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

Opera AOI blends the old and the new with vocaloids and bunraku puppets

Opera AOI blends the old and the new with vocaloids and bunraku puppets

The use of vocaloids, artificial singers programmed on a computer, has created its own niche in online art. Thousands share their individually crafted songs using one of the dozens of synthetic voices available posting them to sites such as Niconico for the fun and entertainment of all.

Their popularity has risen to the point of vocaloids getting adopted by highly acclaimed musicians and artists. The figurehead of vocaloids, Hatsune Miku, has collaborated with Louis Vuitton, Lady Gaga, the Japanese Self Defense Force’s Central Band, Pharrell Williams, and Isao Tomita to name a few.

This time, however, artificial performers of the present will be merged with artificial performers of the past in Vocaloid Opera AOI with Bunraku Puppets. I love it when a name perfectly explains what something is so I don’t have to, so let’s get right to looking at trailer for this human-free opera.

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Japanese team wins Ig Nobel prize for confirming that banana peels are in fact slippery

Japanese team wins Ig Nobel prize for confirming that banana peels are in fact slippery

They feature so prominently in our Saturday morning cartoons and Charlie Chaplin movies that mankind has simply taken it as gospel that stepping on a banana peel will cause you to comically slip and fall with such a force that birds and stars will circle your head.

But did you know that until recently this was only a theory, unproven by a peer-reviewed scientific study? Thanks to the hard work done by Kiyoshi Mabuchi and his team at Kitasato University who were able to apply a frictional coefficient, we can unequivocally say that banana peels really are slippery when you step on them. Little wonder the group was awarded the 2014 Ig Nobel Prize in Physics.

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Benesse apologizes to customers by giving them 5 bucks, guilts them into donating the money back

Benesse apologizes to customers by giving them 5 bucks, guilts them into donating the money back

Corporations are a lot like people in many ways, we often talk about them as if they act with a single mind and purpose, and they even have legal rights as an individual. Also, like many humans in the world, some corporations seem to lack certain social graces and may deal with other people in awkward ways.

One company who we might describe as “socially special” is education industry titan Benesse. After a major security breach earlier this year nearly 30 million people’s personal information was leaked and sold. To compensate the victims, Benesse is offering a whole 500 yen (US$4.60). That alone might be interpreted as a slap in the face by some people, but it gets worse.

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SoftBank users in Japan able to roam all the way to the USA and pay the same rates

SoftBank users in Japan able to roam all the way to the USA and pay the same rates

Japanese telecom giant SoftBank has announced a new promotional campaign for its users starting soon called America Hodai (America Unlimited) where users traveling to the United States can enjoy the same rates on voice calls and internet usage as they do in Japan for no additional charge.

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Recreate a Japanese ofuro in your own bathtub and support traditional craftsmen with Pocket Onsen

Recreate a Japanese ofuro in your own bathtub and support traditional craftsmen with Pocket Onsen

Few countries in the world have embraced bathing to the level that Japan has. Inspired by the many natural hot springs (onsen) found around, designers have continuously developed baths at competing inns (ryokan) and bathhouses (sento) for well over a millennium. The fruits of these labors can still be found today in the incredibly relaxing Japanese tubs often referred to as ofuro.

Iacopo Torrini is an Italian architect who works with Japanese ofuro craftsmen selling these traditional tubs all over the world. However, as you might imagine, buying handcrafted bathtubs internationally can be a pricey ordeal. Knowing this, Torrini feels he has come up with a way to affordably and accurately recreate the ofuro experience in any tub, which he calls Pocket Onsen.

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Weekly magazine “My 3D Printer” will put one in your hands by next year, much assembly required

Weekly magazine “My 3D Printer” will put one in your hands by next year, much assembly required

About a month ago, thousands of subscribers to De Agostini’s model building magazine powered on their fully functional and adorable Robi robots for the first time. These robots came to their hobbyist creators one piece at a time with each issue of the magazine in true De Agostini fashion.

It was a long journey starting in late 2012 until this summer, but with their Robis dancing and chatting away happily many are left with itchy assembly fingers and wondering what they will do next.

Starting today, De Agostini are releasing their next series of part-by-part magazines in which readers can build what may feel is the next major world-changing technology: their own 3D Printer.

