Preston Phro

Preston Phro (or simply Phro as most know him) is a Coloradoan attempting to fit in in Tokyo. (Surely, he would succeed if not for his unruly hair.) He puts his master's in classical Japanese literature to good use by writing silly stories and articles for the Internet. Having lived in Nara, Osaka, and Yamaguchi before moving to the Kanto area, he's quite happy to finally have a place to call home! When not writing, he enjoys annoying his wife by plucking at his shamisen (a three-stringed Japanese instrument not entirely unlike a banjo) and pestering her with questions about Japanese history. He also occasionally attempts to remember all the stuff he's forgotten since university.

All Stories by Preston Phro

We still don’t feel bad for you, Emperor: Photos of actors and their historical counterparts

There’s no doubt that beauty standards change with the times–just compare the “beauties” from Renaissance paintings to any fashion magazine today. As “beauty” is no more set in stone than culture, it’s hardly surprising that there have been changes over the years. But it’s easy to forget that our contemporary standards haven’t always existed–and even easier to be bewildered by old photos. Nothing emphasizes this difference as much as the recent appearance of photos comparing actors from contemporary Chinese TV dramas and photos of their actual historical counterparts.

Check out this video by Off the Great Wall, a YouTube channel run by two Asian Americans, to get a glimpse of Chinese royalty on TV and in reality.

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Robot rebellion begins with a cranky Roomba, Internet users too busy laughing to fight back

2015 is only a few months away, and while we’re still nowhere near getting the hoverboards from Back to the Future Part II, we do, at the very least, have robots to do our house chores for us! It’s such an exciting new frontier for housework that someone even made a robot vacuum simulator! While you might still have to make your own dinner, at least you can always drop your onion skins on the floor without worry, knowing your little automated vacuum buddy will clean up after you.

It’s like we really are living in the future! Unfortunately, while our robot vacuums may be automated, it turns out that they’re not much smarter than a pile of rocks, as one shocked Japanese Twitter user recently discovered.

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Raw, frozen eggs are the new food trend in Japan, apparently

Japan seems like a heaven for lovers of raw food–you can even get raw horse meat, if you’re so inclined. Coming from the midwest of the US, I am seriously disinclined to touch any meat that’s not cooked well-done, especially if it comes from a formerly feathered friend. The very concept of “raw egg” is intrinsically linked to “death by salmonella” in my mind, despite the fact that raw egg dishes have been popular in Japan since long before I was born.

But knowing something logically and accepting it emotionally are two very different things. So, while I’m reluctant to try it, I’m that sure raw, frozen egg dishes are actually exceptionally tasty.

So, if you are interested in trying it, here’s some information on the dish and how to make it yourself.

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Bus otaku can now buy “request stop” buttons from Tokyu Bus Corp, push to their heart’s content

It’s no secret that there are tons of densha otaku, or train nerds, (and tons of different types as well) in Japan. And with the wide range of trains zipping around the country, it’s totally understandable. But what about bus nerds? Do they even exist?

Well, while we haven’t actually met anyone who claims to be a bus nerd, this new product from the Tokyu Bus Corporation makes us think they must be out there. And if you’re a bus nerd, you’ll be happy to know that you can now have your own authentic “stop” button at home! But you’ll have to put it together yourself.

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Coming face-to-boot with the giant Patlabor statue【Photos】

If I’m being perfectly honest, I’m not a huge giant mech/giant robot fan. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a full episode of Patlabor or Gundam–though it’s not out of spite or anything! There are only so many hours in the day, and I rarely seem to have time to watch giant mechs beating the crap out of each other. Though that sentence is making me question some life choices now…

As such, I’ve always been perplexed by the idea that someone has actually gone out of their way to build enormous statues of the suits. The “why” has always left an itch in the back of my mind–it just doesn’t seem worth, does it? Well, that’s what I thought until I actually came face-to-face (face-to-boot?) with an enormous Patlabor statue. Here are some photos of the giant mech emblazoned with a Japanese police badge and why I actually hope they make more!

