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

Japan’s newest idol group, KBG84, hails from Okinawa, has an average age of 84

Japan’s idol world is quite…expansive, for lack of a better word. Even with the wide variety of groups running around, it can be hard to really tell them apart–though we have to say there was no mistaking Osaka’s Obachaaan for any other group. In fact, the “old lady” idol group is still going strong–perhaps thanks in part to the dearth of elderly competition. But it looks like Obachaaa and AKB48 are about to face some new rivals: KBG84, Okinawa’s own geriatric idol group!

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Now you can experience getting stopped by the Japanese police on Google Streetview

Google Maps has been a great boon to me in my time in Japan. In fact, GPS maps were the biggest reason I got my first smartphone in 2009, followed closely by the ability to write unfamiliar kanji by hand into a dictionary I’d always have with me. But Google Maps was definitely the biggest draw.

In the interceding six years, Google Maps has grown from something useful to something indispensable to many people. It’s not just good for helping you find a tiny store in Shibuya, either, since the maps can open up a whole world of digital sightseeing for people. And where there are bored people on computers, there are also bound to be Easter Eggs and creepy pranks to be discovered.

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Black Mont Blanc: The most loved ice cream in Japan you can only buy in Kyushu

Usually when people talk about “culture shock,” we think of moving to another country–but it doesn’t have to be limited to that. It can be anything from moving from one prefecture to another or even just moving into the city from the country or vice versa.

Of course, you can’t get much more “city” than Tokyo, so, of course, many Japanese people moving here from more rural areas might experience a bit of culture shock. And today we’ll be looking at one such example for one of our Japanese writers who came to the metropolis from Kyushu! Hint: it involves delicious ice cream.

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Kitties keeping the gods company: Check out these photos of cats in Japanese shrines!

A few weeks ago, we found out that some cats had started taking over shrines in Thailand. While that might make our furry friends seem extremely impious, it’s also exactly the kind of hubris that we suspect cats particularly delight in. Now, you may be wondering if the same thing could happen in Japan–and the answer is: Of course!

While we’ve long suspected cats of being emissaries of the spirit world, these photos should make it clear that your kitten isn’t just adorable–it’s holy adorable!

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What are Japan’s Twitter users talking about today? Llamas? Dresses? Nope! Cups of urine! (Kinda)

This week has been a busy one for the Internet. We suppose the Internet is always busy, but it seems like we’ve reached peak Internet wackiness what with all the rampaging llamas, baffling dresses, superpowered fishes, and Sesame Street parodying House of Cards. So, by now, you might be thinking that it’s time to give the Internet a break and maybe settle down with a good book.

But before you do, you might want to see the hilarious tweet that’s taken Twitter by storm in JapanUrine for a real treat!

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This video of Tokyo shrouded in fog is the most beautiful commercial you’ll see all week 【Video】

When it comes to beautiful landscapes, one of the best is anything with rolling banks of thick fog. Now, we imagine some people who live in places like Seattle or London might not agree with the sentiment, but for many of us, the heavy mist of a spring morning is like meandering through a dream. Maybe not the best way to get yourself ready for a day of work, admittedly, but it’s definitely affecting.

Of course, many in Japan would agree–from 12th century emperors to contemporary filmographers. Just check out this stunning video titled “TOKYO DENSE FOG” to see how something as simple as the weather can turn Japan’s modern capital into a mystical realm.

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Itami-kawaii: Cute gets depressing, inspires Japanese Twitter users

Perhaps one of the first words Japanese language-learners pick up is “kawaii,” which makes sense considering how often you’ll hear it in everything from TV shows and anime to a stroll down Takeshita-dōri. However, “kawaii” isn’t just “kawaii” anymore–there’s also kimo-kawaii (“gross but cute”), among others.

And now there’s a new kawaii that’s spreading through the Japanese Twitterverse: Itami-kawaii, or “painful but cute.” It might be hard to visualize, so check out some pictures below and get ready to groan “kawaiiiiiii” in agony.

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Little kid falls out of third-story window and walks it off – Is this Wolverine’s son?!

When we think of superheroes or other magical beings with fast-healing abilities, we rarely think of children. But if you’ve seen a toddler fall, smack itself in the face, cry for a few seconds, and then run off giggling, you might realize that we’re looking for our superpowered guardians in the wrong age groups.

Of course, that’s not to say that children aren’t vulnerable to all sorts of injury, and we most definitely need to be careful with them! It’s just that they seem to have a strange resiliency that’s somewhat rare in adult humans. Take, for example, this three-year-old who fell out of a window last week, hit a parked car, and then just walked the whole thing off!

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Do you mix your wasabi and soy sauce? Some people say you shouldn’t

When it comes to Japanese food, the first thing people tend to think of is sushi–and with good reason! It’s certainly very popular, and it has numerous fans the world over. However, despite the popularity of sushi, sashimi, which is raw, thinly sliced fish, might be even more loved.

Of course, there are plenty of ways to eat sashimi, but it seems that the most common way is to mix some wasabi in a dish of soy sauce and then dip the fish in the soy sauce. A relatively straightforward but delicious process, right? Yes, but apparently that’s completely wrong!

