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

Can our Japanese writers guess what this pink soy sauce is by taste alone?【Video】

Soy sauce is delicious, and it’s by far one of our favorite condiments. It can enhance all manner of foods and make even something as boring as plain tofu delicious. But even as much as we love it, how well do we really know it? For example, could our gourmand Japanese writers figure out they were eating soy sauce even if it didn’t look like soy sauce?

This might seem like a silly question – and it definitely is! But it’s also a legitimate question thanks to the clever food processing skills of a company that also makes pink curry. So, do you think our food-loving writers will be able to identify pink soy sauce? Or will we have the last laugh? Find out below!

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Wagakki Band releases video for new song “Akatsukino Ito,” featuring swords and dragons 【Video】

It’s no secret that we love the Wagakki Band around here at the RocketNews24 offices. Their music just has a thundering pulse to it that draws you in like a whirlpool. Between the soaring vocals delivered by Yūko Suzuhana and the fusion of rock and traditional Japanese instruments, it’s hard not to start pounding a fist in the air whenever they release a new song. And we totally failed to restrain ourselves tonight!

Just a few hours ago, the band published a new release on YouTube: A music video for “Akatsuki no Ito,” or “The Thread of Dawn,” a new song to be release on their forthcoming album Yasou-emaki. Featuring awesome music, a dragon, swords, and a night sky filled with clouds, the video is sure to get fans excited for the new album!

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Japanese design site explains how death metal fans find bands based on…logos?!

Generally, design brings to mind companies like Apple or Dyson or any sleek, carefully assembled product. Or you might think of an attractive website or even just an eye-catching, memorable logoo, like Coca-Cola. But whatever you think of, “death metal band logos” probably isn’t very high on your mental list!

But one guitar-playing designer from Tokyo wants you to give these extreme musicians some of your attention. In fact, his recent article shows how logo archetypes can help fans find exactly the subgenre they’re looking for based on little more than a design! And even if you don’t much care for death metal, there’s still a lot you can learn about how to craft a good logo. So let’s dive in!

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Visiting Ikebukuro’s disaster prevention center and experiencing a magnitude-9 earthquake【Video】

The first real earthquake I remember experiencing was on March 11, 2011. You might recognize that as the day of the Great Tohoku Earthquake, which brought the devastating tsunami that ravaged the northeastern coast of Japan. I was in Tokyo at the time, so the seismic activity was markedly lower than that experienced by people living in places like Iwate and Fukushima, but it was still a real shock.

Ever since, I’ve wondered just how much worse it must have been closer to the epicenter. Thanks to the Ikebukuro Life Safety Learning Center, I’ve come close to understanding what it must have felt like. Though far from anything you could describe as “fun,” it was an unquestionably powerful experience — and you can find out what it was like too. Check out our video introducing the center below, and learn a little bit about what to do in case you find yourself in caught in the middle of a powerful earthquake.

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Add a bit of adventure to your tour of Asakusa with a ninja experience!

There are many things that draw people to Japan, from pop culture to the traditional tea ceremony. One of the highest on that list is probably those mysterious masters of stealth, the ninja, who have left and indelible impression on millions of people around the world.

While most of us will never get to actually be ninja, it’d be nice if we could at least try it out for a day, right? Obviously, to get the full ninja experience, you’d need to head out to a place like Iga, but if you’re just hanging out in Tokyo for a quick trip, we have a fun compromise for you! Next time you’re sightseeing in Asakusa, try stopping by the Ninja Taiken Dojo.

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Kesho Danshi: Visiting Yushima’s sublime transgender bars

Miya Inoue is the kimono-clad owner of the chain of bars in Tokyo’s Yushima neighborhood operating under the Kesho Danshi brand staffed primarily by transgender women. She also built the interior of the first location herself by hand, drawing on her previous work experience as a carpenter. As the “Big Mama” of Kesho Danshi, Miya spends her time managing the staff at three locations, chatting with customers, and, amazingly, remembering everyone’s name. Oh, and did we mention she’s written an inspiring book about her life?

If you’re looking for good conversation and a fun place to drink in Tokyo, you can’t find a much better place than sitting across the counter from Miya or any of the welcoming staff members. Click below to take a visit to all three of the Kesho Danshi locations and listen in on our chat with “Miya Big Mama” yourself.

