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

Kamikiri, the amazing Japanese art of paper cutting mastered by Akira Nagaya【Photos】

Kamikiri, the amazing Japanese art of paper cutting mastered by Akira Nagaya【Photos】

Earlier this month, we talked about Japanese artist Akira Nagaya. An expert in kamikiri, the art of crafting intricate paper cutouts, Nagaya first caught our eye with his takes on classic anime icons such as Totoro, Son Goku, and Pikachu.

Japanese animation isn’t Nagaya’s only inspiration, as we can see in his other creations that capture the delicate beauty of nature and the changing of the seasons.

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Vroom-vroom, meow-meow! Driver mods his taillights into awesome “Toro” cat patterns

Vroom-vroom, meow-meow! Driver mods his taillights into awesome “Toro” cat patterns

In Japan, all cars have to undergo a vehicle inspection called shaken every two years. The ostensible reason is to make sure each part of the car is in safe, working condition, but some motorists suspect the real reasons are to bilk additional streams of revenue from owners, as well as encourage them to trade in their current cars for new models, which can go three years before their first shaken.

The system does have one upside for enthusiasts. Since cars get officially inspected every other year, traffic cops in Japan aren’t nearly as zealous as their U.S. counterparts about issuing fix-up tickets for questionable modifications they spot on the street. This means that during the two-year period between shaken checks, you have a decent chance of getting away with illegal engine mods, non-compliant body kits, or awesome grey-area cat tail lights.

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Gear up for Halloween parties, epic adventures with official Dragon Quest costume

Gear up for Halloween parties, epic adventures with official Dragon Quest costume

Back in May, cosplay manufacturer Cospa released a real-life version of the eye-catching Hawaiian shirt worn by Dragon Ball’s martial arts master, Kame Sennin. But while that was perfect for the warm months of summer, it’s now time for fans of Dragon Ball to put away their beachwear. With the harsher temperatures of autumn coming, the only sensible thing to do is to change into warmer attire, like the soon-to-be-available outfit of the hero of the fifth installment of Dragon Quest, the other hit franchise artist Akira Toriyama serves as character designer for.

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7 Reasons the iPhone 6 is a piece of junk (according to Japanese otaku)

7 Reasons the iPhone 6 is a piece of junk (according to Japanese otaku)

Apple has officially announced the iPhone 6, and also its big-screen sibling, the iPhone 6 Plus. This is great news for technophiles who’d already started lining up for the new device before it was officially unveiled, but there’s one slice of the Japanese population that’s completely unimpressed: hard-core fans of idol singer video game and anime franchise Aikatsu! The otaku subset has compiled a list of seven reasons why, compared to one piece of Aikatsu! merchandise, the iPhone 6 is a piece of junk.

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Anime all-stars combine in fan-crafted Mobile Suit Yo-Kai Watch 【Photos】

Anime all-stars combine in fan-crafted Mobile Suit Yo-Kai Watch 【Photos】

In recent months, there’s been no video game or anime franchise more popular among Japanese kids than Yo-Kai Watch. The story of kids teaming up with traditional youkai spirits (some of whom look like adorable kitty-cats), seems to have landed right in the sweet spot between adventurous, cute, and traditional, making it a huge hit for creator Level-5 (and promotional partner McDonald’s).

As a matter of fact, Yo-Kai Watch has even been gaining traction against Pokémon, the reigning champion of kids’ entertainment in Japan for the last decade-plus. Now, one fan seems to be turning Yo-Kai Watch’s towards another anime institution, by combining its characters with the giant robots of Gundam.

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Sailor Moon lingerie sets are back, and this time they brought all their friends!

Sailor Moon lingerie sets are back, and this time they brought all their friends!

The currently streaming Sailor Moon reboot, Sailor Moon Crystal, has sort of an unusual schedule. Rather than showing a new episode every week, like most anime series, a new installment of Crystal is released on the first and third Saturday of every month.

It’s important to note that this doesn’t mean viewers get a new episode every other week. This year, August had five Saturdays, meaning that at one point there was a three-week gap between episodes. We’re sure hard-core fans were miffed, but we think sponsor Bandai will be able to smooth things over and make everyone forget about the inconvenience by opening preorders for its newest batch of merchandise, the second round of Sailor Moon lingerie sets, featuring colors for every member of the main cast.

