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.

All Stories by Casey Baseel

Awesome Halloween Krispy Kreme donuts will make you a treat-giving hero

Awesome Halloween Krispy Kreme donuts will make you a treat-giving hero

For years, the conventional wisdom was that Japan was only interested in dainty, mild desserts with Japanese roots. That myth was shattered, though, when companies like Krispy Kreme came into the market and found instant success selling sweets that are unabashedly, well, sweet.

There’s more to Krispy Kreme’s popularity in Japan than the universal appeal of a flavorful donut, though. The North Carolina-based donut company has adapted to the local practice of special seasonal treats, and is getting ready for Halloween early with the release this month of its Krispy Skremes lineup.

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Stay safe on the cheap with a disaster preparedness kit put together at the 100-yen shop

Stay safe on the cheap with a disaster preparedness kit put together at the 100-yen shop

We recently celebrated Instant Ramen Day, marking 56 years since the very first packs of easy-to-cook noodles appeared in Japan. Not every anniversary that comes at this time of year is so lighthearted though. On September 1, 1923, the Great Kanto Earthquake struck the Tokyo area, resulting in the death or disappearance of some 140,000 people.

Out of respect to the fallen and concern for the living, in 1960 the Japanese government designated September 1 as Disaster Preparedness Day, and this year we put together a disaster kit assembled from items you can easily procure at the 100-yen store.

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With autumn nearly here, we skip the beach and head to Starbucks for new caramel beverages

With autumn nearly here, we skip the beach and head to Starbucks for new caramel beverages

With the calendar now flipped to September, we’ve got to sadly admit that summer is winding down. Japanese society is always in tune with the changing of the seasons, and as autumn starts you’ll see fashionable Tokyoites sporting their fall coats, nature lovers heading for the mountains to appreciate the changing leaves, and Starbucks rolling out seasonal drinks like its new Caramel and Pudding Frappuccino and Shaken Caramel Custard and Espresso.

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Totally metal newborn shows off hardcore cuteness for approving musician dad

Totally metal newborn shows off hardcore cuteness for approving musician dad

From looking at his Twitter profile, you might conclude that Hazuki, singer for the Osaka-based Grollschwert, is a pretty metal dude. He describes the unit as a “melodic deathrash metal band,” and his own vocal style as guttural, growling, and screeching.

Still, even the most dedicated musicians can’t be hardcore all the time, and the vocalist has recently been sharing pictures of his adorable newborn baby daughter with his Twitter followers. It looks like metal is in the family genes, though, as the baby has already executed a perfect double devil horn salute.

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Hiroshima begins recovery projects following tragic, deadly landslides

Hiroshima begins recovery projects following tragic, deadly landslides

In the early hours of the morning on August 20, Hiroshima City was hit by severe thunderstorms. As the downpour continued, the ground gave way in the Asanami and Asakita Wards, triggering landslides that have caused the deaths of dozens of residents.

With the storm finally passed and clean-up projects beginning, we visited the disaster site where we saw just how long the road to recovery is going to be.

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Artist creates awesome anime artwork by carefully cutting a single Post-it note 【Photos】

Artist creates awesome anime artwork by carefully cutting a single Post-it note 【Photos】

While origami is Japan’s best known paper craft, its less famous relative, kamikiri, has been around since the 19th century. In contrast to the intricate folding techniques of origami, kamikiri, literally “paper cutting,” involves creating an unbroken cutout from a sheet of paper.

Chiba-born artist Akira Nagaya is a kamikiri master, and many of his designs are inspired by centuries-old imagery such as the phoenix, fuujin wind spirits, or the Seven Gods of Fortune. Occasionally, though, Nagaya turns to more modern muses, as with these amazing kamikiri versions of some of anime’s biggest stars.

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Doggy Bread figures are back, still so cute we could eat them up (if they weren’t plastic)

Doggy Bread figures are back, still so cute we could eat them up (if they weren’t plastic)

Last year, on one of our many Tokyo foraging expeditions for weird and cute toys, we picked up a selection of Doggy Bread straps. At least, we think we did. Honestly, the idea of little figures of cute dogs wrapped in baked goods is so simultaneously appealing and weird that we’re not sure it wasn’t some bizarre dream caused by falling asleep while fighting off a hot dog craving.

