Category: Japan (page 1 of 3)

Osaka: My Favorite City in the World

Author: Kate Mitchell

Location: Osaka, Japan

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Despite being from Chicago, I’ve never been a city person. I prefer quieter, suburban areas with less people, more nature and less noise. But once I came to Japan and visited Osaka, I quickly discovered it was the perfect city for me. Even though Osaka is a huge city, it never feels overcrowded or too busy. There are tons of little parks where anyone can stop to take a break and eat ice cream (something I’ve done probably too many times). The parks are especially beautiful during the cherry blossom season. There’s a wide variety of restaurants and shops, so it’s easy to spend the day out and about. Name brands are really popular here in Japan, so if you have expensive tastes, tracking down Apple, Gucci and other luxury goods is easy. But if you’re a college student like me and prefer something more within your budget, there’s plenty of family run restaurants serving traditional Osakan food like takoyaki or okonomiyaki along with small shops selling whatever you want to buy.

However, to me, the most important and defining quality of Osaka is the people’s kindness. Throughout Japan, Osaka is known for being a warm and friendly city contrasted with Tokyo who is normally colder and more formal. I can say this is definitely true having visited both cities. Osakans always seem willing to help out and answer my questions (which I am eternally grateful for being a clumsy study abroad student who still struggles to read a map). On multiple occasions, I’ve had Osakans come up to me to ask questions about where I come from, what do I like about Japan and more simply because they were curious. The Osakan students at Kansai Gaidai University are the same way. So many students have come to talk to me to practice their English and help me with my Japanese. There were even Osakan or other Kansai students who came into my Japanese class to help us all practice our Japanese.

I think one of my favorite parts of Osaka is its dialect, Kansai-ben. Most of the Kansai area speaks with this dialect, but it’s well-known for being associated with Osaka. Like English, Japanese has dialects. If I had to compare Kansai-ben to a dialect in English, it’s something like a southern accent. There’s lots of colloquial terms that replace the more common words used in standard Japanese. Verbs are formed slightly differently with Kansai-ben too, so understanding it can be difficult especially since they don’t teach it in Japanese classes. Thankfully, my Japanese professor here taught us some Kansai-ben, so we can try it out with our Osakan friends. The dialect reflects the more friendly nature of Osaka and I think I prefer it to the standard Tokyo dialect even if I don’t quite have Kansai-ben mastered yet.

I highly recommend visiting Osaka! Most people only see Kyoto and Tokyo during there trips to Japan, but you’d be missing out if you don’t take the trip to Osaka!

Climbing Mt. Hiei

Author: Kate Mitchell

Location: Mount Hiei, Kyoto, Japan

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Japan is a mountainous country. No matter where you find yourself in Japan, it is likely you will be able to see the mountains in the distance. Japan’s most famous mountain is of course Mt. Fuji, but one of its most sacred mountains is Mt. Hiei, located between Kyoto and Lake Biwa. The mountain is home to multiple Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. Monks travel up the mountain as pilgrimage while visitors can just take the cable car or drive their own car to the temples at the top. I decided I wanted to hike at least part of this divine mountain before I left Japan and with the weather becoming warmer with each day, I decided it was finally time to do it.

The mountain itself was absolutely gorgeous. It boasts different types of forests that change depending on how high up the mountain you go. Wild flowers grow on the side of the mountain and aside the walking trails. I decided to take the cable car halfway up the Kyoto side of the mountain and from that height, you can see the entire city down below. Since the mountain is known for its Buddhist affiliation, I spotted lots of Buddhist statues and monuments while walking. It became almost like a fun I-Spy game. From the Lake Biwa side of the mountain, you can see the lake and its coastal towns. My favorite part of the hike was the cherry blossoms barely still in bloom whose petals covered the walking path. Although I say walking path, it was covered in rocks, holes and tricky turns, so anyone who decides to hike on Mt. Hiei should be prepared. It isn’t an easy trek by any means, but if you do get too tired, there’s always the cable car.


I also visited the temples at the top of the mountain. Mt. Hiei has three main temple areas although I only visited two of them. The third was about 5 kilometers away in another section of the mountain. The temples have their own parking lots and transportation, so there are lots of visitors in contrast to the walking trails which had significantly fewer people. The temples, although old, are constantly maintained, so they looked like they were brand new. And while I didn’t enter any of them, I made sure to get a few postcards and pictures for posterity. However, I did take a visit to Mt. Hiei’s Inari shrine. Inari is a Shinto deity who is particularly famous in Kyoto because of Fushimi Inari. Having learned lots of Inari in my religions class, she is particularly near and dear to me, so I made sure to leave a few yen for her as an offering.

For anyone visiting the Kyoto area, I highly recommend visiting Mt. Hiei especially in the spring. The mountain is beautiful and easily accessible by car or cable car. The temples around the mountain are a great spot to visit and on the Kyoto side of the mountain, there is also a gardening museum. Determined hikers can make the climb up Mt. Hiei more difficult if they choose, but I preferred a leisurely walk for taking pictures and sightseeing. The path can also get pretty confusing at times, so make sure to bring a map!

Cheery Blossom Season in Japan

Author: Kate Mitchell

Location: Osaka, Japan

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

In Japan, the beginning of April means the blooming of the cherry blossoms, or sakura. Trees with sakura line the streets nearly everywhere and once they bloom, the entire country is filled with the beautiful white and pink hues of the flower petals. During sakura season, Japanese people participate in a tradition called hanami, or flower viewing. People picnic underneath the cherry blossoms and enjoy their beauty and a good meal. I decided to study abroad in Japan during the spring because I wanted to do hanami. Lucky for me, one of my professors lead a field trip to visit temples and shrines in Korien and finish the day with hanamiHanami is best experienced with friends, so I was excited to go on the field trip!

