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

Japanese women weigh in on whether or not guys should wear shorts

While there are several clever techniques for staying cool during Japan’s sticky summer, you really can’t overlook the simple tactic of just wearing less clothing. Going shirtless is one option, but unfortunately that pretty much restricts your entertainment options to swimming, boxing, and the two-for-one choice of shark fighting.

On the other hand, shorts and a shirt provide much more social leeway. As with all choices men make, though, it’s imperative to consider the question, “Will women think I look good?” A recent survey asked women to give their opinions on guys showing some leg.

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Sailor Pluto muscles in on Sailor Moon’s slice of the high-end anime accessory market

Producers of the upcoming reboot of classic anime franchise Sailor Moon have been frustratingly tight-lipped with fans. Originally set to premier this summer, its premiere has now been pushed back to winter, and to date, not a single piece of art from the new series has been released.

Merchandising giant Bandai, on the other hand, has been putting out a steady string of new goodies for Sailor Moon fans as part of the series’ 20th anniversary. New Sailor Moon-themed accessories were released in June and July, and the company has now made it three months in a row with two new necklaces plus a new pair of earrings that went on sale this month.

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Cute, occasionally terrifying images appear in Japanese produce

People often say that cuteness is a religion in Japan, and really they’re only half-joking. Fashion magazines have even broken the faith into sects such as adult cute (otona kawaii), sexy cute (ero kawaii), elegant cute (eleganto kawaii), and the somewhat redundant “cute cute” (kyuuto kawaii).

Just as some of the faithful hold that Jesus’ image at times appears on potato chips and tortillas to remind mankind of his existence, so too do the gods of cuteness occasionally manifest themselves on foodstuffs in Japan.

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2,000 figures ready for their close-ups at toy exhibition in Ikebukuro – and oh, admission is free!

Kaiyodo is one of Japan’s largest figure makers. Aside from being the manufacturer behind the Revoltech line that’s a hit with hardcore anime fans, over 130,000,000 of Kaiyodo’s Choco Eggs, toy animals, bugs, and tanks hidden inside an edible chocolate shell, have been sold, cementing the company’s spot in mainstream popular culture.

To celebrate its 30 years in the business, the Kaiyodo Figure World exhibition is being held in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro district. Roughly 2,000 figures are on display, admission is free, and as if that wasn’t enough, photography is completely unrestricted. Visitors are free to snap as many pictures of any figures they like.

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Giant robot design from Mobile Suit Gundam transformed into the manliest of man bags

One of the first major adjustments I had to make after moving to Japan was making a habit of carrying a bag with me whenever I go out. Having grown up in L.A., it took me a while to overcome the notion that bags were strictly for students and people with a double set of X chromosomes, but eventually I saw the light. If you live in an urban area of Japan, you’re reliant on public transportation. Without a car and a trunk to haul stuff in, a bag is really the only way to carry anything you can’t fit in your pocket but don’t want to hold in your hand all day.

Of course, my resistance might have broken down a lot quicker if I’d known about the upcoming man bag that makes you look like a giant robot.

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City of Yokohama offering 14 days of free Wi-Fi to overseas tourists

Yokohama, being Japan’s second-largest city, has a little something for everyone. Its romantic harbor is lined with parks and backed by a breathtaking skyline. History buffs can see numerous centuries-old structures inside Sankeien Garden. The Ramen Museum and Chinatown are great foodie destinations, and the Noge and Kannai districts are filled with enough cocktail bars and brewpubs give your liver a serious workout.

Unfortunately, many overseas travelers are unaware of all Yokohama has to offer, and skip right by the city on their way between Tokyo and Kyoto. In an effort to help get the word out on Yokohama’s numerous attractions, the city has teamed up with telecommunications giant NTT to provide free Internet access to foreign tourists.

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Better than barbershop: Amazing a cappella renditions from Street Fighter and other classic Japanese games

I’ve never done the math, but I can confidently say the amount of time I spent as a kid standing in line at an arcade to play the classic fighting game Street Fighter II totals somewhere in the dozens of hours.

