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.

Posted by Casey Baseel

Did Portuguese soccer player flip off referee, or was he just looking for gold?

When someone has complete authority over you, the temptation to assert yourself, even in secret, can be overwhelming. A kid gets lectured by his parents, then sighs and says, “Yeah, whatever,” as soon as they’re out of earshot. A student spends his time in detention writing curse words on the underside of his desk.

Or, a professional soccer player seemingly flips off the referee while his back is turned.

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Special exhibits on Studio Ghibli’s art and architecture coming soon to two Tokyo museums

For any serious anime fan making a trip to Tokyo, a visit to the Ghibli Museum should be at the top of their list. Not only is the design of the building bursting with subtle references to the works of esteemed director Hayao Miyazaki and his compatriots, the on-site theater also screens Ghibli shorts you can’t see anywhere else, such as the heart-warming follow-up to My Neighbor Totoro.

This summer, though, two more Tokyo museums are getting in on the act with special exhibits focusing on the architecture of Studio Ghibli plus artwork for the animation house’s newest film.

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Want your cooking to taste like world-famous chef Nobu’s? Here’s the seasoning you need

One of the few Japanese restaurateurs to gain international fame and popularity is Nobuyuki Matsuhisa. Better known by his professional moniker Nobu, the Saitama-born chef began his culinary career in Tokyo, before leaving Japan to open restaurants in Peru, Argentina, and the U.S.

Being so far away from the birthplace of Japanese cuisine, though, meant Nobu had to come up with new recipes and flavors that would suit the palates of his non-Japanese clientele. This often meant finding roles for locally available ingredients, but in one case, Nobu took things a step further by developing one of his own: miso powder.

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Cheerful, cherubic cat chillin’ on a chair 【Video】

When my nephew was still a baby, I clearly remember the whole family gathering to watch as he rolled over for the first time. It was an exciting moment, and we were all impressed by his accomplishment.

On the other hand, I can’t remember the last time anyone gave me a round of applause for rolling over, even if I’ve had so much beer that my motor skills have regressed to infant-level. The fact is that whether an action is compelling to watch has as much to do with the natural charisma of the performer as it does with what they’re doing.

For example, most of us couldn’t entertain a group of strangers by just sitting in a chair, but that’s only because we aren’t this incredibly cute, eminently relaxed cat.

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High schoolers’ epic stop-motion fight jumps between the third and second dimensions 【Video】

In Japanese schools, it’s the responsibility of students to clean the classrooms at the end of the day. But while some kids take this responsibility seriously, others are more interested in goofing off while their more earnest classmates do the majority of the work.

This has to be extremely frustrating. For example, imagine you just put in the time to diligently wash the blackboard, only to reach the end, turn back, and discover someone ruined your efforts by doodling over the section you’d already cleaned. You’d probably be pretty angry, right? But would you be so angry that you’d start a brawl that almost destroys the entire schoolhouse?

If you were the star of this amazing stop motion video, you would.

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Hello Kitty’s workload about to get even heavier with the introduction of Battleship Kitty

Hello Kitty’s lengthy list of endorsement contracts must be a source of constant pressure for her. The success of products as diverse as contact lenses, melons, and even fire extinguishers riding on her marketing appeal must be an enormous weight on the shoulder’s of Japan’s favorite feline.

Now, Kitty-chan’s about to add an enormous weight to her head, as part of a new tie-up with the city of Kure in Hiroshima Prefecture.

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Japan’s real and anime world technological icons combine with this Shinkansen transforming robot

You could argue that the Shinkansen is the greatest engineering marvel Japan has ever put together. Amazingly fast, the bullet train is also bulletproof in its reliability and punctuality, with almost no delays and not a single accident since the high speed rail service was opened in 1964.

To find a much cooler piece of Japanese technology, you have to go into the world of science fiction and anime robots. Now, some clever designers have put two and two together and created a transforming mecha character based on Japan’s fastest train.

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Japan’s manga World Cup team: Titans, pirates, and, of course, Captain Tsubasa

Japan’s national soccer team floundered through the first several decades of its existence before finally earning its first World Cup berth in 1998. Since then the squad has shown steady improvement, with an impressive performance in South Africa in 2010 that saw it reach the Round of 16.

But while expectations and confidence are both running high, that doesn’t mean Japanese soccer fans don’t wish there countrymen could receive a little help from the world of comics and animation, as shown in a poll asking which manga characters they wish were a part of Japan’s team competing in Brazil.

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Amazing time-lapse video turns Tokyo into a floating, endless metropolis

Two features of Tokyo make an immediate impression on visitors. First is the sheer size of the teeming metropolis, as it seems to envelop you from all sides. Second is the otherworldly atmosphere imparted by its futuristic architecture, intricate network of crisscrossing train lines, and the fields of neon that come to life like blooming flowers after sundown.

These two characteristics have been captured, interpreted, and enhanced in an entrancing new video from Yokohama-based visual artist Darwinfish105 which gives the impression of floating through a Tokyo without borders or end.

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All-you-can-eat-fried chicken coming to KFC Japan just in time for the 4th of July

Man, doesn’t that pile of Kentucky Fried Chicken look enticing? Sure, it may not be the most sophisticated meal, and there’s really no way you can twist the nutritional facts to call it particularly healthy, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a purer, simpler gastronomic joy than a bucket of fried chicken.

But you know what makes the above image all the more beautiful? The large-font Japanese text smack dab in the middle of it, the part that says tabehodai, or, in English, “all you can eat.”

