Author: Brandon Polinski

Location: Azuchi and Sekigahara, Japan

Pronouns: He/His/Him

For most of this semester I have constantly been surrounded by people and things. Kansai Gaidai is in the heart of the Kansai region, and is in the vicinity of not one, but three major cities. In Japan, it is also more difficult to distinguish where the city ends and suburbs begin, as the city sprawl extends outward, blending into the neighboring cities. The buildings may get smaller, but it does not get much less dense. My place of residence in Hirakata-shi is considered by the locals to be a small residential town, but it and the surrounding area is bustling compared to Valparaiso and my hometown in Illinois.

I had been interested in taking a trip to see what a non-urban Japanese town was like, so I was excited when my friend invited me on a countryside trip. We were still very much in the bounds of civilization, but this was probably the most unique of my experiences in Japan.

First stop was Azuchi. This is also the location of the ruins of the historic Nobunaga’s castle. To get to our destination we had to walk from the station through about a mile of rice fields. There were not any sidewalks, just single lane roads. Overall, this was still something of a tourist spot, at the museums there were quite a few elderly Japanese and at the castle trail there were many Japanese families. However, the town itself was easily the smallest town I had been to so far, with an estimated population of around 12,000 people.

Me in Azuchi.

View from the top of Nobunaga’s castle trail.

Sekigahara was even further out. On the way there we made a mistake and missed a train. This mistake cost us time, so we had to wait more than thirty minutes for the next train. In Hirakata, it would be rare to wait more than ten minutes. Aside from this set-back, there were no other issues and we arrived safely. Sekigahara has a population of around only 7,000 people, even smaller than Azuchi.  Sekigahara also hosts some museums, along with being the site of the historic battle of Sekigahara. However, we saw almost no people. We walked through more fields and a mountain trail, completely alone in wide open surroundings. In America, finding yourself alone in a spacious area is not a difficult thing to accomplish, but here it felt surreal and cathartic.

Parts of Sekigahara looked like something out of a painting.

We walked until we could not walk any more, and then treated ourselves to an amazing view of the sun setting over the ancient battlefield, with the town stretching out into the distance. Once rested, we began the trip back home. I am very happy I made this trip because it gave me an experience that I felt I was really missing most of this semester. I feel like an even more knowledgeable and well-rounded traveler, especially pertaining to Japan and the greater Kansai region.

Taking a rest.

The sun sets on the battlefield.