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Awash in a sea of sound: The ambient electronic music of Sapporo artist Unii【J-Tunes】

We’ve covered a lot of ground with J-Tunes, from an underground grindcore band to mainstream melodic dubstep, and today is no different! We recently got a chance to check out a show featuring the Sapporo-based electronic artist Unii and were so impressed that we had to share her music with our readers!

Check out our interview with Unii, where we talk about her music, world-wide touring, and the state of experimental electronic in Japan and abroad. We’re sure you’ll enjoy her sweeping, ambient soundscapes and ethereal singing.

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New gachapon figures resurrect centuries-old toys for your amusement

No matter how the times change, kids still love toys. Whether it was ancient Egypt or the mid-Edo period, toys have always been a big part of the way children passed their time in play. Even with all our fancy technology today, from 3DSs to Oculus Rifts, kids still make time to run around with their favorite dolls or plastic guns. Of course, Japan is full of figures of all varieties and price tags, but gachapon occupy a position of near invincibility–you can put pretty much anything in those little plastic balls and they’re practically guaranteed to sell.

And, starting soon, you’ll also be able to buy remakes of traditional Japanese toys from the early 18th century. You’ll finally get the opportunity to play like a kid from the Edo Period while waiting for your 3DS to recharge!

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Is this 1,300-year-old dish found in Nara actually cursed?

Though the current capital of Japan is Tokyo, many would argue that its traditional capital, Kyoto, is the real heart of Japan–at least culturally speaking. That said, if you you’re looking for the original capital of Japan, you’d probably be better heading south from Kyoto to Nara Prefecture. But while you should definitely stop and see Heijo-kyo in Nara City, you’ll have to keep heading south to Asuka Village to find the “real” original capital of Japan: Asuka-kyo. Of course, in the 1,300 years since the end of the Asuka Period, the capital has essentially been lost to time–all that’s left are stony remnants like those pictured above.

But that’s not the only patch of old ruins to be found in Asuka area–there are so many, they can actually get in the way of building a house! But with the news of the discovery of a piece of “cursed” earthenware, we have to wonder if maybe it’s just time for everyone to pack up and head for a slightly less historically significant area!

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Hacka Doll: “Otaku” news beamed right to your phone like anime magic! 【Review】

Say you’re a Japanese otaku who loves the new Destiny game, light novels, and giant robot anime. But how would you keep up with the latest news for each one of them? Obviously, you’d have a few of your favorite sites bookmarked and you’d visit them a few times a day–if you were living in the Stone Age! Even if you’ve evolved enough to create your own RSS feed, you’d still only be in the 20th century–and far behind the times. For shame!

Now, if you were are a real 21st century geek, you’d get all your nerdy news through one “AI-enabled” app complete with adorable moe mascots and personalized news recommendations. Obviously.

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Filipino actor transforms into celebrity women with a little help from his friends

We’ve demonstrated the power of makeup before, so it’s fair to say that we’re believers in its mystical ability to transform wearers. That said not every makeup experiment will work perfectly–or at all–but we do still enjoy seeing the attempts. While it can be used to help people change their appearance almost entirely, makeup can only stretch reality so far. But just what are the limits?

Well, if you’re Paolo Ballesteros, an actor and comedian popular in the Philippines, not many! Check out his numerous transformations into popular female celebrities using only makeup, wigs, and contact lenses below and see what can be done with some well-placed blush.

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Brave Chinese boy demonstrates how NOT to go down a waterslide

Who doesn’t love going to the water park during the hot summer months? Between splashing in the water and goofing around with your friends, it might be the best way to spend a sizzling Saturday afternoon. And, of course, the waterslides are probably the best part! They’re as much fun as a slip’n’slide without the worry of zipping off into mom’s rose bushes. Though they can present dangers of their own, as one boy in China learned this year…

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Cafe Talisman, Osaka’s Sailor Moon theme cafe

As we’ve previously discussed, Japan is chock full of cool little cafes. Obviously, not every single cafe in the country is going to be spectacular, but we have to say that we have found no end of fun places to sit down and order a coffee. But if you’re a Sailor Moon fan, we may have found the ultimate place to enjoy a latte: Cafe Talisman.