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If Japan joins the TPP, would it be the end of parody and self-published works?

The Trans-Pacific Partnership has proven a source of extreme contention on both sides of the ocean. For example, the EFF has been openly critical of the potential agreement, describing it on their website as “a secretive, multinational trade agreement that threatens to extend restrictive intellectual property (IP) laws across the globe and rewrite international rules on its enforcement.” Japanese farmers don’t seem to fond of it either, though for entirely different reasons.

And now the TPP is drawing the ire of (with a few smatterings of approval from) Japan’s manga and anime fans. Some are even saying the agreement has the potential to utterly destroy otaku culture. Is this hyperbole or is the sky really falling?

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Get wrecked! PlayStation commercial involves wrecking ball, Punch Mania II, madness

Say you’re a giant company that makes video games, like Sony, and you have a new game you want to promote–how would you do it? Sure, you could go shoving pre-rendered cut scenes in everyone’s faces until they puke Mountain Dew, or you could get creative and smash some stuff.

While most companies probably would not go the smashing stuff route, with the possible exception of Stark Industries, it seems that someone at Sony thought that was the best idea since giving Kratos two blades. It turns out they were right–and we were there to see it happen!

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Check out these doodles by legendary Japanese author Osamu Dazai!

From the Heian period to today, Japan has had more than its fair share of great writers. While Ki no Tsurayuki and Murasaki Shikibu are this humble writer’s favorite members of the Japanese literati, today we’re talking about someone a bit more modern: Osamu Dazai. Famous for his first-person and often morose stories, such as the world-famous novel No Longer Human, Dazai was one of the more troubled figures of Japanese literature–and he eventually died in a double suicide when only 38 years old.

Considering his turbulent life, it’s probably no surprise that his classroom doodles, drawn in his English and Ethics notebooks, are so fascinating! Even if you’ve never read a single word by the author, you still won’t want to miss these drawings.

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Steam Garden 8: Travel through time at Tokyo’s premier steampunk event 【Photos】

As we promised a few weeks ago, we swung by Steam Garden 8: Meiji Democracy and took in the sights and sounds! With more photos than your Facebook feed after a weekend of drunken revelry, we are happy to report that Steam Garden is both an amazing way to spend a Saturday, and an event you’ll definitely want to check out as soon as you can.

Click below for some highlights of the steampunk event and tons of fashion and cosplay photos!

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Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward to offer marriage certificates to same-sex couples

Good news today for supporters of same-sex marriage in Japan! Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward is moving towards administering marriage certificates for same-sex couples. If the proposed plan is enacted, it would take effect on April 1 this year, making Shibuya the first ward in Japan to recognize same-sex marriage.

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The next dating sim from Japan features million-year-old grannies and high school drama

It’s no secret that dating sims in Japan have become a bit strange recently. From the meat-based dating sim to the alpaca dating sim to the recent sumo dating sim which features pretty much everyone but realistic-looking sumo wrestlers, it’s clear that pop will eat itself and dating sims will parody themselves.

But an upcoming dating sim set to debut on both Android and iOS devices soon is taking things to a whole new Harold and Maud level: The subjects of your affection will be grannies–million-year-old grannies to be exact!

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26-year-old arrested for murdering elderly woman admits to second murder

Last week, a 26-year-old who was arrested last year for murder was charged in another killing, both of which targeted elderly people. He was apparently broke and owed a significant amount of money as a result of billings for online games..

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Miya Ando, descendant of Japanese swordsmiths, creates mind-blowing art with steel

If you’re looking for a new kimono for spring, look no more! Your search for the coolest (and shiniest) kimonos on the planet is now complete. Though you may have a hard time wearing it for more than a few minutes–these kimono are made of nothing but metal!

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Continuing our tour of the best sushi in Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market with Mr. Sato! (Part 2)

After the first part of our Mr. Sato-lead tour of Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market, we’re sure a lot of our readers are excited to see what else our resident gourmand had for us. And now the wait is over! Here are the last four sushi establishments as visited by Mr. Sato and his daring accomplice in raw fish consumption Nakano.

Whether you’re preparing for your first trip to Tokyo or just looking for some great places you might have missed, this is one article you’ll definitely want to read!

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Forget your paints and pencils! Emojis are the best new art medium!

If you’re as addicted to your phone as we are, there’s a good chance you can draw 95 percent of the emoji you know with your eyes closed. Much to the chagrin of high school English teachers everywhere, it can sometimes seem that half of our communication is taken up by the colorful little faces. And it’s understandable–they can express quite a bit!

But thanks to a new site, anyone can freely combine emoji for a hundred times more expressiveness. That’s exactly what Kazuki Takakura, art director for a Tokyo theatre company, did–and the results are nothing short of spectacular! And slightly nightmarish.

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Cats and snow: The quickest way to make a cuteness train

On the Internet, there is little that people can agree on. From politics to the current state of anime, commenters can be relied on to pull out the metaphorical daggers over the sight of a dissenting opinion. That is with one magnificent exception: Cats! Cute and cuddly, it’s almost impossible to find something wrong with cats.

Okay, that’s not entirely true, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone kvetching about this indecisive kitty, except its slave…sorry, owner!

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