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

Are Chinese “dama” masks actually fashionable now?

Are Chinese “dama” masks actually fashionable now?

After saving global gold prices in 2013, Chinese dama, or middle-aged women, have found another claim to fame: Influencing world fashion trends.

While most think of going to the beach as an excuse to wear as little as possible, many of these women prefer to stay covered up. But don’t start calling them prudes, since, for them, it’s a matter of practicality and beauty!

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The Kabuki Face Pack: Being beautiful is kind of gross…

The Kabuki Face Pack: Being beautiful is kind of gross…

Until last night, I had never used a face pack. In fact, aside from the fact that they go on your face, the only thing I knew about face packs is that many women use them because…skin. Or something.

But all that changed when I discovered my wife grinning at me and waving a white cardboard envelope around. “It’s time!” she told me. Pure panic hit me before I’d remembered I’d agreed to do…something. What was it? Oh, right, put on a kabuki face pack. “But first, let me get the camera,” she said…

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Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art forced to cover up “obscene” photos following complaint

Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art forced to cover up “obscene” photos following complaint

When police arrested Japanese artist Rokudenashiko last month for distributing 3-D printer plans for models of her vagina, the world was at once baffled and outraged. But despite all the fuss that was raised over the artist’s arrest, it looks like the Japanese police are at it again, this time targeting the Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art for an exhibition featuring nude photography by the Japanese photographer Ryudai Takano.

Though no one has been arrested, the museum made headlines after it partially covered some of Ryudai’s photographs with cloth after local police deemed the images “obscene.” However, many in Japan are questioning the legitimacy of the cops’ actions.

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Japanese Twitter users have discovered ArtPose, and they can’t stop playing with it!

Japanese Twitter users have discovered ArtPose, and they can’t stop playing with it!

Being an illustrator is definitely one of the coolest jobs in the world. It requires a ton of work and dedication, but there’s something undeniably magical about the way artists create something out of nothing but ink and pencil. However, even the best artist sometimes needs a hand when it comes to anatomy, which would explain why poseable models are always popular. After all, the morgue would be packed if every artist had to cut open a corpse to learn how the body works!

So it’s little surprise that an app for the iPhone, called ArtPose, has recently been making waves on Twitter in Japan. But the reason for its popularity might not be what you expect!

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Why Twitter is awesome: Yo-kai Watch in different art styles

Why Twitter is awesome: Yo-kai Watch in different art styles

In case you hadn’t heard, the newest big hit in Japan is the not-Pokémon-sensation Yo-kai Watch. The franchise is about kids who find and train youkai, “spirits” from Japanese folklore, and then pit the trained creatures against evil youkai, making it absolutely nothing like Pokémon. At all.

Well, while some of us may be skeptical that this isn’t just a palette-swapped Pokémon, there is no doubt of the franchise’s insane popularity! In addition to inspiring stock market confidence, it looks like the Yo-kai Watch is also inspiring artists who are sharing their works on Twitter. That’s a win-win for everyone involved!

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Monsters of Shamisen: New music for an old instrument 【J-Tunes】

Monsters of Shamisen: New music for an old instrument 【J-Tunes】

When it comes to Japanese music, one of the most iconic sounds is that of the tsugaru-jamisen. We’ve written about musicians playing the folk instrument before, but today we have a group with a traditional, but decidedly unique, approach: the three-man group Monsters of Shamisen.

From heavy metal to traditional Japanese music and throat singing, there’s sure to be something here for everyone!

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Explosions in the kitchen: This is why you don’t heat canned coffee directly on the stove…

Explosions in the kitchen: This is why you don’t heat canned coffee directly on the stove…

One of our favorite things about Japan is the convenience of just about everything, especially the vending machines. Wherever you are, there’s at least one machine just waiting to quench your thirst–and all of them have any tired writer’s favorite drink: Coffee!

Even more conveniently, though, most machines offer a choice of hot or cold cans–but, of course, the cans will cool down if you don’t drink them right away. In which case you might be tempted to try heating your can up on the stove, like this Japanese Twitter user. That would be a bad idea.

