck with the character’s original name. Read More

Evangelion Director Shocks the Anime World Without Making a Movie Where Everyone Turns Into Tang

With two feature films set to debut before the end of the year, you’d have thought Studio Ghibli grabbed as much media attention as possible. But the venerated anime production house managed to put itself even more squarely in the spotlight with the announcement regarding its upcoming feature film Kaze Tachinu, or The Wind Rises.

The film’s main character will not be voiced by a veteran voice actor. That in itself isn’t so surprising, considering Ghibli’s past casting of singers and Japanese drama stars, Takuya Kimura and Junichi Okada, for the heroes of its previous movies, Howl’s Moving Castle, Tales from Earthsea, and 2011’s From Up On Poppy Hill. Like them, the lead male voice actor for The Wind Rises is a famous member of the entertainment industry with hordes of fans. However, many of them don’t know what he sounds like, because the main character will be played by Evangelion director Hideaki Anno. Read More

Who Needs a Cherry on Top? Osaka Café Crowns its Parfaits with Cake

Tokyo’s restaurants may have more Michelin stars, but for many Japanese foodies, the real culinary action is in Osaka. Particularly if your tastes run more towards good honest grub than haute cuisine, Japan’s second largest city is the place to be.

The people of Osaka enjoy a good meal so much that they coined the phrase kuidaore, to eat until you collapse. But even with this image firmly entrenched in our minds, the city has found a new way to surprise us with its gastronomic decadence.

On a recent day out in Osaka, our reporter stopped by a café and ordered a truly hard-core parfait. It wasn’t that the parfait was so big, and no, it didn’t contain any shocking ingredients. What blew our minds about this parfait was its topping.

It was a slice of cake, and it was so big it wasn’t even trying to fit into the glass.

Read More

99-Year-Old Tea Shop Offers Something New: Green Tea Beer

Being in Japan gives you plenty of opportunities to knock back a beer. The country is filled with pubs, and alcohol consumptions is so accepted that should you tell people, flat-out, “My hobby is drinking,” they’re more likely to ask you to recommend a good bar than to stage an intervention. At the same time, Japan has countless places to sip a relaxing cup of tea, whether it’s the strong, frothy variety used in tea ceremonies called matcha, or hojicha, for which the green tea leaves are roasted before steeping. But with two tempting beverage choices to relax with and only so many hours in the day, how can anyone be expected to choose between tea and beer? As it turns out, you don’t have to. Read More

New Dating Sim Follows Time-Tested Story Blueprint of Boy Meets Alpaca

Video games have made pretty steady progress into the cultural mainstream. Even people who aren’t gamers themselves can at least see the entertainment potential of a Mario title with its breezy fun, or the sweeping adventure of a Final Fantasy.

A genre many people have a harder time wrapping their heads around, though, is the dating simulator. Sure, driving games like Gran Turismo let us tune and race cars so expensive we can’t even talk the dealer into giving us a test drive in real life. And while Japan does have a royal family with princesses, the country’s lack of fire-breathing dragons means our chances of having to pick up sword and shield to go rescue them are slim, at best. But a game about going on dates? Couldn’t we just, like, ask someone out in real life?

Apparently some developers feel the same way, and have decided to spice up their dating sims with scenarios that take full advantage of video games’ unique style of escapism. Read More

How Your Lazy Coworker is Like a Can of Vegetable Juice

Despite Japan’s famously strong work ethic, even offices here have some employees who coast through the day, oblivious to their more industrious coworkers who exasperatedly wonder how their paychecks remain so similar when their levels of dedication are anything but.

Economist Taiichi Kogure touches on some of these points in his latest work, The Mindset of People Who Will Always Have Low Salaries, which hit bookshelves in Japan last month. Inspired by the book, Livedoor News posted the following editorial analogy based on Kogure’s concepts, titled “Your Salary Isn’t Determined by Your Efforts or Value.” Read More

Today’s Reason to Come to Japan: Free Curry Refills

Big eaters in Japan have a saying: “Curry and rice isn’t something you eat. It’s something you drink.” And as with any beverage, nothing’s better than free refills.

We’ve talked about it before, but it’s worth repeating. The Japanese curry chain CoCo Ichibanya (also known as just CoCo Ichi), provides a free refill of curry sauce to any customer one who asks for it. Read More

Special Edition Ultraman Popsicles May or May Not Melt in Three Minutes

My wife, in her infinite patience, has taught me several things about Japanese culture. Thanks to her, I’m familiar with the proper way to offer incense at a grave, and also how important it is to bring a little present to your neighbors on all sides when moving into a new apartment.

But perhaps the lesson with the biggest impact on my daily life was when she taught me just how good Gari Gari-kun popsicles are. Read More

Beef = Breasts? Model Claims Burgers Ballooned Her Bust

Japanese model Eri Sakurai says she has stumbled across a way to increase her breast size without resorting to cosmetic surgery. The 30-year-old credits a sudden temporary chest inflation in her past to the unlikely superfood of McDonald’s hamburgers. Read More

The Arduous Audition Process to Become a Cold Stone Japan Part-Timer

Among the many myths about Japan is the one that goes, “Japanese people don’t like sweet foods.” The success of Arizona-based ice cream chain Cold Stone here is proof positive that Japan has as big a sweet tooth as any other nation.

