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

Oddly alluring poison mushroom figures with stomach cramps warn us to be careful of what we eat

We’ve documented plenty of the unusual-but-awesome gachapon figures coming out of Japan over the years, but these “poison mushroom” figures might just be the most unusual yet awesome figures we’ve seen to date! Combining the adorableness of tiny mushroom figures with the stomach-rending agony of eating poisonous mushrooms, these Poison Kinoko Plus figures will be right at home on your desk or hiding in your date’s plate of stir fry.

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Twitter user in Japan makes amazing, tiny nail art with nail clippers and a utility knife【Pics】

Typically, nail art in Japan is bold and colorful or just plain huge, but it turns out neither are requisites to being impressive! Sometimes small can be just as amazing as big (at least that’s what we tell ourselves), and one Twitter user has gone a long way to proving that with her diminutive and delicate nail art, created by literally carving the tips of her nails!

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Ziplining over Lake Sebu’s Seven Falls: The fast and fun way to do eco-tourism!【Video】

Waterfalls and tropical vegetation make for some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. There’s just something about raw, untamed nature that fills the human mind with wonder, and Lake Sebu and its Seven Falls in the Philippines is certain to wow even the most experienced eco-tourist.

But in addition to beautiful scenery, it turns out there is also an exciting way to take in the sights: Ziplining! Sadly, Lake Sebu isn’t exactly close to home for most of us. Fortunately, one visitor has made videos of his experience available online so we can all see the Seven Falls for ourselves!

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Youth climbing “genius” Miwa Oba stars in new commercial and nearly breaks the Internet【Video】

Rock climbing and bouldering aren’t really the first sports we associate with junior high and high school students. For some reason, they just seem more like recreational college activities to be enjoyed between rounds of beer while camping—or maybe we were just doing it wrong? Regardless, when we think of climbing superstars, we have to admit that high school students aren’t what spring to mind. At least not until now!

A new commercial, released earlier this month for Plala Mobile’s unlimited mobile Internet featuring one young climbing hero, has already racked up over 1.4 million views and has definitely changed our perception of what a climbing hero looks like!

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Antinomy: Talking to Urbangarde about their vision, music, and lying to fans

Urbangarde first caught my attention last year with the release of their video for “Sakura Memento”, a song off the 2014 album Utsukushii Kuni. I’ve been rocking out to their music and pondering their quixotic videos in the many months since then, enjoying their mix of pop, rock, and electronic music. So when a chance meeting resulted in the opportunity to sit down and talk with the band’s vocalists Yoko Hamasaki and Temma Matsunaga, I nearly popped out of my skin with excitement!

If you’ve ever wondered how they come up with lyrics, why they’re so “negative,” and whether they enjoy touring or recording more, read on. Also, be sure to check out their latest video for the new single, “Coin Locker Babies”, after the jump!

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Vampire Cafe: Over a decade of Tokyo’s best undead dining in Ginza

As one of Tokyo’s swankiest neighborhoods, Ginza is home to numerous up-scale restaurants and cafes that will as much do damage to your wallet as fill your stomach with delicious food. From French cuisine to delicious brunch, you can find just about anything in Ginza—including a Vampire Cafe!

Though you might not expect to see many theme restaurants like this in Ginza, it turns out these bloodsuckers have been going strong for over a decade. If you’re hoping for a night of spine-tingles and blood-red everything, this is the place for you!

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Man exposes himself in Hokkaido, Twitter wonders if it was Death Note’s Ryuk

A tweet by UHB News, a Hokkaido-based news show, received a lot of attention online late last week for its description of an unusual event involving a case of public exposure. Though nothing anyone would consider especially important news, the tweet was retweeted over 10,000 times in just a few days.

What could have engaged that many people? Well, if you’re a fan of Death Note, you might recognize a certain part of this description…

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Even samurai ran late! Newly discovered document shows one warrior’s excuse to his boss

We’ve all been there, waking up late after the alarm didn’t go off or just hitting the snooze button a few hundred times too many. Sometimes the excuses are legitimate and sometimes everyone knows you didn’t actually get food poisoning while rescuing a Girl Scout troop from a box of bad cookies. Still, calling in sick has a timed-honored tradition of hard (and lazy) workers for decades — and, in fact, for centuries!

