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

Your holiday (counterfeit) gift-buying guide!

With Christmas right around the corner, we’re heading into the busiest shopping period of the year. As always, though, the closer we get to December 25, the more barren the store shelves become. So what can you do if your kids are dying for a PlayStation 4 and the stores are sold out?

Simple, just give them a shiny new PolyStation, the gift that says “I didn’t care enough about time management to get you what you really wanted, but I do care enough to give you something from the international world of knockoff goods.”

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Video game maker’s Akihabara pizza joint has great food, not a single maid

Aside from software development, Japanese video game maker Nitroplus has worked on novelization and illustration work for popular anime franchises such as Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Psycho-Pass, and Guilty Crown.

Yes, Nitroplus has its fingers in a lot of pies, including, surprisingly enough, pizza.

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Japanese amateur chef shares his cooking secret (Hint: the secret is fish heads)

As any highly skilled chef will tell you, presentation is a key part of the total process that goes into crafting an enjoyable meal. How the food looks is often as important as how it tastes, which, unless you’re really into the Arabic salad tabouli, is likely the only reason you’ve ever bought a jar of parsley.

Japanese culture has a particular appreciation for aesthetics at the dining table. Even at home, many cooking enthusiasts take pride in their ability to elegantly position their meal’s components on a variety of dishes and trays with seasonally appropriate color schemes or designs.

But if that’s too much trouble for you, you can always do like the amateur chef whose creations we’re featuring today, and just hack the head off a fish and plant it in the middle of your spaghetti.

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Enjoy revolving sushi at home (even if the catch of the day comes with a catch)

Revolving sushi restaurants, also known as conveyer belt sushi, are one of the most accessible and enjoyable ways to eat out in Japan. You simply grab a seat, then grab plates of sushi as they pass by on the automated belt. Since there’s no ordering necessary, you don’t even have to know the name of the fish in your native language, let alone Japanese.

Unlike full-service sushi restaurants where the exalted chef often chooses what to place on the customers’ plate, at revolving sushi restaurants your meal is make up of exactly what you want to eat, and nothing else. Add in the fact that revolving sushi restaurants are far cheaper than their more traditional cousins, and you have an almost perfect dining experience.

Now, one inventor is looking to let you to experience revolving sushi at home, albeit with a big twist.

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Chinese Internet auction winner claims seller bubble-wrapped his dog

As December 25 draws near and stores become more and more packed with people searching for the perfect gift, no one would blame you if you opted to do all of your shopping online. Honestly, there’s never been a better age for Internet shopping, and you can bypass going out in the cold by parking yourself on your sofa with a laptop and ordering just about anything you want or need while sipping from a hot mug of cocoa (or a cold bottle of beer, if you’re lucky enough to live someplace warm even at this time of year).

Yes, with just a few clicks you can have books, groceries, or even a new pet for the family delivered right to your home. The only question is, how do you package a puppy?

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Ultra-simple smartphone navigation system helps you find your friends even if you can’t read a map

In Japan, only the largest of streets have names. Addresses aren’t sequential either, so as you walk down the road the numbers may go from 12 to 5, and then back up to 23. Since making it from point A to point B isn’t as simple as “turn left on Main Street, then right on Arrow Highway, and if you see the 1600 block, you know you went too far,” for most people, a good map is essential for getting where you want to go.

But what if your map-reading skills aren’t the greatest? Or how about if you’re looking for a person, like the girl you asked out to dinner and are supposed to meet up with in five minutes?

Thankfully, there’s now an app for that.

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One couple, two beds – Why do so many Japanese spouses sleep separately?

Comparatively speaking, Japanese homes are undeniably small. So much so that many traditional furnishings are designed to help maximize the efficiency of what little space there is. Futons that can be stuffed into a closet when not in use, tables that fold up in a snap, and cushions for sitting on the floor all provide the flexibility to quickly and easily convert a living room into a bedroom.

