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

Our Japanese reporter visits an American sushi restaurant in Japan

In this era of increasing globalization we see more and more cases of foods jumping across cultural boundaries and changing in the process. Japan is no different with foods like pizza topped with scallops, curry which tastes sweet as pudding, and ramen burgers.

And of course this culinary door swings both ways such as the United States’ take on sushi in creations like the California roll. However, now we are seeing an interesting twist in the migration of sushi with New Port Sushi located in Okinawa. Here American style sushi can be enjoyed in Japan. After our reporter Nakano was finished vomiting up his glass of root beer, we sent him in to check it out.

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Why almost all Japanese people hate root beer

When living in another country it’s only natural to miss some of the tastes of home. In my case, the extreme rarity of root beer has been a source of sadness. Time to time I’ll come across a supermarket or import shop that carries it and am sure to pick up a can despite its often exorbitant price of around 200 yen (US$1.69).

The reason for the absence of the drink on the Japanese market is obvious though. Although root beer has its share of detractors even in its home of America, the sheer number of people who can’t stand the stuff in Japan is huge. What is it that makes root beer so overwhelmingly disgusting to Japanese people?

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You’re going to flip over these 3-D animated flip books, fantastic enough to elicit cheesy puns

You’d think the art of flip book animation had seen its apex by now. The medium’s emotional limits have already been pushed by the works of Japanese comedian and surprisingly talented artist Tekken, and others have recreated famous anime almost perfectly, but it seems there isn’t much else to do with the medium of flicking pieces of paper to create a moving image.

Or so we thought, until witnessing a line of flip books by Japanese company Another Laboratory (Mohitotsu no Kenkyujo). These brief but beautiful works not only breathe life into the format but make it superior to film or computer animations through clever use of the book itself as part of the imagery.

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Nintendo and Niconico are looking to pay you to use their copyrighted material

People who post game demonstrations such as walkthroughs and speed runs on video websites certainly put in a fair bit of effort in them. And for some part they’re acknowledged by those who view the videos. Heck, thanks to them I could find every pigeon in GTA:IV and finally get back to my busy life of eating pudding.

As such it’s not unreasonable to say they deserve some compensation for their efforts – just as long as it doesn’t come out of my pudding budget. But because they are working with copyrighted source material, it’s not always easy for these creative game enthusiasts to get paid.

Now, game-maker Nintendo and video site Niconico Douga are working together in the Creators Incentive Program in which rather than punish those who infringe on copyrights from holders like Nintendo, they will be given incentives based on the number of views they can rake in with their works.

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Osaka police looking for woman who jumped in front of train, lived, and ran away

Weirdness broke out on the afternoon of 16 November in Osaka. Several witness claimed to have seen a woman jump onto the tracks of Izumiotsu Station just as a train was approaching. However, after the train arrived there was no sign of injury and the woman was last seen running away on the platform.

How the woman got on the tracks, survived the train, or escaped is unclear and an investigation is underway. Internet detectives well-versed in manga, however, are assuming that she was summoned by a big black orb in an apartment somewhere.

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11-year-old now youngest artist to join Dokuritsu Exhibition, teaches us to look on the dark side

One of the words for art in Japanese is bijutsu which contains the kanji character for “beauty” (美). That’s not to say that art is limited to images of beauty alone, however. Sometimes images considered superficially unpleasant can be seen as beautiful works as well. They have the power to push back the darkness of taboos and help us to overcome our own inhibiting fears and prejudices.

Those are pretty heavy concepts for sixth-grader Chifu Onishi, but she seems to have already excelled at them through her celebrated artwork such as Tsuki Ni Asobu (Play on the Moon) which was chosen as a part of the 82nd annual Dokuritsu Exhibition, an annual event that has featured some of Japan’s greatest artists in the past. This acknowledgement also earns the 11-year-old the recognition of being the youngest artist to ever take part.

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Police called in for civet disturbance in Tokyo

Walking down the street in Tokyo, you never know what you might bump into, especially if you happened to have been around Aoyama Itchome Station in Minato Ward on 14 November. During the afternoon, a masked palm civet was seen darting around the streets by several witnesses.