As a result of all that waiting around to dragon punch people, the game’s soundtrack is permanently hard-wired into my brain. I’ll occasionally find myself unconsciously humming the various Street Fighter II character themes, and while the specific title may be different, I’m sure gamers everywhere have certain pieces of background music stuck in their heads, too.

What separates YouTube user Smooth McGrove from the rest of us though, aside from a glorious beard, is his ability to near-perfectly replicate every single note of the arrangement from iconic video game tunes, using nothing but his own voice.

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Unattended bra found wandering Tachikawa Station

Fireworks festivals are held across Japan during July and August, despite summer being the country’s wettest season. The inevitable result of this game of atmospheric roulette is that sometimes the pyrotechnic display gets rained out.

Such was the case last Saturday at Showa Park in Tachikawa, the westernmost of Tokyo’s major population centers. Last year’s show drew over 750,000 people to the park and surrounding streets, so when the skies opened up shortly before this year’s similarly-scaled festivities kicked off, it sent a horde of people dashing back to Tachikawa Station, where they were greeted by a leaking roof that only added to the confusion.

Given the situation, it’s easy to understand how someone might drop some of their belongings, like a wallet or cell phone. How a piece of intimate apparel ended up unaccounted for, however, remains a bit of a mystery.

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Japan 201: How to tie a kimono sash

Part of our job here at RocketNews24 is to demystify Japan. It’s not that we are trying to make it seem less special, but we would like to turn it from a land of social and cultural barriers into the participatory place our team loves and calls home.

Today we’ll be covering how to tie the sash (or obi) on a man’s yukata summer kimono. Yukata is a look you can rock at festivals, fireworks shows, or just about any entertainment venue during the warmest months of the year. Despite the tradition involved, putting on a yukata isn’t really any harder than tying a necktie (and if you haven’t mastered that yet, you really should have your dad teach you before you go off to college).

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Bullet train beer: the tastiest way to drink responsibly while moving at 186 miles per hour

Many visitors to Japan land in Tokyo, spend a few days in the capital, then hop aboard the shinkansen bullet train to see the sights in other regions of the country. The most common route is head west to Kyoto, but travelers shouldn’t overlook the northern prefecture of Akita.

With verdant forests, unique folklore, Japan’s deepest lake, and plenty of regional delicacies, Akita is well worth a trip, especially with the new Super Komachi shinkansen that makes the trip from Tokyo to Akita Station in just under four hours. Plus, to make the time fly by, the Super Komachi serves up its own microbrew.

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We go fishing for scallops 30 seconds after stepping out of Aomori Station

Located on the northern tip of Japan’s main island of Honshu, Aomori Prefecture is known for its great seafood. Aomori scallops are especially prized, and any shellfish fan visiting the area should definitely make time to have a few.

But how can you be sure you’re eating the freshest scallops possible? Easy: catch them yourself. Even if you don’t have the time to venture out onto the open seas, there’s a restaurant right across the street from Aomori Station that lets you do just that.

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Honda recreates legendary F1 lap with light and sound in awesome video

Some of our readers may be too young to remember, but in his heyday, Ayrton Senna was the biggest thing in racing. The Brazilian racer took home the F1 driver’s championship in 1988, 1990, and 1991 before his life was cut short when his car collided with a retaining wall at over 230 kilometers (143) miles per hour during the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.

Japanese motorsport fans have a particular fondness for Senna. Aside from having some of his most memorable races at Japan’s Suzuka Circuit, Senna won all three of his championships in cars powered by Honda engines, and was also involved in the production of the company’s flagship NSX sports car.

Using telemetric data Honda has recreated Senna’s record-breaking 1989 lap of Suzuka in light and sound as part of an incredible video posted on the company’s website.

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Road trip! All-you-can-eat tempura for just 700 yen in Kumamoto Prefecture

Over the last few years, more and more restaurants have been offering what people in Japan call “one coin meals,” costing less than 500 yen (US $5), the highest denomination coin here.

We recently found a restaurant in Kumamoto Prefecture, on the southern island of Kyushu, that just barely misses the cut with its 700 yen tempura set. That extra 200 yen is totally worth it though, because it gets you all-you-can-eat tempura. And when we say all-you-can-eat, we mean that literally; there’s no time limit for how long your meal can last.