Not only is Doggy Bread real, though, it’s back! We recently stumbled across the newest series of these adorably strange toys and came away with two new plastic pets: a sweet bean bread pug and a Pomeranian cutlet sandwich.

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Adorable sumo egg cups are here to turn your breakfast table into a wrestling ring

Adorable sumo egg cups are here to turn your breakfast table into a wrestling ring

Maybe it’s a result of having lived in one too many apartments with a cramped kitchen, or just a desire to reduce the number of dishes I need to wash, but I’ve never really understood the point of tabletop egg cups. I can’t imagine eating hard-boiled eggs frequently enough, or giving them such prominent billing in my diet, that I’d need to go out and buy specialized kitchenware for them.

I find myself warming to the idea, though, now that someone’s designed egg cups in a way that lets tiny edible sumo wrestlers grace your table.

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From Ponyo to Italy: Four delicious ways to improve instant ramen while your water’s boiling

From Ponyo to Italy: Four delicious ways to improve instant ramen while your water’s boiling

August 25 is Instant Ramen Day in Japan, in commemoration of the day back in 1958 when Nissin unveiled Chicken Ramen, the very first instant version of the country’s favorite noodle dish. In celebration, we were going to chow down on some instant ramen, but since we do that all the time anyway, somehow a bowl of plain ramen didn’t seem quite special enough.

So instead, we drew on our love of anime, world travel, and the simple joy of not sweating profusely to come up with four recipes to spruce up instant ramen, specially tailored to be simple enough for anyone whose cooking skills mean their home is always well-stocked with the stuff.

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Korean Photoshop Troll Trilogy: The shocking conclusion! 【Photos】

Korean Photoshop Troll Trilogy: The shocking conclusion! 【Photos】

When you’re talking about sheer quantity, it’s hard to beat Chinese production, which perhaps why we’ve been treated to no fewer than seven installments of Photoshop trolling from China to date.

But the world’s most populous country doesn’t have a monopoly on taking bad photos and twisting the words of those looking for help doctoring them. Last year we looked at two batches of similar shenanigans from Korea, and today we’re going back for a third helping to finish off the trilogy before its inevitable gritty reboot.

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Terrifyingly terrific haunted house’s puzzles are so tough it has a continue system

Terrifyingly terrific haunted house’s puzzles are so tough it has a continue system

A few months ago, we heard about a terrifying haunted house in Honancho, a neighborhood in western Tokyo. Unfortunately, our backlog of terror entertainment was a little jammed up, and we weren’t able to get to it right away, but this week we finally went to check out Obaken.

In addition to the horror movie-inspired creepy sights and sounds you’d expect from any decent haunted house, Obaken also takes a page from video games, with multiple levels, customizable settings, and even a continue system.

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Awesome melon bread with ice cream comes to Shibuya, so we do too!

Awesome melon bread with ice cream comes to Shibuya, so we do too!

Last spring, we spent an afternoon drooling over photos from a bakery in the city of Kanazawa that came up with the ingenious idea of combining melon bread with ice cream. Unfortunately, the four-and-a-half hour train journey from Tokyo to Ishikawa kept us from picking up some samples of the tasty-looking treats.

But now our dairy-based prayers have been answered, as the same bakery has opened a new location in Tokyo’s Shibuya ward. Since that’s just three stops away from the RocketNews24 offices in Shinjuku, as soon as we found out about the new branch, we were on the next train.

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Ghibli top dog calls Evangelion director “driving force of anime,” raises hopes for more Nausicaa

Ghibli top dog calls Evangelion director “driving force of anime,” raises hopes for more Nausicaa

As veteran anime producer Toshio Suzuki continues to dance back and forth over the vague linguistic line of whether or not Studio Ghibli is getting out of the movie-making business, some distraught admirers can already see the vultures circling overhead. If this is the end of the line for Japan’s most revered animation house, it’s a sad day, but at least the format of Ghibli’s releases means there aren’t many loose narrative threads left dangling.

With the exception of 1993’s Ocean Waves, Ghibli’s commercial releases have all been theatrical features, most of which have a definite beginning, middle, and end. For the most part, the studio doesn’t really do sequels, since their films’ endings are just conclusive enough to satisfy fans while still leaving enough unanswered for them to comfortably mull over.

There is one big exception to this pattern, though, which is Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. For decades fans have been hoping for a continuation, and recent remarks by Suzuki are adding more credibility to rumors that such a project could be directed by Evangelion’s Hideaki Anno.

