Preston Phro

Preston Phro (or simply Phro as most know him) is a Coloradoan attempting to fit in in Tokyo. (Surely, he would succeed if not for his unruly hair.) He puts his master's in classical Japanese literature to good use by writing silly stories and articles for the Internet. Having lived in Nara, Osaka, and Yamaguchi before moving to the Kanto area, he's quite happy to finally have a place to call home! When not writing, he enjoys annoying his wife by plucking at his shamisen (a three-stringed Japanese instrument not entirely unlike a banjo) and pestering her with questions about Japanese history. He also occasionally attempts to remember all the stuff he's forgotten since university.

All Stories by Preston Phro

University students in China design two-meter-wide apartment you could almost live in

University students in China design two-meter-wide apartment you could almost live in

Living in a city is great in many respects–there is an abundance of cultural activities, great restaurants, museums, music, and unique people to meet. But all those unique people, unfortunately, need places to stay! Of course, if you have a full-time job, you can probably find somewhere to hang your hat, but for students or others living a tight budget, even a studio apartment can start to seem like a luxury. For many, that means shared housing, which is a great solution if you have a good friend to stay with–not so much if you need your privacy.

One team of Chinese students may have found a solution through the magic of ergonomic design and clever use of space. Check out their mock-up of this cozy two-meter-wide (6.5-foot-side) apartment below!

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Exciting promotional campaign offers chance to win horrifying cat figure

Exciting promotional campaign offers chance to win horrifying cat figure

When it comes to science fiction technology made real, 3-D printing is one of the most exciting. While we might all say we wish we had jet packs, the fact is that 3-D printing had 96.6 percent fewer leg burn injuries in a direct comparison that we just made up and is totally not real. But putting fake statistics aside, 3-D printing not only enables for cheap, efficient manufacturing, it also allows us to make figures out of nearly anything we want with little more than photos and some software.

And to prove it, Ima Topic and DMM.make, the web-based 3-D printing division of web-retailer/video-on-demand company DMM, are offering what can only be described as a horribly awesome campaign: A chance to win a figure of Setsu, the gorgeous, blue-eyed house cat who looks like roadkill when she sleeps. This is one contest you will almost certainly regret winning!

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Can you unlock your new iPhone 6 Plus with your nipple? We can! 【Video】

Can you unlock your new iPhone 6 Plus with your nipple? We can! 【Video】

When it comes to iPhones, our Japanese writing team might be the biggest fans on the planet. Or at least the strangest. And while Mr. Sato had a busy week waiting for and getting the first iPhone sold in Japan, the rest of our Japanese writers haven’t been sitting around wasting time.

Nope, they’ve been testing vital features like the new iPhone’s hand-shake compensation and security features. We already know what happens when you tape an iPhone to a massage wand…but what happens when you try to lock and unlock it with your nipple?

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Japanese national anthem delights foreigners, Japanese commenters have no idea why

Japanese national anthem delights foreigners, Japanese commenters have no idea why

Depending on your travel and Olympic games viewing habits, you may not get the chance to hear national anthems that aren’t from your own country very often. Which is kind of understandable…the songs are supposed to be inspiring, but it seems like at lot of them are either about killing everyone or marching. Marching might be a great way to burn calories, but we could do without songs about it.

However, it turns out that Japan’s national anthem, the incredibly short “Kimi ga Yo,” is a bit of a hit with folks from everywhere but Japan…a fact that’s left quite a few Japanese Internet commenters thoroughly confused.

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Beautiful Toms: The manliest ladies in Thailand

Beautiful Toms: The manliest ladies in Thailand

Human sexuality can get pretty complicated–which is awesome if you ask us! We think it’s pretty great that more and more people have found the freedom to be themselves and express their (consensual) desires in a positive way.

And when it comes to complex sexuality, it seems that Thailand may be one of the most diverse places on the planet. While you may have any number of ideas about what sexuality is like in Thailand, we’re guessing you’re not familiar with Toms or Dees…

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Japanese gamers reminisce about the good old days of the NES

Japanese gamers reminisce about the good old days of the NES

For most children of the 80s, video games mean the Nintendo Entertainment System, or Famicom in Japan. Even if you didn’t have one in your home, you surely had a friend with one of those enchanting boxes. Ah, the thrills of 8-bit action, midi music, and blowing frantically on cartridges!

