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

83-year-old retiree arrested for selling explicit pre-war photos online

Life as a retiree isn’t exactly easy. Sure, you don’t have to get up and go to work every morning, but that also means you don’t have a very substantial income. While your retirement checks might help you put food on the table, they’ll probably seem a bit underwhelming as you get even older. And in Japan, you can’t even go out and get a depressing job as a greeter at Wal-mart.

But there’s always Yahoo! Auction, where you can sell any manner of things you might have lying around the house. Old instruments, old clothes, old dolls, or even, what the heck, how about some old pornographic photos? Any of those are sure to fetch a tidy sum online, but you might want to be careful about those explicit photos–they could very well end up with you getting arrested, as one 83-year-old Tokyo retiree learned!

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Legendary DJ Krush performs with traditional Japanese musicians to create music for your dreams

If you’ve ever visited a Shinto shrine, there’s a good chance you’ve heard the ethereal sound of gagaku, or traditional Japanese court music. It’s not exactly something that you’d throw in a club mix after “Turn Down For What,” though at one point it was used to accompany dances at the imperial palace. While Lil Jon may get your body shaking, with gagaku, which literally means “elegant music,” shaking isn’t really the goal.

Still, that didn’t stop DJ Krush, one of Japan’s most famous and respected turntablists, from getting together with a few gagaku musicians to play one of the most beautiful sets you’re ever likely to hear–and at a Tokyo Red Bull Music Academy event, no less!

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Japanese military to receive funding for powered suits, everyone wonders what took so long

You probably remember last year when the Internet collectively lost control of its bowels over the announcement that the US military was working on TALOS, a powered suit that wasn’t actually anything like what Tony Stark wears but was close enough to get our hearts racing. News outlets were flooded with reports of Iron Man suits and few could ignore the excitement, though it turns out that making a real powered suit is hard–recent reports suggest TALOS won’t be ready until 2018.

While three or four years isn’t exactly soon, it is pretty quick–though if the US military doesn’t get their hustle on, they may end up being second to the powered suit finish line! It looks like the Japanese government is preparing to throw hundreds of millions of yen at a project to develop a powered-assist suit for soldiers in three years–if it is accepted by the Diet for the 2015 budget.

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Special 2015 New Year’s stamp shows adorable sheep completing a 12-year project

With November half over, it’s time to start worrying about the big holiday this season: New Year’s! While Christmas might be the big winter holiday in many countries, for those in Japan, the changing of the calendar is a far bigger event and everyone from school kids overworked salarymen gets a row of days off.

In addition to lazing about and eating way too much food, January first also means nearly mandatory New Year’s postcards in Japan. Next year is the year of the sheep (or goat, depending on who you ask), and the Japanese postal service has revealed their special postcard stamps featuring an adorable four-legged wool giver just for the occasion. However, eagle-eyed patrons with a good memory have noticed something special about the stamps…

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Sichuan university displays the confiscated cookware of frustrated students

One of the great things about college is living in the dorms with all your friends and being able to walk down to the cafeteria for ready-made meals. It has all the convenience of living at home with your family, but without anyone telling you when to come home! Of course, that’s not to say that there were no rules–and one of the big ones is the prohibition of items that may cause fires, like hot-plates and toasters. As much as we all love grilled cheese sandwiches at 2 am, I think we can agree that it’s not exactly paranoid to worry that someone will forget to turn theirs off and start fire.

However one university in Sichuan is apparently a bit…zealous when it comes to enforcing the rules. They’ve even displayed the confiscated contraband on campus as a warning to would-be rule breakers. It turns out, though, that there was a good reason why so many students were cooking secretly in their rooms…

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Glowing skirt lets you cosplay Hatsune Miku, show off your sexy thighs

Hatsune Miku has been portrayed in nearly every way imaginable, from highly detailed Final Fantasy-esque character model to gorgeous anime-style re-imaginings. She’s also one of the more popular characters for cosplaying, with results that range from the adorable to the slightly insane, so if you want to show your love for the animated singer, you’ll need to put in a bit of extra work to stand out. But don’t worry, we have just the thing to help the next time you plan to don a teal wig: A glowing Hatsune Miku skirt!

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Mininja and the future of anime: We talk with an American deep in the heart of Japan’s anime industry

After watching that insanely adorable Mininja short, we decided we had to find out more about it–like when we could watch a full-length film! Fortunately, we were able to track down the tiny “not actually a ninja” alien’s creator–Sean McPhillips, an American who also just happens to be a senior vice president at DLE. In the process of discussing Mininja’s origin, we got the chance to learn about how the Japanese anime industry is growing and just how an American ends up working at a Japanese anime company.

If you’re curious about the future of anime and the origin of our favorite pink ninja, be sure to check this out!

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Tiny ninjas, lazy shellfish, and neglected children: It’s time to choose Toho Cinema’s new mascot

If you live in Japan and love movies, there’s a good chance that you’ve been to a Toho Cinema at some point. One of the largest cinema chains in Japan, they show all the domestic and international blockbuster films you could possibly want. They also allow you to reserve a seat when you buy your ticket, so you can be sure to have a perfect view of Captain America’s pert derrière when the next Avengers movie comes out.

In addition to picking your seat, you now also have the opportunity to help choose the theater chain’s new mascot. With lazy shellfish, neglected children, and the absolute cutest ninja you’ll ever see, it may take you a while to choose–so it’s a good thing you can vote online!

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Travel through time with these old maps from the Zenrin Virtual Museum

While the average human has not yet come unstuck in time, it doesn’t mean we’re completely at a loss when it comes to time travel. Yes, we may only move in a singular direction, but at least have artifacts from the past to help us look back! Everything from old photos to old pottery help us dig through our murky cultural memory to see how things used to be.