A recently discovered document on display at the Tochigi Prefectural Museum reveals the reason why one daimyo (samurai warlord) was late to an important meeting with his boss, the famous Toyotomi Hideyoshi. We’re guessing “Sorry, boss, I have a sore throat!” probably didn’t cut it with one of Japan’s great unifiers…

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New Kyary Pamyu Pamyu video “Crazy Party Night” makes Halloween cute and colorful…in August

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is know for many things, but subtlety certainly is not one of them. The singer/model/crazy-in-a-cute-way-girl has released so many bizarre videos by now that we suspect the Oxford English Dictionary will eventually include a picture of her grinning face under the entry for “quirky.” And that’s why we love her!

So we were naturally excited when we saw that she released a new video titled “Crazy Party Night: Pumpkins Strike Back” today. The music was exactly as peppy and cute as you might expect, and the video was…well, it was definitely a Kyary Pamyu Pamyu video. Check it out after the jump!

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NINGEN ISU: This Japanese literary metal band will rock your butt off【Photos & Video】

When Mr. Sato asks you if you want to check out a band with him, you say yes. You don’t ask which band or check your schedule, you just say yes, because you know it’s going to be a good night. It also doesn’t hurt that I already knew he was talking about NINGEN ISU, whose name literally means “Human Chair,” a metal band in the vein of all our favorite old-school traditional metal heroes.

NINGEN ISU’s rise in popularity has been on a slow but powerful burn for decades, and with their upcoming performance at OzzFest this year, they are sure to be popping up on a quite a few radars. So check them out here now and get ready to tell your friends that you knew about these guys way back when!

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Inventor makes working RC model of Flaptter from Ghibli’s Castle in the Sky

Humans have always had a fascination with flying. From the legend of Icarus to da Vinci’s ornithopter designs, we have long tried to mimic birds in an attempt to get ourselves into the air, though it hasn’t always produced the best results. Perhaps one of the most famous ornithopter designs in recent memory is the Flaptter from Studio Ghibli’s Castle in the Sky. We have to admit, we’ve spent a fair share of our time day dreaming about swooping over baseball games in these flying machines, but we never thought we’d actually get to fly one. We may have been wrong!

This working RC Flaptter is just about the peak of our dreams. We just need someone to stick a 3-D camera on the front so we can fly it from a first person perspective and we’ll never have another Tanabata wish again!

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30 things that will go through your mind on a business trip to Tokyo, according to our Japanese writer

It is perhaps common knowledge by now that folks in Japan tend to go on business trips a lot. Whether this is actually true or an exaggeration, we can’t exactly say, but it certainly seems that there are a ton of workers moving around the country as part of their jobs. And it should go without saying that quite a few of them end up coming to Tokyo.

So, what is it like taking a business trip to Tokyo for someone who lives outside of Japan’s most populous metropolitan area? Read on to find out!

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Love costumes and karaoke? Shinjuku Cosplay Karaoke is just what you need! 【Pics & video】

Cosplay has certainly become of Japan’s most well-known and loved subcultures, exploding on the world stage partly thanks to the Internet and partly thanks to the ingenuity of many of its most fervent participants. Despite this, it can still be difficult to find and make friends in the cosplay community if you’re coming in alone, as with any other subculture. But it doesn’t need to be that way! The Japanese cosplay community is just that — a community — and some of its members are working to make sure people can get together and cosplay as often as possible.

Perhaps the most relaxed way to join the fun is to take part is Shinjuku CosKara, or Shinjuku Cosplay Karaoke! While singing in front of others might set your nerves on edge, the events are organized so that people can come, have fun, take lots of cool photos, and make friends. You needn’t worry about your warbling offending anyone either; half the fun of karaoke is doing it badly with a giant grin! So, come along as we take a look at the event and talk to some local cosplayers!

