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

Visiting the South Pole and 14 other lesser known crimes in Japan

Visiting the South Pole and 14 other lesser known crimes in Japan

Every country or district has their share of obscure crimes tucked deep in dusty long-forgotten law books. Archaic prohibitions on tying your horse to a dog or refusing to salute your teachers can be found everywhere. The following 15 laws however, are not outdated and many of us have probably done them at some point in our lives without realizing that in some cases it could land us in a Japanese prison.

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Cinemas in China let audience post comments onto the screen during the movies

Cinemas in China let audience post comments onto the screen during the movies

With home entertainments systems always evolving, there seems to be less incentive to head on out to the local movie theatre for a $10 cola and four-year-old running up and down the aisle during an R-rated movie. This means it’s up to the cinemas to raise the stakes and provide new and intriguing movie-going experiences.

Some theaters in cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Hangzhou think they have found such an experience by allowing those in the audience to post their comments onto the screen for all to see while the movie plays. So now when I take my mother-in-law she can ask everyone “Why did Bruce Willis just shoot that guy?” instead of just me.

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China’s People’s Liberation Army recruitment video promises aerial dog fights, lots of dancing

China’s People’s Liberation Army recruitment video promises aerial dog fights, lots of dancing

Making a recruitment ad for military service is probably one of the hardest sells around. It’s easy to make someone want to buy a cookie. In fact, I want to buy a cookie just after typing that sentence, but motivating someone to put their life on the line takes a whole lot of finesse.

And finesse is what this new recruitment video for the Chinese communist party’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has in spades. Clearly intended for a younger audience, some of the hipper aspects of military service such as flying helicopters backwards, firing missiles and ensemble dancing are highlighted in this high-adrenaline three-minute promo video.

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Advertising 101: Choose your words carefully, even when selling fish food

Advertising 101: Choose your words carefully, even when selling fish food

Making a succinct sign can be tricky. You want to be economical with your words, but that can lead to the trap of be too vague. A good rule of thumb would be to assume you – the sign maker – is of average intelligence. This means a lot of people are smarter than you but just as many people are stupider than you.

That strategy might have stopped this poor koi pond manager from lowering his “Koi Food 10 Yen” to “Koi Food Free.” The rest of the sign in the following translation tells the sad tale.

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Life doesn’t have a reset button, and neither does a PlayStation 3 controller come to think of it

Life doesn’t have a reset button, and neither does a PlayStation 3 controller come to think of it

This fire safety poster was tweeted recently and scored a whopping 21,000 retweets in only a couple of days. It’s an impressive feat for a public service announcement by the Nakagyo Ward Fire Department, but why?

The caption reads: “In life and fire, the reset button doesn’t work.” Okay, class, who can tell me why the reset button doesn’t work? Don’t all answer at once now… No, not because the cable’s on fire. This controller clearly has wireless capability. Oh, I see the person who tweeted this image has their hand up.

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Chinese chef dies after being bitten by the severed head of a cobra he was cooking

Chinese chef dies after being bitten by the severed head of a cobra he was cooking

Snakes are a delicacy in many parts of the world and among them the Indochinese spitting cobra is held in high regard for both is scarcity and the alleged health benefits it holds to those who consume it.

For the people who prepare the cobras for consumption, however, it can be a completely different story. One chef in China’s Guangdong Province recently lost his life while dressing an Indochinese spitting cobra to serve to customers in a soup. Authorities are ruling this incident to be a freak accident. “Freak” is the operative word here, as the snake that bit the chef had reportedly had its head cut off several minutes earlier.

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“Again with the ninjas…” Japan reacts to the American Yoshinoya commercial online

“Again with the ninjas…” Japan reacts to the American Yoshinoya commercial online

One of the great joys of RocketNews24 editors and writers is getting to see how fast food chains operate in different countries. The sometimes slight and sometime huge changes to the menu can really give us more insight into the local cultures than you might expect. However, for the most part these multinational restaurants originate from the USA, so it’s really a special treat to see how the huge gyudon (beef bowl) chain Yoshinoya looks when localized for American customers’ tastes.

Recently a commercial for the salaryman’s favorite restaurant was posted on YouTube and drew some curious opinions from those back in its home country. The response was largely positive, especially regarding the American take on Yoshinoya food, but some wished the US would stop with the whole Japan = ninjas thing already.