The masked palm civet was connected to the SARS outbreak about a decade ago and unleashes an anal spray when threatened. But that didn’t stop passers-by from trying to get the best photos for their Twitter feeds… Not at all.

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Parody news announces “smart rice cooker” by KDDI, KDDI goes ahead and begins designing it

On 13 November, a tweet went out from Kyoko Shimbun which read “AAAAAAAAAAAAA!” Generally, such single-letter interjections don’t yield much of a response, but in this case they got over 400 retweets.

That’s because on this day, Kyoko Shimbun which translates to “Fabricated News” learnt that their fictional Infojar, a next-gen rice cooker with several smartphone capabilities, was in the research and development phase by the very company they were spoofing at the time, KDDI.

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Japan Post to give stamps cute animal makeovers including chipmunks, foxes, and an old man

Earlier this year as the Japanese government enacted a sales tax hike, the cost of mailing a letter also increased. As a result a new 2 yen stamp had to be issued to fill the price hike, and in an effort to quell public anger, Japan Post put a picture of a cute fluffy bunny on it. Surely that’d do the trick, right?

Of course it did! In Japan, cuteness is a rock-solid commodity and the bunny stamp was a huge success. It was so popular that people came out to buy some even though they had no mail to send. And so, Japan Post set a mandate to make all of their stamps pretty before fiscal 2015.

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The originator of the strawberry daifuku, Tamaya continues to be a step ahead of competition

Daifuku is a widely popular type of Japanese confection consisting mainly of an outer layer of mochi (gelatinous rice paste) with an anko (sweet bean paste) filling. The result is a mildly sweet treat with a comfortably smooth texture.

There are many variations of daifuku including ichigo daifuku containing a whole strawberry inside of the mochi and anko, which have become hugely popular all around Japan. However, do you know where this trend started?

Our hungry reporter Mr. Sato does, and he went down to the first store ever to sell ichigo daifuku, Tamaya, to try their wares himself. He found that not only are they the original, but they may just make best ichigo daifuku in all of Japan.

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Michael Jackson reincarnate found in rural China, moonwalks right into our hearts 【Video】

An internet star was born yet again recently, this time surfacing in the deep south of China. As the legend goes, a traveler one day stumbled upon a farmer dancing most unusually amongst the lush greenery of the countryside and whipped out his camera to capture the scene.

After hitting the internet in China, the mysterious dancer was quickly crowned “The King of Farmers”. His incredibly tight moves, which mimic the King of Pop’s repertoire almost perfectly, drew acclaim from around the country, and his fame has only continued to grow since with a YouTube video earning him respect from all corners of the world.

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Japanese viewers help the CSI: NY team unravel a murder… With basic vocabulary… YEEEAAAAAHHHH!

We now join CSI: New York Season 8, Episode 17: Unwrapped already in progress…

Dr. Sheldon Hawkes is busy trying to piece together fragments of a porcelain figure recovered by detectives Messer and Flack. With any luck this figure may be a clue to the mysterious murder of Kelvin Moore, a successful accountant who was trying to give back to his community.

When the figure is complete they find it’s in the shape of a cat. Not only that, it has a strange symbol on the bottom that no one on their team nor all of their technology can appear to decipher.

It’s at this point that viewers in Japan start screaming at their TVs, “It’s NEKO ya dummies!”

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This rice omelet, grilled eel, oden, and fried pork are actually cakes! We try them all

We previously ran an article about Maplies, a bakery in Shinjuku that excels in the art of making cake look exactly like Chinese food, namely gyoza, ramen (salt or soy sauce), and tenshindon.

About a year has past since then and our reporter Mr. Sato had a sudden hankering for some cake that looked like egg, crab meat, and rice. He headed down to Maplies only to be shocked at what he found. The bakery had added a whole new assortment of cakes that look exactly like other foods!

Needless to say he bought one of each and brought them back to the office for a taste of pure confusion.

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Chinese commercial shows how cookies can stop six guys from jumping you in the shower

When making a good commercial, the advertiser must attract the viewer’s attention and leave a lasting impression. At times this could be by highlighting the truly amazing feature of a product or with a truly memorable character like the Noid. You all remember him, right…right?

