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

What’s for breakfast at Burger King Japan? Spamburgers!

What’s for breakfast at Burger King Japan? Spamburgers!

It’s no surprise that the fast food market is a competitive one, particularly in Japan where restaurants go to great lengths to create the most unique items to bring in the customers.

This time, Burger King Japan has announced a new breakfast line-up of unique items not often found in fast food joints. At the head of this new seven-item menu is the wonderful Spam & Cheese for 260 yen (US$2.54).

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Justin Bieber’s Yasukuni Shrine visit draws scorn from Asian fans

Justin Bieber’s Yasukuni Shrine visit draws scorn from Asian fans

Being an international pop star like Canada’s Justin Bieber is certain to have its share of pitfalls. Scandals such as unfortunate comments at the Anne Frank house and more recently charges of drunk driving and egging a house have continued to dog him.

So this Easter weekend, the award-winning performer made a trip to Japan to get away from it all. After all, what could possibly go wrong here?

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Japanese adult video star’s dramatic plastic surgery sets internet abuzz

Japanese adult video star’s dramatic plastic surgery sets internet abuzz

There has been a lot of talk online in Japan recently about Rina Nanase. Known as Rumi Kanda in her adult video days, the young model has been surprisingly open about turning to plastic surgery to change the shape of her face.

In a process that she began chronicling via Twitter late last year, Nanase has made a number of changes to her eyes, nose, and chin. Now that she has shared photos of her “finished” look, however, many are calling it “way too much,” with some even suggesting that she now resembles the character Dobby from the Harry Potter movies.

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Gari Gari Kun finally releases a delicious specialty flavor frozen snack, we still don’t trust them

Gari Gari Kun finally releases a delicious specialty flavor frozen snack, we still don’t trust them

First came corn soup flavor in 2012. Although unusual, it did find itself a very strong fan base for its sweet yet somewhat savory taste uncharacteristic of ice candy such as Gari Gari Kun. In 2013, Gari Gari Kun’s makers rolled out potato stew flavor, upping the savoriness factor by including little rubbery bits of potato inside the ice cream. Earlier this year, Japan was surprised by the sudden release of a spaghetti flavored Gari Gari Kun that could best be described as eating an ice-cold hot dog covered in ketchup and dipped in a frosty glass of milk.

After this onslaught of increasingly odd flavors, the Japanese public wasn’t sure whether to trust the makers of Gari Gari Kun ever again with a new flavor. However, on 22 April they released a “cream puff flavor” that both looks and sounds fantastic. But can an already shell-shocked public trust that this relatively normal flavored ice pop is safe for consumption? We picked a few up to find out.

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The Whimsy Bomb! College Humor splices Studio Ghibli movies with other popular anime series

The Whimsy Bomb! College Humor splices Studio Ghibli movies with other popular anime series

Throughout his long career as an animator and manga artist, Hayao Miyazaki has created a particular style and theme throughout his works that have inspired an untold number of younger artists. However, what if Miyazaki himself had been influenced by some of the other popular series to come out of Japan, like Dragon Ball Z or Sailor Moon?

Brian Murphy and Patrick Cassels from College Humor have dreamt up exactly such scenarios by combining anime hits like Pokémon with Miyazaki classics such as Spirited Away in an animated short titled: If Miyazaki Films Were Like Other Anime. And it’s truly glorious.

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Japanese people surprised to find that “popular Japanese store” Meiso doesn’t exist in Japan

Japanese people surprised to find that “popular Japanese store” Meiso doesn’t exist in Japan

This stylish chain of stores has seen branches popping up all over China and boasts “Japanese brands” and “100% Japanese quality” all for the reasonable price of 10 yuan (US$1.60). It’s called “Meiso” in its native language of Japanese where it is said to have found major success… which is interesting because there doesn’t seem to be a single Meiso outlet in the whole country of Japan.

Well, actually that’s not completely true. Much like how the spirit of Santa Claus lives in every child’s heart, the spirit of Meiso can be found in three of Japan’s largest retailers – Uniqlo, Mujirushi Ryohin, and Daiso – in it’s eerily similar design to all three. And that’s just the tip of the weirdness iceberg.