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Virtual girlfriend technology in Japan on track with drink-sharing simulation for Oculus Rift

Virtual girlfriend technology in Japan on track with drink-sharing simulation for Oculus Rift

As the virtual reality headset Oculus Rift inches closer to its commercial release, virtual girlfriend technology in Japan has been make huge strides. Japanese developers have already found ways to sleep next to Hatsune Miku, sleep with Hatsune Miku, and even be Hatsune Miku. With those essential milestones out of the way, it was time to focus on the more subtle things.

One guy by the name of Negipoyoshi has created a more tranquil Hatsune Miku experience by designing a simulated drink sharing application that allows you to sit with the blue-haired vocaloid on a sunny patio by the sea as you share a single drink with two straws.

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Start a horticultural revolution with gourds in the shape of Mao Zedong and more!

Start a horticultural revolution with gourds in the shape of Mao Zedong and more!

China certainly knows how to have fun with their vegetation. If they’re not putting panties on peaches, they’re growing gourds in the shape of various religious and political figures.

China has a long history of making art and figures out of gourds and more recently the process has been simplified so that any Joe Schmoe can make his own Jesus squash or garden full of dangling Mao Zedongs. All it takes are some molds and a good ol’ green thumb.

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Two members of the Goat Weeding Corps believed to have been abducted in Gifu while on duty

Two members of the Goat Weeding Corps believed to have been abducted in Gifu while on duty

On the morning of 10 August, two goats working with the Goat Weeding Corps disappeared suddenly while on duty in Minokamo City, Gifu. The Goat Weeding Corps (GWC) is an elite team of 20 goats employed by the city to eat weeds in parks and woodlands. The managers of the GWC at Gifu University are treating this as a theft and have reported it to the police.

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Meet Chiyomaru: the cutest gosh-darn sumo wrestler you’ll ever see

Meet Chiyomaru: the cutest gosh-darn sumo wrestler you’ll ever see

One proven way to go viral on the internet is to be unbearably cute. Although it’s a path often taken by pets, women, kids, and pastries, it’s pretty rare to come across a sumo wrestler who pulls in online comments such as “I feel soothed by his unmatched cuteness.”

However, that’s just what Kazuki Kinoshita who wrestles under the name Kazuki Chiyomaru has done in Japan. A candid shot of him napping has become an internet hit and led to other pictures which further consolidate his new title of the world’s cutest sumo wrestler.

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Chiba teacher arrested for threats to “blow up government buildings” because of Saturday classes

Chiba teacher arrested for threats to “blow up government buildings” because of Saturday classes

On 19 July the Noda City department of the Chiba Prefectural Police announced the arrest of 49-year-old elementary school teacher Masaki Yabusaki on charges of intimidation.

The suspect had allegedly sent around half a dozens emails to the Noda Board of Education with oddly-worded threatening remarks such as “I will blow up bad guys and their government buildings” if they didn’t rescind a decision to extend the school week to include Saturday classes introduced this year.

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Chinese internet unusually upset by “most usual Chinese face” composite

Chinese internet unusually upset by “most usual Chinese face” composite

A short time ago a variety program on Shandong Satellite TV aired a segment wherein they tried to create the “most standard Chinese face” for both men and women. The results of their experiment received a cold response in China online, however, drawing comments such as “both are ugly.”

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Sharks go for the great taste of internet

Sharks go for the great taste of internet

When you hear terms like “the cloud” being bandied about, it’s hard not to conjure up images of internet infrastructure being some servers housed in slick network of Gattaca-style complexes, each connected by some glowing, neon-colored optical cables like something out of Tron all topped off by touches from other sci-fi films.

Although shown to be relatively reliable, the reality is far less sexy: just a massive fiber optic cable lying along the murky depths of the ocean floor. What’s worse is that our internet service is constantly under attack by none other than hungry sharks. These occasional nibbles cause companies such as Google to undergo costly repair and reinforcement projects at several locations of their own undersea cables to protect themselves from the ravenous fish.

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We try a “half-raw chicken cutlet” at Suda Shoten, it’s even rawer than advertised!

We try a “half-raw chicken cutlet” at Suda Shoten, it’s even rawer than advertised!

