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

Less is more as bakery starts selling bags of delicious melon bread crusts minus the bread

It hasn’t made its way to the same level of international culinary stardom as sushi and ramen, but I don’t think I’ve ever introduced a foreign visitor to Japan to melon bread who didn’t fall in love with it. Despite containing no actual melon (the name is thought to come from the pattern scored into the bread’s upper crust), the Japanese bakery mainstay is a definite winner thanks to its sugar-dusted, crisp outer layer. Melon bread delivers just enough flavor and crunch to satisfy your craving for something sweet and stimulating, while at the same time hiding its one undeniable weakness.

The center is just plain white bread.

Bakery Yamazaki Pan seems to have accepted the treat’s shortcoming, and has responded in a temptingly logical way: selling bags of just the crust.

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Real version of Lotteria’s five-patty cheeseburger doesn’t look nearly as glorious as the ads

This Monday marked the return of the gigantic, five-patty Tower Cheeseburger to fast food chain Lotteria. Unfortunately, it was only back for a day, but hey, we figured this limited availability was actually a blessing in disguise. After all, you feel a lot less guilty eating that much meat in a single sitting when you know it’s the sort of rare opportunity you won’t have the chance to make a habit of.

But with just one day to get their Tower Cheeseburgers, no doubt a lot of fans weren’t able to clear out their schedules for a run to their local Lotteria. We’re guessing the blow was softened a bit, though, when they saw that the reality of their burger dream didn’t look anywhere near as mouth-watering as it did in Lotteria’s ads.

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Mickey men: All-male trips to Tokyo Disneyland are on the rise in Japan

Most of the places where groups of men congregate in Japan aren’t too surprising. You can always find guys hanging out with other guys at sports stadiums, video arcades, pachinko parlors, pool halls, or any restaurant or bar that specializes in meat or fried foods.

Recently, though, there’s a new spot that’s gaining popularity for a day out with the boys: Tokyo Disneyland.

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Rising star of Japanese horse racing is as ridiculously fast as he is comically scatterbrained

There are two different ways “handicap” usually gets used in horse racing. One is to refer to the process of calculating which horse is likely to win, and how to profit from that intuition (also known as “being good at betting on horses”). The other is a system in which horses that have proven to be faster than the rest of the field carry extra weight in a race.

Today, though, we’re using it to refer to a horse that recently raced in Tokyo, who’s ridiculously fast but seemed to do everything he could to let his opponents pass him for the win.

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Skull-shaped lollipop holders: Because liking candy doesn’t mean you’re not one bad dude

For the most part, we tend to think of candy as being something for kids. Sweet flavors just seem to go with the sweet era of youthful innocence.

But what if you’re an adult who craves a sugar rush, but you still want the world to know that you’re a stone-cold badass? Then you carry your candy inside a skull-shaped lollipop case.

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When first-try character bentos go wrong 【Photos】

The culinary custom of bento, boxed lunches, goes back for generation in Japan. What’s a little less clear, though, is how long people have been dressing up their bentos to look like cute characters.

We’re sure some creative people with both artistic and culinary talents have been making character bentos, or chara-bens, for a long time. But recently, media coverage of chara-bens has gotten intense, and it’s inspiring a wave of newcomers to try their hand at making one for the first time.

But you know the saying, “The third time’s the charm?” People say that because you’re likely to screw things up the first two times, as this collection of first-try bentos shows.

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New book teaches you to make grated radish animals: Healthier than latte art, just as cute

Japan’s become pretty enamored with latte art over the past few years, with baristas all over the country creating cute characters in swirls of cream and foam. But what if you’re not a coffee drinker, either because you’re watching your caffeine intake or just because your inner child won’t let you drink anything so bitter? Is there a way for you to set your table with eye-pleasing edibles?

Sure there is! All you need is a pile of grated daikon radish, and this new book that tells you how to craft it into adorable edibles.

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Election time or erection time? Taiwanese political ad features sexy bicyclist, and that’s about it

Local elections are coming up soon in Taiwan, and one of the positions being contested is Magistrate of Hsinchu County. With more than 500,000 constituents, the title comes with a pretty hefty amount of clout, and challenger Cheng Yung-chin, who occupied the office during the early 2000s, is hoping to reclaim the seat.

So to help boost his campaign, the politician has released a video to show voters the kinds of things he values: tranquility, nature, and shapely, bouncing breasts.

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Neither guilt nor escaped alligator stops Chinese crowd from looting spilled crustacean cargo

You never know what the day’s going to throw at you when you get up in the morning. For example, when a large group of residents of China’s Changsha left their homes last Wednesday, they didn’t know they were just hours away from getting crabs.

Don’t worry, the city hasn’t had a sudden outbreak of pubic lice. Instead, a seafood delivery car spilled its cargo onto the road, creating a swarm of looters who scooped up the animals for themselves.

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We leap into autumn by eating a pack of tempura maple leaves

Earlier this month, we found out that the city of Mino, in Osaka, has been selling tempura maple leaves for at least a hundred years. Since we’ve made it our mission in life to eat everything that can be deep-fried (barring non-food items like deep-fried scissors), we immediately called Hisakuni Kosendo, one Mino’s maple-cooking outfits, and ordered a pack to try for ourselves.