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This 4K video of Kagoshima filmed by drone will settle your summer vacation plans【Video】

Living in Tokyo is pretty awesome. There’s not much you can’t find in the city and there’s always something fun going on — but every once in a while, a video or a photo will grab our attention and make us sigh forlornly thanks to a gorgeous landscape. Sure, there are some great beaches around here, but there’s just something about this drone video of Kagoshima that makes us stop and say wow.

If you’re stuck in the office or at school staring out the window and wishing you were anywhere else, this video will only make it worse. But we guarantee you’ll keep watching it over and over!

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Modern dance and kimono: This will be the coolest dance video you see all day!

As you’ve probably guessed, we’re fans of modern dance, from World Order to enthusiastic otaku to Kenichi Ebina. Of course, traditional dance is very cool as well, but we have to admit we have a particular soft spot for the many modern dance groups you can find around the world, and so we felt compelled to share a new video released this month that shows off some of the coolest modern dancers we’ve ever seen.

Featuring a collaboration between the Dancing Strawhats and Koharu Sugawara, you definitely won’t want to miss this video!

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The star chart in Kitora Tomb in Nara is the oldest in the world…but where was it made?

Japan’s kofun are ancient burial mounds that can be found throughout the country in a wide range of sizes and shapes. They’re great sources for learning about the past, covering multiple centuries of Japanese history. Collectively, they offer remarkable glimpses into the life of Japan from the third to the seventh centuries CE.

Kitora Kofun is one of Japan’s smaller kofun, but since its discovery in 1983, it’s proven to be incredibly valuable for historians. With an exhibit focusing on the tomb coming up later this year, some extra work has gone into analyzing the star chart used to decorate one of the walls — and researchers have come to some surprising conclusions about its origin!

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Worst vacation ever? DMM to offer a week of hikikomori life free to one lucky fan

While some may find the idea of locking themselves in their room for months or even years at a time horrifying, for some that’s just their daily life. And if you’re one of those people who much prefer their bed to the sun, this special competition sponsored by DMM may be just what you’re looking for. If you’re chosen, you’ll get free room-and-board for a week, along with all-you-can-play games — but you won’t be allowed to go outside even once.

If that sounds like a great summer vacation to you, read on to find out more.

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Want to see a katana being made from scratch? Of course you do!【Video】

Statistically speaking, we’re going to guess that a few of our readers have a soft spot for katanas. In fact, if we were to really go out on a limb, we’d say a whole bunch of you probably like the swords — and with good reason. They’re just really freaking cool! Now, we’re not going to objectively state that katanas are the coolest swords ever, mostly because some of the people who disagree probably have access to swords. But we think they’re pretty darn nifty, especially when they’re made out of meteorites.

Of course, we’re not the only ones who love old samurai swords. Director Quentin Tarantino, for example, seems to have a strong affection for them, if Kill Bill is any indication. So, it’s probably only logical that the most recent episode of Men at Arms: Reforged features a group of swordsmiths creating a Hattori Hanzō katana. To watch the process from ore to sword, check out the video below!

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Accessories inspired by samurai armor blend traditional Yamanashi designs and crafts

Yamanashi Prefecture is perhaps most famous for its beautiful scenery – which of course includes Mt. Fuji – but the prefecture is also home to a number of traditional crafts. One technique in particular, called “koshu-inden,” has been widely praised. Pioneered by a company established in the 16th century, this leather-working art was once used to decorate samurai armor and is considered by some as emblematic of samurai bravery.

Now, you too can wear accessories bearing this symbolic design and crafted by that legendary company thanks to a collaboration that has produced a number of beautiful bracelets. Check out some of the items below.

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Heavy rain in Nara means the deer line up under the eaves — just like people!

When the rain starts falling, people tend to start running to get indoors where they can dry off and drink a nice cup of hot chocolate. Or Jack Daniels, depending on age. But how often do we spare a thought for all the poor wildlife caught in the downpour? If you’re anything like this Twitter user, probably quite often!

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Video asks young Japanese adults what they know about Canada. Do they know more than you?【Video】

Though referred to by some as “America’s hat,” Canada is actually one of the most highly regarded countries in the world. In fact, it was recently raanked the most admired by the Reputation Institute, with Sweden, Switzerland, and Australia following. Of course, this survey was apparently focused on respondents in G8 countries, so there was probably a bit of a bias, but it’s obvious that many think quite highly of the large country.

