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

Chinese couple’s suicide attempt leads to serious injury, criminal charges, and $24,000 in damages

It’s hard to imagine the thought process of people contemplating suicide, which makes it equally hard to convince someone not to once they become determined to do so.

Obviously there are many reasons why committing suicide would be the wrong choice in any situation, but here’s a coldly practical one: The odds are against you succeeding. According to the Center for Disease Control, for every one successful suicide attempt, there are twenty-five that fail. While that might seem like an encouraging statistic, there are still the after-effects to those who live on. For example, an incident that unfolded in China involving a couple looking to end it all serves as a reminder that things can get much, much worse.

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Butter Crisis ’14: Supermarkets nationwide apologize for empty shelves, cakes threatened

For months now a crisis has been brewing in the dairy industries of Japan. However, like the gooey sweetness of a melting pat of butter penetrating the crevices of a piece of toast, the effects have only recently begun to seep into the general population. We’re still only in the early stages though and things are bound to get worse before they get better.

Some readers who live in Japan may have noticed that the cost of butter has been significantly higher in recent months. In other cases shelves have gone empty and purchases are limited to one per person.

Now the writing is smeared on the wall: Japan is running out of butter… and fast.

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Mononome gives candy jars personalities, breathes life into any inanimate object

Some of you may remember Neurowear as the company who made Necomimi, the robotic cat ears that you can control with brainwaves, and their follow up projects Shippo (mind controlled robot tail) and Mico (mind controlled music player).

This time, however, Neurowear won’t be reading our brain waves but will instead try to give some to your fridge or sofa. The latest project called Mononome works with your smartphone to deepen your relationship with a household item of your choice by adding a touch of humanity to it.

Mononome is currently on display for Tokyo Designers Week from 25 October to 3 November. We caught up with Neurowear’s Kana Nakano during the exhibition to learn more about it.

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Fruity wieners spotted in Japan’s Tochigi Prefecture! Available in “lemon” and “strawberry milk” flavors

The heartland of Japan is certainly becoming the envy of the nation with their recent offerings of unusual foods. First the crunchy sweet mushrooms of Chubu region turned heads on Twitter. Now out of Tochigi Prefecture, emerges fruit-flavored hotdogs!

What chemical witchcraft went into making these sticks of pork(?) colored and flavored like lemon and strawberry milk is a mystery, but they do look intriguing, and dare I say delicious?

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Panasonic may change the world with upcoming product…SAND!

When you think of the multinational electronics producer Panasonic, “sand” probably doesn’t immediately come to mind. However, if a new product they are looking to release meets its full potential, this new kind of sand may completely change the face of the Earth as we know it.

The picture above is not Panasonic sand, but you wouldn’t be able to tell just by looking at it anyways. Actually even if you examine their grains of soil under a microscope you wouldn’t see a difference. So let’s start by looking at what makes this dirt so special and how it could help everyone in one way or another.

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Take a tour of video game history and violin majesty with Teppei Okada

The Super Mario Bros. theme song has got to be among the most covered melodies online. From guitars to ancient Chinese shengs, it’s hard for anyone to not want to knock out those opening notes: d-do do d-do DO do.

So with all the videos of people playing the song online, it’s hard to stand out. Hard unless you’re Teppei Okada (a.k.a. Teppei Sensei) of Fukuoka Prefecture. This guy not only does a subtly beautiful rendition of the classic platformer’s background music, but he recreates the sound effects of the game such as collecting coins and breaking blocks.

And Mario is only the tip of the video game iceberg for Teppei Sensei. His skills reach out to a variety of titles on generations of Nintendo consoles and beyond.

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Mysterious bags of Japanese mushroom snacks are hard to get, create intrigue online

Already home to a plethora of weird and wonderful snacks, a new contender appears to have hit the Japanese market.

