Casey Baseel

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Casey Baseel spent his formative years staring in frustration at un-subtitled Japanese TV programming shown on Southern California’s international channel. Taking matters into his own hands, he moved to Tokyo to study the language, then found work in Yokohama a decade ago teaching, translating, and marketing hotels he can’t afford to stay in. When not participating in the eternal cycle of exercising to burn the calories form his love of Japanese food, Casey scours used comic and game shops for forgotten classics, drags his wife around the country in a quest to visit all its castles, sings karaoke not nearly as well as he thinks he does, and counts the days until the summertime bars open on Enoshima Beach.

All Stories by Casey Baseel

Welsh onion umbrella is perfect for vegetarians and Hatsune Miku fans alike

A couple of years ago, a friend of mine gave me an umbrella with a handle that looks like the hilt of a katana. It’s actually really well-made, while I’ve never had to use the crosspiece to protect my hand from rival swordsmen’s strikes, it does provide a nice bit of extra grip during typhoons and lesser storms with gale-force winds.

There is one problem, though. When it’s closed up, and all you can see is the handle, it looks a little too much like a samurai blade, and I feel a little self-conscious carrying it in public. So maybe it’s time I switched to something a no less unique but a whole lot more innocuous: like an umbrella shaped like a giant Welsh onion.

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Canadian fans’ live-action Akira is better than many expect Hollywood’s to be

Although Warner Bros. acquired the rights for a live-action version of legendary anime and manga Akira more than a decade ago, the studio has yet to produce even a minute of its promised version of the psychic cyberpunk epic.

Recently, the project has been hit hard by a fan backlash to alleged deviations from the source material, such as moving the setting to New York. The reaction has also been less than positive to rumors of changing the ethnicities (but not the names, curiously) of Akira’s originally entirely Japanese cast. With Zac Efron, James Franco, Justin Timberlake, Joaquin Phoenix, Keanu Reeves, and Gary Oldman all at some point rumored to be attached to the film, I was starting to feel a little left out, as I suspected I might be the last non-Japanese guy not being offered a chance to portray motorcycle gang leader Kaneda or his mentally unstable pal Tetsuo.

But while Warner Bros.’ Akira looks to be stalled for the foreseeable future, a group of Canadian fans has out together a trailer showing what they’d like a live-action version of the anime to look like.

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Man arrested for hunting the nerdiest game: Akihabara otaku

The 1993 action film Hard Target is notable for three reasons. First, it was Hong Kong action director John Woo’s American debut. Second, it starred Jean-Claude Van Damme as perhaps cinema’s most physically fit and combat-ready homeless man. And third, its story was one of the finest examples of the rich film genre known as “jaded and wealthy individuals hunting men for sport.”

One man from Saitama Prefecture apparently wasn’t quite up to the task of stalking the kickboxing Muscles from Brussels, though, and aimed his sights a little lower: hunting the otaku nerds of Akihabara.

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Nonsensical message full of dirty words discovered in latest Attack on Titan manga

Attack on Titan may be best known for its iconic giant monsters and cool weaponry, but among the many secrets to the hit anime and manga’s success is its extremely compelling setting. With its cast of human characters forced to live within the confines of their walled city, fans have only been provided with fleeting glimpses of the outside world. Does the story take place on Earth? Is it set in the distant past, or maybe the far-flung future?

As part of walking that fine line, when signs, books, and other writings pop up in Attack on Titan, they’re not rendered in anything that looks like a real-world language. Although actually, some eagle-eyed fans found a way to decipher a portion of the series’ text, and what they found was rather like the Titans themselves: one part shocking, one part baffling, and just a little bit comical.

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Report says Chinese authorities are banning bikinis in video games

As a sign of China’s continuing integration into the global community, the country’s long-standing ban on video game consoles was lifted last year. This doesn’t mean Chinese gamers are free to enjoy all that modern gaming has to offer, as censorship regulations mean certain types of content aren’t allowed.

Some of the problem areas are nebulously defined, such as restrictions on games that “besmirch the image of China” or “intentionally blacken the image of the Chinese army.” A possible upcoming addition to the list of punishable offenses is a little easier to understand: no more video game characters wearing bikinis.

