Master Blaster

Writer / Translator

Master Blaster is the two-man translating team of Canada’s Steven Le Blanc and Japan’s Masami M, a pair who in addition to writing work are in English education and created the StudyNow app for Japanese students of English.

Together they have written somewhere around 1,500 articles for RocketNews24 covering such diverse topics as Chinese men selling sanitary napkins to each other and a Japanese guy dragging an ear of corn around the Tokyo train system. A few of these were actually good, but don’t take our word for it! Here’s what our beloved readers had to say:

“One isn't always in the mood for bold tastes. But when I'm in the mood for bold flavor I turn to you.”
“Stupid article. Who cares what the Japanese think it's cool. You don't call a monkey, "gorilla".”
“You know, this is about the most cogent explanation of how a turbocharger works that I have ever seen in the non-motorsports world.”
“Thanks for the article peter!”
“It's people like you who make exploitation possible.”
“It looks yummy and the story was great. Thank you for the smile.”

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All Stories by Master Blaster

Washington Post writer catches heat for “dirty Korean beer” joke

There’s a reason I don’t write for the Washington Post. Actually, there are about a thousand reasons, almost all of which pertain to my own ineptness. Another one these reasons is that I occasionally write some embarrassing joke that gets completely misunderstood and blows up in my face.

So, I can relate on some level to the Washington Post’s writer and Tokyo bureau chief Anna Fifield. Her tweet, which jokingly translated a customer request sign as “Don’t bring your dirty Korean beer in here,” has led to some considerably harsh feedback from Japanese Twitter users.

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There’s something hiding beneath this mountain of ramen toppings, but it’s not ramen

Ramen is pretty well-known around the world as a hearty soup of plentiful ingredients. Sure there are variations from country to country, but at the end of the day, it’s all just noodles and broth with the necessary toppings to add character.

At least that’s how it used to be, before one ramen restaurant felt bold enough to reinvent the wheel and take the “men” (as noodles are called in Japanese) out of ramen. But what did they put in place of the lovely noodles that traditionally define ramen?

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Live-action Bakuman trailer released, first glimpse of stars playing against type

On 20 May a trailer for the live-action Bakuman movie was posted online. Before you go groaning at another potentially lame manga/anime adaptation, this one appears to have the goods. Luckily, since the story is mostly grounded in reality it shouldn’t suffer from cheesy effects. Actually, even despite the slice-of-life storyline it does appear to have some decent CGI work.

But more impressive are the films two main characters Moritaka Mashiro and Akito Takagi played by Takeru Sato and Ryunosuke Kamiki respectively. Can Sato pull off the meek charm of Mashiro while Takagi casts aside his more bookish image for Takagi?

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McDonald’s Japan to return “free smiles” to menu

In my more formative years I worked the counter at McDonald’s. It was an okay job for someone with no prior work experience and helped to support my SNES habit. However, the one thing I hated was when a customer approached the counter and would ask for a “free smile” because it was written on the menu.

It had gotten to the point that I could tell the look on a customer’s face before they even opened their mouth to ask for my worthless grin. And so, I’d give them that “oh you” smile as if I hadn’t heard the joke a thousand times before and a little bit of myself would die inside.

Now a whole new generation of Japanese youngsters will get to have that same experience as McDonald’s Japan announced the return of zero-yen smiles to their menus at all stores all day long.

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Chances are you won’t solve this problem correctly

Recently a psychology student posted a copy of the “Four Card Problem” which is a logic puzzle where players must flip over the minimum number of cards to possibly prove or disprove a rule. The way to play is quite simple, yet fewer than 10% of university students have been able to successfully answer it. Ready to step up and give it a whirl?!

Not you, psych students and graduates who have probably already seen this! Back off for a sec and give the rest of us a try first.

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You probably shouldn’t look at this optical illusion, it could have long-term effects

Every once in a while we like to post an optical illusion that’s trending in Japan at the moment, and this time around we bring you the McCollough effect. However, this is one optical illusion you probably shouldn’t go through with.

Don’t get us wrong, we’re going to post the illusion for the sake of reporting on it, but you might want to consider some of our other wonderful articles instead. I read a lovely piece about sacred horses the other day.

The reason we are dissuading you from checking out this optical illusion is that its effect might not go away for quite some time. Studies have reported some after-effects last over three months. So last chance to turn back and check out our list of beautiful Japanese train stations instead.

