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

The amazing disaster relief equipment of Japan’s Self Defense Force

Although Japan hasn’t had a full-fledged military since the end of World War II, the nation does maintain a strong self-defense force. Part of the organization’s duties is providing relief to disaster victims, whether that means meals for the hungry or simply a place for refugees to bathe. The Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) recently gave the public a peek at some of the clever gear it uses to accomplish this mission. And it is awesome.

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We’re not in Kentucky anymore – KFC Japan offering chicken-flavored rice balls

Recently, the American expat staff here at RocketNews24 felt a twinge of shame when we heard that KFC’s Japanese division had leapfrogged its US counterpart by developing fried corn soup. The embarrassment we felt at being beaten in fried food innovation, something we’d always assumed America did better than anywhere else, was quickly replaced by simple joy when we tried some for ourselves and found out just how good it is.

Now, KFC Japan is showing they can do Japanese standards too, with their new chicken-flavored rice balls.

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Chow time, bachelors! Nissin now offering microwavable curry rice in a cup

My first time apartment hunting in Japan didn’t go so well. I ended up in a bunker so cramped that the only fridge I could fit inside could hold a carton of milk, a carton of orange juice, a tube of wasabi, and honestly not a whole lot more. By necessity, I subsisted on a cornucopia of non-perishables, often microwavable rice, topped with the contents of a pouch of instant curry from the convenience store down the street. It wasn’t gourmet, but it was a hot meal I could prepare in about the time it took to take off my suit and hang it up nicely.

But as simple as that was to make, Nissin Foods now has something even easier: instant curry and rice all in the same container.

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Crossover coming between Tetris and beloved Sega puzzle series Puyo Puyo?

Every now and again, a video game comes along that’s such a big hit that it creates its own, oftentimes oddly specific, genre. Super Mario Bros. begat a plethora of titles where characters run from left to right and jump on platforms. Street Fighter created a wave of games in which martial artists always settle their battles in best two out of three fashion, even if many of them are supposedly fighting to the death. And from Tetris, the category of “arranging things as they fall from the sky” was born.

Most of the puzzle games attempting to cash in on Tetris’ success, such as Columns, Dr. Mario, and Baku Baku Animal, didn’t make anywhere near as much of a splash. The lone exception is Puyo Puyo, originally from developer Compile. Puyo Puyo has been going strong for over 20 years, and its current caretaker, Sega, has plans to kick things up another notch, according to some cryptic messages from the franchise’s official Twitter account.

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Olympic fever hits Tokyo Stock Exchange, one company gets hot, then gets burned

Tokyo’s selection as the site of the 2020 Olympics seems to have put all of Japan in a good mood. Economic analysts wondered if this optimism would carry over into the investment world, and indeed a modest market-wide rally seems to be building.

One corporation caught up in the surge, however, saw its entire stock price increase wiped out in less than an hour, with some saying the fluctuation was caused by its name.

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Japanese condom manufacturer hoping to keep Olympians happy, safe between events (and sheets)

Among the many storylines to keep an eye on in the run-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are advancements in the equipment the competitors will be using. As science and technology march on, Olympic athletes have access to sleeker, lighter, thinner gear, allowing them to reach levels of performance above and beyond those of their predecessors.

We’ve seen this happen on the track and in the pool, but it’ll also be happening in the bedrooms of the Olympic Village, likely with the help of Olympic condoms from Japanese manufacturer Sagami Rubber.

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Kumamoto Prefecture shows us that less is more with simple yet mouth-watering rice balls

One of our reporters recently drew the enviable assignment of visiting this year’s Nippon no Umai, an annual event sponsored by Kirin that brings the best of Japan’s regional delicacies together under one roof. With so many tasty options on display, those of us not lucky enough to attend the tasting session, held at the super swanky Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, would have to settle for living vicariously through our correspondent’s report after he returned.

We were a little underwhelmed when we asked what he’d eaten, and his answer was “white rice with salt!” but we soon came to understand why he was looking quite so content.

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World-class fan art mistaken for designs from the new Sailor Moon anime, goes viral *UPDATED*

Fans have been pretty patient with the production team for the upcoming newest installment in the Sailor Moon anime franchise. After all, the previous animated TV series wrapped in 1997, so the sudden announcement of a continuation last summer was enough, in and of itself, to put them in a good mood.

Still, there’s only so much people can take. Originally slated to begin last summer, not only did the new show fail to make that air date (it’s currently been rescheduled for this winter), not so much as a single piece of artwork for it had been released. Fans started to get agitated. Sailor Moon already has some of the most iconic designs in Japanese animation. Just add a few more detail lines, slap on some shiny digital paint, and give us a peek at the new series, already! There had better be a good reason for the hold-up.

Today, however, a series of ultra-detailed character drawings surfaced online, alleged to be official character designs from the new Sailor Moon. Sadly, this turned out to be misinformation, but the designs are nevertheless incredibly impressive.

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Appalling string of thefts targets religious offerings in tsunami-damaged town

Living in Japan, it’s easy to take safety and honesty for granted. This is, after all, the country where public trains make ideal spots for a nap.

That said, with over 150 million people in the country, you’re bound to have a few bad apples, such as the lowlifes who’ve decided there’s no better place for a crime spree than the town of Yamamoto, which was hit hard by the massive earthquake and tsunami of 2011.

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Attack on Titan beauty product will keep you better-looking than series’ monstrous villains

For the most part, people in Japan take pride in being well-groomed. Skin care gets particular priority, and individuals especially concerned about looking their best carry around packs of oil-blotting papers called abura torigami. When you don’t want to wait until you get home to wash a day’s worth of grime off your face, they’re handy little things, and we mean that literally.