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Six habits of first class “business elites”, according to one cabin attendant

If you’re like us here at RocketNews24, you probably don’t spend a lot of time sitting in first class on airplanes. The cabin attendants always seem so grumpy when they have to come around with brooms and shoo us to the back of the plane where our seats are.

Aside from the legroom and complimentary champagne (or whatever first class fliers get), there is one other big difference between sitting at the front and in the back in economy: Your fellow passengers. Now, don’t get us wrong, everyone cramped in the back with us is great…but have you ever wondered what those fancy-shmancy passengers are like? Well, wonder no more! A Japanese cabin attendant has dished on the top six things she’s noticed about the wealthier passengers. And none of them are what you might be expecting.

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Catch a film in Laputa, the Tokyo movie theater inspired by Studio Ghibli’s classic animation

Usually all we look for in a theater is comfy seats, a decent sound system, and good movies. If you’re really picky, you might even seek out places with a beer menu, cheap tickets, or a unique schedule. Probably the last thing on your mind would the architecture of the building–but if you’re a fan of Studio Ghibli, you’ll definitely want check out Laputa, a cinema in a building inspired by the legendary Castle in the Sky!

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Eating soufflé and hanging out in hammocks at Cafe Asan

Tokyo is practically overflowing with great places to eat–being one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world has to have some benefits, right? While rush hour traffic might be test the patience of even the most benevolent Buddhist monk, at least you can find a good place to eat without too much effort. Of course, not every eatery is going to be excellent, and some places tend to rely on gimmick as much as their culinary skills to pull in patrons, like hanging hammocks inside the dining area. Can you really enjoy a nice meal will swinging from the ceiling like a lazy Tarzan?

Well, we stopped by Cafe Asan in Ueno and sat in their hammocks to find out! Read on to see if you should add the cafe to your Tokyo itinerary.

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Owner publicly shames misbehaving cat on Twitter, it regrets nothing

“That damn cat!” Now, that’s a phrase that even the most doting cat owner has surely uttered more than once. As much as we love our kitties, they do seem to have an affinity for testing the limits of our affection–tearing up shoji and mercilessly knocking any object that dares to be close the edge of any desk, table, or counter onto the floor. Despite the best training efforts, it eventually becomes necessary to just admit that although cats may live indoors, they’re not exactly “domestic.”

Unless you’re this cat owner, who decided to shame her misbehaving cat on Twitter!

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100 things to do in Japan in 100 seconds 【Video】

There is a great deal to do in Japan’s 47 prefectures, from visiting temples to buying saucy figures in Akihabara. But once you’ve done all the touristy stuff, there’s still plenty waiting to be experienced! How much, you ask? You’ll have to check out this video of “100 things to do in Japan” to find out!

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Time to get wet: Underwater photos of girls in sailor suits and… plastic exoskeletons?

Underwater photography can produce some pretty spectacular images of everything from exotic fish to magnificent submerged landscapes. It can also give us a new spin on old ideas–like the images of girls in knee-high socks underwater that were so popular last year.

In anticipation of a new photo collection of more models underwater in knee-high socks, photographer Manabu Koga has posted more photos of an underwater model–this time wearing a school uniform.

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Happy Monday! Here’s the cutest cat fight you’ll see all day

As adorable as cats are, they’re aren’t exactly known for their patience in suffering the presence of fools–especially when said fools try stealing even a tiny bit of their napping space. Even if it’s a cat’s housemate and best friend, sharing is simply out of the question! And that’s when the claws and teeth come out.

And that’s exactly how this video of the greatest kitty rumble you’ve ever seen starts–though the ending is more Disney than Expendables 3.

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Woman on train groped by two men at once, suspects apparently unrelated

Japan is known for many great things from its delicious food and unique culture to its abundance of anime, manga, and video games. Unfortunately, it has also earned a reputation for being packed with skeevy perverts, which is actually an extremely unfair characterization–the average Japanese citizen is no more perverted than the citizens of any other country. But that doesn’t change the fact that many women still have to put up with both discrimination and sexual harassment, as a story that broke on Friday demonstrates.

A young woman in her twenties was allegedly groped while riding the train. That on its own would be bad enough, but this woman was allegedly molested by two different men at the exact same time.

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