Master Blaster

Writer / Translator

Master Blaster is the two-man translating team of Steven Le Blanc and Masami M.

Steven Le Blanc is an English teacher in Osaka but born and raised on a steady diet of Street Fighter and Godzilla movies in Canada. You can often find him translating stories about the impending robot revolution, North Korea, poorly named products, or whatever else satiates the ADHD he diagnosed himself as having via wikipedia. He enjoys spending his free time by pondering deep linguistic questions like what the best way to start a sentence with the word "iPhone" is.

Masami M is a Japanese person born in Osaka but raised in Tokyo. A founder of one of the first Mahjong websites in Japan, Japanese Reach Mahjong for Beginners viewed by millions monthly, he was also responsible for a blog chronicling the fates of two NOVA teachers abandoned by the bankrupt company which was profiled on national TV as well as other media outlets. In addition to translating, writing and running websites he also works in advertising.

All Stories by Master Blaster

We head to the Snickers Hungry Barber for a free haircut, worth every penny

The other day we reported that the people behind chocolate, peanut and nougaty munch-fest Snickers was opening up a barber shop in Tokyo’s trendy Omotesando. Dubbed the Snickers Hungry Barber, the shop boasts some of the strangest hairstyles in the world, and they’re all free of charge!

Our Japanese correspondent Yuichiro Wasai decided to take Snickers up on the offer and ordered an Omakase (“I’ll leave it to you”) from the shop’s scissor-wielding staff. Little did he know that he would receive a hair style so potent with animal magnetism that everyone he passed on the street seemed to want a photo of him.

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Station in China reminds us to kindly “wait outside a noodle”

In an effort to make facilities foreigner-friendly or simply to enhance the style of an advertisement Asian governments and businesses will often add English translations. However, many don’t feel it’s worth the effort to do a proper translation and simply rely on automatic ones. The results are often sure to put a smile on the face of English speakers in the rest of the world.

Now, Xi’an North Station has put another feather in the cap of gloriously wrong translations…and this time they called it macaroni.

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Sony to co-produce door locks which can be opened entirely by smartphone

The list of things you can’t do with a smartphone grows smaller and smaller as time marches on, and one more thing to cross off that list is coming in May next year. A new device is scheduled to hit the market which will allow you to open your front door using your mobile device and a special app. Called Qrio Smart Lock, its crowdfunding page boasts that you can “protect your privacy with Sony security technology.”

…Yeah. The Qrio Smart Lock will sell for 10,500 yen (US$90) and if the buzz online is any indication, people couldn’t be more terrified at its arrival.

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39 looks at the lighter side of Asia

As you’re probably well aware, we at RocketNews24 strive to tackle only the most serious issues of the day. Whether we’re breaking down the complexities of the TPP and its effects on soy bean subsidies, or providing in-depth analysis on how modern Japanese silk arts have deviated from their traditional routes, we never stop thinking about important matters. Even though we cover these topics with deadly seriousness, however, we have been known to let our hair down once a year or so.

With that in mind, today we’d like to bring you a collection of photos which pretty much no point or underlying theme aside from the fact they all come out of Asia and are really weird. Don’t worry though, we’ll be back to our usual coverage of tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests of Japan soon enough. For now just sit back and enjoy these little pieces of Novocaine for the mind.

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Character images of new Digimon Adventure series released, expected to air in spring 2015

At an event marking the 15th anniversary of the original Digimon Adventure series in Odaiba, Tokyo on 1 August, an announcement was made declaring a brand new chapter in the human-monster buddy saga will bring back the original characters.

Along with the announcement came a special anniversary website with some Digi-Eggs containing details of the new series. However, no matter how much you rubbed those suckers nothing came out – until now.

The hatchling information included a brief rundown of the staff and a first look at all eight of the DigiDestined more evolved…I mean grown up.

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“Tax” declared the official kanji of 2014

They say a picture’s worth a thousand words, but in Japan every year people try to distill an entire year’s worth of words into a single picture…or logograph if you want to get technical about it.

Last year, after tens of thousands of votes were counted, 輪 pronounced rin or wa and meaning “ring” was selected to represent the nations various achievements of 2013 such as winning the bid for the Olympic games and having Mt. Fuji designated as a World Heritage Site.

And today, after the Buddhist monk approached the canvas of Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto, this kanji above is what he painted under a fittingly gloomy and cloud-filled sky.