Though many parents might have written the devices off as mere toys, there’s an undeniable shared experience that the NES provided for children in many countries around the world. But have you ever wondered how your experiences with the system compared to those of kids in Japan, the console’s home? Well, wonder no more!

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Cat gets caught in tissue box, dances into our hearts

Cat gets caught in tissue box, dances into our hearts

It’s no secret that cats love tight spaces. From Maru squeezing into boxes to cats hanging out in vents, the only thing our feline friends love more than a saucer of milk is squeezing into just about anything. We don’t know exactly why, but we sure love to watch them go!

Of course, squeezing into tight spaces sometimes means getting stuck, as this adorable cat learned the hard way…

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Best pun of the week: Daughter draws father not quite hard at work

Best pun of the week: Daughter draws father not quite hard at work

Some say that puns are the lowest form of humor–we say those people have no sense of humor! Of course, that’s not to say that all puns are comedic genius, a fact easily proven by turning on any used car lot commercial, but we love a good pun.

While not all puns are created equal, we have to say that our favorite puns often come from children. There’s something perfectly surreal about a child’s fumbling of language–but of all the puns we’ve seen, this might be one of the best…

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Japanese university student uses first place win to show off his otaku pride

Japanese university student uses first place win to show off his otaku pride

While most people might assume that otaku aren’t a particularly sporty group of people, we should know by now that generalizations are about as accurate as a blind sniper. And if you don’t believe us, just ask the anime-loving wrestler!

So, we’re sure that there are a ton of sportsmen who love 2-D women, but not many of them care to share their passion with the world…at least as publicly and visibly as this Nihon University sprinter!

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The Boobie Squeezing Simulator: Oculus Rift at its creepiest

The Boobie Squeezing Simulator: Oculus Rift at its creepiest

Virtual reality pornography is basically a reality at this point. Oculus Rift plus Tenga equals the end of humanity. Oculus Rift plus a pillow equals hugs as real as your virtual girlfriend. Oculus Rift plus a straw equals a surprisingly pleasant date with your anime girlfriend sitting on the other side of the uncanny valley. We’re now convince that when aliens discover the remains of human civilization centuries from now, they’ll conclude that it was a magic device known as the “Oculus Rift” that brought civilization screeching to a halt.

And now, an Oculus Rift plus a novelty mouse pad with “breasts” is…actually really, really creepy. And while it probably won’t result in us all withering away to empty husks, this Boobie Squeezing Simulator is almost certainly the beginning of the end.

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A guide to public bathhouses, the newest hot spot for tourists in Tokyo

A guide to public bathhouses, the newest hot spot for tourists in Tokyo

When coming to Japan, there’s a wealth of things to do and see–even just staying within the Tokyo city limits, you’d be hard pressed to enjoy everything available in a week. On the other hand, if you just stick with the big sightseeing spots, you’ll be both crushed by crowds and probably bored in a few days. This has left a lot of overseas tourists with time–and incentive–to look for new or unique activities.

One of the things apparently gaining popularity is sento, or public bathhouses. While not quite as much fun as hanging out in hot springs in the mountains with monkeyssento still provide a fun and different activity for anyone just looking to relax. The warm waters are especially welcome after a few days running around Tokyo! But you might want to check this handy guide before you head out for a soak in order to avoid annoying other bathers.

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Join these haters and take your clothes off instead of accepting the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Join these haters and take your clothes off instead of accepting the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Almost as soon as the ALS Ice Bucket challenge emerged as a massive, viral trend, the haters began to bemoan the waste of water and public showboating. While it’s easy to understand the position–whose Facebook feed hasn’t been filled with posts of friends taking a nice splash this summer?–one thing you can say for the challenge is that it’s raised quite a bit of money. This has left the conversation open to the counterattack “Nee-ner nee-ner nee-ner!” and the charge, “Why don’t you come up with something better?”

Well, look no further, haters, because this daring group of Chinese financial analysts has you covered…by getting uncovered themselves.

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These posters from the Taisho and Showa Eras are simply gorgeous!

These posters from the Taisho and Showa Eras are simply gorgeous!

If we could have a genie grant only one wish, it would likely be for a time machine. Even going back a mere 100 years would be fascinating, but, alas, genies aren’t real. Or, if they are, the world governments are keeping them tightly under wraps.

Fortunately, we don’t need time machines to sneak peeks back in time–all we need are some awesome, full-color posters. And these 17 posters are the next best thing to finding Doc Brown waiting outside with a revving DeLorean!