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Smart kitty claims the toilet faucet as its napping ground, gives only an inch due to running water

Smart kitty claims the toilet faucet as its napping ground, gives only an inch due to running water

Cats are known throughout the world for their amazing ability to put themselves exactly where they don’t belong. Whether they’re plunged deep where the sun doesn’t shine into a narrow crawl space or looking down on their “hoomans” from the attic, there’s no end to their hiding spots.

However, one Japanese Twiter user found her cat in what could best be described as a “compromising” position…under the toilet faucet!

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The Great Obon Disaster: A fable of cicadas, dancing, and cats

The Great Obon Disaster: A fable of cicadas, dancing, and cats

Obon is a great time to be in Japan–the summer festivals fill the country with nights of folk music, stall food, and, of course, dancing. While the cops may not approve of you tearing it up in a club, surely no one could complain about the traditional circle dances of Obon.

But it turns out there’s a critic for everything!

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Badass art: Ono Gaf and his giant metal turtle

Badass art: Ono Gaf and his giant metal turtle

There is no doubt that life as an artist is difficult. From struggling to hone your craft to fighting for the respect of your peers and the attention of an audience, it’s often seen as a career only pursued by the obsessed. While we’re certain that you don’t need to be insane to be a successful artist, we’re also pretty sure that it doesn’t hurt to be at least a little compulsive in your dedication.

When it comes to driven art, Ono Gaf may fit the archetype to perfection. And if you disagree, you can take it up with that giant, hand-built turtle standing over him! Read More

Someone’s mother carved this Love Live! watermelon art, left the Internet applauding

Someone’s mother carved this Love Live! watermelon art, left the Internet applauding

There is, obviously, an unending supply of anime available for your viewing pleasure in Japan. Whether you want giants, cyborgs, or balls from dragons, there’s something for everyone. But one of the most popular shows right now is the high-school-idol series Love Live!. The anime has proven so popular, it even inspired a bizarre recruiting tweet from the Japan Self-Defense Forces last year and this massive back-piece tattoo earlier this summer.

Recently, a main character of the show, Honoka, had her birthday, and a dedicated Japanese Twitter user’s mother carved this surprisingly detailed piece of watermelon art in celebration.

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Malaysian artist overcomes dyslexia, creates art to inspire the world

Malaysian artist overcomes dyslexia, creates art to inspire the world

Childhood can be difficult–dealing with homework, classmates, teachers, parents, and sweaty, screaming gym coaches is enough to frustrate anyone. But add a learning difficulty like dyslexia to that mix and “difficult” becomes a drastic understatement. For many, the frustration of being mislabeled as lazy or simply shunned for having difficulty in school can turn into a lifetime of trouble–but that doesn’t need to be the case. In fact, with just a little understanding and some patience on the part of teachers and family members, young dyslexics can turn into extremely successful and talented adults, as Malaysian artist Vince Lowe so ably proves!

Despite his unhappy school days, Vince has gone from a “bad kid” to a well-respected professional with art skills that are simply amazing.

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From samurai to waterfalls: Some of the best places online to check out old photos of Japan

From samurai to waterfalls: Some of the best places online to check out old photos of Japan

If you’re anything like us, you love old stuff from Japan. The temples, shrines, centuries-old festivals, and museums are some of our favorite things to check out when we have free time. There’s just something absolutely captivating about all the relics of the past that live on in Japan–but they’re just not quite as good as time travel! Come on, scientists, we want to hang out with Nobunaga! Well, while we’re waiting for Doc Brown to get back with the DeLorean, we can still at least look at old photos of Japan.

Though you might think there aren’t many–after all, it wasn’t like the samurai were running around with smartphones, snapping selfies–it turns out that there may be quite a few more than we realized! After a few hours clicking around the Internet, we’ve come up with our six favorite sites for finding old photos of Japan. Be sure to check them out and see what life was like over a hundred years ago!

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This new convenience store isn’t so convenient for the blind…

This new convenience store isn’t so convenient for the blind…

One thing that has always stood out about Japan for me personally is the sidewalks. No matter where you are, you’ll almost always have a little yellow brick road to skip along–though it’s not actually an ode to The Wizard of Oz. In fact, it’s not an ode to anything at all: Those yellow, bumpy tiles are actually guides for the visually impaired. It’s a simple but clever solution–you can easily feel the bumps even through your shoes and they’re even easier to find with a cane. That way, even if you can’t see, you can still be sure you’re walking safely on the sidewalk and know when you’re coming to a turn or crossing.

