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

Japan’s premier beatboxer sets YouTube ablaze, annoys fans with lack of beatboxing

We’ve talked about Japanese YouTubers before, and there certainly are a lot of awesome ones out there! One of the most famous is the beatboxing Hikakin, who was even featured in YouTube’s 2014 Rewind video. His musical skills have even caught the attention of the world at large, and Hikakin has performed with (and wowed) foreign artists, like Ariana Grande. There are plenty of folks around the world who are fans of the bespectacled YouTube star’s skills, but it looks like some of them are losing patience with his seeming lack of actual beatboxing.

As if he’d heard all of those complaints directly, Hikakin just released a new video with none other than Ne-Yo! Click below to check out the two artists make beautiful music with nothing more than their sexy mouths!

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Sick of BABYMETAL? How about some sumo metal!

Japan has a few, shall we say, unusual commercials that have raised eyebrows around the world. While you may laugh, when you think about it, it just shows that Japan’s marketers really know how to get the audience’s attention–and isn’t that the job of a commercial, to get people’s attention? We’d say so, and we think we may have found our favorite new eyebrow-raising Japanese commercial!

An exhilarating, upbeat sound track? Check. A simple, direct message that makes almost no sense at all? Check. Half naked people? Oh, holy hell, yes, check! 

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It’s almost Christmas! Time to buy a sexy, freaky, or inexplicable costume!【Photos】

Bells are jingling, gift lists are daunting, and snow is…not falling in Tokyo. That can mean only one thing: Christmas, Japan’s favorite romantic holiday, is almost here! While your crazy uncle might tell you that Christmas is apparently under siege in some parts of the world, the only holiday worry you’ll find in Japan is getting the right present for your girlfriend.

But don’t be fooled by all the lovers roaming the streets and tormenting lonely single folks, it’s not all romance. There’s more to the season that kissing atop Tokyo Tower–there are also parties and cosplay! Join us after the jump to check out some of the typical outfit offerings on sale in Japan this Christmas.

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Key keep getting stuck in the lock? Japan’s Miwa Lock has a quick fix for you!

Lifehacking, which sadly is not the act of hacking real life with Doom‘s god code, is more like nifty little tips and tricks that can make life just a bit easier, giving you more free time to read awesome stuff on the Internet. Sometimes, though, lifehack tips aren’t quite as useful as they purport to be–but that’s not the case here! Today’s lifehackery is about keys and it comes straight from the mouth of Miwa Lock, Japan’s largest locks/key/security company.

If you have trouble sliding your key into the lock, it turns out that there’s a quick, simple way to deal with it. And you won’t even need any oil!

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Laughter online as Google mistakes Japanese beauty researcher for someone a little different…

When the subject of artificial intelligence comes up, people tend to default to “Skynet is going to murder us all!” mode faster than you can say “overreaction.” While we can understand their concern–even Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk seem pretty intimated by the concept of a sentient Arnold Schwarzenegger–this little story goes a long way to showing just how far we are from computers being able to identify and terminate any random person they feel like…

A Japanese Twitter user recently noticed that Google was accidentally identifying a legendary Japanese entrepreneur and beauty researcher as a certain member of America’s pop royalty. Can you guess who?

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Can’t keep your “little buddy” in the right position? New men’s underwear TOOT is here to help!

Do you constantly have to “adjust” your package? Do you find your dangly bits constantly dangling in the wrong place? Or just plain uncomfortable? Do you ever wish your underwear would just give your little man a hug and never let go?

If so, then TOOT may be the underwear for you! And even if you don’t, this will still be the funniest thing you will see today.

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Freelance illustrator wows Twitter users with daily pictures of high school girls

One of the great things about the Internet is giving freelance and independent artists the opportunity to connect with audiences who might otherwise not have been able to access their work. Whether it’s mind-melting masks or fabulous Final Fantasy fan art, there’s something for everyone and a market for nearly anything.

Kazuharu Kina might just be one of the best examples of a niche Japanese artist making it big on the Internet–and once you see his illustrations, you’ll probably understand why.

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Fashion gone wrong? Boob shirts take Twitter by storm

Fashion can be a bit bewildering at times–we’re still not sure if we can wear Lady Gaga’s meat dress after Labor Day or not. So we’re don’t really want to start criticizing anyone’s fashion choices, even if we do have some serious questions. Like the “boob shirt” above that, for some inexplicable reason, went viral last week here in Japan.

Our guess is that Japanese Twitter users were applauding the economic use of fabric. Saving fabric is an essential part of reducing global warming, right?

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Japanese pianist stuns us with faithful representation of Mario Kart music and sound effects

Fan covers of video game music are nothing new by this point, but that doesn’t make them any less awesome. We’ve seen metal covers, beautiful acoustic covers, and NES cartridge harmonicas, but rarely have we seen someone so dedicated to conveying every sound in a game.

Using nothing more than two pianos, this niconico video user plays both the in-game audio and the sound effects. As one commenter put it, “This was so amazing, I almost forgot to comment!”

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Vagina artist Rokudenashiko and store owner arrested for “obscene” art

When artist Megumi Igarashi, better known as Rokudenashiko, was arrested for distributing 3-D printer data to make molds of her vagina this summer, we knew it was only a matter of time before the artist ran into trouble with the law again. Though for a while it seemed that the Japanese police had finally found a hobby, it wasn’t enough to keep Rokudenashiko out of jail.

The 42-year-old artist and one other woman were arrested for an “obscene” art display…featured in a sex shop in Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo.

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Hopping Bulbasaur! Pokémon favorite found squatting in the wild

While Yo-kai Watch is basically the new Pokémon for the younger generation, it doesn’t mean that Pokémon is done and gone! While all the cool kids may be focused on Jibanyan, it looks like nature might be a bigger fan of Pokémon–just look at this photo of “Bulbasaur!”