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Tohoku University team discovers blue light is effective at killing insects

Earlier this year Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano, and Shuji Nakamura won the Nobel Prize in Physics for their development of an efficient blue light-emitting diode (blue LED).

It was a well-deserved victory for the Japanese scientists whose invention continues to impact our lives in ways we often don’t even notice. It could be in the display you’re looking at right now or it could be helping some of the millions of people in parts of the world without electrical infrastructure get affordable lights for their homes.

And now in a report published in Scientific Reports, a team of researchers from Tohoku University have found a new use for blue LED. When used in the right frequency it can be an effective, safe, clean, and cheap way to kill insects. For the first time, they showed that visible light around the blue part of the spectrum is lethal to insects such as mosquitoes and fruit flies.

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Old footage shows Aikido master tangle with Robert Kennedy’s security staff

Before his passing in 1994, 10 dan Aikido master Gozo Shioda was living proof that size truly doesn’t matter. At a height of about 156cm (5’1) and weighing in at around 45kg (106lbs) he could still be seen overpowering several larger men at the same time through his training and skill of manipulating his attackers’ own power.

One particular high point of his career was during a visit by then United States Attorney General Robert Kennedy in 1962. During the demonstration he invited one of Kennedy’s bodyguards to take part as well.

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We visit Hong Kong’s luminous landscape during the holiday season for an added holiday twinkle

During this time of the year, a lot of cities like to bring out elaborate light decorations to warm up their otherwise ice cold streets. Whether it’s for Christmas, New Year’s or just the heck of it, as the days grow darker the streets tend to go brighter.

So what about cities that are already known for their abundance of colorful lights? Do they to amp it up even more for the end of the year? Our reporter FelixSayaka went to Hong Kongto find out, a city that is said to have one of the most stunning skylines in the world. She came back with this handy list of places you should check out if in Hong Kong during the holiday season, or if you’re just into pretty pictures.

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Dark Horizon textbooks go beyond “Hello my name is…” to “Who are you calling a bitch, bitch!”

Those who have taught English at a school in Japan would likely have encountered the New Horizon textbook series. Starting off with the basics of English, it takes students through a series of Rockwellian incidents such as “my grandma who goes to baseball games, but doesn’t know the rules.”

One man who has clearly gone through these idyllic situations one too many times is Brain Reyes. Taking New Horizon’s main characters ten years into their bleak futures, he has written a new version of the English textbook: Dark Horizon.

A piece which seems created to exorcise the memories of New Horizon for both student and teacher alike, it also provides uniquely useful phrases you’re not likely to find in any other textbook including “I love you like a fat kid loves cake” and “That’s not just any stack of boxes, that’s my house.”

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Snickers may have come up with their best campaign ever: A free barber shop

That delicious combination of peanuts, caramel and nougat all coated in chocolate known as Snickers has been around for ages. But I always wondered why it was called “Snickers.” Apparently named after a horse belonging to the Mars candy dynasty, it seemed like an odd name despite its inherent zip.

In what initially looks like an even weirder move, Snickers will open a barbershop in Omotesando, Tokyo giving away free haircuts for a limited time this month. Although seemingly random on the surface, a quick glance at the choice of hairstyle will show you why. These styles will guarantee you get snickers everywhere you go.

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McDonald’s Japan may be winning back fans with Crab Croquette Burger

2014 has not been a stellar year for McDonald’s Japan. The tainted chicken scandal of midyear rocked the fast-food chain so much that it’s core audience of netizens decried every offering since. It wasn’t for lack of trying as they hauled out some alternative tofu nuggets only to float back to chicken nuggets offered for free. The company then tried offering the sophisticated taste of mushroom risotto balls and a tonkatsu (fried pork cutlet) burger with sauce selected by a nationwide search.

However, all of these efforts fell on deaf ears and itchy typing fingers hammering out comments such as “Never again” and “It’s too easy to see they’re fine with using dodgy meat.” It had gotten to the point that you might think Japan had turned its collective back on McDonald’s forever, but as the New Year’s song goes: Should old acquaintance be forgot?

Maybe so as McDonald’s Japan’s latest offering has been getting a relatively warm response, and all it took was a little crabbiness.