Well, unless you’re trying to get to this newly built convenience store…

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Rick Rack: The teenage girl rock band that is way better than they have any right to be【J-Tunes】

Rick Rack: The teenage girl rock band that is way better than they have any right to be【J-Tunes】

Playing in a band as a teenager isn’t exactly a big deal. Don’t get us wrong though–when you’re in high school, playing a local battle of the bands is probably one of the most thrilling things you can do! But when it comes right down to it, there are tons of high school bands in the world, and most of them sound like, well, high school bands. Of course, there are exceptions, but we think it’s still fair to say that there aren’t too many bands that both sound good and can’t buy their own alcohol.

As you have probably guessed, today we’re showing you one of those notable exceptions. The Nara Prefecture three-piece rock band Rick Rack–and their lead singer/guitarist Serina–have absolutely blown us away with their energetic songwriting and catchy hooks. You’re sure to have a couple of these songs stuck in your head until the end of the week!

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Do you use these “Philippine English” words and phrases?

Do you use these “Philippine English” words and phrases?

Here at RocketNews24, we spend a lot of time talking about language–particularly Japanese and English in Japan. It’s no secret that English is a difficult language to learn, and not just for folks from Japan. Part of the reason for the difficulty arises from the numerous variations English has–from American to Australian to Singaporean. But one country in particular that stands out is the Philippines, which the BBC recently called “the world’s budget English teacher.” While it’s not exactly the most complimentary title, it certainly is true that the country takes English as one of its official languages (along with Filipino, which is basically a standardized form of Tagalog). Of course, in a country with around 170 living languages, it should be expected that Philippine English is quite a bit different from English in the US or the UK.

But just how different is it?

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Martial arts “master” demonstrates his incredible technique, leaves us laughing

Martial arts “master” demonstrates his incredible technique, leaves us laughing

When it comes to martial arts, there’s almost as much fantasy as there is reality. Despite the rise of MMA and full-contact contests designed to ferret out the “ultimate” style, debate still rages about everything from who’s the best fighter to whether or not Shaolin kung-fu is totally awesome. (It is.) One controversial topic that simply won’t die, though, is chi. Is it actually possible to project your chi out of your body like a Street Fighter character? Or is reality actually just a total bummer?

Normally, this would be when Dr. House would hobble into the room and smack someone on the head with his cane, but instead we have a video of a middle-aged Japanese demonstrating the fearsome power of his…eyes??

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Little girl sings her heart out while selling rice cakes, leaves us blown away 【UPDATED】

Little girl sings her heart out while selling rice cakes, leaves us blown away 【UPDATED】

As someone whose singing voice sounds like a baboon trying to speak English, I am always amazed by people who can just belt out a solo without even a piano to back them up. But I’m doubly impressed when that person is a little kid selling rice cakes on the side of the road!

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Internet wishes Attack on Titan’s Reiner a happy birthday, things get just a little weird

Internet wishes Attack on Titan’s Reiner a happy birthday, things get just a little weird

While some may dread their birthdays, we like to think everyone deserves the chance to have their existence celebrated. Heck, even if you’re not a real person, you still deserve to have a happy birthday, right? Especially if you’re a shape-shifting titan!

That’s right, in case you missed it, August 1 was none other than Reiner Braun’s birthday! And considering how popular Attack on Titan is, it’s no surprise that adoring fans pulled out all the stop to celebrate. Though we have to admit, we think they probably could have left a few stops in place…

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BABYMETAL plays first ever US show, bootleg videos leave us wowed

BABYMETAL plays first ever US show, bootleg videos leave us wowed

Continuing their meteoric rise to international stardom, BABYMETAL has checked off another box on their world conquest to-do list: Playing a headline show in the US!

The show this weekend has even made waves in Japan thanks to a fan video uploaded to YouTube shortly after the group’s LA tour. Check it out below!

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