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Ultra-premium green tea pudding costs more than a steak, is probably worth it

One of the first English lessons I taught in Japan was about how to use words like “everywhere” and “nothing.” As part of the class, the students had to practice making sentences with “everyone,” and one woman stood up and gave hers, which was “Everyone likes pudding.”

I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a truer statement. Pudding is universally popular. Even the very wealthy love it, which is why one company in Japan is now selling matcha green tea pudding made from such high-quality ingredients that it costs more than most meals that could precede the tasty dessert.

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Seven fantastic furikake flake flavors to liven up your bowl of white rice

In Japan, almost every traditional meal is served with white rice. Sometimes, though, even Japanese diners find themselves craving something a little more flavorful, and when they do, they reach for a container of furikake (lit. “sprinkle over”) flakes to liven up their rice.

Dried fish like salmon or bonito are the most common kinds of furikake, but just like every region of Japan has its own special Kit-Kats, different parts of the country also have their own unique furikake, and today we’re taking a look at seven of the most tempting.

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Anime pregnancy tests: The latest otaku meme, and it’s not just for 2-D girls

Back when Japan was still at the mercy of the midsummer heat, a group of…creative anime fans tried to cool off with bowls of shaved ice. Ordinarily that wouldn’t be so weird, except that they set up their strawberry syrup dispenser to look like their treats were being flavored by an anime girl’s menstrual flow. (Yeah, gross.)

But hey, what’s the alternative to anime fans getting excited over 2-D characters having their periods? Anime fans getting excited about 2-D characters not having periods! Otaku around Japan have been sharing retouched pics of animation stars showing off pregnancy test results, and the trend isn’t limited to anime’s ladies.

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Mermaids: The one time Japan passes on cute for straight-up terrifying

Some days, it seems like everything’s cuter in Japan. After all, this is the country where some construction crews feel if they have to shut down part of the street, the best barricades are the ones shaped like a procession of purple and pink kimono-wearing princesses.

There’s an exception to this rule, though, and it’s mermaids. In the West, they’re portrayed as enchanting beauties of the deep. In Japan, though, they were traditionally treated like yokai, ghostly monsters, as this collection of Japanese mermaid paintings has a few that would be better stars for horror movies than kid-friendly animated musicals.

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The 10 best anime of the fall season, according to Japanese otaku

Just like it does every year, autumn brings red leaves, cooler temperatures, and a new season of TV shows to Japan. This is especially good news if you’re an anime fan, as tons of new series have debuted in the last few weeks.

As a matter of fact, this might be too much of a good thing, as there’s so much new anime available that it’s hard to find time to sample all of it. So if you don’t know where to start, you might want to consult a list of the hottest currently airing shows, made by the people who love the medium best: Japanese otaku.

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Why does Engrish happen in Japan?

Over the years, Japan has earned a reputation for its awkward command of English, with results ranging from the perplexing to downright hilarious. The country’s translation screw-ups are so common that they’ve even earned their own collective name, “Engrish.”

But for all the sites that poke fun at Engrish, it’s almost impossible to find one that talks about why it happens. So today we’re offering a bit of explanation along with the laughs, as we look at a sign in Japan that informs English-reading passersby that “Today is under construction.”

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Anime and real-world basketball collide with Nike’s Slam Dunk Air Jordans

While most popular sports anime are about baseball or soccer, creator Takehiko Inoue’s basketball story Slam Dunk is one of the most popular series of all time. Beginning as a manga in 1990 before making the leap to animation in 1993, Slam Dunk played a huge role in boosting basketball’s popularity in Japan.

Slam Dunk’s print and TV run also coincided with four of NBA legend Michael Jordan’s professional championships. Now, the two icons are teaming up with Nike to bring sneaker fans Slam Dunk Air Jordans.

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Want your own Attack on Titan 3-D maneuver gear? You can order a life-size replica now!

Last January, fans got hit with a mix of awe and envy at an Attack on Titan event in Osaka where the heroes’ 3-D maneuver gear was on display. Looking over the intricate harness and paired swords, it was hard not to find yourself wanting a set of your very own.

Soon enough, that anime daydream can come true, as preorders have now started for life-size replicas of Attack on Titan’s iconic giant-killing battlefield technology.

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Futago koude: The hot new fashion trend of Japanese women dressing like twins

In always fashion-conscious Japan, each year brings a handful of would-be hot new trends. Some of these go on to be hits, like the way many women have been dying their hair brown for the last 15 years. Others, like the high-waist bikini many fashion magazines were pushing last spring, never really catch on.

Now, a new look seems to be gaining traction with young women, in which they head out for a day on the town with a friend wearing nearly identical outfits.

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Does this video about an abandoned dog leave you wiping your eyes or shaking your fist?

Generally speaking, I’m not the biggest fan of abstract personality tests. Every now and again, though, something comes around that really seems to shed light on how an individual’s mind works.

For example, if you’re extremely pure-hearted, you might see this short video of a dog reminiscing about the happy days with his former owners as a moving, even tear-jerking story. On the other hand, if you’re a bit more cynical or strict in personality, it might make you want to punch your monitor.

So which camp do you fall into? Read on and see.

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