With branches stretching from Hokkaido in the north to Kyushu in the south, Cold Stone Japan requires a steady inflow of part-time workers. But as you might expect from a business that makes all of its profits selling a product no one needs but almost everyone enjoys, the interview process is a little different from the one at other workplaces. Read More

Okayama Bus Company Encourages People to Look at its Newest Employee While They Wash Themselves

Okayama Prefecture lies in west Japan, three and a half hours from Tokyo by bullet train. Known for its castle, 17th century garden, and folktale of Momotaro the Peach Boy, it’s a laid-back, slow-paced kind of place, so we can understand the difficulties local bus operator Ryobi Group faces in trying to promote the region as a travel destination for young people.

So Ryobi has made the cornerstone of its newest marketing campaign something young Japanese males will enjoy: a bus tour guide who’s also a cute anime idol. Read More

How to be Popular with Japanese Girls in Seven Steps

I think I speak for all of the male writers here at RocketNews24 when I say that we have no trouble finding dates. For example, I’m so attractive that I have to beat women off with a stick. Or, was it that the last woman I asked out beat me with a stick? Sorry, my memory is a little fuzzy these days. Probably from being hit in the head with sticks.

But for our loyal readers who lack my powerful pheromones (B.O. is a kind of pheromone, right?), we present seven tips for attracting girls in Japan, as originally compiled by Niconico News.

Read More

Eat Ice Cream from All Over Japan Without Using the Bullet Train

Located just across the northern border from Tokyo, Saitama Prefecture is home to over seven million people. With far more affordable housing than the capital, but yet with relatively easy access to it via numerous train lines, several of Saitama’s residents spend most of their day studying or working in Tokyo. Despite its proximity though, Saitama is still outside Tokyo, earning it something of a stigma among Tokyoites, some of whom have saddled it with the unflattering nickname “Dasaitama,” coming from the word dasai, or “uncool.”

For the beginning of May though, Saitama will be filled with something we can all agree is very cool: ice cream. With the opening of the All Japan Ice Cream Collection festival, Saitama’s Koshigaya City is set to make even the snootiest urban socialites eat a little crow, even if that particular flavor is definitely not on the menu. Read More

So Buddha and Jesus Walk into a Real Estate Office in Tokyo…

Since 2007, Hikaru Nakamura’s Saint Young Men manga comic series has followed the daily lives of two young men who just happen to be the revered central figures of Christianity and Buddhism. The divine figures have reincarnated, not so save the souls of humanity, but to spend some time enjoying a low-key lifestyle while sharing an apartment in the comparatively sleepy town of Tachikawa in West Tokyo. The story follows their day-to-day lives, including Buddha’s fascination with the manga based on himself and Jesus’ long locks and wispy beard getting him mistaken for Johnny Depp by schoolgirls at a local convenience store.

To celebrate the upcoming theatrical animated adaptation of Saint Young Men, publisher Kodansha is allowing the free reproduction and use of a portion of the series.

Read More

Mythical Monsters Invade Tokyo’s Train System!

On one of my first days as an exchange student in Tokyo, as a group of us were being shown around the college, someone asked “Where are the parking lots?” Our Japanese guide explained that students in the city don’t commute by car. Neither do the teachers, and even in most companies, the cost of real estate dictates that the few office parking spots available are reserved as perks for the uppermost reaches of the corporate ladder. In Tokyo, everyone takes the train.

Including, apparently, the mythical beasts. Read More

Swimming Anime Green-Lit, International Fan Community Impresses us with Their Enthusiasm, Creeps us Out by Talking About (and to) Their Ovaries

For the past few years, Kyoto Animation has been one of Japan’s hottest anime producers. With hit titles such as K-ON! (a story of cute girls occasionally playing rock music) and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (a story of cute girls occasionally bending the fabric of reality), the studio’s fans have been eagerly waiting to see what Kyoto Animation’s next offering would be.

Earlier this year, Kyoto Animation started a firestorm by producing a short animated teaser focusing on the members of a high school swim team, all male with delicate facial features and ripped abs. Some cried foul that Kyoto Animation would produce even a short clip that didn’t showcase a single cute girl, but others were excited by the prospect of watching a group of guys strip down to Speedos and work their lithe bodies through the water, going so far as to start petitions begging for more.

Kyoto Animation recently answered their prayers by announcing the production of a TV series adaptation of the swimming story, and fans around the world gushed with enough emotion to fill a pool. Read More

Mt. Fuji Moves Towards World Heritage Site Certification

UNESCO’s advisory board has released the results of their analysis of Mt. Fuji’s bid for World Heritage Site status. The mountain and its surrounding area have been deemed “fit for certification,” with the title expected to be officially given in June. Read More

Canned Ice Blasts Let You Literally Stop Cockroaches Cold

Japan is a great place to be in the summer. For the culturally minded, there are festivals at centuries-old shrines, dazzling fireworks displays, and neighborhood folk dances with everyone wearing summer kimonos or yukata. If your thought process is a little baser, the all-you-can-drink beer gardens on the rooftops of department stores, along with much higher socially-accepted hem lines than in many other parts of the world, aren’t half-bad either.

But there’s one thing no one likes about summer here: the hordes of cockroaches.

Read More

How to Succeed at Japanese Business Using Beer

There are a lot of counterintuitive things about working in a Japanese company. When you come in the door, you always say, “Good morning,” even if you’ve been at a conference all day and it’s 4 p.m.. Office romances are accepted, if not expected and encouraged.

And one of the best ways to put yourself on the fast track to promotion is by getting blotto with the boss. Read More

Squid Sperm – One More Reason to Not Eat It

Here at RocketNews24, one of our reporters’ duties is chronicling the intriguing or shocking culinary options we come across. Whether it’s giant cheeseburgers in Japan or gasoline-roasted clams in North Korea, we’re happy to taste test them for the entertainment and edification of you, our readers.

But not this time. Read More

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