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

Tokyo adding free Wi-Fi to 143 subway stations for foreign travelers

I honestly don’t remember the last time I used a taxi in central Tokyo. The extensive subway network is clean and efficient, and not only is it far cheaper than a cab, a lot of the time, it’s faster, too.

As if public transportation didn’t already have enough going for it, next month things are about to get even better, as over 100 Tokyo subway stations are about to start offering free Wi-Fi to foreign travelers.

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Zelda hero Link’s other blade, the Fierce Deity Sword, brought to life in awesome video

While every game in Nintendo’s long-running Zelda franchise stars an elfish boy named Link who goes on a quest to save the world, each installment puts its own signature wrinkle on the formula. Wind Waker is the one with cel-shaded, storybook-like visuals. Twilight Princess is the one where Link can turn into a wolf.

And Majora’s Mask is the weird, dark one that would give little kids nightmares.

That’s not the sole distinction for title, though. Majora’s Mask is also the only place where you can see the awesome Fierce Deity Sword. Well, more accurately, it was the only place, since the awesome blade now exists in real life, too.

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Newlywed couple’s hearts beat to Beatmania with music game-themed wedding cake

A lot of times, the simulated situations of a video game are a lot more enjoyable than they would be in real life. For example, a Street Fighter or King of Fighters session is a pretty fun way to kill an hour, but it’d be considerably less entertaining to, in reality, spend 60 minutes brawling with a string of 10 or 20 dudes, one after another.

But what about music and rhythm games? Sure, dropping a few hundred yen into Konami’s DJ simulator Beatmania is cheaper than cover charge at a club, and arcade staff members are much less likely to give you an attitude than a front door bouncer, but the digital version doesn’t give you the same chance to form a connection with potential romantic partners, does it?

Actually, sometimes it does, as seen in this newlywed couple’s Beatmania wedding cake.

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The newer, cheaper Kakureya II: The perfect secret fort/box for studying, drinking, or napping

With Japanese housing being as cramped as it is, designating a whole room as a man cave, reading nook, sewing room, or any other sort of area solely dedicated to your hobbies and passions is an unattainable luxury for many people. That’s why earlier this year, we took a look at the Kakureya, an enclosed capsule where you could have a little private me time as you watch movies, listen to music, or relax with some aroma therapy, among other suggestions from the manufacturer.

After all the attention the initial model received, it’s now time for a follow-up, with the Kakureya II, an improved version that offers even more creature comfort at a price about half that of the original.

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Give your cat a sleek Egyptian makeover with the help of a piece of everyday packaging

Earlier this month, cat owners in Japan stumbled across affordable, adorable beds for their pets at IKEA, of all places. But while repurposing the furniture megastore’s doll beds will make your cat look incredibly cute while it’s sleeping, what about when it’s awake?

Actually, we just picked up a collar with a design so elegant it wouldn’t be out of place on an exalted feline in ancient Egypt. Not only was it incredibly cheap, we found it at yet another unlikely place: the grocery store.

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Finally! Attack on Titan director says TV anime’s second season will start production in 2016

I recently compared Attack on Titan to an 800-pound gorilla, since the smash hit anime has become so big and powerful it can do whatever it wants, such as actively forming partnerships with both Universal Studios and rival Marvel/Disney. But maybe the better analogy is to a cow.

Since the end of its broadcast run in September of 2013, the franchise has been spun off into side-story manga, novels, compilation movies, and live-action adaptations. For the most part, fans have happily lapped up the comparatively delicious offerings of all this milking, but what everyone has really been waiting for is some sort of timetable for a continuation of the anime TV series itself.

Thanks to its director, we finally have one.

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Beautiful faces and floors – Five great ways to reuse the water from rinsing rice

While out shopping the other day, I picked up a bag of prewashed rice. The grocery store was having a sale, so it was just as cheap as the unwashed kinds, and I figured, “Hey, there’s no advantage to having to rinse it myself is there?”

But as it turns out, the water left over after you wash the rice, called togijiru in Japanese, is actually pretty useful, as shown by these five ways you can reuse it instead of just dumping it down the sink.

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Check out these cool ways to enjoy hot springs in Oita, including eating and breathing them

Oita, on the eastern coast of Japan’s southern island of Kyushu, has taken to billing itself as Onsen-ken. And while that title loses a bit of its rhyming appeal once it’s translated into English, it’s hard to deny that it really is the Hot Spring Prefecture, as Oita boasts more hot springs than anywhere else in Japan.

As a matter of fact, Oita has so much geothermal water that it can get creative with its most attractive and relaxing natural resource, as shown by these unique ways locals and tourists can enjoy the prefecture’s hot springs.

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Can you spot the problem that led to the recall of this otherwise cute Japanese New Year’s card?

While people in Japan don’t send Christmas cards to each other, it’s customary to send New Year’s cards to relatives, friends, and work associates. Called nengajo, these are delivered on New Year’s Day, and typically feature whatever the Chinese zodiac animal for the year is.

However, since the end of the year is a busy time for most people, it’s not hard to imagine that some of the artists, distributors, and even buyers of these cards are too busy to really stop and scrutinize them, which is how one nengajo ended up with a very unusual ram on it.

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Yamanashi zoo’s roly-poly resident raccoon is ridiculously round, remarkably cute

Many of Japan’s tasty regional delicacies don’t exactly qualify as low-calorie dining options, such as Fukuoka’s pork stock ramen, Osaka’s deep-fried kushikatsu skewers, and Nagoya’s miso pork cutlets. However, Yamanashi Prefecture’s local specialty, hoto, is relatively healthy, as it’s primarily a vegetable stew with miso broth.

