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

Four things to think about before you and your Japanese sweetheart tie the knot

Like many members of the RocketNews24 team, I met the love of my life after arriving in Japan, and just to be clear, I’m talking about my wife, not a cold can of crisp, delicious Ebisu beer. There’s a lot to be said for an international marriage, whether it’s the chance to learn about another culture in the most in-depth way possible, or simply the opportunity to dazzle your spouse by cooking food from your home country, even at a quality that would have your friends and family back home hitting the speed dial button for the local pizza delivery.

Of course, Japan, like any society, has its own baseline attitudes about married life, some of which can be startling for foreigners with a Japanese spouse. Blogger Madame Riri has composed a list of marital quirks to be aware of and think through together with your Japanese sweetheart before the two of you say “chikaimasu” (“I do”).

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Osaka unleashes another adorable dessert with hotel’s bathing bear ice cream

While Tokyo remains Japan’s largest and most internationally well-known metropolis, the city of Osaka is no slouch either. Osaka is known for its simple, tasty grub, such as takoyaki octopus dumplings and kushiage, basically deep-fried anything on a stick.

Osaka is also building a pantheon of cute, animal-shaped sweets, such as the platypus pastry which was on sale there until the end of last August. For autumn, there’s a new adorable dessert in town: this bathing bear made out of ice cream.

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Japanese fashion model proposes violent punishment for people who smoke while walking

Japan has a number of etiquette rules that might not be readily apparent to people from overseas, such removing your shoes before entering the locker room at the gym, or not wiping your face with the towel you’re given upon being seated in a restaurant.

Recently fashion model Nanao updated her blog with a post expounding the problem with another Japanese societal no-no: smoking while walking.

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Hello Kitty look-alike caterpillar is easily the cutest larva we’ve ever seen

Over the last few months, we’ve been tracking beloved Sanrio character Hello Kitty’s increasingly unusual endorsements. We were surprised enough when she appeared as a gigantic, plush tooth to promote dental hygiene products, but we suspect Kitty-chan polished off far too many cans from her line of Taiwanese beer before agreeing to her newest incarnation: a creepy (yet cute), crawly insect larva.

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Japanese blogger discovers the real reason people camped out for the iPhone 5S launch

Apple’s iPhone 5S went on sale in Japan on September 20, with electronics aficionados, including our own Mr. Sato, lining up days in advance in order to purchase one on launch day.

Obviously, you have to love your electronics to be willing to camp out on the sidewalk, especially with a typhoon hitting the Tokyo area right before the new model’s release. Blogger Junichi Suzaki wondered if there might be something other than the promise of shiny new tech convincing people to spend multiple days and nights in line, though, and found a surprising motivation for the people at the head of the line.

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Fourth-grader’s life goal of becoming a Pokémon Master applauded by cram-school teacher

Let’s say you’re looking for a job, and someone offers you a position as the vice president of human resources in a global logistics services company. That’s a pretty plum position, and most of us would jump at the chance.

However, offer a nine-year-old kid the same job, and he’s likely to turn it down and say he’d rather be an ice cream salesman instead. The point is kids don’t always have the most concrete handle on what professions entail, so if you ask them what they want to do for a living someday, you might not get the most sensible answers. This was definitely the case when a number of elementary school boys in Japan recently said that when they grow up, they want to become anime characters.

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Special camping plans let girls in Japan rough it by day, enjoy champagne and butler service at night

With so many people in Japan living in cramped urban population centers, it’s understandable that a large number of them want to head somewhere more rural if they’ve got a few days to get out of town.

On the other hand, Japan’s traditionally high standards regarding hospitality mean that often travelers want to be pampered while away from home. Add in the fact that it’s much more common for a group of Japanese women to travel together than a group of men, and you’ve got the makings of a new cottage industry of luxurious accommodations for female campers.

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Former Nintendo head and video gaming legend Hiroshi Yamauchi passes away

Hiroshi Yamauchi, the former head of video game giant Nintendo who helmed the company during its period of skyrocketing growth in the 1980s and 90s, has passed away at the age of 85. The entertainment visionary succumbed to pneumonia on September 19.

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Do not adjust your monitor – Hitachi Seaside Park really looks like this

I always have a tough time transitioning to autumn in Japan. Sure, the lower humidity means I can stop sweating for the first time in three months, but it’s a little disappointing leaving the office in the evening and finding the skies already completely dark. In my book, a persimmon is a poor substitute for a nice slice of watermelon. And while my wife does indeed look stylish in her snappy fall coat, if I’m being completely honest, I’d still rather see her in a bathing suit at the beach.

However, there is one saving grace to autumn: the dazzling array of fall colors. Hitachi Seaside Park may share part of its name with the electronics manufacturer founded in the same city, but there’s no technological wizardry going on here. The vivid vermillion of its foliage is 100 percent natural.

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We visit beautiful, bucolic Shirakawa-go to escape Tokyo’s hustle and bustle

Amazing as Japan’s metropolises are, after spending enough time in some of the most densely populated spots on the planet, urban fatigue starts to set in. There’s nothing like a getaway to the countryside to refresh your spirits after one too many days scurrying around downtown in packed train and subway cars.

The Shirakawa-go district, located in Gifu Prefecture, is close enough to Tokyo or Osaka that it makes an easy weekend escape for residents, as well as a simple side trip for overseas tourists crisscrossing the country. In terms of atmosphere, though, Shirakawa-go is worlds away from Japan’s largest cities.

