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

Burger King Japan unleashes burgers with red buns, cheese, Angry Sauce on my stomach 【Taste test】

When Burger King Japan first brought out its black burgers, more than a few people were shocked, and even a little intimidated, by their sinister appearance. After diners got over their fear and tried them, though, they discovered they were pretty tasty, and they’ve now become a welcomed, sporadically appearing item on the chain’s menu.

Seeing how well that gamble played out, Burger King has decided to spin the roulette wheel once again, but this time they’re betting on red with two new sandwiches with crimson buns and cheese. So how do they taste? We decided to grab the pair and try them for ourselves.

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Japan Railways recently revealed ramen-style rice balls in its convenience stores

Walk into any Japanese convenience store or supermarket, and you’ll find a row of rice balls waiting. You can always count on the old standards, such as salmon, pickled plum, and spicy cod roe being represented, but each store also sets aside a bit of shelf space for unique, limited-time versions as well.

In the past, this form of carbohydrate-packed one-upmanship has given us such wonders as the bacon cheeseburger musubi and headscratchers as the fish butt onigiri (musubi being one of the Japanese words for “rice ball,” and onigiri the other). It’s always a flip of the culinary coin whether these outside-the-box rice balls are going to be a hit or a miss, but when we heard about ramen-style onigiri, we were immediately onboard.

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Get rid of bugs and score points with Japanese women in one fell swoop with the ami-ton maneuver

Not too long after we started dating, my wife and I were walking through a seaside park, hand-in-hand. The sun was shining and the mood relaxing and romantic. Just as I took a deep breath of the sweet ocean breeze, though, an insect landed on my wife’s arm, causing her to scream, recoil in horror, and practically pull my shoulder out of its socket.

And that’s how I found out she really hates bugs.

She’s not alone in that regard, either, as a recent poll of women in Japan found that more than half are too terrified to face their creepy crawly adversaries head-on, and also revealed a suave kabe-don wall pound-like move guys can do to score points with the ladies.

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The delicious food of Japan’s gourmet hospitals: Ramen, hotpot, smoked duck, and more

During my time in Japan, I’ve been thrown into a cherry blossom tree, hit by a car, and sucker punched by a wannabe tough guy in Shibuya Station, but luckily I’ve never needed to be hospitalized. That means I’ve been able to avoid the anxiety-filled situation of having a doctor explain an urgent medical procedure to me in a foreign language, but it also means I’ve been missing out on some of the mouth-watering food some Japanese hospitals serve.

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Giant robot fight coming soon? American inventors’ video challenges Japanese counterparts to duel

California-based MegaBots spells out its mission pretty clearly on the company’s website: Giant fighting robots. So far, though, they’re only two-thirds of the way to that goal.

The MegaBot Mark II is clearly a robot, and definitely giant, but it hasn’t really done much fighting yet. Since no one wants to watch giant robots grapple with their inner psychological demons and emotional issues, the Mark II needs an opponent, and its American designers have decided to throw the gauntlet all the way across the Pacific, releasing a video officially challenging Japan’s own currently on-sale giant robot to a duel.

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Want thousands of dollars for your manga fan art? Rose of Versailles creator judging contest now

It’s been made into an anime TV series, live-action film, and Takarazuka stage musical, but more than anything else, it’s the original manga that’s captured the hearts of Rose of Versailles fans. Set against the backdrop of the French Revolution, the series’ themes of desperate love, self-sacrifice, and challenging gender norms have been striking a chord with readers for over four decades.

Unlike last year, there’s no new volume of Rose of Versailles coming out this summer. However, there is still going to be a ton of new illustrations in the form of entries to a Rose of Versailles fan art competition that’s accepting submissions online right now, awarding impressive cash prizes, and being judged by the manga’s creator, Riyoko Ikeda herself.

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No dinner plans for Wednesday night? Why not eat a camel hump in Tottori, like we just did?