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English fail or win? Japanese actress loves gardening, hates bullshit (according to her T-shirt)

English fail or win? Japanese actress loves gardening, hates bullshit (according to her T-shirt)

Japanese TV personality Yuko Ito has been working in the entertainment industry for almost 20 years now. Having been at turns a swimsuit model, actress, and pitchwoman for Sapporo Beer, Nissan, and telecommunications provider NTT, we imagine she’s run into more than a few disingenuous showbiz types while paying her dues and building a career for herself.

Now, it looks like she’s done putting up with their two-faced double-talk, assuming she can actually understand the English on the T-shirt she wore during a recent TV appearance, which implored those watching, “Protect me from all your bullshit.”

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Mega Burger Pizza rises from its cheesy grave, available again for a limited time

Mega Burger Pizza rises from its cheesy grave, available again for a limited time

This year, one of our favorite Japanese monsters has returned. Gigantic and terrifying, we still can’t help but cheer at its reappearance, even as we realize it’s likely to destroy us.

Are we talking about Godzilla? No, our dark idol is far tastier: the Mega Burger Pizza.

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Haneda Airport’s ramen rice bowl is here to save indecisive fliers who hate airline food

Haneda Airport’s ramen rice bowl is here to save indecisive fliers who hate airline food

For the most part, I have very few complaints about air travel. Maybe I’m just incredibly lucky, but usually when I fly, I get through the check-in and security lines fairly smoothly, and while I’d never choose to outfit my living room with seats from an airliner, I can generally put up with them until I reach my destination.

I’ve even largely made peace with the unappetizing flavor of airline food, often sidestepping the issue by picking up something else to eat before I get on the plane. Selecting my last tasty meal for the next couple hours can be tricky, though, and sometimes I’ll find myself waffling between two options, such as ramen or a rice bowl.

Thankfully, a new to-go item at Haneda Airport eliminates that dilemma, though, with a ramen-flavored rice bowl from one of Tokyo’s most popular noodle emporiums.

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Chibatman called in by police, receives their official approval

Chibatman called in by police, receives their official approval

A few weeks ago, a handful of motorists in Chiba Prefecture witnessed a sight few of us will ever be fortunate enough to see: a man dressed as Batman riding a customized trike, speeding down the expressway. Chibatman, as he soon came to be known, quickly caught the attention of not only comic fans around the world, but also the local police, who recently called the Caped Crusader in for a little chat.

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Video game giant Square Enix to launch game streaming service for iOS and Android in October

Video game giant Square Enix to launch game streaming service for iOS and Android in October

A complaint that some video game fans have with the current crop of mobile titles is their unambitious scale. Designed to played in short bursts, their aim is often limited to providing a way to enjoyably kill a few minutes of spare time, which can leave those looking for a more engaging experience feeling cold and uninterested.

But everyone who’s shunned mobile gaming for that reason might have to rethink their stance come October, with the launch of a new cloud gaming service from Square Enix, Japan’s most storied developer of grand adventures.

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A year of beer at Tokyo restaurant offering all-you-can-drink Asahi for 12 months

A year of beer at Tokyo restaurant offering all-you-can-drink Asahi for 12 months

One of the most common questions that comes up about life in Japan is, “Is it expensive?” Often, the answer depends on a number of factors. For example, is beer expensive? Well, if you want to go hopping from bar to bar, where you’ll get charged a separate cover at each, then yeah, you’re probably going to find your wallet hurting before your liver.

On the other hand, at most izakaya, the pub-like restaurants that serve a wide variety of alcohol and food, shelling out an extra 2,000 yen (US $19.80) or so will allow you to upgrade your meal to include unlimited booze. It can save you some serious cash if you’re looking to do some serious drinking, with the only downside being that most come with a two-hour time limit.

That is, unless you sign up for a plan that gives you unlimited beer for an entire year, like one restaurant in Tokyo is offering.

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Scholars confirm first discovery of Japanese sword from master bladesmith Masamune in 150 years

Scholars confirm first discovery of Japanese sword from master bladesmith Masamune in 150 years

Should you visit a history museum in Japan, and, like I do, make an immediate beeline for the collections of samurai armor and weaponry, you might be surprised to notice that Japanese swords are customarily displayed with the stitching removed from the hilt. Visually, it sort of dampens the impact, since the remaining skinny slab of metal is a lot less evocative of it actually being gripped and wielded by one of Japan’s warriors of ages past.

The reason this is done, though, is because many Japanese swordsmiths would “sign” their works by etching their names into the metal of the hilt. Some craftsmen achieved almost legendary status, becoming folk heroes whose names are widely known even today.