Usually, snack makers like to lure in young and old with fanciful cartoon mascots and promises of salt and/or sugar-based delights. But food producer UHA appears to have taken a totally different route with their Kinoko No Manma, which loosely translates as “mushrooms as they are”, but a slightly more fitting interpretation might be “I Can’t Believe They’re Not Mushrooms!” As the snack’s name implies, its main selling point is that the things inside the bag look exactly like freshly picked mushrooms, but in fact they aren’t…

Or are they? It’s exactly that confusion, and the snack’s rarity, that’s causing many online to wonder: “What do these things taste like and how can we get them?”

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Japan government to allow dancing past midnight by candlelight, joins the 19th century

Last Friday, on the recommendation of a special committee the Abe cabinet agreed to suggested changes to the Fueiho laws which place severe and unclear regulations on dancing in Japan.

As we reported last week, under Fueiho (Act on Control and Improvement of Amusement and Entertainment Business), businesses such as nightclubs are required to operate under a loosely defined set of parameters. However, most didn’t. This led to a string of raids and closures which crippled the night club scene in much of Japan.

After these new changes pass through the Diet, clubs will be allowed to host dancing after midnight – provided the lighting is bright enough.

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Kyoto company starts “Solo Wedding” service for single women who want to be brides for the day

Although Japan is not often considered the best place for sexual equality, steps are definitely being taken in the right direction. More and more women are trailblazing lifelong careers in not always hospitable corporate environments and forgoing more traditional routes such as marriage and becoming a full-time homemaker.

But sometimes this comes at the cost of getting married and starting a family. While some women are perfectly fine with this, others will no doubt feel the occasional pang of regret when they consider that they never had a chance to get all dressed up and be the center of attention for the day like many of their friends and family.

That’s why Kyoto-based company Cerca Travel has set up a service providing all the glamor of a wedding without any of the commitment in what they call a “Solo Wedding.” That’s right: women can now have the full wedding day experience without actually having to get hitched.

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Heartwarming response to Twitter question confirms that yes, Tikuwa_0913, there is a Santa Claus

Over a century ago, eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon wrote a letter to the New York paper The Sun asking if the rumors she heard regarding Santa Claus were true. Editor Francis Church’s now legendary response is still widely read today, as even 117 years later, it holds up pretty well. At least to me, anyway.

For today’s youth, on the other hand, coming up in an age of unprecedented surveillance and information it’s got to be even harder to maintain belief in a magical man with flying reindeer sneaking into their homes at night to deliver presents.

And so history repeats itself, but this time with newspapers on the decline, a sixth-grade child using the handle tikuwa_0913 turned to Yahoo! Japan Answers for more information on Jolly old Saint Nick.

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Witness the power a typhoon has over a bag of potato chips in this time-lapse video

Some of you may recall the massive Typhoon Vongfong or Typhoon 19 in Japan passing straight across the country a couple weeks ago. The typhoon is said to have had an amazing minimum atmospheric pressure of 900 hectopascals (26.58inHg) at one point.

If you’re anything like us, we were left looking at those figures in awe of how much we don’t remember from our high school science classes. Luckily there’s an easier way to visualize the effect Typhoon 19 had on the air pressure thanks to this video on YouTube featuring an experiment that uses a scale everyone can understand: a bag of potato chips.

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Tonkatsu McBurger gets an upgrade and joins the regular McDonald’s Japan menu, people still upset

Back in May, McDonald’s Japan unleashed the Tonkatsu McBurger highlighting Japan’s ubiquitous piece of breaded meat, the tonkatsu (deep-fried pork cutlet). Although it didn’t entirely win us over against Mos Burger’s tonkatsu burger when it first came out, the masses were pleased and cleaned out the burger chain of supplies before the Tonkatsu McBurger was scheduled to finish.

Due to that success McDonald’s will bring back the Tonkatsu McBurger but planned an added feature for its inauguration into the regular menu across Japan – a truly special moment in any sandwich’s life. This addition is an elaborately created sauce promising to heighten its flavor to a whole new level. But is it enough to win back customers lost after this summer’s chicken scandal?