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Anna and Elsa come to life: The best Halloween costumes of the year?【Photos】

Anna and Elsa come to life: The best Halloween costumes of the year?【Photos】

Halloween is now less than two months away, so it’s time to start planning your costume. There are a wealth of options to choose from, of course, but this year we probably wouldn’t recommend going as Anna or Elsa from Frozen. Not because they aren’t awesome, but because we’re fairly certain that no one will be able to compete with the awesomeness of these hand-crafted costumes.

We’ve seen fans make some pretty amazing things in the past, but this very well might take the royal cake.

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Miyazaki City tries to get “Happy,” but will record labels allow it?

Miyazaki City tries to get “Happy,” but will record labels allow it?

By now you are probably more than sick of hearing Pharell Williams’ “Happy.” We’re not ragging on the song, but we strongly suspect that the international hit, though infectious, has started to wear out its welcome. It took a dedicated Weird Al to even keep us interested through the summer, so we’d say it’s about time to put this song to bed. Maybe we’ll break it out again next summer and laugh at all the memories.

However, there is one thing the video has helped illustrate beyond people’s willingness to show off their dance skills (or lack thereof) for a YouTube video: The nebulous world of copyright violation in Japan.

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Move over Beats, there’s a new overpriced set of headphones on the market

Move over Beats, there’s a new overpriced set of headphones on the market

So, you love to blast your music wherever you go, but you can’t find any headphones fashionable enough to match your wardrobe. While that’s not likely a problem many of us have, someone has found a solution! Chanel–yes, Chanel–will be releasing their newest fashion accessory–headphones–mid-September. And, don’t worry, fashionistas, they are exactly as expensive as you would think they are!

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These scarecrows look so human, they belong in an art museum【Photos】

These scarecrows look so human, they belong in an art museum【Photos】

There’s no doubt that crows are some of the smartest animals on the planet, so we have to admit that we’ve always found it kind of funny that they’re fooled by something like a scarecrow. Silly birds, those things look nothing like real humans! Unless you’re out driving around Japan’s Shiga Prefecture and happen upon Nobuou Onishi’s farm. Then even careful humans might be fooled by his incredible scarecrows.

In fact, Onishi’s scarecrows are so realistic–and have captured so much attention–that he’s been requested to create an installation for the Borderless Art Museum NO-MA in Omihachiman City, Shiga Prefecture. Check out some of the photos from Onishi’s farm below to see if you can believe your eyes!

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Flagitious Idiosyncrasy In The Dilapidation: Japan’s awesome all-woman grindcore band【J-Tunes】

Flagitious Idiosyncrasy In The Dilapidation: Japan’s awesome all-woman grindcore band【J-Tunes】

When people think of Japanese music, their thoughts usually turn to J-pop or BABYMETAL–and while nothing is wrong with that, there’s a lot more to be found! We’ve been exploring some of our favorite music in Japan over the last few months, but there’s still a massive universe of artists left to discover. Today, we’ll be breaking out the jackhammer and drilling deep into the world of underground Japanese metal, specifically grindcore and the internationally acclaimed (but still largely unknown) band Flagitious Idiosyncrasy In The Dilapidation.

From overseas touring to being a woman-only band in a male-dominated scene, this interview is sure to keep even Top 40-loving readers interested.

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Classroom distractions: What were they thinking when they made these textbooks??

Classroom distractions: What were they thinking when they made these textbooks??

You’ve likely seen some of the impressive textbook doodles from Asia before–and you should definitely check them out if you haven’t–but it turns out that bored students aren’t the only ones filling textbooks with bizarre illustrations. Sometimes it seems as if the publishers themselves were out to troll students with the weirdest illustrations we’ve ever seen.

It’s almost as if these textbooks from Japan were compiled by your pot-smoking high school English teacher and his best friend the alcoholic art teacher…

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Sexy yukata amuse Japanese Internet users, leave us confused

Sexy yukata amuse Japanese Internet users, leave us confused

One of the more disturbing stereotypes propagated about Japan is that of the “sexy geisha,” which can often be found around Halloween time in the form of unrealistically skimpy (and blatantly racist) outfits. Normally, we’d decry any version of these get-ups, but when they’re manufactured and sold in Japan, we find ourselves left scratching our heads.

Fortunately, Japanese Internet users also gave us something to smile about with their amused–and confused–comments.

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