Here at RocketNews24, every now and again we come across a restaurant or snack maker offering something that doesn’t sound at all appetizing, but is just too unique to pass up. In the past, my coworkers Steve and Amy have sampled wasp-filled rice crackers and bee larvae, and my own stomach and psyche are only now recovering from a dessert of not one, but two types of cakes made with chunks of tuna.

Now, it’s out intrepid Japanese-language reporter Mr. Sato’s turn to pull up a chair to the crazy dining table, and camel hump is on the menu.

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No, we didn’t stutter. New Sailor Moon gachapon toys really are compact compacts

Gachapon, the capsule toys sold by vending machines in Japan, are always released in a series, usually with five or six different versions that are dispensed at random. But while that element of chance adds a moment of excitement, sometimes it’s a little hard to imagine anyone really needs a half-dozen different styles of miniature folding chair, sausage/isopod hybrid, or crow chowing down on some delicious garbage.

Every now and again, though, we can easily see how someone would keep coming back for each and every model in the lineup, such as with these compact Sailor Moon compacts.

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Just when you thought anime marketing couldn’t be any more bust-focused: character breast weights

You may not have noticed, but a lot of advertising for anime and video games revolves around boobs, almost as if the marketing plan is trying to build up escape velocity to break free of the gravitational pull of the female cast’s breasts. And since nitty-gritty bits of numerical data regarding a series’ world and characters are the icing on the cake for super fans, you can usually expect the producers to release official statistics regarding the bust measurement and also often the cup size of the more top-heavy characters.

One new anime, though, has decided to raise the bar, and twice actually, since not only do its official character bios reveal the cast’s underwire measurements, but in perhaps the most bizarre bit of trivia ever, the weight, in kilograms, of the characters’ breasts.

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Classic shojo manga Kodomo no Omocha getting first new chapter in 17 years

We recently found out that the upcoming Dragon Ball Super is getting a manga version to go along with the new anime, but it’s not just the classic Japanese comic for boys that’s back in the spotlight. Kodomo no Omocha (also known as Kodocha and Child’s Toy) was one of the early shojo manga franchises to score a hit with English-reading audiences, and 17 years after the series wrapped up, it’s getting a new chapter next month.

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Game with schoolgirls and pheromones goes pervy to innocent with the Mom Just Walked In button

Video games designed to provide some titillation are nothing new in Japan. As a matter of fact, developers have been trying to include a little naughty excitement in titles for so long that the feature has begun to evolve and become streamlined in response to players’ needs and desires. For example, we recently looked at a game in which the designers thought to include a cycle by which the female characters change their panties to a new pair daily, much to the joy of realist perverts (and the chagrin of dirty underwear fetishists).

But while Japanese gamers have proven receptive to titles with a decidedly sexy angle, that doesn’t mean their parents are so accepting of their hobby. That’s why the upcoming PlayStation 4 game Gal Gun Double Peace includes not only more panty flashes than you can shake a stick at, but something called the Mom Just Walked In Screen to help spare players from getting caught in an embarrassing moment.

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Traveling with Totoro (and Kiki too)! Official Studio Ghibli suitcases go on sale

Last week, we took a look at an ad for West Japan Railways that was produced by animators affiliated with Studio Ghibli. If its images of a happy family enjoying the great outdoors had you ready to pack your bags, why not make said bags anime-style too, with these My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki’s Delivery Service suitcases?

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Japan’s 10 best restaurants, as chosen by foreign travelers

People travel to Japan for all sorts of different reasons. Many are seeking a taste of tradition and history, and plan visits to the country’s most important shrines and castles. Some are drawn by Japan’s natural beauty, heading for its mountains and forests, while still others come to throw themselves into its neon-soaked urban entertainment centers.

But no matter what’s on your itinerary, at some point you’re going to need to get something to eat, and when your stomach starts growling, you can rely on the experience of those who made the trip before you with TripAdvisor’s list of the 10 best restaurants in Japan.

