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

Tohoku University evicts entire dormitory for rampant drinking, is a zany 80s comedy just waiting to happen

Tohoku University evicts entire dormitory for rampant drinking, is a zany 80s comedy just waiting to happen

On 15 July, Tohoku University sent eviction notices to all 105 residents of Meizenryo, a student-governed dormitory in Sendai. The school claims that the students violated their “promise to abstain from alcohol.”

Although asking a building full of college students not to drink is like asking a building full of tigers not to scratch the furniture, the school is taking a hardline stance of incredulousness at their behavior. Nevertheless, students are appealing saying that not everyone in the dorm drinks and some should be allowed to stay.

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Kids’ Hello Kitty Dictionary is surprisingly gritty

Kids’ Hello Kitty Dictionary is surprisingly gritty

Hello Kitty’s reach of product endorsements spreads far and wide like so many whiskers from her pillowy white face. From contact lenses to passenger planes to melons, her adorable ribbon can be seen on everything, so a Hello Kitty Dictionary is hardly a shock.

What is shocking, however, is how encompassing this dictionary is including terms from the darker corners of human existence. It could be a good thing though as learning about forms of mob lynching is perhaps best done through the gentle cupcake decorated words of Hello Kitty.

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International survey finds that 90% are open to a romantic encounter with a Korean partner

International survey finds that 90% are open to a romantic encounter with a Korean partner

Earlier this year South Korea’s largest matchmaking company decided to look abroad and ask the people of countries in North America, Europe, and Southeast Asia about their romantic feelings towards Koreans.

The results, which were reported on 22 July, were certainly something to put a spring in the steps of the people of South Korea. A whopping 90 percent of respondents declared that they would like to have a romance with a Korean person. That is, unless the people of the ROK are as neurotic as I am and are wondering, “What’s up with that other 10 percent?”

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Hanahana are some of the most elegant and expensive sparklers ever made

Hanahana are some of the most elegant and expensive sparklers ever made

Walking through the fireworks rack at a store you can see various rickets and sparklers all decked out in loud colors and cartoon graphics promising the noisiest of evenings in the park. Given the nature of the product, it seems a reasonable marketing course to take.

However, surely there are those among us who enjoy burning things up in a more demure atmosphere – perhaps with some Polonaise in A-flat major playing in the background and sipping on a glass of Brunello.

For that we present an exquisite pack of sparklers handcrafted from all-natural and all-domestic materials. They’re called Hanahana and are selling for the price of 10,000 yen (US$98).

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Chinese mall’s large pink parking spaces for women seen as sexist by some, wonderful by others

Chinese mall’s large pink parking spaces for women seen as sexist by some, wonderful by others

China’s World Metropolis Center (WMC) has become the center of controversy recently over their decision to lay out 10 parking spaces intended for women only. As a result, what we assume was a well-intentioned gesture by the shopping center has seemed to upset some people online drawing cries of discrimination. On the other hand, visitors to the mall seemed pleased with the initiative.

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Chinese bus gets lined with artificial turf for World Cup, may never go back

Chinese bus gets lined with artificial turf for World Cup, may never go back

In an effort to ride the wave of excitement caused by the FIFA World Cup championships, a bus in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region had artificial grass layered throughout its flooring. However, according to the driver, the benefits of this promotional scheme went far beyond stirring up a little soccer-fever.

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Teacher accidentally supports the armament of Japan with flawed cartoon reference

Teacher accidentally supports the armament of Japan with flawed cartoon reference

On 16 July Sapporo Attorney Ayako Ito made a visit to Sapporo Kotoni Technical High School to assist the social studies teacher Shiego Kawahara in an important lesson regarding the right of collective self-defense. It’s a thorny issue that can be difficult enough to explain to adults let alone teenagers.

So the pair constructed a highly illustrated lecture on the topic using the classic manga and anime series Doraemon as an analogy. During the talk the teacher posed the question using the clumsy protagonist of the story: “If you gave Nobita a gun you could say he’s stronger, but could he really protect himself?”

As the question was posed a Asahi Shimbun reporter was in attendance and noticed that all of the students heads lifted up. Although it would seem the largely anti-war lecture had struck a chord with the kids, hardcore fans of Doraemon picked up on the fact that Kawahara had just accidentally made the most pro-militarization rhetorical question possible.