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Young Chinese entrepreneur tries marketing menstrual pads to men, gets heavy cash flow

Young Chinese entrepreneur tries marketing menstrual pads to men, gets heavy cash flow

Great business people are often described as being so skilled in their field that they ‘could sell ice to an Inuit.” Li Yuanhao, a student of Southwest University in Chongqing, China may have put a new spin on the saying by successfully selling sanitary napkins exclusively to male freshmen students. If the first two days alone Li’s business pulled in 600 yuan in profits (US$108) and future sales projections are looking good.

So, how’d he do it? We assure you it has nothing to do with cross dressing this time.

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Chinese “rape prevention” list goes from zero to Dexter in five seconds flat, endorsed by government

Chinese “rape prevention” list goes from zero to Dexter in five seconds flat, endorsed by government

Rape is and has always been among the most heinous acts humans are capable of, and we should take any and all precautions when it comes to preventing it. This fact has been highlighted in China recently due to some high-profile incidents in the media.

In reaction to this, a graduate from Wuhan University who works at the city’s Public Security Bureau created a list of nine ways to avoid being raped. It’s a little hard to believe that they’re coming from someone within the Bureau as a few of them seem to encourage committing major felonies themselves. Nevertheless, this list earned the honor of getting posted on the nation’s Ministry of Public Security’s Weibo account as well.

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Iwashita wants to see your head up one of their giant pickled gingers or shallots

Iwashita wants to see your head up one of their giant pickled gingers or shallots

The pickled ginger business certainly is competitive. At least it appears to be since food producer Iwashita has been working extra hard at getting some brand awareness going. First they released an iPhone case with a replica of their Iwashita New Ginger brand pickled ginger sticks on it. However, everyone just thought they looked like penis nunchaku.

Now Iwashita is back with a new campaign they hope will win over the masses. It’s called the “Attempt! 10,000 Head Project!” where they hope to photograph ten thousand people wearing a giant pickled ginger or shallot on their heads. Why you ask?

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Super Nintendo climbs Mt. Fuji, brings Japanese guy along for companionship

Super Nintendo climbs Mt. Fuji, brings Japanese guy along for companionship

Next year the Super Famicom (SNES) will see its 25th birthday. In human years that will amount to 62 which means it’s time for the beloved console to begin taking stock of the days in front of it and make them count.

One Super Famicom in particular could feel the yellowing of its case and decided to scratch one more thing off its bucket list: climb Mt. Fuji. Acquiring the help of a human male, the Super Famicom set off to scale the iconic mountain and document the journey on Japanese textboard 2-channel.
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Yahoo! Japan makes thrill-rides out of their trending search topics with “Trend Coaster”

Yahoo! Japan makes thrill-rides out of their trending search topics with “Trend Coaster”

In the month of September at limited locations in Tokyo, the nation’s perennial favorite search engine Yahoo! Japan is offering a one-of-a-kind experience. By stepping into their motion simulator and strapping on a VR headset, you can virtually yet literally ride the waves of popularity of any topic of your choosing as if it were a roller coaster.

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Pop idols’ management demands 8 million yen in damages after two members caught dating fans

Pop idols’ management demands 8 million yen in damages after two members caught dating fans

It’s a long-standing rule in the pop idol industry in Japan: performers should never become involved in romantic relationships. Doing so would, apparently, tarnish the reputations carefully designed to make these entertainers appear “accessible,” reducing them to the status of “regular people.” And that’s no life for an idol.

We’ve seen this rule lead to instances of head-shaving and weird YouTubers before in Japan. However, one idol management company is taking this rule to a new level and demanding compensation for damages as a result of performers fraternizing with fans–to the order of US$75,000.

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Culture Clash: China’s “strongest” Shaolin fighter vs Japan’s cosplaying kickboxer!

Culture Clash: China’s “strongest” Shaolin fighter vs Japan’s cosplaying kickboxer!

On 9 September China’s popular fighting program Wulin Feng held a mixed martial arts special program. In this particular edition the main event was between Yi-long, a star of Shaolin kung fu in China and Yuichiro “Jienotsu” Nagashima, a Japanese K1 fighter with a penchant for dressing up like pretty girls and other anime characters.

Although the circumstances of this match are surrounded by controversies and a dark past, the aftermath has perhaps shown us the best in both Chinese and Japanese fighting cultures.

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Taiwan media predicts the end of schoolgirl uniform skirts in three years

Taiwan media predicts the end of schoolgirl uniform skirts in three years

Japan seems to have a worldwide reputation for cute skirted uniforms loved by all ages and genders. However, Taiwan seems to have embraced the style with an unbridled enthusiasm. One only needs to look towards Taiwan’s highly organized school uniform map and subsequent online vote for the cutest uniform in the country.