But what do young Japanese people think of Canada? Would they like to visit? And how much do they actually know about the country anyway? Watch the video blow to find out and see if you beat these (mostly) college students in some Canadian trivia!

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New video shows professional skateboarder waxing poetic about the Lexus Hoverboard, not riding it

Last year’s battery-powered hoverboard definitely got people’s attention online, with images of Marty McFly dancing in their heads. A guest appearance by Tony Hawk certainly didn’t hurt public awareness either. Still, with a battery life of only seven minutes and the need for special flooring to actually hover, the board wasn’t likely to fill our futuristic dreams.

But then last month Lexus decided to steal some of that public awareness thunder for themselves with a video showing off their hoverboard, which apparently floats thanks to liquid nitrogen cooled superconductors and permanent magnets. But Lexus’s last video didn’t show anyone even riding it! How about this new teaser?

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Website lets you make yourself into a Sanrio character for a virtual parade with Hello Kitty!

Do you love Hello Kitty? Of course, you do! Everybody does! But have you ever wanted to be as cute and adorable as Hello Kitty? If so, we have some excellent news for you: Sanrio recently unveiled a website that you can use to automatically make yourself a Sanrio character! It’s cute and easy, our two favorite things.

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Diesel’s new underwear campaign seeks topless selfies – Our Japanese writers are happy to help!

The world of fashion and models is one that I have zero understanding of. My wardrobe mostly consists of jeans and black shirts just so I never have to worry about what matches. And as for modeling, well, let’s just say I probably love the camera more than it loves me.

But not our Japanese writers P.K. and Nakano! They are beautiful men with eyes for sexy and looking good doing…sexy? Or, if nothing else, they have the confidence of a pair of male models at a pool party. So, when they heard that fashion brand Diesel had put a call out for selfies, they were more than happy to respond with photos of themselves in nothing but their undies!

But are the pictures more win than cringe? Click below to find out!

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Parrot pair pushes themselves into a pickle pecking at pieces of food

There’s nothing like sitting down to a good meal at the end of the day, is there? After a day working, flopping onto the couch with a full belly feels just about perfect. Of course, part of what it so great is being able to eat at a leisurely pace, without worrying about someone else cramming in at the table with you.

Unfortunately, if you’re an adorable little bird, you maybe not have the option of sitting down at the table and eating your meal hassle free. Just ask this pair who decided that the only way to get dinner was to smoosh themselves together into a jar!

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Internet commenters wonder what drugs this kid was on when he drew this anti-drug poster

If you come from a western country, chances are your view on drugs is drastically different from that of people in Asia. Throughout the region, anti-drug laws can be far stricter, and Japan is no exception – while many of us in the west might think nothing of the idea of a friend smoking a little bit of pot every now and then, many Japanese would react like to the same news like they’d just heard their friend regularly smokes crack cocaine.

It’s little wonder then, that going hand-in-hand with stricter drug laws is an intense anti-drug campaign that offers the catch-phrase “Dame. Zettai.” Translated roughly as “NO. NEVER,” or “absolutely not,” the phrase can be seen on posters and in schools throughout Japan, and of course, part of these anti-drug education efforts includes getting kids to contribute their own posters.

But one child’s drawing has sparked fits of laughter online thanks to its mind-bending portrayal of drug-induced madness.

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You can touch but you can’t eat: We made food replicas from wax in Asakusa, and you can too!

If you’ve ever spent any time in Japan, you’ve probably been to at least one restaurant whose front window is full of surprisingly realistic food samples. In fact, they’re realistic enough that if you’re jet-lagged and starving, like my first day in Osaka, you too may have wondered, “How do they keep the food from rotting and smelling?!” Obviously, the “samples” aren’t samples of food but wax replicas made to look as delicious (or maybe even more delicious) than the food served inside.

But where do those food samples comes from? Well, there are a variety of shops that make them — both for restaurants and people who just love replica food. But at Ganso Shokuhin Sample-ya, you can make your own! We recently headed to Asakusa and created several of our own food samples. Join us after the jump to read about how we made lettuce and tempura food samples, and watch a video of the whole creation process!

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