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We visit the World Santa Congress in Kumamoto Prefecture and still feel exactly like jaded adults

Located in a remote section of a remote prefecture of Japan, Kumamoto’s Amakusa City faces the same problem a lot of rural towns do: its population is dwindling as children born there generally have to leave to pursue an education or career, and few move back.

As part of an effort to boost the remaining residents’ spirits, as well as hopefully garner a little tourism publicity, Amakusa recently held a World Santa Congress.

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She doesn’t need beer goggles to look cute, but we try Hello Kitty Beer anyway

As Japan’s most prodigious celebrity endorser, Hello Kitty certainly keeps busy. In this month alone, we’ve seen her grace Toshiba’s SD cards, and even transform herself into a cute, cuddly dislocated tooth to hawk toothpaste.

With such a hectic work schedule, it’s understandable that Kitty-chan should want to relax the same way many of us do after coming home from a long, hard day at the office: by cracking open a cold beer. Even then though, the hard-working feline is on the clock, with a new line of Hello Kitty Beer.

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Belarusian video game and Japanese anime with German title brought together by shared love of tanks

As an admittedly old-school gamer, I sometimes have a hard time grasping the appeal of modern video games designed with light users in mind. Lining up sparkly jewels in Bejeweled? Growing tomatoes in Farmville? Where’s the excitement in that?

Likewise, the trends of modern anime can be difficult to understand, with a glut of shows lacking any discernible concept beyond “cute girls hang out together, and occasionally participate in school club activities.”

If you ask me, both of these entertainment fields could do with a lot more stuff blowing up. Thankfully, that’s just what we can expect from the new collaboration between online game World of Tanks and anime franchise Girls und Panzer.

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Nine professions that drive Japanese women wild

Just as in other countries, having a high-power, high-paying job such as doctor or banker will do a lot to expand a bachelor’s potential dating pool in Japan. Your profession is a reflection of, and at the same time an influence on, your values and identity. As in most countries, it’s inevitable that when first meeting someone, they’ll use your line of work as a shortcut to try to figure out how compatible you’ll be romantically. Success is always attractive, and there’s no quicker way to communicate it than through wealth.

But money isn’t everything, of course! Sometimes more important than number of yen in your bank account is how you earn them, as shown in a recent online survey that found nine occupations Japanese women find attractive in a potential boyfriend.

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This game bites! Working out your frustration by chewing on your video game controllers

If you only started playing video games in the last 10 years, you may not know how good you’ve got it. These days, every system includes a hard drive to save your progress, and with most games offering frequent opportunities to do so or doing it on your behalf, even the worst screw-up isn’t going to lose you more than 15 minutes or so of progress. With dozens of online FAQs and YouTube demonstrations for the most popular titles, there’s no need to waste time getting killed by the same boss over and over again.

But back in the day, things were different. Before every home had multiple Internet-capable devices, gamers were completely on their own whenever they entered a new stage, and death usually meant going all the way back to the beginning of the level, if not the entire game. How did old school gamers deal with this kind of frustration?

In the case of one of our Japanese correspondents by biting the controller.

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Keep your clothes clean with Sailor Moon bibs from high-end Tokyo department store

We were recently duped into thinking some high-quality pieces of Sailor Moon fan art were from the upcoming new installment in the anime franchise. In light of this, we’ve decided to be more skeptical about news concerning the lunar-themed heroine.

From now on, we’re not believing anything until we’re holding the real deal in our own two hands! Which is just what we did with a set of adult-size Sailor Moon bibs.

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Happy birthday Hatsune Miku! Fan celebrates with amazingly detailed Vocaloid cake

Given the massive popularity of virtual idol Hatsune Miku, it’s easy to forget that she really hasn’t been around that long. The singing computer construct only recently celebrated her sixth birthday, which inspired one fan to whip up a Miku-themed cake.

This is far from the first time we’ve come across food that’s supposed to resemble the aqua-tressed songstress, and we’ve previously reported on Miku meat buns and even Miku bento. This just might be the most detailed recreation we’ve seen of the Vocaloid in edible form yet, though.

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Seven surprising salty treats: Japan’s gourmands give their unusual sodium recommendations

Generally speaking, the Japanese diet, with its emphasis on steamed rice, vegetables, and grilled fish, tends to be healthier than the norm in many other countries. The flipside to eating healthily most of the time, however, is an unabashed appreciation of certain things, demonized elsewhere, as occasional treats to be savored. For instance, there are restaurants that specialize in abura ramen, an extra-oily version of the popular noodle dish.

Likewise, Japan has a subculture of salt fans, several of whom recently went online to share their picks for foods that could benefit from a little sodium-based deliciousness. There are some pretty surprising suggestions here to say the least.

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The amazing disaster relief equipment of Japan’s Self Defense Force

Although Japan hasn’t had a full-fledged military since the end of World War II, the nation does maintain a strong self-defense force. Part of the organization’s duties is providing relief to disaster victims, whether that means meals for the hungry or simply a place for refugees to bathe. The Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) recently gave the public a peek at some of the clever gear it uses to accomplish this mission. And it is awesome.

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We’re not in Kentucky anymore – KFC Japan offering chicken-flavored rice balls

Recently, the American expat staff here at RocketNews24 felt a twinge of shame when we heard that KFC’s Japanese division had leapfrogged its US counterpart by developing fried corn soup. The embarrassment we felt at being beaten in fried food innovation, something we’d always assumed America did better than anywhere else, was quickly replaced by simple joy when we tried some for ourselves and found out just how good it is.

Now, KFC Japan is showing they can do Japanese standards too, with their new chicken-flavored rice balls.

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