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

Cup of noodles for vegans! Japanese Zen Buddhist temple starts selling instant soba and udon

Upon coming to Japan, a lot of people are surprised to discover just how difficult finding vegetarian food can be. Many people imagine Japan as a country that eats very little meat, and while that’s definitely true in comparison to North America and western Europe, the flipside is that you’ll find at least a little bit of meat in just about all dishes, including salads and vegetable stews with surprising frequency.

Things get trickier still if you’re trying to stick to a vegan diet. Even something as simple as noodles are generally out, since almost all broths are made with meat or fish stock. But if you’ve got an aversion to meat coupled with a craving for soba or udon, you’re in luck, with two new types of vegan instant noodles produced by a Zen Buddhist temple.

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Dating pool may be no-smoking zone as vast majority of women in survey say no to guys who smoke

Compared to many other countries, Japan still has a very high percentage of smokers. The habit is so prevalent that even in cosmopolitan Tokyo many restaurants allow customers to smoke anywhere on the premises, and despite repeated pleas to refrain from smoking and walking to show consideration towards non-smoking pedestrians, many can’t be bothered to wait until arriving at their destination before puffing away.

But if health concerns and etiquette complaints aren’t motivation enough to quit, perhaps the results of a recent poll will help, as it showed many Japanese women will immediately remove a guy who smokes from their potential dating pool.

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“It all came out?” Debate ensues over whether schoolgirl ad is just talking about mayonnaise

A teen model smiles sweetly at the camera. Deftly using her hands, she produces a considerable volume of white, goopy liquid. Then she turns to the camera and asks, innocently, “It all came out?”

Fetish video, or commercial for mayonnaise-topped noodles? According to some people in Japan, it’s sort of both.

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Fried chicken teams up with instant ramen in this cup of noodles fit for a king

There’s a popular Japanese TV show whose protagonist, a wandering gourmet with a healthy appetite, often finds himself looking over a restaurant menu while trying to make an agonizing decision about which of two tempting entrees to order. Often, he resolves the crisis by following the advice encapsulated by his catchphrase, “When you can’t decide which to eat, have both.”

That also seems to be the philosophy behind Nissin Foods’ newest product: instant ramen with fried chicken.

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Pikachu puts on a suit, hopes hiring managers will choose him as a business formal plushie

Despite his cherubic good looks and smooth, unlined face, Pikachu isn’t as young as he used to be. The first Pokémon video game was released in Japan in 1996, and considering that the franchise’s most famous pocket monster was ready to go into battle right away, theoretically he must have already been a few years old by that time.

What we’re saying is, Pikachu isn’t a kid anymore. It’s time he entered the workforce and became an economically self-sufficient member of society, which is just what he’s poised to do in his new, suit-wearing plushie form.

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How do deep-fried frog burgers taste? We find out at Yokohama cafe 【Taste test】

Having lived in Yokohama for the past decade, I try to grab as many assignments as I can that are related to the city, as well as Kanagawa, the prefecture it’s located in. Also, as someone who gets hungry at least three times a day, I try to volunteer for as many RocketNews24 taste tests as my schedule will allow.

However, I graciously let one of my coworkers handle today’s project: heading to a cafe in Yokohama to chow down on a frog burger.

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Fan-made TIE Fighter short film: For people who love Star Wars, anime, or just plain awesomeness

It’s a great time to be a Star Wars fan. This year, the franchise’s seventh film, The Force Awakens, hits theaters, and the global fan community is so excited about it there was even a cool Star Wars sculpture at this year’s Sapporo Snow Festival.

Or, is it a terrible time to be a Star Wars fan? We’re well into March, so that snow sculpture is long gone, and Episode VII doesn’t come out until December. Are there no awesome Star Wars projects that can be enjoyed right now?

Actually, there is, in the form of this amazing fan-made short film that combines Star Wars military hardware with the animation style of anime’s golden age of science fiction.