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Gundam creator isn’t making his new series for you, doesn’t care if you don’t like it

Gundam creator isn’t making his new series for you, doesn’t care if you don’t like it

Gundam creator Yoshiyuki Tomino always seems to be seething at someone. Recently, he had harsh words for the anime voice acting industry, and now he’s gnawing even further up the arm that’s connected to the hand that feeds him by setting his sights on a new target: all adult Gundam fans.

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Cute cat cakes captivate our culinary cravings

Cute cat cakes captivate our culinary cravings

Some people say if something tastes good, it has to be bad for you. We understand that they’re usually talking about sugary, salty, or fatty foods, and nutritionally speaking, they’ve kind of got a point.

But while we definitely wouldn’t classify any of them as low-calorie, diet-friendly snacks, we still can’t bring ourselves to use the word “bad” in describing these adorable cat cakes and lattes.

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Hayao Miyazaki to receive honorary lifetime achievement Oscar

Hayao Miyazaki to receive honorary lifetime achievement Oscar

It’s been over a year since the Japanese release of anime legend Hayao Miyazaki’s last film, The Wind Rises. A highly personal film which serves as a powerful closing statement to his storied career, many had hoped it would win Miyazaki his second Oscar, only for the nod in the Best Animated Feature category go to Disney’s juggernaut (and endorser of traditional Japanese cuisine) Frozen.

That doesn’t mean the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has no love for Miyazaki, though, as it’ll soon be bestowing an honorary lifetime achievement award upon him.

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Matcha Oreo McFlurries tempting us to forgive McDonald’s Japan’s lack of originality

Matcha Oreo McFlurries tempting us to forgive McDonald’s Japan’s lack of originality

When I was a kid, we never had Oreos in my house. This wasn’t because my parents had a no-sweets policy, but because the pantry was well-stocked with similar Hydrox sandwich cookies instead.

But while Hydroxes actually predate Oreos by a whole four years, it’s the latter that went on to international fame and fortune. It’s a pretty similar tale to that of Dairy Queen’s Blizzard, which has been largely overshadowed by McDonald’s McFlurry, a nearly identical dessert of ice cream mixed with cookies or candy that came out more than a decade after Dairy Queen’s original.

So while the double imitation of an Oreo McFlurry might seem completely derivative, starting next month in Japan there’s a tasty bit of innovation you can look forward to, as McDonald’s Japan is bringing back matcha Oreo McFlurries.

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Wearable futon: Excuse to keep workers in office all night, or smart disaster preparedness?

Wearable futon: Excuse to keep workers in office all night, or smart disaster preparedness?

At my first job in Japan, there was no janitorial staff, so we all had to pitch in with cleaning the office. One day, I punched in, grabbed the vacuum, and started doing the floors. Everything was going fine until I got to the back room, where I opened the door to find my coworker lying flat on her back, fast asleep on the floor.

I’m not sure if she’d shown up incredibly early and tired herself out, or just never made it home the night before, but it turns out sleeping at the office in Japan isn’t quite as unusual as you’d think (or hope). Thankfully, if you do get stuck, at least you can be still be warm and cozy, thanks to this crazy wearable futon.

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Gundam creator expresses disappointment over current state of anime voice acting

Gundam creator expresses disappointment over current state of anime voice acting

He may have created one of anime’s most successful franchises, but Yoshiyuki Tomino, father of Gundam, hasn’t let his years of success mellow him out any. If anything, just the opposite seems to be happening, as he’s recently dished out harsh condemnations of both mega-hit Attack on Titan and listless Japanese youths.

As the debut of his newest series, Gundam Reconguista in G, draws near, Tomino seems to be staying the acerbic course, with a wide-ranging complaint about the current state of anime voice acting, plus some regrets about his prior collaboration with famed sci-fi designer Sid Mead.

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Blown all your cash on anime? New restaurant in Akihabara has pasta for less than two bucks

Blown all your cash on anime? New restaurant in Akihabara has pasta for less than two bucks

With the highest concentration of anime and video game specialty stores on the planet, it’s pretty easy to go over-budget spending a day in Akihabara. But while some otaku might claim that Japanese animation is their lifeblood, eventually everyone needs to eat something.

So for everyone with a crying wallet and a grumbling stomach, a new restaurant has just arrived in the neighborhood, serving pasta to-go, starting at just 190 yen (US$1.88).

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