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British musician collaborates with Japanese video game composers for stunning concept album

Music has been an essential part of the gaming experience for decades. From simple 8-bit tunes to orchestral compositions, the music of video games can be exceptionally beautiful. As such, it’s fair to say that composers of video game music enjoy a unique position in the entertainment world, straddling the line between being auteur artists and members of large teams of game creators. But what happens when you take the “video game” out of “video game music composition?” Something beautiful and unique!

We recently sat down and chatted with musician Smoke Thief about his new concept album and working renowned Japanese composers Manami Matsumae, Takahiro Izutani, and Saori Kobayashi. If you like video game music, you’ll definitely want to check out the new album Heart Beat Circuit!

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EDM artist MUST DIE! attracts attention in Japan for his love of anime

EDM is easily one of most popular music genres around the world today. And we have to admit that we have a soft spot for it ourselves, especially artists like Kiyoshi Sugo. Of course, the scene is full of rising stars, but one in particular has captured the attention of Japanese Internet commenters: MUST DIE!

While dubstep hasn’t made the same inroads in Japan as it has in other countries, there is certainly still an audience for it. And MUST DIE!, an American-born and Berlin-based producer, has recently captured their attention thanks to his enthusiasm for anime and otaku culture as expressed via both social media and some of his songs, like the new track “Onii-chan.”

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Pet therapy: Japanese netizens show off their cute pets and leave us smiling all day

The Internet is a weird place, isn’t it? On one hand, you can find numerous trolls being absolute jerks for no reason, and on the other hand, you can find great people making everyone’s day just a little better. Today, we have an excellent example of people making others’ lives a little bit better – with cute animals!

After one 2channel user started a thread asking to see others’ pets as he was feeling “hurt,” cute animal photos soon flooded in. We’re not sure why this guy wasn’t feeling that great, but we have a feeling that all these animal photos probably went a long way to helping him get through the day. So, if you’re having a rough day, we hope these adorable faces will help you too!

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Japanese Twitter user reveals why taxi drivers flock to Big Sight during Comiket

Comiket 88 is over now, sadly enough, but the Internet is still awash in the afterglow of dojinshi and cosplay. Of course, everyone is already looking forward to the next event this winter, from cosplayers to artists to taxi drivers.

Yes, you read that right, it seems that fans and artists aren’t the only ones who love Comiket! Apparently the massive event draws taxi drivers from all over Tokyo because it’s the best place to make money, according to one tweet that captured a ton of attention in Japan last weekend.

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This 360-degree video of a model train ride is way more fun than it has any right to be

The arrival of virtual reality could best be described as imminent. With the increasing number of VR headsets coming to market soon and smartphones that are basically VR devices in our pockets, we’re almost getting to the point where starving to death in a game due to addiction actually seems possible. And that is awesome! Well, kind of awesome…

And there may be no better proof of this than a pair of recently released videos featuring a ride on a model train with a complete 360-degree view that you can control throughout the entirety of both videos. This might sound silly, but you’ll have to trust us, it’s actually very cool!

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Onigiri good enough to get off the train for: We tried the food at Bongo and it was amazing!

Otsuka isn’t exactly the most famous neighborhood in Tokyo. Located next to bustling Ikebukuro, it’s a quiet area and most people assume there’s not much to do. Whether or not that’s actually true, one of our Japanese writers found himself getting off the train at Otsuka Station the other day with a singular purpose in mind: He was there to eat onigiri (rice balls).

But should you hop on a train to Otsuka just for some food you can buy at a convenience store? Is this onigiri restaurant really worth a trip to this quiet neighborhood? Read on to find out!

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Video of a cappella game songs wows the Internet, leaves us feeling nostalgic

The world seems largely split on a cappella music, with some outright hating and others outright loving it. We’re not about to take sides in this debate, but we will say that, if nothing else, it’s always impressive to watch someone do something they’re really good at. Whether it’s crafting katanas or turning candy boxes into art, witnessing skill in action is pretty awesome, and the same goes for a cappella covers — especially when they’re covers of old-school video game music!

So, it’s hardly surprising that this video of a cappella versions of four classic game songs is exploding in popularity online. We’re sure you’ll be impressed too!

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