No? Okay suit yourself and don’t say we didn’t warn you…because we’re still going to continue to warn you.

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Teacher facing charges after swallowing class pet alive

Regardless of the country you do it in, teaching can be a tough profession. Tasked with handling and helping to raise humanity’s most valuable resource, our educators must also put up with tight restrictions and even tighter budgets.

It’s a heavy burden and as a result not surprising when a teacher cracks under the stress every once in a while. I’m not saying that is what happened on the morning of 11 May in a classroom in South Korea, but it certainly seems like a plausible explanation of the case of the teacher who swallowed a live hamster in front of their class.

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Beijing man lives in an unbelievably accurate reconstruction of the sitcom Friends

The man pictured above is Beijing, China resident Gunther. You might be wondering why Gunther appears to be on the set of the hit ’90s sitcom Friends complete with the two leather Lazyboy recliners and over-sized handmade entertainment center owned by Chandler and Joey for much of ten seasons.

That is not a set from the award-winning comedy, however. This is Gunther’s apartment, painstakingly decorated to be nearly identical to that famous Manhattan room. And this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Gunther attachment to Friends.

However, before you go thinking “Could he BE any more insane?” emulating Friends actually may have been the best thing to happen to him.

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Lotteria continues to try making burgers out of noodles, this time they brought rice to the party

Despite a rather weak track-record for its hamburgers with patties of noodles, fast-food chain Lotteria is back at it with the Moko Tanmen Burger. This time around they’ve also come up with the Moko Don Burger which uses a wad of rice as the patty. Good thing Dr. Atkins isn’t around to see this.

They say the definition of “insanity” is doing the same thing twice and expecting different results. We’re not sure what to call RocketNews24 reporter Mr. Sato then, because he is returning to Lotteria for a fourth time to try these noodley sandwiches in hopes of some redemption.

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Panasonic develops data communication using an ordinary light and smartphone

There are many ways that data is transferred these days, be it fiber optic cables, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 4G-LTE, and a whole slew of other brand names and acronyms the meanings of which I don’t care to learn.

Now Panasonic has come up with a way to send and receive data that’s easy for everyone to understand: light. Actually it uses light emitting diodes (LED) to be exact, but that’s about as technical as this explanation needs to get, I promise.

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Expert Swordsman Isao Machii is back and fighting fried shrimp at 130km/h for SoftBank!

They don’t come much more badass than Isao Machii. Dubbed the “Heisei Samurai” or “Modern Samurai” he’s a five-time Guiness World Record holder for feats such as slicing a BB pellet in half mid-flight with a sword. He is also the creator of the Shushin-ryu style of Iaijutsu which is a martial art centered on sudden sword strikes.

Needless to say, this guy has the skills to pay the bills. And pay bills he does by occasionally appearing in commercials. Last year, we saw him promote Toaster Strudel by playing a live version of Fruit Ninja. Now, he’s back to take on more food with his mighty sword, this time at speeds of up to 150 kilometers per hour (93 mph).

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Century-old brewery crafts soy sauce specifically for use on pudding

Village Vanguard is a popular chain of novelty stores across Japan. There you can find all sorts of things from bird poop stickers to Resident Evil curry to wasabi toothpaste. As such, it’s easy to get desensitized to their range of items and lose the ability to be surprised with what they come out with next.

Or so we thought, until word came of a new product that will be sold there around the end of May. Purin Senyo Shoyu is a specially crafted soy sauce meant to be drizzled over a jiggly glob of pudding. You might wonder what pudding and soy sauce taste like together. The answer is surprisingly simple: it tastes like sea urchin.

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Only part of Nintendo employee Gunpei Yokoi’s amazing video game legacy could fit onto his grave

If you’re a fan of video games then chances are you owe a considerable debt of gratitude to Gunpei Yokoi. An employee of Nintendo since its modest days as a hanafuda card game manufacturer, he was instrumental in ushering the company to video game glory through the 80s and early 90s, most notably with his creation of the Game Boy.

His post-Nintendo life was cut tragically short in 1997 when he was stuck by a passing car on the freeway while examining his own vehicle following a minor collision. Nevertheless, his legacy can still easily be felt in video games today and his impressive history can be read straight from his grave according to a new photo posted on Twitter.