And, thanks to Zenrin, a Japanese mapping company based in Oita Prefecture, now you can travel internationally with their collection of digital maps from the Edo and Meiji periods. Whether you think England is a conspiracy of cartographers or you know the name of every mapmaker since Babylonia, there’s something here for everyone!

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This video of models dancing to a Taiwanese pop song is so horrible it’s genius

Models, a tiger-head backpack, and one confused Kim Jong-un impersonator–it’s not exactly a list of participants to inspire confidence when it comes to “fan-made” dance videos. Notice the lack of anyone with solid dancing skills here. While we’re sure that all of the folks that appear dancing in this video set to the Chinese hit “Memeda” by Lin Meixi and Xia Wenxi have their own unique talents, it is immediately obvious that moving in a rhythmic fashion in unison is not one of them…

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Tinkerbell lives! Japanese company invents a way to draw in thin air with laser plasma technology

While the resurrection of Tupac and Michael Jackson were both pretty impressive, they weren’t exactly the sci-fi technology breakthroughs we’ve been waiting for since the Holodeck in Star Trek. But if you were left feeling disappointed by the beyond-the-grave spectacles, we have some hope for your technology-craving hearts!

Japanese technology company Burton Inc. recently wowed the Internet with a demonstration of a laser plasma device that enabled them to project 3-D images into the sky.

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Premium Cocorobo will clean your floor, wake you up, and probably creep out your friends

While a cranky Roomba can make a terrible mess, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we should never allow robots into our homes–only that we probably ought to be careful about how much we trust them. For example, letting them vacuum your floor seems reasonable, but relying on a vacuum bot to wake you up might not be such a great idea. And giving your vacuum bot a cute anime voice and something resembling a personality? That’s how humans end up extinct!

But apparently Sharp needs to watch more Terminator films, because that is exactly the kind of vacuuming robot they’ve created!

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Looking for the best kabe-don in Japan? Head to Puroland and find Daniel!

Between turning 40 and a host of confusion of what exactly she is, Hello Kitty has had quite a year. But we have news for the gijinka that’s going to make it a lot worse: Her boyfriend (catfriend? ginjinkafriend?) is out kabe-donning it up with any random stranger that walks by!

That’s right the once-lovable Daniel can now be found at Sanrio’s Puroland assuming the kabe-don position for anyone to waltz over and lock eyes with. This is the kind of betrayal that we doubt Hello Kitty will take in stride. And it’s not like she doesn’t know a crap ton of superpowered badasses!

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Japanese university lecturer arrested for assualting…an ambulance

The sound of an ambulance siren could never be considered something pleasant, but it’s not really something the average person hates. It’s annoying, but then again it’s meant to be annoying–and it’s usually part of rescuing someone in need. We may not like it, but we certainly do appreciate it.

So, while most people may cringe and cover their ears when an ambulance goes screeching by, we doubt anyone would actually get mad and try to assault one!

Unless you happen to be this university lecturer…

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Absurd anti-prostitution proposal in Russia gets Japanese commenters’ tongues wagging

Prostitution is often called the oldest job in history. While that seems like a less-than-realistic claim, it doesn’t change the fact that the sale and purchase of sex has been around for millennia and will likely continue despite the various efforts to ban it. However, that hasn’t stopped some from trying. Take, for example, a Russian politician who recently suggested that people caught with prostitutes ought to face a fine and prison term–unless they agree to marry the sex worker!

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What if Frozen had been set in China…

The undeniable success of Disney’s Frozen can be best understood in the inspiration fans continue to draw from the film almost a year after its release. From stunning Halloween costumes to absolutely horrifying Halloween costumes, in addition to all sorts of fan creations.

Recently, though, a new fan-service creation has appeared in the form of computer-generated illustrations of Elsa and Anna wearing qipao (or cheongsam), and as you might expect, the image left the internet applauding.

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Oldest Korean “face” discovered, Internet commenters can’t help noticing some similarities

In many ways, art is one of the most human activities we can take part in–it leaves behind not only an expression of the person who created it, but also becomes a part of the narrative that future generations use to understand their history. In this case, the art is literally one of the oldest depictions of a Korean face known–and it certainly seems to be adding to the narrative in South Korea!

It’s also drawing laughs due to a similarity to a certain South Korean rapper

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Did you know Ayumi Hamasaki released a new single? Apparently neither did anyone else…

Even if you have only the barest passing knowledge of Japanese music, there’s a very good chance you know the name Ayumi Hamasaki. Arguably the queen of Japanese solo pop artists, between 1998 and 2012, she managed to move over 50 million units including both singles and full albums. That’s a number so big, I need all my fingers, toes and a calculator to keep track of everything! She’s even crossed international boundaries with numerous fans around Asia and managed to be a star for over a decade in a country where pop stars come and go like…well, pop stars.

But is her glory finally at its end? While we’d be loath to make any proclamations about the future, the sales for her newest single “Terminal” have been nothing short of dismal, apparently shocking many music industry insiders.

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What do black holes and Gundam have in common? Here’s a hint: Schwarzschild!

Here’s a riddle for you: What do Gundam and black holes have in common? And, no, it has nothing to with giant robots or CERN-style technology gone crazy. It’s actually about…fashion.

Well, fashion might be a bit of an exaggeration, but we’ll give you a hint. What’s weird about the way Fumina Hoshino, from the new Gundam Build Fighters Try, wears her skirt?

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Twitter user comes up with great tea bag business idea for for everyone with “mai waifu”

For a dedicated entrepreneur, potential business ideas are everywhere. You just have to keep your eyes open–after all someone had to come with idea for zippers first. The problem, though, is telling the difference between a crazy-but-great business idea and a simply crazy idea. And sometimes it’s much easier to tell them apart, like this bizarre suggestion.

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