The most respected of all, though, was Masamune, whose reluctance to sign his blades has made identifying them difficult. But difficult and impossible are two different things, and for the first time in over a century, a sword has been confirmed by historians as being the creation of the master himself.

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Japanese supermarket shrink-wraps a whole pig for hard-core pork fiends

Japanese supermarket shrink-wraps a whole pig for hard-core pork fiends

I get a twinge of excitement every time I peer into the cooler case at the grocery store in Japan. Not only are there tons of unique, tempting flavors of ice cream and popsicles, you can also find all sorts of tasty frozen entrees, too. The most common are things like dumplings and meatballs, but one Twitter user in Japan recently found something even more substantial, if a little sad to take in: a whole pig wrapped in plastic.

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Japanese customer service: So amazing that employees will burst out of the walls to help you

Japanese customer service: So amazing that employees will burst out of the walls to help you

One of the most awesome things about Japan is that you can expect amazing customer service just about anywhere. With exuberant convenience store clerks and burger deliverymen who reimburse you for the phone call you placed your order with, you almost expect employees to come bursting out of the walls in order to serve you…and sometimes they do!

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Apple fans so eager for an iPhone 6 they’re lining up before it’s even announced

Apple fans so eager for an iPhone 6 they’re lining up before it’s even announced

About this time last year, we brought the story of a group of fans who spent over a week camped out on the sidewalk, just so they could be first in line to snag an iPhone 5S on launch day at the Apple Store in Tokyo’s Ginza. But while we can understand the appeal of the fun and comradery that comes from braving the elements with your fellow technophiles, we were a little shocked when we recently strolled by the same store in the swanky neighborhood and saw there’s already a line forming for the iPhone 6, which Apple hasn’t even announced yet.

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Surgery, diet, and sunscreen transform heavy, swarthy Thai boy into slender, tan-free lady

Surgery, diet, and sunscreen transform heavy, swarthy Thai boy into slender, tan-free lady

We get that the whole point of cosmetic surgery is often to dramatically change one’s appearance, beyond what’s possible through ordinary means. Likewise, if someone’s had a sex change operation, we don’t really expect the before and after pics to show a strong resemblance.

Even still, those procedures don’t automatically change your skin tone or cut your body fat percentage in half, which is why the Internet is taking notice of this slim transgender woman from Thailand who used to be a pudgy boy.

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Doraemon wants to play games, and he’s even bringing his own board!

Doraemon wants to play games, and he’s even bringing his own board!

The classical Japanese board game Go is deeply strategic. A single match can last hours, and in the case of top-ranking professionals, days, or even months. But while this complexity makes the game all the more intriguing for adult players, it can also make it intimidating and inaccessible for kids, who often start off playing simplified versions such as Gomoku Narabe or Reversi.

Similarly, Go’s aesthetics of stark black and white stones on a plain wooden board are often seen as pleasingly elegant by adults, but don’t really do much to excite children. So in order to provide a little more visual stimulation, there’s now a Gomoku Narabe set featuring anime’s most famous robot cat, Doraemon.

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It’s all about the isopod – Company pushes gifts and fashion featuring weird, sexy marine bugs

It’s all about the isopod – Company pushes gifts and fashion featuring weird, sexy marine bugs

In Japan, where the market for character-based merchandise is intensely competitive, it’s not always easy to predict what’ll take off. Sure, it was easy to see Hello Kitty and Pikachu coming, since either one could serve as the accompanying illustration for the definition of “adorable” in the dictionary, but who’s going to be the next big star?

There’s a new dark horse entry to the character goods arena, with one company hoping Japanese consumers’ ravenous hunger for all things kawaii will lead them to embrace something so ugly it just might be cute, in the form of T-shirts, notebooks, and purses all featuring the humongous marine bug called the giant isopod.

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Almond cream sticks, our newest snack obsession and neighbor in Tokyo

Almond cream sticks, our newest snack obsession and neighbor in Tokyo

Recently we took a trip up to Hokkaido, where we enjoyed three of our favorite things: eating delicious seafood, relaxing in a hot spring, and not spending much money on our hotel. Still, we do have one regret, which is that we didn’t get to try the stick-shaped cream puffs called croquant chou, which have taken Japan’s northern island by storm.

Hokkaido is a long way to go just for a dessert, no matter how tempting it may be, though. Thankfully, we don’t have to head all the way back, because a new croquant chou shop just opened up a few blocks away from our office in Tokyo’s Shinjuku.

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