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National Tanuki Cake Habitat Map aims at conserving the once-beloved but now endangered dessert

National Tanuki Cake Habitat Map aims at conserving the once-beloved but now endangered dessert

Tanuki, also known as Japanese raccoon dogs, hold a special place in Japanese culture. Often the center of folktales for their large testicles, magical abilities, and easygoing attitude, you can see them depicted in works of art all over the country.

However, now the tanuki is threatened. Not the actual animal, but a cake created in its image known as the tanuki cake. For many middle-aged Japanese people the mention of such a treat would awaken fond childhood memories. Despite this, the tanuki cake population in Japan has plummeted in recent years to the point of being critically endangered.

That’s why the website Tanuki Cake No Aru Toko Meguri has established the National Tanuki Cake Habitat Map, so that we may monitor and perhaps conserve these noble animal-shaped cakes.

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Try a super-easy summer cold remedy with this natural Honey Daikon Cough Syrup recipe

Try a super-easy summer cold remedy with this natural Honey Daikon Cough Syrup recipe

Summer is here and with it come the sleepless nights of rolling around in bed searching for a sweat-free spot. Of course, fans and air conditioners are at hand but they bring a whole other set of problems such as dry, sore throats in the morning and incessant buzzing that might make it even harder to nod off.

They say summer colds are the worst kind, and taking standard medicine with all the drowsiness they can cause is no good in this already delirium-inducing heat.

Now, we don’t promise this to be a cure (it’s a common cold, after all!), but for those suffering from summer sniffles and phlegm we humbly recommend a simple recipe using all natural ingredients: honey, daikon, and just a pinch of patience.

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Mixed martial artist shoots to fame by combining victory pose and epic gurning skills

Mixed martial artist shoots to fame by combining victory pose and epic gurning skills

The world of martial arts tends to be a serious one. Even though fights are bound by a set of rules, one wrong move can lead to serious injuries. For that reason alone fighters must take a highly disciplined approach to training both their bodies and minds.

Japan’s Pancrase mixed martial arts is one of the stages where these dangerous confrontations unfolds. However, at Pancrase 259 in Tokyo’s Differ Ariake Arena, a fight involving flyweight Takuya Eizumi took a turn for the surreal when his winning pose drew more attention that any fight that took place that evening.

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Cornman spotted cleaning up street outside Ikebukuro Station

Cornman spotted cleaning up street outside Ikebukuro Station

On 17 June a tweet went out reporting a well-dressed man picking up garbage on the street while pulling around a stuffed turtle and scrub brush on leashes. Fans of Kanto area eccentrics should recognize this guy as Cornman or Tawashi Ojisan as he often calls himself.

Although lacking the ear of corn on a leash that we came to know him as having, he certainly still seems to be showing the same level of civic pride and duty as always.

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Hanoi police seize 150 kilos of meat-transforming “magic food additive”

Hanoi police seize 150 kilos of meat-transforming “magic food additive”

In Vietnam on 15 July it was reported that Hanoi police investigated the Dong Yang Nong Sa food distributor and discovered a large stash of illegal food additives. Referred to as a “Magical Additive” it has the power to transform pork into beef. This comes as great news because I was just about to stop believing in magic.

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Fans lined up to get a mouthful of Exile singer’s tasty chocolate banana

Fans lined up to get a mouthful of Exile singer’s tasty chocolate banana

Starting 19 July Fuji TV will be holding the “Odaiba Shintairiku” event featuring live performances from various artists along with other attractions.

Among these attractions is Izakaya Eguzairu, a bar and grill featuring dishes designed by the members of the top pop group Exile. While much of the menu is standard fare such as Hiro’s spaghetti or Aran Shirahama’s chicken and rice, it’s the dish dreamt up by vocalist Takahiro that has everyone saying “I want to eat Takahiro’s banana” online.

We sent our reporter Nakano-san in to get to the bottom of Takahiro’s Chocolate Banana.

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Japan Post upgrades customer service technology, downgrades it soon after

Japan Post upgrades customer service technology, downgrades it soon after

Although offering up high-tech features and services to their customers seems like an obviously good idea, businesses must always be wary of alienating the less technologically inclined. Such is the case with Japan Post (JP) who once had to come up with a low-tech solution to a high-tech problem.