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Never leave home without it! The USB-powered rice ball warmer

Japan, like many other countries, has no shortage of “unique” inventions and products. Sometimes they may seem useless or downright impractical, but other times they’re just clever enough to be useful.

So where does this USB-powered onigiri (rice ball) warmer fall on the spectrum of clever and bewildering? We’ll let you decide for yourself!

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Twitter artist reimagines 64 pokémon as “Substitute” plushies to adorable results

If you ever played Pokémon as a kid (or even as an adult!), you’re probably familiar with the Substitute move and the adorable plush “decoy” your pocket monster could use to sop up some damage. But as cute as that little substitute was, didn’t you always kind of wish that it looked a little bit more like a plush version of the pokémon you were using?

Maybe not, but that didn’t stop one Japanese Twitter artist from drawing 64 Pokémon as Substitutes!

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Yokohama restaurant serves fried axolotl, along with giant isopod, camel, and crocodile

It’s no secret that there are a lot of unusual food choices available in Japan–some of which have upset quite a few people. There’s a good chance that this offering by a Yokohama restaurant will be no different and will likely divide people between the “gotta have some” and the “WTF?!” crowd. In addition to offering crocodile, ostrich, and camel meat, Chinjuya in Yokohama also provides customers with the opportunity to munch on fried axolotl grown in captivity.

You can even order giant isopods!

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Want to make music, but can’t play an instrument? Casio app turns your hums into full tracks!

Music is pretty much one of the best things in life–some people might even say it is the best thing in life. Playing an instrument is supposed to do all sort of great things for us, but most would agree that getting started with music can be pretty difficult. While DAWs like FL Studio exist to help us produce whatever we hear in our heads without strumming a single chord, digital production is quite a bit more difficult than most people realize. From programming drums to synthesizing new sounds, it can be just as time-consuming as learning to play guitar. “Why can’t I just whip out my smartphone, hum a little ditty, and let it do all the hard work of producing a track?” you might be thinking.

Well, soon you will be able to, thanks to a new app from Casio. You won’t even need to hum all the way through–it’ll generate a whole song from one section!

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83-year-old retiree arrested for selling explicit pre-war photos online

Life as a retiree isn’t exactly easy. Sure, you don’t have to get up and go to work every morning, but that also means you don’t have a very substantial income. While your retirement checks might help you put food on the table, they’ll probably seem a bit underwhelming as you get even older. And in Japan, you can’t even go out and get a depressing job as a greeter at Wal-mart.

But there’s always Yahoo! Auction, where you can sell any manner of things you might have lying around the house. Old instruments, old clothes, old dolls, or even, what the heck, how about some old pornographic photos? Any of those are sure to fetch a tidy sum online, but you might want to be careful about those explicit photos–they could very well end up with you getting arrested, as one 83-year-old Tokyo retiree learned!

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Legendary DJ Krush performs with traditional Japanese musicians to create music for your dreams

If you’ve ever visited a Shinto shrine, there’s a good chance you’ve heard the ethereal sound of gagaku, or traditional Japanese court music. It’s not exactly something that you’d throw in a club mix after “Turn Down For What,” though at one point it was used to accompany dances at the imperial palace. While Lil Jon may get your body shaking, with gagaku, which literally means “elegant music,” shaking isn’t really the goal.

Still, that didn’t stop DJ Krush, one of Japan’s most famous and respected turntablists, from getting together with a few gagaku musicians to play one of the most beautiful sets you’re ever likely to hear–and at a Tokyo Red Bull Music Academy event, no less!

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Japanese military to receive funding for powered suits, everyone wonders what took so long

You probably remember last year when the Internet collectively lost control of its bowels over the announcement that the US military was working on TALOS, a powered suit that wasn’t actually anything like what Tony Stark wears but was close enough to get our hearts racing. News outlets were flooded with reports of Iron Man suits and few could ignore the excitement, though it turns out that making a real powered suit is hard–recent reports suggest TALOS won’t be ready until 2018.

While three or four years isn’t exactly soon, it is pretty quick–though if the US military doesn’t get their hustle on, they may end up being second to the powered suit finish line! It looks like the Japanese government is preparing to throw hundreds of millions of yen at a project to develop a powered-assist suit for soldiers in three years–if it is accepted by the Diet for the 2015 budget.

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Special 2015 New Year’s stamp shows adorable sheep completing a 12-year project

With November half over, it’s time to start worrying about the big holiday this season: New Year’s! While Christmas might be the big winter holiday in many countries, for those in Japan, the changing of the calendar is a far bigger event and everyone from school kids overworked salarymen gets a row of days off.

In addition to lazing about and eating way too much food, January first also means nearly mandatory New Year’s postcards in Japan. Next year is the year of the sheep (or goat, depending on who you ask), and the Japanese postal service has revealed their special postcard stamps featuring an adorable four-legged wool giver just for the occasion. However, eagle-eyed patrons with a good memory have noticed something special about the stamps…

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Sichuan university displays the confiscated cookware of frustrated students

One of the great things about college is living in the dorms with all your friends and being able to walk down to the cafeteria for ready-made meals. It has all the convenience of living at home with your family, but without anyone telling you when to come home! Of course, that’s not to say that there were no rules–and one of the big ones is the prohibition of items that may cause fires, like hot-plates and toasters. As much as we all love grilled cheese sandwiches at 2 am, I think we can agree that it’s not exactly paranoid to worry that someone will forget to turn theirs off and start fire.

However one university in Sichuan is apparently a bit…zealous when it comes to enforcing the rules. They’ve even displayed the confiscated contraband on campus as a warning to would-be rule breakers. It turns out, though, that there was a good reason why so many students were cooking secretly in their rooms…

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