Abura torigami tend to be pretty small, so much so that you’ll usually see people stretching them out with both hands to get the maximum use out of the precious surface area each one offers. Granted, this looks dainty and adorable when a cute girl does it. Other people, though, such as the RocketNews24 male writing team, are far too ruggedly handsome to ever be considered “cute.” Are there no larger abura torigami for the rest of us?

Indeed there are, thanks to a tie-up with anime smash hit Attack on Titan.

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Japanese couples pick their favorite World Heritage sites for dates

With the recent addition of Mt. Fuji, Japan can now claim 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites. The thirteen cultural and four natural locations that comprise the list represent an impressive set of historical and scientific significance.

When you combine Japan’s reverence for tradition with the nation’s masses of travel aficionados, it’s no surprise that these sites are popular sightseeing destinations, particularly during the numerous three-day weekends that pepper the work calendar here. Even better, several of these World Heritage sites are found in areas with breathtaking scenery, adding a bit of romance and making them the perfect retreat for high-minded couples, who in a recent survey selected the top 10 World Heritage sites they’d like to visit with their dating partner or spouse.

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KFS? Kentucky Fried Chicken Japan offering deep-fried soup

It’s no secret that the RocketNews24 team is pretty enamored of life here in Japan. It’s hard not to have a good time in a country with such deep traditions and cultural events throughout the year.

That said, I always get just a little homesick when autumn rolls around. As great as Japanese festivals are, they simply can’t match American county fairs in terms of fried food offerings.

Thankfully, KFC Japan is ready to take a little of the sting out of fall this year with a new menu item: fried soup.

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Cold beer – less smelly than fermented soybeans, and by one criteria, healthier too

Earlier this week, we talked about the purported beauty benefits of Japanese rice wine. Today, we’ve got good news for health-conscious beer lovers.

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Tokyo restaurant challenges us with a foot of tempura, we gladly accept

Tokyo is a massive, sprawling metropolis. There are so many twisting back alleys that by the time you’ve convinced yourself you’ve seen it all, something new has popped up back at the start of your route

Presented with this limitless variety, you could easily eat at a new restaurant every single day and never go hungry. So why did we go back to Fukugawa Tsuribune just two months after our last meal there? Because like handguns in the US, one of their tempura bowls is so serious there’s a waiting period to get your hands on it.

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Do you remember giant robots? Full-scale Macross Valkyrie lands in Yokohama

The deployment of anime mecha to Yokohama continues. Earlier this month the Ingram from police story Patlabor made an appearance in the bayside city, and now comes a life-size VF-25 Valkyrie from Macross Frontier.

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We’ve got your Halloween costume all set: Tonto from The Lone Ranger

Despite reuniting director Gore Verbinski, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, and actor Johnny Depp, the recent Lone Ranger film failed to recreate the success the trio had with the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise at the US box office.

The film has met with a more favorable reaction with less cynical viewers in the international market, though, and one reporter for our Japanese-language sister site came back from the theatre so impressed that he decided to transform himself into Tonto, the Lone Ranger’s Native American partner portrayed by Depp.

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10 simple ways to ruin a Japanese wife’s day

There’s a saying in Japan that you should have both eyes open before you decide to get married, and one eye shut after you walk down the aisle. It’s sound advice, as you definitely need to know what you’re getting into before you pledge to share your life with someone. At the same time, spending every day together is bound to bring to light the little imperfections that people naturally have (Mrs. Baseel excepted, of course), and it’s important not to get too worked up over them.

Of course, the inevitable result of trying to keep one eye perpetually closed is a wicked eye-cramp, so eventually you’re going to have to open it back up and notice something about your partner that drives you up the wall. Japanese firm Neo Marketing recently surveyed married women on the things their husbands do that they just can’t overlook.

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Gundam-themed Toyota doesn’t come with beam saber, is awesome anyway

Sometimes, despite the director’s best efforts otherwise, the villain of a movie or TV series ends up stealing the show. Luke Skywalker became the archetypical example of a pure-hearted but bland hero, while dark side practitioner Darth Vader went on to become a true cultural icon.

Similarly, you’ll be hard pressed to find any viewers of long-running anime mecha franchise Gundam who name its original hero, Amuro, as their favorite character. His nemesis Char, on the other hand, has legions of fans, even though his last on-screen appearance was way back in the 1988 motion picture Char’s Counterattack. Despite his occasional attempts to drop space colonies onto Planet Earth, fans are drawn to the stylish Char, who has always had cool robots and a cool mask. Now, he’s got a cool car, too.

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Cook rice inside your car with the new Takeru-kun

In the never-ending debate about which country makes the best cars, it’s common to derogatorily refer to a Japanese automobile as a “rice rocket,” “rice burner,” or “rice runner.” Really anything with rice.

But with a new product from Saitama-based company JPN, you can own that insult, and turn it into a positive.

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We combine McDonald’s and MOS Burger for forbidden deliciousness

Whether the blooming of the cherry blossoms in spring or the chirping of cicadas in summer, in Japan there is always a herald to the changing of the seasons. As incorrigible carnivores, for us fall begins when McDonald’s tsukimi burger returns to the menu. Tsukimi literally means “moon viewing,” a popular autumn activity in Japan, but in this case refers to the lunar-looking fried egg the sandwich contains. The tsukimi burger also comes with bacon. It has no linguistic reason to be there, but if you really need an explanation as to why someone would add bacon to a burger, we’ll be happy to explain after you finish your quiche.

Of course, the full moon has been known to do strange things to people’s minds, and we wondered if we couldn’t scavenge components from McDonald’s tsukimi burger to make something even better.

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