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

Japanese deodorant sheets for ladies smell so nice some guys don’t need the actual girl

Japanese deodorant sheets for ladies smell so nice some guys don’t need the actual girl

For the most part, Japan takes personal hygiene pretty seriously. Combing your hair, putting on makeup, and getting dressed in the proper attire are all seen as essential parts of getting ready to go out in public, and dress codes are a much bigger deal than in some countries.

The standard grooming routine runs into one pretty big problem in the summer, though. Since most people in Japan take a bath at night before going to bed, by the time they arrive at work or school the next day, several hours have passed, during which sweat, oil, and odors can build up on the body. To combat this, there’s a wide variety of fragrances and deodorants available in drug stores, with one brand in particular that’s being described as “the ideal scent for women.”

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From Sailor Moon to Freddy Krueger – The lovely cosplayers of Wonder Festival

From Sailor Moon to Freddy Krueger – The lovely cosplayers of Wonder Festival

We recently made the trip across the Pacific to Comic-Con in San Diego, where we checked out the newest titles from the exhibitors and the costumes made by their fans. Our traveling reporter Yoshio even decided to join in and dress up too.

San Diego wasn’t the only place to see some cool cosplay last weekend, though. Back here in Japan, the summer Wonder Festival, the world’s largest model and figure exhibition, was going on, so we headed over to the Makuhari Messe convention center to photograph the amazing costumes.

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How to make your own Pikachu Burgers!【RocketKitchen】

How to make your own Pikachu Burgers!【RocketKitchen】

We recently paid a visit to the Pikachu Café in Roppongi, where we dined on, among other dishes, a hamburger shaped like the electrically charged Pokémon mascot. But while we found ourselves craving seconds, we weren’t sure we felt like waiting in the restaurant’s long line again.

So instead, we decided to make our own Pikachu Burger by reverse engineering and remixing what we ate in Roppongi, and today we’re sharing our recipe with you. So join us after the break for this easy recipe and a step-by-step guide to building your own pika-tastic burgers!

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Unlike Japan’s other expensive melons, you can use this cast-iron one to brew tea

Unlike Japan’s other expensive melons, you can use this cast-iron one to brew tea

You may have heard horror stories about melons in Japan costing 10,000 yen (US $99), but they’re really more the exception than the rule. For their personal use, most people usually choose much cheaper varieties, and the premium stuff only gets purchased as a gift to be given on special occasions.

The price those 10,000-yen melons command has as much to do with their airbrushed centerfold-like unblemished looks as it does their flavor. Sometimes, it feels like a waste to cut them open to get to the edible parts inside, almost as though you’re destroying a piece of art that just happens to look like fruit.

Maybe that’s why someone made just that, with this melon-shaped tea pot.

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Run for your rice! Nagano marathons require runners to lug a sack of grain

Run for your rice! Nagano marathons require runners to lug a sack of grain

Food always seems to taste better right after getting in some exercise. Unfortunately, sometimes a long workout leaves you feeling starving and exhausted, which is a problem when you then have to go foraging for food after you leave the gym.

While I still haven’t found a gym that’ll reward you with a protein-packed steak for breaking your bench press max, or a pool that’ll hook you up with some sashimi after 1,000 meters of backstroke, there actually is a town in Japan that’ll give you a sack of rice for completing a 5K run. The only catch is, you’ve got to carry it with you during the race.

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Titans attack Lawson convenience stores, bring tons of anime goodies with them

Titans attack Lawson convenience stores, bring tons of anime goodies with them

Pokémon fans recently got some good news when word came that Pikachu will soon be taking over the city of Yokohama. It’s not just cute and cuddly anime icons running rampant in Japan this summer, though.

Next month, Lawson convenience stores across Japan are going to be invaded by the remorseless and/or skinless cast of Attack on Titan, and they’re bringing a staggering amount of merchandise with them..

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What turned Tokyo Disneyland into the Loneliest Place on Earth last weekend?

What turned Tokyo Disneyland into the Loneliest Place on Earth last weekend?

Back in March, we took a look at a list of days when Tokyo Disneyland could be expected to be the least crowded. Most of these predictions were based on avoiding peak travel times, vacation periods, and three-day weekends, but one day last week Tokyo Disneyland was practically deserted.

This came as kind of a shock, since Japan is right in the middle of summer vacation, but ironically, that was part of the reason so few people showed up, giving those who did almost free rein of the park.