So with space at such a premium, why do so many Japanese married couples choose to sleep in separate rooms?

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How to master the elements by setting ice on fire, then eating it 【Recipe】

Recently, Meg, one of our RocketNews24 colleagues from our Japanese-language sister site, came to us raving about a great dessert she’d just tried. Since we’re always thinking about food, we were happy to listen as she gushed. “It’s called yakigori,” she informed us, “and people have been making it in Japan for over 100 years!”

“Oh, you mean, kakigori, right?” we responded, mentioning the Japanese word for shaved ice. “Yeah, we have that overseas, too. By the way, you should really take some medicine for that cold.”

“No, not kakigori, yakigori,” Meg insisted. To help us understand, she even wrote it down in Japanese. We read the kanji characters, 焼き氷, once, then double checked it. There was no mistake, though. Meg was talking about a dessert named “roasted ice.”

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Don’t own a television? Japan’s public broadcaster doesn’t care, but still wants your money

Paying taxes works a little differently in Japan. Often, large companies will simply deduct the required income tax from employees’ paychecks, and even file the necessary paperwork for them. On the other hand, workers have their earnings taxed twice, with residency taxes which are based on their income from the previous year and must be paid quarterly. Like most things in Japan, resident taxes can be paid with a fat wad of cash at the convenience store.

But perhaps the weirdest of all are government fees for public television in Japan. Not only do the bill collectors go door to door soliciting payment, but some administrators are looking to make people pay the fees whether they own a TV or not.

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Wreckage of World War II-era Japanese submersible aircraft carrier found off Hawaii

Japan and the nations the English-speaking RocketNews24 team hail from are on good terms these days, but just a few generations ago things weren’t so friendly. While the greatest scientific minds of Japan today focus on putting solar panels on the moon or turning algae into fuel, during the 1930s and 40s weapons development was a much bigger growth area than green energy.

Recently, the wreckage of one of the Japanese Imperial Navy’s most advanced pieces of equipment from World War II was discovered off the coast of Hawaii. What exactly was it? A submarine, or maybe an aircraft carrier?

It was both.

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Live-action Attack on Titan gets release date, new director

With the notable exception of Gundam creator Yoshiyuki Tomino, pretty much everybody in the world seems to love Attack on Titan. Although the series got started with a manga serial in 2009, its adaptation into an animated TV series in 2013 rocketed the title to popularity.

There’s been talk of a live-action theatrical version of Attack on Titan for some time, and the project now has a new director, writers, and best of all, a release date.

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Restaurant combines delicious sushi with live performances by J-pop idols

Up until a few years ago, Tokyo’s Akihabara district was strictly an enclave of computer, video game, and anime merchandise stores. All that changed when two pop culture movements both set up camp in the neighborhood.

The maid café scene exploded, offering patrons the chance to grab a bite to eat while being served and surrounded by cute girls dressed in frilly outfits. At the same time, the incredibly popular pop idol unit AKB48 built an intimately-sized theatre in Akihabara where they give regular concerts for their adoring fans, often accompanied by handshake sessions.

Not content to let Tokyo have all the glory from combining food with up-close musical performances, Nagoya is stepping up to the plate with an idol singer sushi restaurant.

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Japanese company wants to send robots to the moon to build a laser to point at Earth (to help us, of course)

Right now, how terrified would you be if we told you that Shimizu Corporation, one of Japan’s largest and most powerful engineering and contracting conglomerates, is in the planning stages for a project to send a team of robots to the moon in order to build a laser to point at our home world?

Don’t worry though. Shimizu isn’t plotting to enslave the people of earth. Instead, the company is looking to provide us all with clean, renewable energy.

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Shiro the Cat: The cutest cure for insomnia 【Video】

Japan has a number of sleeping arrangements that can be jarring if you didn’t grow up here. Sleeping in a futon on the floor, often in a space that doubles as your living room and/or kitchen, can take some getting used to. A surprisingly large number of pillows sometimes come filled with, by Western standards, unusual things such as buckwheat husks.