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Plum crazy Wakayama’s local take on Tabasco sauce is made with Japanese plums

There’s a pretty lengthy list of traditional seasonings Japan uses for its indigenous cuisine, including soy sauce, wasabi, and the sweet rice wine called mirin. But one condiment from overseas that the country has warmly embraced is Tabasco sauce, a dash of which is often added to pasta and pizza in casual dining.

But foodies in Japan love taking foreign foodstuffs and mixing them with a domestic element, which is why one company in Japan is now selling a Tabasco-like hot sauce you won’t find anywhere else, since it’s made with tangy plums.

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50 things our Japanese reporter learned while driving in the U.S.

Our Japanese-language reporter Go recently returned from a trip to the U.S. While there, he hunted for aliens and sampled the local cuisine, but mostly what he did was drive.

While Japan is filled with winding mountain passes that make for enjoyable drives, the wide-open American road has an appeal all its own. After days of barreling down the highways of the southwest, Go came back to Japan with these 50 experiences he had driving in the U.S.

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Ready for the Fury Road: Our customized Mad Max Yamaha Tricity motorcycle 【Video】

Depending on the genre, a well-made movie can have you howling with laughter, thrilled by the on-screen action, or feeling cleansed after a cathartic cry. But while those are all enjoyable enough, every now and again you run into a film that affects you on a deeper level by helping to teach you some inevitable facet of life itself.

We recently made a trip to the theater to watch Mad Max: Fury Road, and since then every time we look up at the night sky, we’ve been reminded of the certainty that one day we’ll all be living in a dystopian wasteland. In preparation, we’ve already started stockpiling water and canned goods, and now we’ll be able to tour the wastelands in style with our customized Mad Max-style Yamaha three-wheeled motorcycle.

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Four areas in which Japan needs to improve if it wants to attract more overseas travelers

Japan’s National Tourist Organization recently released its statistics on the number of overseas travelers who visited in the country in 2014, and we’re proud to say that 13,413,467 of you came to visit (though we’re also a little hurt that so few of you called us up to get ramen while you were here). That number represents almost a 30-percent increase from the number of foreign tourists Japan received in 2013, and a whopping 60-percent jump compared to 2012.

Still, Japan only ranks 27th globally in its ability to draw travelers from abroad, making it eighth in Asia, behind world-number 22 Korea and number four China.

So what’s holding Japan back from becoming an even more popular international travel destination? RocketNews24’s non-Japanese staff put our heads together, and after getting over the initial pain from our foreheads violently colliding, came up with the following list of areas Japan could do better in that foreign travelers would definitely appreciate.

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Giant Attack on Titan coin bank will help you save up a colossal pile of change

As you may have noticed, there’s a lot of Attack on Titan stuff to spend your money on. Add in the fact that not one, but two theatrical features are coming this summer for the phenomenally popular franchise, and fans are probably feeling the need to economize and cut back on their discretionary expenditures to make room in their budget for more Titan-related ones.

And if you’re pinching your pennies, what better place to store them than in a gigantic 1:100 scale Colossal Titan coin bank?

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Japanese lingerie maker specializing in designs for small-breasted women expands into swimwear

Although some data suggests Japan’s breasts are becoming bigger than ever, it’s not like every woman in the country has a large chest. As a matter of fact, last year we saw lingerie brand Feast enter the market, with a catalogue specifically tailored towards women with more compact busts.

Feast was founded last August, which means this is really the brand’s first full summer. Appropriately, the company has no expanded its offerings from just underwear to swimwear, too, with this playfully feminine bathing suit.

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Studio Ghibli makes animated short to promote Taiko no Tatsujin video game series 【Video】

It’s been almost a year since Studio Ghibli’s last film opened in Japan, and it’s not looking like we’re getting a new one anytime soon, if at all. But that doesn’t mean the fabled anime production house’s employees have all given up the art form for which they have so much talent.

Recently, we’ve seen a number of commercials created by Ghibli artists, with beautiful animation being used for a bakery in Kyushu and train travel to western Japan. And now, Toshio Suzuki, Ghibli’s most accomplished producer, has put together this short anime to promote Bandai Namco’s Taiko no Tatsujin video game series.

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