Now, the “3+2″ line of sandwich cookies by Chinese brand Master Kong may have struck gold with a truly engaging character to promote it. We’ll call him the Boy Who Constantly Stumbles Into Prison Sex Situations. If that doesn’t make you hungry, then I don’t know what will.

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We try some Turkish ice cream from Family Mart before it’s completely sold out

Turkish restaurants can be found here and there around Japan and if you’re lucky you might come across one that sells dondurma. This Turkish take on ice cream is usually offered out of the store front and not only provides a delicious treat but an entertaining spectacle as well.

Vendors can be seen stretching their ice cream to lengths of around a meter before serving and will often perform a little psych-out by pulling it back out of your hands with their big stick before finally handing it over.

Aside from the fun, dondurma is deadly delicious as well. Of course there’s the taste which puts it in league with other ice creams, but it has a unique texture that elevates it among the best. So, when Japanese convenience store chain Family Mart released a limited edition Turkish Style Ice Cream on 4 November we wanted in on the action. Apparently so did everyone else though, as supplies were nearly out only a few days after release.

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Examining 10 of Japan’s unwritten social rules, from cheese to paid holidays

By nature, humans can’t help constructing rules to live by even in the most innocuous situations like choosing the passenger seat of a car (rock-paper-scissors: best of three). Without any official governing body over how many times you should let a phone ring before hanging up (seven), we are left to establish unwritten social rules naturally agreed upon and often followed to the letter.

A survey by MyNavi recently asked Japanese people which of these tacit rules should be called into question. As we will soon see, although these laws are mysterious in their origin, many of them tend to be quite practical and worth sticking to.

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Japanese Amazon reviewer tells us why Alien vs Avatar is awesome and Dark Knight sucks

Aside from the fact that they still exist in large numbers, one of the interesting things about video stores in Japan is the range of titles they offer in the new release section. Perusing them, you might find future Oscar candidate or big budget Marvel production sharing the exact same shelf space as the latest made-for-cable offering that would make Sharknado look like Fellini.

However, sometimes films get a little too close to their apparent sources of inspiration which can lead to confusion among Japanese people. One such movie the misleadingly titled Alien vs Avatar. It’s a film title that has led netizens to question “Hey, aren’t they both aliens?” While universally panned by all who have seen it, one online reviewer in Japan thought it was particularly great… copyright issues aside.

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Classy pipes, intestines, and a taste of the past all can be yours from Asakusa vending machines

If you ever visit Tokyo, the district of Asakusa is a worthwhile spot to wander around in. It has a healthy mix of tradition, entertainment, food, and shopping that should please anyone looking  for a small but all-encompassing Japanese experience.

But there’s one other unique feature that Asakusa has and it’s one that’s surprising even the most entrenched Tokyo residents. Apparently, Asakusa is home to an enormous selection of wildly unusual vending machines. And coming from a land positively peppered with automatic vendors, that’s saying a lot.

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Akita judge rules man’s drunk driving somewhat justifiable, gives him his job back

Some people see things in black and white while others tend to judge each incident as a unique situation with its own parameters of right and wrong.

Take drunk driving for example. There are many who would say that under any circumstance getting behind the wheel of an automobile with significant levels of alcohol in the system deserves punishment. And then there are some that say there may be exceptions to the rule.

Luckily for some government workers who got picked up by police for drunk driving, more than a few district court judges appear to belong to the latter camp.

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Woman’s $71,000 breast enlargement treatment leaves her with “fluffy” chest hair and anger

For a woman, breasts can be a double-edged sword. On one side they stand as a symbol of femininity, but on the other they can be the source of anxiety and self-consciousness.

Each woman has her own way of living with her breasts, be it accepting them for how they are or searching for ways to improve them. To each her own we say, but if you do choose some kind of augmentation procedure, please take the proper precautions and research it thoroughly.

But don’t take our word for it. We just happen to have a cautionary tale to illustrate this point. So sit back and enjoy: The tale of the woman who went in for larger breasts but instead got a bunch of pillowy black chest hair.

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