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

We learn the terrifying secret of Silent Hill ramen

Since 1999, Konami’s Silent Hill horror series has been spooking gamers with its mysterious, reality-bending setting and plotlines, not to mention its collection of grotesque, otherworldly creatures like the appropriately-named Pyramid Head, a giant with a large, triangular head who stalks the game’s protagonist while carrying an enormous blade.

Konami has recently formed a partnership with a number of ramen restaurants across Japan to serve Silent Hill ramen. But just what exactly happens when you use a horror story that’s dripping with gore as the inspiration for food? We headed to Hajime, a Tokyo restaurant that offers the terrifying noodles, to find out.

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We design and field-test a hands-free burger holder

Here at RocketNews24, we like to keep abreast of the pioneering developments in the separate but equally important fields of technology and hamburgers. Having already marvelled at the fries holder from McDonald’s and recently hearing that Burger King had developed a hands-free Whopper Holder, we were immediately filled with a level of avarice that usually makes people buy a pair of overalls and move to the Yukon to pan for gold.

Unfortunately, Burger King’s shoulder and neck-mounted hamburger holder is only available as a giveaway for customers lucky enough to win one, and since the promotion isn’t being held in Japan, we were left with only one option: design and built one of our own.

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The Japanese government teaches us the proper way to dry a book

Despite its image as a high-tech country, a lot of Japan’s government paperwork still takes the form of bound collection of hard copies of legal documents. The National Diet Library has the responsibility of housing countless numbers of these collections.

However, like a fiery balrog, water is the bane of physical printed documents (which admittedly have a bit of a problem with fire, too). The National Diet Library occasionally has to deal with restoring books that have become wet before water damage sets in. Recently, the library revealed its simple, easy to copy technique for properly drying out a soggy book.

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The restaurant that powered the team behind one of Nintendo’s biggest hits

Kyoto has a long-standing reputation as a center of traditional culture, justified by its numerous significant temples and shrines, not to mention the artwork they house and their surrounding gardens. However, the city is also home to a site of great importance to modern pop culture: the headquarters of video game maker Nintendo, responsible for many of the titles that shaped modern gaming.

There’s a saying in Japan, though, that you can’t win a battle on an empty stomach, and that goes for designing great games, too. We recently visited the restaurant that powered the development team of one of Nintendo’s biggest hits ever.

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Pray for rain – Six great wet weather deals in and around Tokyo

I love summer. Cold beer! Warm sunshine! Cold Beer! Hot sand between my toes on the beach! And how can I forget lukewarm beer left in my glass after waking up from an impromptu nap brought on by all the cold beer proceeding it?

Unfortunately, summer in Japan also means plenty of rainy days, as humidity levels are at their highest across the country. Thankfully, it’s not all bad news on rainy days, and as long as you’re willing to take an umbrella with you when you go out, you can score some great deals in the Tokyo area.

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Dragon Quest slime salt and pepper shakers ironically perfect for keeping your spices dry

Despite “dragon” being right there in the title, the Dragon Quest video game series doesn’t really have an iconic dragon. Japan’s most widely-loved role-playing franchise doesn’t feature a particularly popular protagonist either, as each installment features a new, mostly mute hero.

Instead, mascot duties fall to the weakest enemy in each of the games, the lowly slime. Because of its cuteness and the almost complete lack of threat it poses to the player, the slime has become a fan favorite, with a shape as instantly recognizable as a Coca Cola bottle.

The franchise’s numerous titles for home and handheld consoles allow gamers to get their fix from the sofa or on the train, but now there’s even a way to enjoy Dagon Quest at your kitchen table.

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Stay cool guys! Just in time for summer, we find the best deodorizing sheets

Right now, the temperature and humidity in Tokyo are in a race to see which can climb faster. Yes, Japan’s hot, sticky midsummer is on the way, and for most of us, the deodorant we put on before we leave the house isn’t going to last more than a few short hours before it washes away in the rivers of sweat pouring off of our bodies.

Thankfully, men’s grooming product maker Gatsby is here to help with their deodorizing sheets. One of our reporters recently tried out several items from the company’s curiously extensive lineup of “body paper,” as the products are called in Japan, and then gave us his impressions on which is the best to keep yourself from smelling like the locker room after the annual joint training session of the varsity Greco Roman wrestling team and hot yoga club.

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Say what? Animal figures live in your fridge, speak in adorable Japanese regional dialects

Regional dialects can be a powerful thing. Call out “partner” or “boyo” and I might not even realize you’re talking to me, but just say the word “dude” and you’ve got my complete attention.

Despite its small land mass, Japan’s language is filled with dialects, largely the result of mountains, not to mention centuries of civil war and travel restrictions, making it hard for people different from different areas to mix for much of the country’s history. Occasionally these unique speech patterns pop up in unexpected places, like when a coworker from Osaka stubs his toe in the office, or a drinking buddy from Akita’s accent starts showing after the fifth round of beers.

And now, you can hear Japanese dialects in your refrigerator.

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Eat food from Osaka on your lunch break in Tokyo at Isetan’s special Naniwa food fair

Japan is a nation of unabashed foodies, and each major metropolitan area has its own culinary standards. Tokyo is the place for top-tier avant-garde dining. Kyoto cuisine is known for its understated yet complex interplay of flavors. And Osaka? Well, Osaka is the spot for good old-fashioned grub, and where the people aren’t afraid of something a little heavy on the palate or in the stomach. What less would you expect from a town where fans of the local baseball team jump off of bridges into the river after a big win?