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East meets West in the Pacific-centered version of the world map

Depending on what part of the world you live in, one of these maps will look right at home while the other might seem kind of off. However, given the overall dominance of the Euro-centric map, the other one is more likely to give an uncomfortable feeling to a greater number of people.

While both are currently in use in different countries, is it possible that one map is more valid than another?

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Three Chinese men arrested in Japan for buying too many diapers

In recent years a scourge has gripped Japan, and it is people buying too many disposable diapers at once – the Merries brand in particular. For this heinous behavior, three Chinese men were arrested by the Hyogo Prefectural Police on 15 October and are expected to be deported back to their country.

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Video of guy giving pandas medicine is insanely cute, unless you’re the guy

Could there be any job better than panda keepers? Sure “chocolate-peanut-butter combination inspector” would be better if that job existed, but sadly it does not. What a dream it would be to spend every day with the world’s cutest animal!

Then again, like anything I suppose you’d get a little desensitized to the puffy black ears and roly-poly physique only to be left with constant bamboo eating, butt-scratching, and all the poop that goes along with such a lifestyle. Just watch as this panda keeper tries to give a couple cubs their medicine. The result is a cuteness-packed two minutes for us and a two-on-one wrestling match for the guy in the video.

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The ultimate in smartphone accessories has hopped into the market

Get ready. Here comes a brand new way to enjoy your smartphone. This revolutionary new case not only supports all types of smartphones with a custom fit, but it comes with an incredible range of features never seen before in other cases.

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Is it safe to dance yet? Uncertainty continues to reign supreme in Japan’s club scene

On 15 October it was reported that Masatoshi Kanemitsu would have to go back to court after being acquitted by the Osaka District Court. His alleged crime: allowing his customers to dance in the Umeda area club he owned called Noon.

This kind of law prohibiting dancing might sound straight out of some fundamentalist theocracy, but it’s alive and well in Japan. Actually, it’s far worse than a draconian “no dancing whatsoever” law that you know where things stand; nightclubs in Japan seem to allow dancing until someone in authority decides otherwise. There’s no way to know until officers start bursting through your doors.

This sword dangling over the heads of the remaining clubs is called the Act on Control and Improvement of Amusement and Entertainment Business or Fueiho for short. So let’s take a quick look at why this law is crushing dancing in Japan, and I’ll do my best to avoid any Footloose references.

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This set of stairs at Kitakata Station really cares

When it comes to going up and down in life, stairs really seem to be the most inconsiderate. Rather than carrying you along like your friends the escalator or elevator, stairs just seem to lay there without moving an inch to help you.

Even in Japan where politeness is a way of life, the stairs still just sit there waiting for us to do all the heavy lifting. All except a few flights of extremely well-mannered stairs located in Kitakata Station in Fukushima Prefecture. While they don’t physically help you to go up, they do still have power… the power to move you.

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Osaka man wipes away millions in owed taxes by deducting losing horse race tickets

It’s often said that nothing in life is certain except for death and taxes, but for one Osaka resident, that maxim was little more than an old wives’ tale.

One day, the taxman came calling to the tune of 816 million yen (US$7.7M) over years of unreported winning horse race bets. However, in a game where the house always wins, this guy managed to flip the script and knock down the money owed to a relatively modest 67 million yen ($635,000).

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Kiso Town: Stuck between a volcano and a hard place

A few weeks after the sudden and tragic eruption of Mt. Ontake, search-and-rescue teams have gradually become simply “search teams” and many families still await increasingly certain bad news.

Beyond loved ones, disasters like this often have a reverberating effect which reaches far out to places we don’t often see. One such place is Kiso, a highland town located roughly 10km away from Mt. Ontake which suffered no adverse effect to business or life during the eruption.

As a town which relies on tourism, the people of Kiso would like to tell you that their town is perfectly safe and just as beautiful as ever. But with so many still mourning the loss of life at Mt. Ontake, every time the people of Kiso try to make it plain that they’re open for business, people call them “despicable” and “heartless.”

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