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China begins blacklisting tourists caught engaged in uncivilized behavior, four names so far

In recent years there have been numerous incidents involving Chinese tourists that have cast the nation’s people in a less than flattering light, such as when a young Chinese visitor to the Luxor Temple in Egypt carved a message into a relief that dates back three millennia.

A few years and incidents of pooping on airplanes and trains later, we had the case of three Chinese visitors to Japan who were arrested for sexual assault because, they maintained, adult videos led them to think that such behavior was considered normal in Japan.

At first the Chinese government tried to address these issues with a poster to educate potential travelers on how other countries people might react to certain behaviors. However, now the China National Tourism Administration (NTA) is upping the stakes and establishing a blacklist of tourists found to be disturbing the peace, and recording their names publicly.

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Virtual reality gear Tesla Suit hopes to make gaming a lot more touchy-feely

Video game technology continues to find ways to make things more interactive with the recent releases of VR headsets such as the Oculus Rift and Sony’s Project Morpheus. Still, even with those immersive improvements players aren’t getting a full sense of their virtual environments.

For example, playing a first-person shooter without the actual fear of feeling a bullet slam into your chest can never quite compare to a realistic experience. And even the richest game-world textures can’t match the real thing if you can’t touch them with your own two hands.

UK development team Tesla Studios (no connection to the cars) is aiming to fill those gaps between reality and virtual reality with the Tesla Suit; a full-body haptic feedback device allowing you to touch game environments and characters and let them touch you all over your body.

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China’s toilet tech showing considerable signs of improvement

Step by step China has been steadily gaining on Japan in various facets of life. The country has surpassed Japan to become the second biggest economy in the world and they are currently making strides in bullet train development and infrastructure.

But now a video from a Thai traveler gives us a glimpse at yet another way China is looking to overtake Japan, and it is one that may cut closest to the bone. We’re talking of course about fancy toilet technology.

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Enjoy a little lesson in Japanese sign language – it may prevent serious misunderstandings someday

I always thought sign language had a certain elegance and grace to it, and I always wanted to learn it. But like many other things in life such as fashion design and ice sculpting there was never a pressing need master it, especially with my busy schedule of eating wasps.

Luckily, short programs often shown on TV and many videos online teach a few useful words in sign language and allow me to pick it up bit by bit. Now, I’d like to share a few of these so that we can all learn and better ourselves just a little bit.

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Young Singaporean celebrates World No Tobacco Day by attacking random smokers in public

World No Tobacco Day is coming up again this 31 May. This is a day when smokers all around the world are encouraged to abstain from smoking, and it’s a day when smokers everywhere ignore said encouragement.

Personally, I plan to celebrate it by not taking up smoking on that day. It’ll be a challenge but I think I can pull it off. Others, however, are taking a more proactive approach to this event such as Sebes from Merlion TV in Singapore.

In honor of the holiday he has gone out and pulled “pranks” on unsuspecting smokers around the city-state. I would assume all of these pranks legally classify as assault, but then again I’m no Singaporean law expert… Let’s watch!

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Perovskite promises power-producing paint for pennies per pint

Back in 2009, a research team from the University of Tokyo led by Professor Tsutomu Miyasaka found that a substance called perovskite had the potential to generate solar power. However, at the time it only had a very weak power conversion efficiency (PCE) of about four percent and would break down in just a few minutes.

Because of these sizable flaws, not could practical use could be made of perovskite and the discovery lay dormant for a few years. Then, after a Korean team managed to double the PCE in 2011, research into the material was reignited. Now as scientists around the world continue to work on it, the PCE has become well above 20 percent and comparable with the standard silicon-based solar panels that we see today.

With perovskite being drastically cheaper to produce, more flexible to use, and now as efficient as regular solar panels, could we be on the verge of a solar energy revolution?

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Crayfish claw mistakenly eaten whole becomes huge pain in the ass

On 17 April, a man whom the Chinese media is referring to as Zhang headed for the toilet to perform a crucial part of his morning routine. There would be no chance to catch up on the sports section of his paper this day, however.

During his bowel movement the man in his 40s experienced a severe pain in his anus. It wasn’t until the pain grew so intense that he could barely walk that Zhang decided to seek medical help.

And so begins a lesson on chewing your food properly.

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