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Awesome castle-like café in Shikoku lacks dragons, does have crepes and coffee

Despite its well-deserved reputation as an extremely hard-working nation, Japan is also a country that knows how to relax. Every city has a number of cafes where you can stop, sip a drink, and soak in the soothing ambiance.

Some of these establishments style themselves after a comfy living room, while others feel more like a stylish library or lounge. Or, if you happen to be in Tokushima Prefecture, there’s the café built into what appears to be a crumbling castle.

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Kawasaki donut shop goes beyond cat sweets with cute alpacas, penguins, and killer whales

If we’re speaking honestly, we don’t really need much of an added incentive to eat a donut. Really, a sweet, inexpensive indulgence that we can eat with our hands is pretty much a laser-guided strike on our willpower.

Still, we can usually muster enough self-control that we don’t plow through a half-dozen in one sitting. But when you take donuts’ numerous preexisting merits and add the visual appeal of shaping them like cats, penguins, alpacas, and even killer whales, that’s when we stop even trying to resist them.

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Make your boyfriend hate you with these Line stickers designed for pushy, clingy girlfriends

The social messaging service Line is a huge hit in Japan. It’s easy to use, free, and even lets you decorate your messages with stickers to add a personal touch.

All of this makes Line great for keeping in touch with your friends or dating partner. As a matter of fact, it might have just become a little too good at keeping you connected to your significant other, with a new set of stickers specially designed for clingy girlfriends.

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It may look like a tool shed, but one of Japan’s fastest trains passes through this station

Two phrases sum up a distinct dichotomy of life in Japan. The first is gambaru, to do one’s best, and it lies at the root of so many of the country’s academic, economic, and scientific achievements.

On the other hand, you’ve also got gaman suru, to put up with things, which is why the same country which produces so many handy gadgets still seems largely fine making do without things such as garbage disposals and clothes dryers.

These two equal but opposite attitudes seem to have collided at Toge Station in Yamagata Prefecture, a distinctly low-tech structure with a connection to one of Japan’s most impressive engineering feats.

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These beautiful temple gardens are…15 minutes from Narita Airport?!

For many visitors to Japan, their image of the city of Narita begins and ends with Narita International Airport. As such, most people plan their itineraries with the goal of spending as little time in the town as possible, unless they’re the type of odd sorts who just can’t get enough of waiting in airline check-in or customs lines.

In their rush to get into Tokyo or back home as soon as possible, though, they’re missing out on one of eastern Japan’s most visually impressive temples, Naritasan Shinshoji and its attached gardens.

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In a shocking twist, some idol singers really will go out with you if you buy their albums

When you really stop and think about it, the concept of idol singers is a little strange. At its core, the idea is to leverage the performers’ good looks into higher sales than they could achieve through their musical talents alone.

We realize that in face-to-face dealings, there’s very little a guy won’t do for a pretty girl, if for no reason other than to raise his chances of getting a date with her by even the tiniest fraction of a percentage. But does it really make sense for hard-core fans to try to impress their idol of choice? Regardless of how many copies of your favorite singer’s albums you buy, it’s not like she’s going to go out with you or anything.

Unless, of course, you’re talking about the idol group AeLL.

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BuzzFeed’s image of post-beer ramen in Japan is soberingly off base【Video】

A few months ago, BuzzFeed posted a video titled What Does the World Eat for Breakfast? The video’s representative morning meal for the United States – pancakes, eggs, and bacon – was an old-fashioned if not inaccurate choice, but we couldn’t say the same thing about the funky menu selected for Japan, which was unlike anything anyone on our team, Japanese natives included, had ever started their day with.

So when we heard the same crew was back with a new video about post-drinking foods from around the world, and that once again Japan was featured, we were both a little honored to be included, and a little worried about what would end up on the plate this time.

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Trailer released for live-action version of street gang anime Tokyo Tribe 【Video】

This year is shaping up to be the year of live-action anime adaptations. First up is the second installment of samurai action series Rurouni Kenshin, which opens August 1 and is followed in rapid succession by the trilogy’s finale on September 13. August 30 sees the long-awaited return of the band of thieves from Lupin III, which hasn’t been attempted with live actors for three decades.

And now there’s one more group of manga-originating criminals coming to the big screen — the live-action version of ultra-violent gang story Tokyo Tribe.