Being situated in downtown Tokyo’s Shinjuku neighborhood, our offices are too far for us to sneak out to Osaka on our lunch break. They are, however, within striking distance of a branch of prestigious department store Isetan, which just so happens to be in the middle of holding a special Osaka food fair.

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Set your DVR – 10 new anime to watch out for this summer!

Unlike the U.S. television cycle of new episodes from fall to spring with reruns through the summer, Japanese TV chugs along with continuous new content. The calendar gets broken up into four blocks of 13 weeks each, and with a new one starting next month, there’s a slew of anime about to premier. Hold on to your butts, anime fans–this is going to be a fun season!

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Tokyo restaurant staying one step ahead of big eaters with its continually growing tempura bowl

A while back, we paid a visit to Fukugawa Tsuribune, a restaurant in Tokyo’s Kunitachi City famous for its fried foods and tempura. We engaged in a delicious battle with its gigantic tempura sea eel rice bowl, coming away victorious but full to bursting.

But believe it or not, that actually wasn’t the most colossal offering on Fukugawa Tsuribune’s menu, which is home to an even more terrifying titan of a meal.

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Missed the supermoon? Console yourself with these beautiful photos and videos

As we mentioned last week, June 23rd’s full moon coincided with the celestial body passing through the closest point to Earth in its orbit, an event known as the supermoon. Unfortunately, last Sunday also coincided with scattered showers in the Tokyo area, and no matter how much fist-shaking we did, it proved futile in dispelling the cloudy skies.

Thankfully, lunar fans in other regions had better luck and were kind enough to share their photos and videos of the supermoon with the rest of us. Check out this stunning collection.

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“You shouldn’t have! No, really, YOU SHOULDN’T have!” Japanese women share their best and worst gifts from boyfriends

Japan has a few unique gift-giving traditions, like the mid-year ochugen and end-of-year oseibo gifts exchanged between relatives and business associates. For the most part though, things work the same as in any other country. Parents give toys to their kids on their birthdays, who in turn give flowers and neckties for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. And of course, couples give presents to each other.

Also like in other countries, sometimes boyfriends in Japan don’t have a clue about what their girlfriends really want. Case in point: my wife says one of the best things I’ve given her is a thermos, which speaks volumes about either my gift-selecting savvy or her extremely forgiving nature.

Thankfully, for those guys who could use a little insight into the female psyche (approximately all of us), a recent survey asked 103 Japanese women about the presents from their boyfriends that brought tears to their eyes, whether for good or bad reasons.

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We live the high life with McDonald’s two most expensive Quarter Pounders ever

For those of us born without trust funds, there will be precious few purchasing decisions in life where cost is no object. As a result, it’s important to take advantage of, and savor, that rare opportunity to purchase the very top of the line, whether it takes the form of preferred parking or double-ply toilet paper.

Or, as it did for us at RocketNews24 recently, McDonald’s most expensive Quarter Pounders ever.

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Tokyo temple with planetarium lets you ponder the cosmos while you gaze at it

Shoganji Temple in Tokyo’s Katsushika Ward has the standard trappings you’d expect from a place of Buddhist worship that was founded over 400 years ago. Traditional prayer hall? Check. Surrounding garden with pebble ground cover? Yup. Graveyard with solemn gray tombstones? Of course.

And a functioning planetarium? Sure, why not!

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Travelers rank Japan’s 20 best castles

An often used device in explaining how crowded major Japanese cities are is to point out that the country has roughly half the population of the U.S. crammed into an area about the same size as California. But there’s another important statistic Japan also exceeds America’s most populous state in. While the Golden State can claim only one castle (and that’s if you’re being generous enough to count the Hearst estate as such), Japan has dozens of suitable samurai strongholds.

Travel website TripAdvisor recently announced its ranking of Japan’s top 20 castles, based on feedback from domestic travelers during the past year. Strap on your swords and do up your topknots as we go through the list.

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Lotteria’s new Twin Burger is not to be confused with a double burger

With so many hamburger chains in Japan, each has to find a way to differentiate itself from the others. For example, MOS Burger prides itself on its high quality ingredients, and Freshness Burger tells diners right up front where its priorities lie.

With Lotteria, there are two things we’ve come to expect; multiple patty sandwiches, like the nine-layer Evangelion Q burger, and unconventional ingredient pairings, as seen in the chain’s ramen burger. But Lotteria’s newest offering combines both of the restaurant’s signature sales points.

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Supermoon coming on June 23, lovers and lycanthropes alike hoping for clear skies

Mark your calendars and clear out your schedules, because this Sunday the supermoon is back.

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Eyeball licking: actually not better than a poke in the eye

Puberty is a rough age. With your hormones insisting that you’re ready to start making some babies right now, yet your mind, parents, and teachers saying you’re really not, courtship can be difficult. In particular, figuring out an appropriate way to clearly show affection, while still respecting proper boundaries, can be a real quandary. Learning to find the proper middle ground, though, is an important part of growing up.

Or you could just do the like the kids at one Japanese elementary school who said the heck with it and went to town licking each other’s eyeballs.

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Giant sea eel: fearsome monster or delicious lunch?

The restaurant Fukugawa Tsuribune is famous for tempura, especially its anago don, tempura saltwater eel served over a bowl of rice. The restaurant’s version of this Japanese standard draws fans from all over the Tokyo area to its location 35 minutes by train west of downtown.

Needless to say, the restaurant must be doing something right, and once we heard the rumors that the anago portions are extremely generous, we couldn’t keep ourselves away and made the trip out to the restaurant to try it for ourselves.

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