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Six anime songs people are sick of hearing at karaoke, according to new poll

As much as I like singing karaoke, it’s probably for the best that I don’t get a chance to go very often. By my own estimation, there are really only about a half-dozen songs that I can sing passably well, which means that, by everyone else’s estimation, the number is probably closer to two.

It seems I’m not the only amateur vocalist with a limited set list, though, as evidenced by this list of anime songs people are sick of hearing at karaoke, with an overwhelming top pick that accounted for nearly half of all votes.

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Volleyball anime Haikyu!! getting ready to serve fans with live stage show this year

After a surge of live-action films based on big-name animated franchises last year, 2015 has been fairly quiet on that front, with the upcoming Attack on Titan being one of the few projects that really seems to have fans of the original version excited.

On the other hand, there’s been a boom in stage adaptations of popular anime. We already knew that we’d be getting live stage shows based on Naruto, Fushigi Yugi, and One Piece. Now, lovers of theatre and anime alike have one more performance to look forward to, the stage version of volleyball hit Haikyu!!

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Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon will guard you from the rain with new line of anime umbrellas

A while back, the rights holders for Sailor Moon decided the franchise would henceforth have the official English title Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, a looser adaptation than the direct translation of its Japanese name, which would have been Beautiful Girl Warrior Sailor Moon.

Linguistic purists may bristle at the new title, but the argument can be made that it fits better with Sailor Moon’s less aggressive personality, in that she fights only to protect others. And now, after years of guarding her in-anime world from the forces of evil, Sailor Moon and her companions are ready to guard their real-world fans from the rain and sun, with this line of Sailor Moon umbrellas.

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Anna Sui jumps into the world of Sailor Moon fashion with necklaces, earrings, and bags

Today, Tokyo’s Isetan is welcoming back Sailor Moon and her magical gal pals. From now until March 31, the department store chain’s Shinjuku branch is offering a special lineup of fashion items based on the hit anime. Previously, we’ve looked at the new offerings from Samantha Vega, Honey Bunch, and Riccimie Premiere Salon, all popular Japanese brands.

Now, Anna Sui is getting in on the moon prism action, with a selection of coolly feminine bags and accessories inspired by the Sailor Senshi.

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i-katana? Apple designer collaborates with traditional craftsmen to create Japanese sword set

Marc Newson’s versatile talents have led the industrial designer to work in a number of fields. While he first garnered critical acclaim for longue chairs and other pieces of furniture, the Australian native has also created watches, shoes, and cameras.

Since 2014, Newson has been providing his services to Apple, being involved with the design of the iPhone 6. For his latest project, though, he’s shifting from the cutting edge of consumer electronics to the cutting edge of bladed weaponry, as Newson is part of a collaborative team producing a set of traditional Japanese swords.

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Japanese women list the top 10 lies they can spot the second a guy says them

It’s often said that honesty is the best policy. Anyone who’s spent much time in the dating pool, though, will tell you that not everyone communicates in such an upfront and open manner.

From well-meaning fibs like “Hey, it’s been fun” (when it really hasn’t) to more alarming lies like “I have no idea how your sister’s panties ended up on my kitchen floor!” some women feel they’ve been exposed to so much dishonesty from men that they’ve become experts in detecting it. Seeking to find out the phrases tip them off, a recent survey asked Japanese women which words they know aren’t true as soon as they hear a guy say them.

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“Are you satisfied with your spinning pile driver?” Fan inserts Baymax into Street Fighter IV

As events unfold in Disney’s Big Hero 6, teenage genius Hiro finds himself and caretaker robot Baymax getting into increasingly dangerous situations. Recognizing their increased need to be able to defend themselves, Hiro takes it upon himself to develop new combat software for Baymax and train him in how to use it, turning him into a karate master.

Given Baymax’s considerable size and girth, though, we’re not sure karate allows him to make full use of his brute strength. Wrestling might be a better discipline for him, as demonstrated in this Ultra Street Fighter IV video starring the huggable Baymax unleashing a string of spinning pile drivers on Big Hero 6 costar GoGo.