Now, Taiwanese media outlets are sounding the alarm that the days of uniforms with skirts are numbered. In some cases predictions are being made which say that all uniforms containing skirts may disappear from Taiwan within the next three years.

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Video showing convenience store workers being forced to kowtow to thugs leads to one arrest

Video showing convenience store workers being forced to kowtow to thugs leads to one arrest

In Japan, particularly online, you may come across the term DQN (dokyun). It’s a label reserved for those at the lowest order of intelligence and social graces and those who rank in the highest percentile for violence and general douchebag behavior.

Catching one of these creatures in their natural habitat of the streets is a rare but obnoxious treat. That’s why it’s awfully nice of them to record their own anti-social behavior so that we may study their ways in the comfort of our own home, and so the authorities can arrest and prosecute them all the more easily.

Take alleged DQN Tsuyoshi Nakamura for example, who along with some associates stands accused of harassing, threatening, and extorting from the entire staff of a FamilyMart convenience store in Ibaraki, Osaka. Nakamura is also under suspicion of forcing them to get on their knees and bow in apology, with the entire scene being uploaded to YouTube for all to see.

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Construction warning sign only gets stranger the more you stare at it

Construction warning sign only gets stranger the more you stare at it

The signboard above was posted on Twitter recently and piqued the interest of thousands with its unusual presentations. Japan has a history of construction warning signs that might seem odd in other countries, with roly-poly penguins notifying us of gas line maintenance or a cuddly panda stopping us from falling into an open manhole.

This one, however, has even Japanese people scratching their heads. At first glance the sign appears to have a frisky looking construction worker telling you about his project with a saucy wink. However, the more one looks at this image, the deeper the rabbit hole goes.

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New toy from Takara Tomy transforms eggs into custard pudding in just a few cranks of a handle

New toy from Takara Tomy transforms eggs into custard pudding in just a few cranks of a handle

Although Japan’s purin (crème caramel/flan) differs somewhat from other countries’, everyone has those days where you just want to down a cup or two of the stuff due to some inexplicable craving. Other times you’re sitting there with a regular old cup of instant ramen and want to liven things up with that great custard taste mixed in.

The problem is that purin usually isn’t always at hand, so these cravings require a trip to the corner store or supermarket. But what if you could make your own custard pudding with minimal effort and using only a single egg? And what if you didn’t even have to break that egg to make it?

This dream may become a reality if an upcoming toy from Japan’s Takara Tomy Arts does what its amazing ad claims.

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Man gets rude awakening as 40kg lump of iron blasts through wall, lands just feet from his pillow

Man gets rude awakening as 40kg lump of iron blasts through wall, lands just feet from his pillow

One of the great things about living in this modern society, apart from all the creature comforts like smartphones and underpants for said smartphone, is that we no longer have to live in fear of being struck down by cannonballs hurtling through the air around us.

At least for the most part we don’t. But every once in a blue moon someone might just find a 40kg (88lbs) lump of iron blasting through the wall of their home and landing right next to where they are sleeping. This time that unlucky person was one Keiya Yamamoto of Kawasaki City.

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Tenga for trash: Adults-only event offering masturbatory toys in return for spotless beaches

Tenga for trash: Adults-only event offering masturbatory toys in return for spotless beaches

As we’ve seen before, many beaches across Japan are in dire need of a clean-up. It’s a major problem that requires a lot of time and effort to remedy. Of course it’s at times like these that we usually look to the adult entertainment industry for solutions.

Sure enough, like the social crusaders they are, the major masturbation aid brand Tenga has stepped up and is cooperating with environmental group Umi Sakura on the Umi Sakura Over-18 Trash Pick-Up.

The reason this event is restricted to adults is that for every bag of trash collected, volunteers are rewarded with a free Tenga pleasure device.

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My Melody dental clinic opens in Saitama: Sanrio faces its greatest licensing challenge yet

My Melody dental clinic opens in Saitama: Sanrio faces its greatest licensing challenge yet

Sanrio and its vast array of cute characters such as Hello Kitty and My Melody have been seen on nearly every product imaginable – from contact lenses to passenger aircraft, they have made things just that much cuter. Hello Kitty was even able to explain forms of South African torture in her adorable dictionary.

But Sanrio may have bitten off more than they can chew with the Hearts Dental Clinic in Soka City, Saitama Prefecture. Is the sweetly disarming image of the hooded bunny My Melody enough to calm the considerable fears of children visiting the dentist?

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