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How to make epic pancakes with your Japanese rice cooker

Every summer, I try to spend as many days as possible on the beach at Enoshima, and each time I get out of the station and walk towards the sand, I pass a long line of people waiting for a seat at the local pancake restaurant. This isn’t Japan’s only pancake joint with a lengthy wait, either, as you can find similar eateries with comparable lines in Tokyo, too.

It used to strike me as a little weird. After all, whipping up a stack of pancakes isn’t exactly the most challenging culinary feat. It can get tedious, though, as you settle into a monotonous pattern of plopping batter into the pan, flipping the half-cooked cake, and repeating over and over again.

Or, you could bypass all that by making an entire batch of pancakes all at once in a rice cooker.

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A hauntingly beautiful live performance of Ghost in the Shell anime music 【Video】

In science fiction, 25 years may as well be an eternity. The genre is littered with visions of the future that were initially compelling, yet suddenly felt overwhelmingly dated and dull just a few years later.

That said, it’s been a quarter-century since the first manga installment of Ghost in the Shell was published, and Japan’s most successful cyberpunk franchise is still going strong. Ghost in the Shell succeed where others failed because the story’s true focus isn’t on shiny, imaginary technology itself, but rather on the question of what it means to be human in a rapidly evolving society, and how an individual’s personal answer to that ties into the concepts of identity, free will, and interconnectedness.

Those are concepts mankind has grappled with for centuries, so it’s only fitting that this live performance of the anime’s most iconic piece of music feels at once both modern and ancient.

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Dog found trapped in a Japanese suburb is a little sad, a little cute, thankfully all OK

With a shortage of flat, buildable land leading to high prices for real estate, Japan is a crowded country. In homes, it’s not entirely unusual for rooms to serve dual or triple purposes, with fold-up tables and futons helping to transform living rooms into dining rooms, and later dining rooms into bedrooms.

Smaller houses and apartment buildings don’t just mean less space for human residents, though, but for pets too, as can be seen in this photo of a dog that got trapped running around its yard.

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Aoshima Island has 100 cats, and we photographed almost all of them

Recently, we sent our intrepid reporter Meg to Ehime Prefecture’s Aoshima, also known as Cat Island or even Cat Paradise. We’d heard rumors that the island’s packs of free-roaming kitties were facing an obesity crisis from the snacks given to them by their numerous animal-loving visitors, and wanted to check up on our little friends.

When Meg came back, she reported that the cats were fine, thanks to their active, calorie-burning lifestyle. But how could she be sure? Did she check every cat on Aoshima?

She certainly came close, and we’ve got the photo collection to prove it.

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Attack classroom boredom with Attack on Titan notebooks

Unlike a lot of children, I never doodled in my notebooks because I was bored at school. This wasn’t because I was consumed with the beauty of education or absorbed in what my teachers were saying. I was simply such a bad artist that listening to them drone on was still more enjoyable for me than trying to draw a picture, even if the lectures ended up putting me to sleep as often as not.

If they’d only had these Attack on Titan notebooks when I was a kid, maybe I would have stayed awake more often.

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When starting a new business, one of the most important things to do is build name recognition. An easy, if ethically questionable, way of doing this is to base your company’s name on an existing, more recognized brand, such as calling your new restaurant McBurgers, or your talent agency filled with only the most charming and pleasant-smelling individuals RocketGoodSmell24.

Of course, McDonald’s would probably put a stop to such a plan, even if you weren’t directly competing with them in the fast food market. In fact, the company would probably be all the more swift in dropping the hammer if you were setting up shop in an industry it wants to avoid any association with. For example, if you were a budding pimp and called your brothel McHumptown, you could expect an angry letter from the Golden Arches.

You know who else doesn’t like being connected to the skin trade? Denny’s, as three men in Japan who appropriated the restaurant’s logo for their sexual services company just found out.

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Chinese woman’s two-pronged money-saving plan: Eat her grandson’s pet for dinner

As a kid, I went through a stage where I bugged my parents to let me have a dog. My dad, though, wisely realized that he would be the one who ended up having to take care of it, so jokingly told me that I couldn’t have any animal I wasn’t prepared to eat.

Apparently a woman in China took the same philosophy regarding her grandson’s pet, only she didn’t bother to tell him before she cooked it for dinner.

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Jojo’s bizarre coffee – Anime characters to grace cans of java in Japan

With their dramatic posing, frenetic accessorizing, and manic shouting, you could easily arrive at the conclusion that the cast of long-running manga and anime Jojo’s Bizarre Adventures is one seriously over-caffeinated set of super powered bare-knuckle brawlers.

Don’t expect Jojo and company to settle down anytime soon, though, as the characters created by artist Hirohiko Araki are set to grace cans of Coca-Cola Japan’s Georgia coffee this summer.

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Kentucky fried rice bowl – KFC’s Kentadon expands throughout east Japan

It’s amazing how much Japan loves KFC. I pass by more locations of the world’s most popular fried chicken chain on an average day in Tokyo than I ever did in Los Angeles, and it’s even the meal of choice for most Japanese diners on Christmas Eve.

Now, just as Japan has embraced KFC, KFC is embracing Japan by expanding the number of locations where you can get your hands on one of the restaurant’s rare Kentucky Fried Chicken rice bowls.

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Hungry for love – 10 dishes Japanese men want their girlfriends to cook for them

Men are, in many ways, simple creatures. Our two greatest desires in life are, without question, women and food.

While a tasty meal or a good-looking lass with a nice personality are both things to be thankful for on their own, it’s hard to top the bliss that comes from eating a home-cooked meal made by the girl you like. Still, just as guys have preferences in women, they’ve also got preferences in food, as revealed in a poll that asked Japanese men what dish prepared by their girlfriend makes them the happiest.

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