Always on the pulse of new restaurant openings, Mr. Sato hit the streets of Kabukicho to try out a new grilled chicken (yakitori) establishment. It was opened in conjunction with Jiromaru, a barbecued beef place much loved by our reporter for its small portions but interesting variety of cuts.

Because of the association with Jiromaru, Mr. Sato’s expectations were high for Sumibi Yakitori Suda Shoten. However, as he approached the menu posted in front, one item in particular shocked the man whom we thought unflappable after attempting to eat a cheeseburger with over 1,000 strips of bacon.

It was a breaded chicken cutlet but written in parentheses was “half-raw.” Sure, steaks are often ordered in such a way, but chicken?! And so Mr. Sato, who doesn’t know the meaning of “salmonella,” went in to try some out.

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Enjoy some Shan cuisine with a side order of caterpillars at Tokyo’s Nong Inlay restaurant

Enjoy some Shan cuisine with a side order of caterpillars at Tokyo’s Nong Inlay restaurant

Recent studies have been suggesting that the human race would be far better off adopting an insect diet in order to preserve the environment. However, anytime we see a culture who partakes in edible insects they always look incredibly unappetizing.

Why is insect the one food that people refuse to cut up when eating? When I order a salad the restaurant doesn’t toss a head of lettuce on my table, and yet order a plate of crickets and it’d be a miracle if they even pull the antennae off before serving.

Still, if mass insect consumption is on the horizon and chefs refuse to make them not look like insects while eating, we’re going to have to get used to it. That’s exactly why a couple of our writers, Felix Sayaka and Ikuko Kawamura went down to Nong Inlay in Shinjuku to try out some caterpillars along with some other dishes out of the Shan State of Myanmar.

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Oh, Uniqlo has skirts on sale for nine… What the hell is that?!

Oh, Uniqlo has skirts on sale for nine… What the hell is that?!

Prospective buyers of Japanese Uniqlo were in for a shock one morning as they skimmed through the casual wear retailer’s flier. If the prospect of miniskirts on sale for the shockingly reasonable price of 990 yen (US$10) weren’t enough, there seemed to be something not quite right about the model they hired.

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Mr. Sato goes discount women’s clothes shopping and discovers a shocking secret

Mr. Sato goes discount women’s clothes shopping and discovers a shocking secret

One day, while Mr. Sato was off-duty, he was doing some shopping around Nakano Broadway in Tokyo. This shopping plaza is sometimes called a “mecca of subculture” for its various stores peddling old books and figures. Of course, Nakano Broadway has many other shops including grocery and household item stores.

In particular, the first floor is filled with women’s clothing shops selling items at rock-bottom prices. On a complete whim Mr. Sato steered into one shop boasting every item for only 575 yen (US$5.60). As if guided by a mysterious force, Mr. Sato entered this store. Little did he know that he was being guided… by the god of rock.

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Enjoy the serenity of Fumikiri Temple, but don’t get hit by a train while doing so

Enjoy the serenity of Fumikiri Temple, but don’t get hit by a train while doing so

There are thousands of Buddhist temples dotting the landscape in Japan, and as a result some of them end up in unique locations. One such temple is Henjoin in Yokohama City, Kanagawa Prefecture.

You’re welcome to visit any time but just be careful not to get hit by the Airport Express out of Sengakuji Station that passes right through its entrance. This and many other trains zoom across the temple precincts on a regular basis as they travel along the Keikyo Main Line.

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It’s that time of year again; when people in Japan make eggplant tanks

It’s that time of year again; when people in Japan make eggplant tanks

For many parts of Japan, this week is the Obon season. This is the time when several generations of family members all come together in one house for a visit. Luckily for the hosts, the vast majority of these relatives are ghosts so don’t take up a lot of space.

But even though they’re ghosts it’d be rude not to lay out some food for them, and so it’s not uncommon to place some snacks or beverages on graves or family altars in the home. Among these you might find shoryo uma, little animals made of cucumber and eggplant meant symbolize animals which carry the spirits to and from the otherworld.

Traditionally these tiny animals are made by jabbing four sticks into the vegetable for legs. The result is quaint but kind of looks like something I’d slap together for my third grade art project so I could get back to playing Dragon Warrior - hardly something fit for the people who paved the way for your existence to ride in on! As such some people in Japan have begun pimping their shoryo uma to make sure their ancestors’ rides are safe, comfy, and in some cases kind of epic.

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