But you know what? Maybe we’re being too picky. As Shiro the Cat shows us, all you really need for a good night’s sleep is a cooking pot, and, if you’re looking to get really luxurious, a sweet potato.

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Mr. Sato celebrates Japan’s Good Meat Day by taking on Burger King’s all-you-can-eat Whopper deal

There may not have been any Thanksgiving festivities in Japan this past week, but the Japanese language’s ample opportunities for puns gave us two special days to celebrate. Coming on the heels of Knee-High Socks Day was the equally pun-tastic Good Meat Day on November 29.

Good Meat Day gets its name by breaking the date into its individual digits of 1-1-2-9, which can be read as ii niku, literally “good meat.” We decided the best way to commemorate our carnivorous cravings was by hitting Burger King to catch the tail-end of their all-you-can-eat burger promotion.

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Film critic proposes censoring latest Studio Ghibli anime for overseas release

The newest theatrical anime from Studio Ghibli, Kaguya Hime no Monogatari, opened just over a week ago. While we came away impressed, the movie-going public at large hasn’t been coming out in the numbers expected for a release by the legendary animation production house.

Now, one film critic is speculating that the movie may have trouble bolstering its lackluster box office numbers with overseas revenue, stating his opinion that Kaguya Hime no Monogatari may not be screenable in certain markets outside Japan without censoring multiple scenes.

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The trials and tribulations of giving your seat on a train to a Japanese senior citizen

Given the amount of time people spend riding trains in Japan, it’s no surprise that there’s a whole set of both implicit and explicit protocol passengers are expected to follow. Eating on the train is considered bad form, for example, and passengers are expressly asked to refrain from talking on their cell phones or allowing them to ring.

One of the trickiest aspects of Japanese train etiquette involves giving up your seat on a crowded train. Good manners stipulate that the elderly and young children have priority, but as the stories from Twitter users below show, what seems like it should be a simple act of kindness isn’t always so simple after all.

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How to determine your psychic aptitude in seconds just by looking at your thumb

Walk around a major Japanese city at night, and sooner or later you’re bound to come across a tiny, candle-lit table on the sidewalk, usually with a line of young women stretching from it. Contrary to appearances, this is not, in fact, a romantic autograph signing session by the RocketNews24 team, and is instead one of the many street-side fortune tellers who ply their trade in Japan after nightfall.

One of the most popular types of fortune telling is palm reading. Believers claim that by examining the lines of your palm and fingers, an expert can deduce your future and true character. And now, with a simple test you can perform at home, a quick glance at your thumb will also clue you in to the strength of your own personal connection to the spirit world.

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French artist gives new perspective on Sailor Moon and Disney princesses with X-ray illustrations

In recent years, there has been a backlash against the numerous princesses in Disney’s films. Criticisms have been lobbed at films spanning the many decades of the studio’s animated canon, with complaints that earlier princesses are too inactive, and that more recent heroines are too sexualized in design.

Regardless of whether or not you agree that Disney’s princesses are having a negative influence on the impressionable minds of children, I think we can all agree that what’s most important is not how someone looks, but rather the quality of their character and integrity. The highest form of beauty is inner beauty, and it’s important that we help our children develop the skills necessary to look inside of a person to see what they’re really made of.

And I can’t think of a better way to do that than by examining X-rays of Disney princesses.

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We search for Japan’s best convenience store fried chicken, just in time for Christmas

Like many people who grew up in the US, I used to think of food cooked at a convenience store as the absolute last resort for sustenance. Things are different in Japan though, where the hygienic, attentively-staffed convenience stores are more akin to compact local grocers. Aside from a variety of boxed lunches, you can even get tasty hot food, such as fried chicken.

Fried chicken, it just so happens, is the traditional choice in Japan for Christmas Eve dinner, so with the holiday fast approaching we decided to stage a little taste test to see which convenience store’s fried chicken is the best.

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