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Pikachus overrunning Yokohama in the cutest rodent invasion ever 【Video】

Pikachus overrunning Yokohama in the cutest rodent invasion ever 【Video】

Every summer, there are certain pests you can expect the country to become briefly inundated with. First come the mosquitos that lay their eggs in the puddles of water that form during the rainy season. Next up, the whining cicadas that serve as an aural reminder of midsummer, whether you want one or not. And last, the jellyfish, buzzkills of the animal kingdom who show up at the beach and deliver their joyless message of “Everyone out of the water!” by stinging swimmers.

But this year, there’s finally some good news, as the city of Yokohama is about to be overrun by Pikachus!

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Whiskey shaved ice: A frozen treat for adults in Kyoto

Whiskey shaved ice: A frozen treat for adults in Kyoto

One of the most popular ways to cool yourself off during a muggy Japanese summer is with a bowl of shaved ice, known as kakigoori. However, not everyone has the sweet tooth or enduring connection to their inner child that’s necessary to enjoy the brightly colored, syrupy sweet frozen treat that’s usually flavored like strawberry, melon, or lemon.

Thankfully, if you’re looking for a chilled dessert that’s a little more adult, a restaurant in Kyoto has just the thing: shaved ice with whiskey.

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Get your chills on the rails with Kyoto’s Ghost Train 【Video】

Get your chills on the rails with Kyoto’s Ghost Train 【Video】

Fear is commonly held to be a cold sensation, which is how we ended up with English phrases like “bone-chilling” and “a chill ran down his spine.” Those idioms may not translate directly into Japanese, but Japan has also traditionally thought of feeling cold as part of being scared.

Figuring that when life hands you horror lemons, you make horror lemonade, long ago Japanese society decided to use this to its advantage, which is why in Japan summer isn’t just the season of lightweight kimonos and all-you-can-drink beer gardens, but the time for ghost stories, too.

But in this modern age, maybe you’re too busy to sit around candlelit rooms in old manor houses swapping creepy tales with your friends. So if you’ve got an active lifestyle and need to keep moving while you get your terror on, a ride on Kyoto’s ghost train might be in order.

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10 obscure Japanese vending machine drinks that fly under the beverage radar

10 obscure Japanese vending machine drinks that fly under the beverage radar

With the rainy season over and done, we’ve been seeing day after day of scorching sunshine here in the Tokyo area. If you’re spending much time outdoors, whether sightseeing or just commuting to and from work or school, it’s important to drink plenty of fluids, since it’s the best way to ward off dehydration.

Thankfully, Japan is covered in vending machines, so you’re never too far away from a cold, refreshing beverage. Of course, you can only knock back so many bottles of Coca-Cola before getting bored with the flavor, so we’ve scoured the streets of Tokyo and came back with no fewer than 10 vending machine drinks that fly under the radar in Japan.

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Slimes in your glass are a good thing as long as they’re awesome Dragon Quest ice cubes

Slimes in your glass are a good thing as long as they’re awesome Dragon Quest ice cubes

There are some things that are nice to have in your drink, such as those little paper umbrellas, or a shot of bourbon. On the other end of the spectrum, there are things no one’s happy about having slipped into their beverage, like a mickey, whether it be the mouse or the incapacitating drug.

Ordinarily, slimes would fall into the latter category. But what if the slime were actually an ice-cube, and shaped like the beloved mascot monsters from role-playing game series Dragon Quest?

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Artist paints Totoro, classic Japanese artwork, and more, all on pregnant women’s stomachs

Artist paints Totoro, classic Japanese artwork, and more, all on pregnant women’s stomachs

In Japan, there’s a long, proud tradition of drunken men drawing faces on their bellies, then contorting in order to make them appear to talk or sing. Wait, did we say proud? We mean embarrassing.

This doesn’t mean all abdominal art is automatically silly and repulsive however, as one artist is helping enhance the radiance of pregnancy by painting beautiful works of art on the stomachs of mothers-to-be.

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Gigantic aquatic insect found in China has record-setting wingspan, possibly anal spray

Gigantic aquatic insect found in China has record-setting wingspan, possibly anal spray

Back in college, when it came time to pick an upper-level science class to get my general education credits, I settled on a class in entomology, aka bug science. The fact that it started at 10 a.m., instead of my other options at 8, played a big factor in the decision, but it actually turned out to be a really interesting course with an excellent teacher.

On the first day of class, the professor told us that one of his goals was to help dispel our socially-ingrained yet illogical fear of insects, arachnids, and all other sorts of creepy crawlies that I’ve since forgotten the scientific names of. If you can get past the knee-jerk, “Eew gross!” reaction many people have to, say, a beetle, you’ll find that holding one in your hands isn’t any more likely to give you a rash or a disease than a rabbit or hamster.

And yet, I still find myself terrified to hear that the world’s largest aquatic insect was just discovered in China.