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Mr. Sato takes a sperm test, passes with flying colors

Our ace reporter Mr. Sato is currently into his 40s and during a conversation with one of his peers the other day he learnt that men of that age run a certain risk of diminished sperm. For instance, the man he was talking to recently got tested only to find that his sperm count was dropping to what he called the “requiem” stage.

This prompted Mr. Sato to actually think about what was going on down there, so he decided to get checked himself to make sure he wasn’t in his reproductive autumn as well. Luckily, it was learned that not only is Mr. Sato healthy but there’s a party in his pants…and yes, we’re all invited!

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High-level yakuza member arrested for possession of 17kg of salt

On 1 December Yokohama customs and police departments announced the arrest of an allegedly high ranking 49-year-old member of the Sumiyoshikai yakuza group along with six other men in a case of smuggling. They found in his possession 17kg of rock salt, which was actually planted on him by Yokohama customs agents prior to his arrest. All involved are considering it a flawless example of proper law-enforcement.

If you’re confused by this then you might not be familiar with the police tactic known as “oyogasesosa” (swim investigation) or “controlled delivery” as it’s called in English speaking countries.

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Japanese Twitter user claims to have achieved “Perfect” sound on iTunes, we investigate

We all love going into our iTunes player and manually adjusting the equalizer settings, am I right?

Alright, well, I for one make sure to readjust the equalizer bands for each song that comes up, which is why I don’t really accomplish much in a given day. However, a Japanese Twitter user by the handle of Hisagi claims to have found the ideal settings which have been dubbed simply “Perfect.” They claim that this setting will improve the quality regardless of what speakers you use.

This announcement has brought other contenders for the crown of “Best iTunes Equalizer Settings” out of the internet woodwork as well. So we decided to test them all out to find the champ… or to realize that it’s better to just leave the equalizer alone in the first place.

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In Hokkaido there’s weed, weed everywhere, but not a drop to smoke

Japan tends to be a very drug-shy country. Most people you talk to will say that they’ve never gone anywhere near substances like marijuana, and according to a Public Library of Science survey, 98 times out of 100 they’re telling you the truth.

And yet you might be surprised to hear that there is an abundance of cannabis growing wild all over the northern island of Hokkaido. But before you go booking a ticket, you may want to learn why.

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Chinese man locked out of his iPhone for 45 years

Everyone who has young children and iPhones has probably plucked it from a pair of little hands at one time or another and found that it was completely locked down for one minute because of too many invalid PIN entries.

For most it’s a reasonably minor inconvenience, but for one man in China it became a lifelong commitment as he was asked to wait about 45 years for his next chance to remember his personal identification number for his iPhone 4s. Really though, if he can’t remember it by then, it’s safe to say he never will.

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We head to Nagoya for a nice cup of joe served fresh from a stepladder to your table

They say that in Japan, the city of Nagoya is the fiercest market for cafes and as a result it also has many of the best coffee shops in the country. And in the midst of all these high quality roasts and laid-back atmospheres lies one shop in particular that literally manages to stand above the rest.

It’s called Cafe Tsuzuki and has a poster with the slogan “Coffee Guy’s shop: Night and day unique coffee research.” We sent our reporter Yuichiro Wasai down to inquire about their research, stepladder and all.

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Japanese man proposes to girlfriend with Guinness World Record-winning GPS drawing

On 30 June, 2008 Yasushi Takahashi, or Yassan for short, quit his job and set out on a trek across Japan. He took with him a GPS logger to document the journey as he experienced the “Japan that [he knows] only in books.”

That might seem like a reckless choice for a man in his thirties, but as we can see, along with Japan he was also mapping out his future during this half-year travel. Yassan also recorded parts of the trip on video and uploaded it to YouTube in a video titled Tegami-Letter.

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Barack Obama inadvertently galvanizes anti-immigration sentiments in Japan

Confusion broke out online in Japan recently as people weren’t sure what to make of a comment uttered by US President Barack Obama on 25 November. During a speech regarding immigration reform in Chicago he cited Japan as an example of a country which doesn’t “have problems with certain folks being discriminated against.”

In Obama’s mind, the remark must have been an innocuous comment meant to lighten the crowd. Little did he know that it would wind up mentioned in the Japanese press and through a chain of misunderstandings would lead some to comment: “Look at that. So he admits the evils of immigration after all!” It’s as if Aaron Sorkin wrote an episode of Three’s Company.

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