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Automatic Skirt Lifting Vending Machine invented, humankind reaches new heights

Automatic Skirt Lifting Vending Machine invented, humankind reaches new heights

You might say that the last great life-changing technological achievement was the development of portable devices like smartphones and tablets. However, it’s been a few years now and nothing truly new has come down the pike aside from making other everyday things “smart” like glasses or a watch.

Just in time, we now have a new device that may change the very fabric of society. It’s a vending machine that lifts up the skirt of a Hatsune Miku plush toy. It may not sound important right now, but that’s how these game-changers work. In a few years’ time all of our lives will revolve around this invention, so let’s take a moment to see how it works.

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We try an ice cream bar in chili pepper oil, begin to think the internet is just screwing with us

We try an ice cream bar in chili pepper oil, begin to think the internet is just screwing with us

Fresh off Taiwan’s discovery that pudding and ramen are pretty tasty together and despite the widespread disgust and horror it produced, Chinese netizens have now come up with a new unlikely taste sensation: Chili oil & an ice cream bar.

As weird as it initially looked, I could kind of see the pudding ramen working out, but I draw the line at this ungodly combination. I’d have to have accidentally swallowed drain cleaner to want to consume thi…oh, hang on. My phone’s ringing…

Okay! Looks like I get to try out the newest food craze from China’s internet! I can’t…wait.

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Your feet work hard for you, it’s time for them to dress the part with Shirt-Type Socks

Your feet work hard for you, it’s time for them to dress the part with Shirt-Type Socks

With summer kicking into full gear, it’s time to shed as many layers as possible to stay ahead of the heat. This leads to a lot of fashion dilemmas though, such as keeping your feet cool. Barefoot seems to be the obvious choice, but you all know how it is when you’re just about to strap on some sandals and you suddenly get a call to meet with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Itsuro Terada.

It’s just these kinds of everyday annoyances that we assume footware brand Erimaki Sox is addressing when they came up with Shirt-Type Socks: socks that button up and have snazzy collars.

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Japan’s 10 best singing voices as chosen by people in the industry

Japan’s 10 best singing voices as chosen by people in the industry

Japanese music has a wide variety of artists, and like any country’s music scene it too is full of gimmicky sounds or imagery. Such music can be great and a lot of fun too, but there’s something about a naturally talented vocalist that demands our attention and respect.

But who in Japan is the greatest pure singer? Some of you may have already pulled up an image of your favorite Japanese singer while others like me are drawing a blank, still unable to shake the image of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu dancing with candy skeletons.

Luckily, the TV show Suiyobi No Downtown held their own ranking survey asking 200 people in the Japanese music industry from vocal trainers to studio engineers “Who is really good at singing?” Here are the results.

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Watch how traditional Japanese craftsmanship is done in a series of videos from Gucci Japan

Watch how traditional Japanese craftsmanship is done in a series of videos from Gucci Japan

One of the things about Japan that I’m always most curious about is the various traditional buildings and items that can be found, like the mikoshi. These are portable shrines of various sizes that get carried around during festive times. They’re incredibly intricate in their decorations and must require regular maintenance. This always leads me to wondering who makes these things and what is their business model? You don’t see any billboards for mikoshi manufacturers and yet the workshops and craftsmen are out there, somewhere doing their thing.

For another example, take this little mosaic box pictured above. You may have seen a similar one before, but do you know how it’s made? You might be surprised at where the pattern actually comes from and thanks to a series of videos put out on YouTube, we can get a glimpse at how traditional handmade Japanese goods are painstakingly created.

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Spot discovered on the Taipei Bridge without a scooter on it

Spot discovered on the Taipei Bridge without a scooter on it

Scooters are a popular means of transportation in all Asian countries for their small size and fuel economy. In Japan not a day goes by where you don’t see a dozen or so small engine bikes puttering around the streets.

However this video taken from Taiwan is on a whole other level. What must be thousands of scooters pouring off the Taipei Bridge are simply making their daily commute. The roughly two-minute video is eerily reminiscent of the million-duck march in Thailand last month, and yet it’s also strangely relaxing to watch.

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