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Japan Self-Defense Force’s elite Central Band performs Hatsune Miku song Senbonzakura

Japan Self-Defense Force’s elite Central Band performs Hatsune Miku song Senbonzakura

There are a number of active bands in Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF), but at the top of them is the Central Band. In existence longer the GSDF itself, they are the go-to band in situations where it’s unacceptable to screw up, such as welcoming foreign dignitaries and ceremonies of the highest order.

Then there’s “Senbonzakura”. This song was produced by WhiteFlame (aka Kurousa-P) and utilizes the artificial vocal talents of vocaloid Hatsune Miku. After its upload to video hosting site Niconico Douga in 2011, it became a modern classic of the vocaloid genre spawning several remixes and covers online and in karaoke rooms.

So what happens when the rigid discipline and tradition of the GSDF Central Band meets the wild pop of Senbonzakura? Let’s take a listen!

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“How many freakin’ CDs do I have to buy?” Fans displeased with idol group’s debut single

“How many freakin’ CDs do I have to buy?” Fans displeased with idol group’s debut single

On 16 April, idol group, Rev. from DVL, released their first major single through entertainment giant Yoshimoto Kogyo, thanks largely to the break-out success of member Kanna Hashimoto.

However, what was intended to be a celebration of the Fukuoka-based unit’s new-found fame ended up generating sad and bitter complaints from idol fans. At the center of the controversy was the inclusion of tickets to a “high-five party” bundled in with their single LOVE-arigatou-.

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We try McDonald’s Avocado Beef, see if it’s as lame as people on Twitter are suggesting

We try McDonald’s Avocado Beef, see if it’s as lame as people on Twitter are suggesting

Remember the other day when we announced the surprisingly fresh looking Avocado Burger Series from McDonald’s Japan? Many, including us couldn’t help but get drawn in to the heaps of vibrant green avocado bulging out of a firm ciabatta bun, even though deep down we knew it was too good to be true.

With their release date of 17 April here, many rushed to their nearest McDonald’s outlet to get a first crack at the uncharacteristically fresh and healthy looking sandwich. Unfortunately, what the first few customers reported was not pretty.

So are these customer reviews doing the avocado burgers justice, or is there still some truth in advertising left? We picked one up to see for ourselves.

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Officials neither confirm nor deny rumor that Japanese support was denied for South Korean ferry disaster

Officials neither confirm nor deny rumor that Japanese support was denied for South Korean ferry disaster

During a meeting in a gymnasium on Jindo Island in South Korea between Coast Guard officials and families of those on board the recently capsized ferry, one family member brought up a circulating rumor that the South Korean government had refused search and rescue support from neighboring Japan.

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IKEA Japan plans to overhaul workforce to promote equality among staff

IKEA Japan plans to overhaul workforce to promote equality among staff

The Japanese division of Swedish furniture chain IKEA recently announced that they will make large changes to their job descriptions including the elimination of fixed-term contracts for part-time workers.

The new job descriptions are said to begin this September and aim to create equal treatment for their 3,400 employees in Japan. Reports suggest that they may raise the salaries of all part-time staff who make up 70% of the company’s work force.

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Tokyo’s coin lockers to be out of service for week in effort to prevent terrorism

Tokyo’s coin lockers to be out of service for week in effort to prevent terrorism

Notices like the one above, which was posted on Twitter, have been popping up at major stations around Tokyo such as Shinjuku. It notifies commuters that coin lockers will be unusable from 19 to 25 April as a terrorism counter-measure.

How exactly does shutting down coin lockers prevent terrorism? The answer is quite simple… but a little confusing.

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Cassette tapes making a comeback with youth in Japan, entire generation officially becomes “old”

Cassette tapes making a comeback with youth in Japan, entire generation officially becomes “old”

For those of a certain age, hearing the term “cassette tape” harkens back to a simpler time of making a super special mix-tape for a loved one using a Frankie Goes to Hollywood Greatest Hits with scotch tape over the holes because it was cheaper than a blank cassette.

It’s this kind of feeling that kids today lack with the distant and impersonal music downloading business going on these days. Perhaps that’s why Japanese youths have been taking to the nearly extinct medium of magnetic tape more and more in recent years.

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Overseas reaction to Japanese My Little Pony dub is a little odd to Japanese people

Overseas reaction to Japanese My Little Pony dub is a little odd to Japanese people

The animated series My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic has quickly become something of a cultural phenomenon in North America, spawning legions of hardcore fans far removed from its intended demographic of young girls.