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A tale of two tonkatsu burgers – We pit McDonald’s pork cutlet sandwich against Mos Burger’s

Here at RocketNews24, we’re all about forming stronger connections between Japan and the rest of the world. Incidentally, we’re also all about burgers and fried foods.

Sometimes, the planets align just right, and we get to check all three boxes at once, like we did today with our taste-test of McDonald’s new pork cutlet burger, a Westernized version of Japanese dish inspired by Western cuisine. And since the only thing better than a fried pork sandwich is two fried pork sandwiches, we’ll be comparing it to the nearly identical menu item from hometown hero Mos Burger.

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We eat the Attack on Titan instant curry, plus make our own edible Titans

Sometimes, you don’t realize how much you’ll miss something until it’s gone. A few months back, hungry Attack on Titan fans could get both hamburgers and bento boxed lunches inspired by the hit series. They were only available for a limited time though, and both are gone now, leaving us without a way to simultaneously satisfy our cravings for giant-fighting anime and a quick, hot meal.

That is, until the release of a new line of Attack on Titan instant curry. We got our hands on a pack, then created a batch of edible Titans to go with it.

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Cultural differences spoiling the sing-along version of Frozen for some fans

Disney’s Frozen is a big hit in Japan, where it’s known as Anna and the Snow Queen. It’s not such a big surprise, as Japan’s always had a soft spot for Disney and stories about the power of friendship and family, and the film’s lack of dramatic, showy romance also fits in nicely with Japanese narrative sensibilities.

So when Disney decided to bring the sing-along version of Frozen to theatres in Japan, a country where you’re never more than a few minutes from a place to sing karaoke, you’d think it’d be an amazingly enjoyable experience for moviegoers. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like that’s always the case.

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Osaka criminal forgets the most important part of armed robbery: stay armed

In any endeavor, you can’t overstate the importance of making preparations in the proper order. For example, it’s best to plan out what you’ll say for your sales pitch prior to sitting down face-to-face with your customer. Likewise, even if you’ve made dinner reservations and meet your date at the exact time the two of you agreed upon, your courtesy and punctuality won’t be particularly appreciated if you neglected to put on a pair of pants before arriving at the restaurant.

Also, should you want to knock over a convenience store, you should actually secure a weapon before you threaten the clerk and ask for the money. Otherwise, your victim might not even realize she’s being robbed, which is what happened to one would-be criminal mastermind in Osaka.

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Tokyo Skytree’s disappointing attendance: 6.19 million visitors

Tokyo’s two most compelling yet conflicting traits, the energy from its sheer number of residents and the solitude of its back alleys, are both best appreciated from ground level. The metropolis’ scale can only truly be appreciated from high above, though, which is why Tokyo has no fewer than five major observation decks within the city limits.

As the newest and tallest of the group, the Tokyo Skytree, which opened in the spring of 2012, is by far the most prestigious of the group, and it has quickly become a more vibrant symbol of Japan’s capital than Tokyo Tower itself. But even with the millions of visitors the Skytree saw last year, the attendance was still below what was expected.

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“We’ve got nice breasts!” – Osaka’s eye-catching ads for chicken, pickles, and more

Two things the residents of Osaka are known for are their sense of humor and acute business acumen. This is, after all, the city that produces far more comedians than any other in Japan, and also a town where the local greeting translates to “Are you making any money?”

Just a few blocks west of Osaka Castle you can find a place where these two characteristics mix together. The merchants of the Fuminosato shopping arcade are well aware that passersby are much more likely to put cash in your hand if you can put a smile on their face first, which is just what the local businesses do with their sometimes funny, sometime quirky, always eye-catching posters.

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The awesome artwork hiding in the Japanese word processor: sakura, dragons, and sake

With over 1,800 commonly-used kanji characters, plus two different sets of 46 phonetic characters each, typing on a word processor in Japanese works a little differently than in English. Many words in Japanese have the same pronunciation but are written differently, so first you have to type the word phonetically, then select the proper rendering from a list that pops up.

The cool thing is that sometimes the selections aren’t just written characters, but drawings of the object in question. Poking around in a Japanese word processor is like a linguistic treasure hunt, and our searches turned up illustrations of mythical creatures, delicious food, and famous landmarks of Japan.

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