With that in mind, the fact that a zoo in Yamanashi is home to a raccoon who’s so plump he’s almost spherical is a little ironic…and also pretty adorable.

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Posing like a (video game) boss! Villainous and heroic cats look ready for a role-playing epic

Lighting is an important part of photography. Arrange some candles on a table one way before you press the shutter button, and you’ve got a snapshot of a romantic dinner. Position everything differently, and you’ve got a spooky séance.

The same goes for if you’re photographing your pet cat. Under certain conditions, he might look like a fluffy little fuzzball, but if the flash reflects off his eyes just right, suddenly he’ll transform into a sinister monster, like this guy here.

Actually, Internet users in Japan recently put together what looks like the core cast of a fantasy role-playing game, with villains and heroes alike represented.

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Deal of the day – Give this hamster’s Vine video six seconds, and he’ll give you a huge smile

It’s one of the sad facts of life that it generally takes longer to build up a good mood than to tear one down. A quick bit of bad luck can ruin your afternoon (just ask anyone who’s been pooped on by a pigeon), but blissful joy is often the result of building off a string of successes and blessings.

We say “often” because sometimes you stumble across a shortcut to a genuine smile or heartwarming laugh, which is definitely the case with the twist ending to this short video of a hamster having its ear stroked.

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New stir-in powders promise to make beer even more delicious with boosted malt, fruit flavors

Last year, we talked about seasoning maker Ajigen’s Magic Powder that Makes Ramen More Delicious. Weird as the idea seemed initially, the more we thought about it, we realized it could be just the thing for people with a desire for a tasty meal but no time or motivation to cook for themselves.

That said, if your schedule is so packed you need to prepare dinner in three minutes, we’re guessing you also can’t spare the time for a trip to the bar and a pour of some flavorful and unique craft brew. Thankfully, Ajigen is back again with more magic powder, this time for your beer.

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Japanese baseball fans disappointed by filthy conditions visiting Major Leaguers left dugout in

Every year, Major League Baseball sends a delegation of players to Japan for a series of games against a team of Japanese all-stars. Since the contests are held after the conclusion of both the World and Japan Series, the players are all technically in their off-seasons, but there’s still some impressive skill on display.

The teams and fans all seem to come away with good memories of the games, but the Major Leaguers also left something behind: a ton of trash in their dugout at Tokyo Dome.

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Stand back, kids! 64-year-old enka singer Aki Yashiro completely nails cover of Evangelion theme

The musical style enka usually gets referred to as Japan’s equivalent of country western music. The two do have a lot in common thematically, as the biggest hits of both genres are often centered on blue-collar hardships, melancholy nostalgia, and heavy drinking (one famous enka hit is “Sake Wo,” or, “Bring Me Booze”).

But while there are young country listeners, it’s a lot harder to find fresh-faced enka fans, since the lyrics of many enka ballads are so world-weary it’s hard to appreciate them without a few decades of failed romances and stalled career paths under your belt. So to reach out to a new demographic, one enka legend is recording her version of the theme song of hit anime Evangelion.

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Live-action Attack on Titan posters show new characters and weapons, plus one huge absence

It’s a big month for Attack on Titan. Between an art exhibit opening in Tokyo, a crossover with Marvel’s Avengers, and at least one of the naked giants finding a proper job, the biggest anime and manga hit of the last decade is even more in the spotlight than usual these days, which makes it only fitting that we’re getting our first in-costume glimpse of the cast of next summer’s live-action Attack on Titan movies.

Leading trio Eren, Mikasa, and Arumin are all present and accounted for. But while they’ll be joined by several new characters specially crafted for the films, one fan favorite apparently isn’t making the transition to live-action.

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Eyes on your own paper! 1,200 Chinese students take test outdoors to prevent cheating 【Photos】

Proponents of outdoor learning, in which organized education takes outside the schoolhouse, say there are a number of benefits to the approach. Aside from fostering better communication skills and self-esteem, advocates hold that open-air class sessions lead to lower stress levels and greater respect for the natural environment.

None of those seemed to be the goal of a recent test session in China, though, where over 1,000 students took their tests outside a single school.

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How long does Kagoshima need to convince us to visit? With this video, just two minutes

A little over a year ago, one of my good friends in Tokyo got a job teaching philosophy at a university in Kagoshima, the prefecture at the southernmost tip of the island of Kyushu. Being that he’s now a seven-hour series of train rides, or a two-and-a-half-hour flight, away, we don’t get together so often anymore, but on the plus side, now I have a reason to take a trip to Kagoshima.

Well, actually, I’ve got about a dozen reasons to take a trip there, if you add in all of the nature trails, hot springs, scenic coastline, and more shown in this video of some of Kagoshima’s most achingly beautiful travel destinations.

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Cozy kitty pullovers are the perfect outfit to snuggle up in for your next catnap

Between their furry coats and ability to stake out the warmest spots in the home, cats seem to be pretty skillful at warding off the cold. But while you can probably squeeze in next to your pets in front of the space heater, you can’t really borrow their coats, can you?

Of course, you won’t need to if you have a cute, cozy kitty pullover of your own.

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Mr. Sato is now a sticker, and we’re giving him away to six lucky readers!

Here at RocketNews24, we’re all about expanding our horizons. That means we’re always on the lookout for new places to visit, new burgers to eat, and most of all, new spheres of craziness for our intrepid Japanese language correspondent Mr. Sato to wade into.

Now, though, we’re ready for our beautiful, ambitious, tenacious, stylish, hygienic, innovative, trend-setting reporter to go someplace he’s never gone before: your home, in the form of charming Mr. Sato stickers that we’re giving away.

Read on to find out how to get your hands on a set.

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