In Japan too the show has its share of followers, although they’re not quite as passionate. So when a Japanese dubbed version of the show’s song “This Day Aria” was posted on YouTube and reviews from other countries came in calling it “magnificent” and “incredible beyond words”, Japanese netizen reaction could perhaps be summed up as “Oh? We don’t get it, but thanks.”

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Boot camps and desertion in the mountains among the ways Japanese companies train new recruits

Boot camps and desertion in the mountains among the ways Japanese companies train new recruits

There appears to be a generational shift in the workforce of Japan recently. New additions to companies labelled as “monster recruits” in the media, along with a reported 30% of new employees quitting in three years, are leading organizations to look into new ways to protect their human resource investments. Many of the following training methods have been carried out for decades but have been steadily growing in popularity among Japanese companies.

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We try Thai and Indonesian “Ethnic” Cup Noodles, one of them tastes like spicy Fruit Loops

We try Thai and Indonesian “Ethnic” Cup Noodles, one of them tastes like spicy Fruit Loops

Cup Noodles are an iconic part of the Japanese food landscape and of course they’re no stranger to the Japanese custom of adding unusual new flavors to stuff. This time around their maker Nissin has been inspired by some of their international partners and developed two flavors in the “Ethnic Series” of Cup Noodles based on Thai and Indonesian dishes.

The first one is modeled after the spicy Thai soup tom yum goong, and the other is said to resemble Indonesia’s savory noodles mie goreng. Having just been released on 14 April we went straight to the supermarket and picked them up to bring you the Asianiest taste that only a Chinese food made by a Japanese company based on South East Asian dishes can provide.

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South Korea establishes special task force to combat escalators and elevators

South Korea establishes special task force to combat escalators and elevators

They kill scores of people annually around the world. They have no motive or ideology and can’t be reasoned with, and yet we rely on them every day because stairs are a real pain.

I’m talking of course about escalators and elevators which caused nearly 300 deaths in the USA in the 90s and injured over 700 Koreans in the past five years leaving 50 for dead. Still with all this carnage the human race continues to embrace these death traps simply because they can get us to other floors quickly.

Not any more, says South Korea’s Ministry of Security and Public Administration (MOSPA), which has created the Elevator and Escalator Safety Division.

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How to take a bath for only 0.0000076 yen using ordinary plastic bottles

How to take a bath for only 0.0000076 yen using ordinary plastic bottles

With Japan entering the new month with a higher sales tax, people are beginning to feel the squeeze. In addition, April is the time of year when many people make big changes in their lives such as moving out on their own. This is already an expensive time made even more so by the economic climate.

One such person is Omocoro writer ARuFa. He feels that he has successfully come up with a way to reduce your water bill drastically by taking baths that would only cost 0.0000076 yen (US$0.000000075). This is his story.

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Hiyoriyama newly crowned as Japan’s Shortest Mountain

Hiyoriyama newly crowned as Japan’s Shortest Mountain

Osaka has many sights and attractions to boast about. To name a few, there’s the robot drummer clown, the big robot crabs here and there and of course Tenpozan, Japan’s shortest mountain. Standing at 4.53 meters above sea level, it was a tourist draw leading to the creation of an aquarium shopping complex and giant ferris wheel.

However, now it appears Tenpozan has been relegated to second place following a recent survey by the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan (GSI). Hiyoriyama in Sendai is now the nation’s lowest summit at a reevaluated height of three meters. Normally, the Osaka resident in me would demand a recount and ask for a discount on it, but considering how Hiyoriyama came to be this way, I’ll humbly congratulate the new record holder and wish them all the best.

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Ten-year-old illustrator getting national attention for his unique style of portraits

Ten-year-old illustrator getting national attention for his unique style of portraits

Up-and-coming artist Mondo draws with a somewhat skewed sense of proportion very much like any other 10-year-old boy. However, from beneath the superficiality of his sometimes jarring contours, the unmistakable sense of his subject can be felt.

The impact his images create has been earning him a lot of respect around his hometown of Fukuoka and recently a growing fan-base around Japan. In addition to his public appearances where he draws visitors’ portraits, he has a blog on which he posts a daily illustration displaying his ever-growing talents. Check out his work after the jump.

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