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Too hot during the blackout? Cool down with an electric fan, veteran newscaster suggests

Too hot during the blackout? Cool down with an electric fan, veteran newscaster suggests

With more than 25 years of working in broadcast journalism, Japanese newscaster Ichiro Furutachi has turned in plenty of fine on-air performances. Still, each time you go before the cameras you’re spinning that roulette wheel, and it’s only a matter of time until you end up with a flub or two.

Earlier this year, the 59-year-old Furutachi elicited chuckles with his comments that exposed his lack of understanding about PowerPoint. It wasn’t Furutachi’s lack of knowledge regarding the finer points of the ubiquitous presentation software that surprised the public, but rather his admission that he didn’t even know what PowerPoint was.

What’s more, if we take the words of Furutachi’s most recent gaffe literally, it would seem that he’s not just confused about computer programs, but how electricity works, when he suggested using a room fan to stay cool during a blackout…

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“Black Cat” delivery company uses pawprint gloves to ensure packages are handled with cute

“Black Cat” delivery company uses pawprint gloves to ensure packages are handled with cute

With so much of Japan being connected to the country’s excellent public transportation network, a lot of people get by just fine without a car. Stores are generally located near rail and subway stations, making it easy to carry home daily essentials like a bottle of Kirin, six-pack of Asahi Super Dry, or 24-can case of Ebisu beer.

Still, there are times when you need to transport a purchase or package that’s too large or bulky to haul by hand, which is where Japan’s home delivery industry comes in. With multiple companies all fighting for customers’ business, each organization has to do something to differentiate itself from its rivals, which one outfit routinely does with adorable cat paw gloves.

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Nara’s deer continue their summertime tradition of commandeering one of the city’s streets

Nara’s deer continue their summertime tradition of commandeering one of the city’s streets

Although it’s often overshadowed by Kyoto, the city of Nara can also count itself among the pre-Tokyo capitals of Japan. As a matter of fact, Nara was to be the country’s first permanent capital, challenging the beliefs of the day that the death of an emperor contaminated the area and necessitated moving the base of power.

Nara no longer represents the same lofty political authority it once did, but the city is still the site of several important temples, as well as the impressive Nara Daibutsu, a bronze Buddha statue nearly 15 meters (49 feet) tall.

And yet, the first thing most people think of when they hear Nara is deer, since over 1,000 of the animals live inside Nara Park. But even with roughly 500 hectares (1,235 acres) of space to run around in, sometimes the deer like to stray outside the park’s boundaries, such as they do each July when they occupy this sidewalk and stretch of road.

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Toy Story’s Little Green Men arrive at Tokyo Disneyland in edible form, plus other new sweets

Toy Story’s Little Green Men arrive at Tokyo Disneyland in edible form, plus other new sweets

At Tokyo Disneyland, the park’s rides often get overshadowed by its other attractions. For many visitors, a day at The Happiest Place on Earth (in Japan) is more about catching parades, taking photos, or munching on the limited-time treats that are sold inside the gates.

With summer vacation just getting started, Tokyo Disneyland is rolling out a new batch of animation-inspired food, including desserts modeled after Toy Story’s Little Green Men.

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Gamer discovers his deceased father’s ghost on an old Xbox game, challenges it to a race

Gamer discovers his deceased father’s ghost on an old Xbox game, challenges it to a race

Aside from indirectly putting the phrase, “If you build it, they will come,” into the popular lexicon (the actual line in the movie is “If you build it, he will come”), the 1989 film Field of Dreams is remembered for the scene where the main character plays a game of catch with the spirit of his dead father. It’s a touching and emotional scene, but sadly the sort of thing that’s only possible with movie magic.

At least, that’s true if we’re talking about baseball. But for parents and kids who bond through a love of video games, it’s actually possible to play together after a loved one passes away, as one teen recently found out.

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Summer in China means crazy-crowded pools, which somehow mean fun for some easy-going swimmers

Summer in China means crazy-crowded pools, which somehow mean fun for some easy-going swimmers

As I type this, there’s a group of cicadas in the garden below the window next to my desk. The insects are earnestly whining away in an attempt to attract mates, like a group of liquored-up frat boys on their seventh round of the night calling out to every girl in the club to sit down and do a shot of Jaeger with them.

There’s not much I can do about it though, given that hordes of cicadas perch in Japan’s trees every summer. Unpleasant as they are at first, after enough time you get used to them, and eventually some people don’t even notice them.

And if you think that sort of aural acclimation is amazing, consider this: some people don’t seem to mind the crazy crowds that pack into China’s public pools each summer.

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