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Feeling parched? How about a nice bottle of fish stock from this vending machine?

Any well-stocked Japanese kitchen needs a bottle of dashi, a salty cooking stock usually made with dried bonito. Dashi is sometimes combined with soy sauce, and the resulting mixture, called dashi-joyu, is commonly used to prepare soups and season a number of ingredients.

As such a ubiquitous part of Japanese cooking, you can buy dashi-joyu at any supermarket. And if you happen to be at a certain few parking lots in Hiroshima or Okayama Prefectures, now you can get it from a vending machine, too.

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Baskin Robbins Japan giving out a third scoop of ice cream free for all of August

Yes, there is Baskin Robbins in Japan, where it’s known by the locals as just saati wan, or “31.” Just like at locations in the U.S., Baskin Robbins Japan offers free samples of flavors on tiny little pink plastic tasting spoons.

Of course, for some people the single bite offered by the taster spoon may not be enough to properly judge whether or not the newest member of the ice cream chain’s constantly evolving ice cream line-up is worth ordering. If only there was a way to try a whole scoop for free.

Well, now there is.

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Domino’s Pizza Japan offers dinner and a show with new toppings and a Hatsune Miku mini-concert

With the majority of its pizzas costing over 2,000 yen (US$20), even in medium size, Domino’s Pizza is positioned a bit more upmarket in Japan than its native U.S. Sure, the convenience of home delivery is worth paying a slight premium for, but with prices stretching beyond what you’d pay in a reasonable Italian restaurant in Tokyo with full table service, Domino’s Japan has to offer something more than just a slab of cheese and sauce.

The pizza giant recently convinced us to open our wallets, though, with a three-pronged attack that’s two parts delicious pork and one part high-tech entertainment.

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New Sailor Moon pendants help you move one step closer to complete superheroine transformation

As part of this year’s ongoing 20th anniversary celebration of the classic anime, toy giant Bandai has recently added a few new items to its line-up of Sailor Moon-themed accessories.

Last month saw the introduction of a ring styled after the heroine’s transformation brooch, and now you can decorate your neckline as well with one of six Sailor Moon pendants.

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Can you bring yourself to eat the art on these awesome anime cakes?

A quick glance at the name of Japanese cake maker Priroll should tell you that they specialize in roll cakes. What might not be so readily apparent is that the “Pri” stands for “printing.” Customers can include a photo when ordering, which Priroll will then reproduce on the side of one of its desserts, making it a great choice for birthdays, graduations, or other celebrations.

Being able to reproduce any image on this sweet, spongy canvas, though, means that the folks at Priroll aren’t limited to using just photographs, though. If you want, they can also whip you up an anime cake.

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How to eat lunch in Tokyo for less than 300 yen

For students and professionals just starting their careers in pricey Tokyo, finding ways to economize is a must. Unfortunately, the cost of housing in the city means a lot of young singles end up in pretty cramped living quarters. In my old apartment, the only refrigerator I could cram into the place was so small there wasn’t enough room to keep both my beer and my drinking water chilled. For the record, it takes about two months to get used to drinking lukewarm H2O.

This lack of space also makes it difficult to stock up on groceries to use in cooking your own lunch to bring to school or the office. As a result, many people buy bento, boxed lunches with rice and some sort of side dish. You can get passable bento at any convenience store, and in recent years even some full-fledged restaurants have started selling them on the sidewalks of business districts in the afternoons.

Bento tend to be somewhere in the range of 500-1,000 yen (US$5-10) though, so the cost really adds up if you’re buying one a day. Trying to cut our expenses even further, we sent our reporter out with 500 yen and a mission: go get lunch, and bring back change.

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Getting free ice cream at Ben & Jerry’s just became every Japanese citizen’s civic duty

Japan loves ice cream, so when Ben and Jerry’s started opening locations here in 2012, it was welcomed with open arms.

But the Vermont-based company didn’t just bring its assortment of tasty flavors with untranslatable pun-based names. It also brought its well-known commitment to social activism with it. In keeping with those values, Ben & Jerry’s Japan is offering free ice cream to encourage people to vote in the country’s upcoming election.

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