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

Geographical Survey Institute posts 184 images of Mount Ontake eruption online

Geographical Survey Institute posts 184 images of Mount Ontake eruption online

Near the top of Japan’s Mount Ontake, whose recent eruption is thought to have claimed 36 lives, rescue teams have been facing setbacks due to the dangerous terrain including flying rocks and poisonous fumes. Around the same time, the Japanese Geographical Survey Institute (GSI) has posted nearly 200 photos of the initial eruption online from 360 degrees around it.

By overlaying the photos on a precise topographical map they hope the data can be valuable to teams by helping them understand the behavior of the plume and conditions all over the area. These photos are available for anyone to see by going to the GSI website, but perhaps its some of the videos posted from the scene online that give a better sense of the disaster.

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Akira’s Katsuhiro Otomo to design giant mural featuring cyborg fish for Tohoku’s Sendai Airport

Akira’s Katsuhiro Otomo to design giant mural featuring cyborg fish for Tohoku’s Sendai Airport

With works like Domu and Akira to his name, screenwriter and manga-ka Katsuhiro Otomo is universally well-known and respected. He is, however, not exactly the most prolific artist in the world, often leaving fans waiting for years on end for his next project or collaboration.

So although we’re thrilled to announce his next work will in fact be completed by March of next year, you should know that it’s going to take a little traveling to get a good look at it. You see, the currently untitled Otomo public art piece will hang in all of its 24-square-meter (258 sq ft) glory in the lobby of the terminal building of Tohoku’s Sendai Airport.

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On a serious note: Here are middle-aged Chinese men jumping rope while wearing padded bras

On a serious note: Here are middle-aged Chinese men jumping rope while wearing padded bras

If I might have a moment of your time, I’d like to explain to you why this picture of two balding Chinese men jumping ropes while wearing padded bras is something worth thinking about.

These two shirtless men with their spare tires jiggling about represent something that has or will likely affect someone you care about at some point in your life: breast cancer.

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Online “Population Decrease Map” of Japan paints a bleak, womanless future for the country

Online “Population Decrease Map” of Japan paints a bleak, womanless future for the country

There has been a lot of discussion over the shifting demographics in Japan with the average age steadily rising and birthrate slipping year by year. These changes leave people wondering what will happen in the decades to come.

The Nihon Keizai Shimbun website posted an interactive map of Japan which provides among other information the changes in the female population in Japan 26 years into the future. If you can’t tell by the scorched Earth color-coding used above, it doesn’t bode well for the country. In fact, it’s causing some analysts to predict the “annihilation” of 896 municipalities (a little over half of them) by 2040 due to depopulation.

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Kirin promotes new alcohol by filming rural people with pigeon-shaped drones… because they can

Kirin promotes new alcohol by filming rural people with pigeon-shaped drones… because they can

Japanese brewery Kirin unveiled a new campaign for their Off White brand of imitation beer products known as happoshu. To help promote their cheaper beer substitute, Kirin will be dispatching six drones painted like pigeons to fly around and record the people of Taketa City in Oita Prefecture.

We can’t promise you we’ll succeed but we’re sure as heck going to try and find a link between drones, a rural community, and an alcoholic beverage produced to take advantage of a tax loophole.

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This is your final boarding call for a once-in-a-decade chance to ride Japan’s fastest train

This is your final boarding call for a once-in-a-decade chance to ride Japan’s fastest train

The Superconducting Magnetic Levitation Train (SCMaglev) has been in development by Japan Railways for decades and has already broken various world speed records for railed vehicles during test runs. However, it won’t begin operation in Japan until 2027.

That is unless you are one of the lucky few chosen for a series of test runs being conducted in November and December of this year. If you apply by midnight on 30 September you’ll get a chance to ride the train of the future today! What are you waiting for?! Go!

Actually, wait! There’s some useful information you should probably read here first. Then go!

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Welcome to Wonderland: The most barely functioning place on Earth!

Welcome to Wonderland: The most barely functioning place on Earth!

Although Japan is a place of widespread religious ambiguity, there is an underlying belief in a place between the land of the living and the world of the dead. It’s an entirely different world in itself, a temporal zone where you can’t be sure what exists and what doesn’t.

This place is Wonderland amusement park in Fukui Prefecture. The park boasts four remaining attractions that haven’t been closed down due to safety reasons and a distinct lack of guests. Nevertheless, Wonderland assures you they are open… especially if you want to buy the place.

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All insolvent idol group “The Margarines” to debut, total debt of all members: 127 million yen

All insolvent idol group “The Margarines” to debut, total debt of all members: 127 million yen

Debt is a major problem facing people of all ages today. Many young graduates head out into the world already handicapped by a shrinking job market and crippling student loans while their parents have to deal with drying pensions and stagnant real-estate market. It’s a heavy burden that requires a combination of luck and hard work to pull oneself out of, but with some sensible fiscal planning it is possible.

Or, you could do what the nine young women in The Margarines did and pursue a career in the pop idol industry. Their mission is to sing and dance their way out of a combined 127.7M yen (US$1.17M) of debt in an already heavily over-saturated entertainment industry. How could it possibly fail?

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Osaka Station showered with photos of a teenage boy, two train otaku questioned by police

Osaka Station showered with photos of a teenage boy, two train otaku questioned by police

On the evening of 19 September, JR Osaka Station became the scene of unseasonable weirdness as dozens of photographs of an unknown teenage boy seen sitting on the train fell from the sky like giant snowflakes of randomness.

Upon investigating the incident, Osaka Prefectural Police found this to have been an act of revenge by what is fast becoming Japan’s most oddball sub-culture: train otaku.

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Own a pair of secret camera shoes? The police should be by shortly for a visit

Own a pair of secret camera shoes? The police should be by shortly for a visit

For most of this summer, Kyoto Prefectural Police have been carrying out an aggressive campaign of going to people’s homes and asking them to voluntarily give up their shoes with built-in hidden cameras. These house calls have resulted in hundreds of pairs of these “tosatsu shoes” (voyeur shoes) winding up in police custody.

This plan to deter the use of tosatsu shoes to illegally film in private areas such as up women’s skirts had proved so successful that police in Kyoto are spreading the word to other departments and will continue the same tactics in the future.

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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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