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Free Sakura app means cherry blossoms could be blooming on your monitor right now

As of yesterday, it’s officially cherry blossom season in Tokyo, with media outlets reporting the first flowers of the year spotted inside the capital. While we’re still a week or two away from the sakura being in full bloom, their incredibly short life span means they’ll be gone before you know it, so most people are looking to spend as much time watching the delicate pink flowers as they can in the coming days.

Much as we’d like to, though, most of us can’t spend all of the next few weeks stretched out on the grass under a cherry tree. But should you find yourself stuck in front of a computer monitor with work or social responsibilities to take care of, you can still soak up a bit of the cherry blossom atmosphere with this app that produces a cloud of sakura petals on your desktop.

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Is that a hamster in your sleeve, or are you just happy to see me? 【Photos】

Language is a living, evolving thing, and as such, the phrases we use have to adapt with the times. In an era where VHS cassettes and rotary phones are no longer the norm, it’s making less and less sense to talk about “taping a TV show” or “dialing a number,” for example.

Likewise, since the glory days of the riverboat gambler and Wild West poker-playing saloon drifter have, sadly, come to a close, how appropriate is it to talk about having “an ace up your sleeve?” Really, when was the last time you found yourself, in the course of your daily life, in a situation where you thought, “Man, things sure would be better if I had a piece of paper with a single heart on it tucked inside my cuff!”

So let’s take the aces out of our sleeves and replace them with something that’s always welcome: hamsters.

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Everything looks better in anime, even correspondence courses 【Video】

Comedian Dave Chappelle once said that “Everything looks better in slow motion,” since time seems to slow down during the coolest moments of music videos. But you could make the same statement about Japanese animation.

Don’t believe us? Here’s an animated short that somehow manages to make taking a correspondence course in high school math feel beautiful and dramatic, proving that everything looks better in anime.

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Tokyo considering removing overhead power lines in run-up to 2020 Olympics

Even though the event is still five years away, Tokyo is incredibly psyched about hosting the 2020 Olympics. As a country that prides itself on hospitality, and also one that can be surprisingly sensitive to how it’s perceived by foreign visitors, Japan has been looking for ways to put its best foot forward for the games, and some politicians are saying that now is the time for Tokyo to finally get serious about getting rid of its unsightly overhead power lines.

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Want to practice karaoke without anyone hearing you sing? This disturbing gadget is for you!

As fun and entertaining as a night of karaoke can be, it presents a major problem for many people. If you’re not used to it, singing in front of others can be embarrassing, even when the audience is made up of your close personal friends. Practicing at home can help you build confidence, but if you’ve got roommates or an apartment with paper-thin walls, that might not be an option, especially if you’re still at a level where you’re singing is less “sweet serenade” and more “public disturbance.”

Thankfully, there’s a solution that doesn’t involve calling a contractor and adding layer upon layer of sound-proofing to your bedroom walls. Instead, all you need is this noise-blocking microphone for solo karaoke practice.

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Everybody back in the pool! Swimming anime Free! getting theatrical prequel this year

Certain sports seem like obvious choices for an anime series. Baseball, for example, has a team-first atmosphere that meshes with Japan’s cultural value of putting the group before the self, and has enough breaks in the action for lengthy conversations between characters on the same team. Boxing, being all about two dudes trying to punch each other into submission while taking a breather every three minutes in which the focus can shift to the hero’s internal monologue, also makes for an easy translation to dramatic animation.

Swimming, on the other hand, seems like a hard fit, as the athletes’ actions are fundamentally repetitive, and being underwater precludes any snappy dialogue. But what the sport does have going for it is slim, toned, almost naked competitors, and anime studio Kyoto Animation has ridden the fangirl fever-inducing cast of swimming saga Free! to critical and commercial success. Next up for the franchise: a brand-new theatrical feature that’s scheduled to be released before the end of the year.

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