We set up for a picnic in a neighborhood park surrounded by blooming cherry blossom trees. A playground was right below us with dozens of children playing. They were surprised to see a large group of foreigners in their neighborhood, but they didn’t seem to mind. They were more curious than anything with a few kids saying hello to us in English. They were adorable! Usually people bring homemade lunchboxes or obento for hanami, but us students brought a cheap lunch from the nearest convenience store. However, we were surprised by the professor’s wife who brought us boxes of homemade food including fried chicken, dango, taiyaki and much more. Instead of eating plain onigiri and chips, we were able to enjoy delicious traditional hanami fare.

After eating, we had to take photos with the cherry blossoms before they lost their blossoms. The sakura only bloom for about two weeks, so it’s important to enjoy them while they are still around. The flowers make a wonderful backdrop for any photo! When the sakura bloom, the weather is usually quite good (especially here in Osaka), so making plans for a picnic is easy! Back at Valpo, there’s still a chance it might snow, but in Japan, spring is already in full swing! If you’re not the outdoor type, you can still enjoy the cherry blossoms from the view inside and take part in all the sakura merchandise that gets sold during the season. Be prepared to see pink flower decorations everywhere throughout March and April. If you have plans to study abroad in Japan, I highly recommend going during the spring semester just to see the cherry blossoms.

A Nice Day Trip to Osaka: Osaka Castle

Author: Kate Mitchell 

Location: Osaka, Japan

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

One of Osaka’s most popular tourist destinations is Osaka Castle and being the good tourist I am, I decided to check it out. At first, I wasn’t expecting anything super impressive. I’ve seen the Emperor’s palace and a variety of other Japanese castles, so I was expecting more of the same. But I was delightfully impressed by what Osaka Castle had to offer. One of its most impressive features was its view both from the top of the castle and from the rest of Osaka. While walking around the area, you’ll almost always be able to see the castle rising tall and mighty in the distance. It made for lots of great photo opportunities. For 600 yen, you can also travel through the castle, its museum and go to the top of the castle. Once up top, you can look down on the castle grounds and the rest of Osaka. The view was incredible, and I recommend paying the entry price just for the view alone. However, I enjoyed the museum inside the castle which contains historical artifacts, a history of the castle and models of the castle and its warrior. It was a little crowded since Osaka Castle is one of Osaka’s biggest foreign and domestic tourist destinations, so be prepared to wait your turn to see an exhibit. And don’t be surprised if you stumble across a giant group of middle school students trying to take a picture with samurai armor. Osaka Castle is also a popular field trip spot!

 

If you’re feeling on the cheaper side, you can still explore the castle grounds which are huge! There’s a giant moat and large stone walls that surround the castle with signs that explain when they were made and their purpose. You can take a boat ride through the moat or eat a variety of restaurants and stalls outside the castle. My favorite part of the castle grounds was the plum garden. To the side of the castle, there are dozens of plum blossoms trees you can wander through and take pictures of. I love taking pictures of flowers, so I spent a long time walking amongst the trees. If you get hungry while you’re spending time in the garden, there is a handy convenience store right in the middle along with a few others scattered across the property. Although Osaka Castle is hundreds of years old, there are plenty of modern amenities to make the trip fun and enjoyable. I was surprised by how many convenience stores I saw, but they were designed to fit in with the aesthetic of the castle and its grounds, so it didn’t detract from the experience.

The best part of living in Japan is that there are always great places, like Osaka Castle, that are never far from where you are. Compared to the United States, Japan is rather small, and it has an excellent train, subway and bus system. You can get almost anywhere you want to go by taking public transportation and you can get their quickly. Getting to Osaka Castle took less than an hour and there were plenty of signs and instructions (in both English and Japanese) to help me get where I was going. For people traveling alone or with one another person, Japan offers lots of affordable and helpful options, so you can explore Japan the way you want to. Kansai Gaidai’s local station, Hirakata Station, is run by the Keihan Line which I recommend as one of the best trainlines to use in Japan. There’s lots of English assistance and also advertising and maps for places to visit. It’s really helpful for tourists!

The Small Coastal Town of Iwami: One of Japan’s Hidden Treasures

Author: Kate Mitchell

Location: Iwami, Iwami-Gun, Tottori, Japan

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

I had never heard of Iwami until my friend, Katie, mentioned it to me. It was a small town in Tottori prefecture along the coastline. It was near a place I’ve always wanted to visit, Hokuei, but now close enough for me to know about. She wanted to visit the small town because it inspired the setting of one of her favorite anime, Free! For her, the trip was a pilgrimage through the locations in the anime. I had never seen it, so I felt like I had no reason to go, but then she told me that Iwami was also home to beaches, hidden shrines and a national geopark. Suddenly, my interest was peaked and decided that I wanted to tag along and go to the little town of Iwami. When I say little, I’m not exaggerating either. Japan is facing a depopulation problem and in Iwami, you can tell. Most people we passed by were elderly and we only saw a handful of young people during our day and a half stay there. There are only a few convenience stores which for Japan was extremely weird. I’m used to having three different convenience store chains in every direction I turn. Iwami was a very different place from where I lived in Hirakata.

When studying abroad, it’s important to go out and explore not just the culture you’re living in, but also the environment. Iwami contains a UNESCO geopark which means it has protected areas of rocky cliffs and beaches which you can walk along for miles. Rocks jutted from the ocean, forming small islands for birds to relax on. Some of the rocks formed tall, craggy cliffs that I probably shouldn’t have stood as close to as I did. The waves crashed across the rocks, creating some of the most picturesque photos I’d ever taken. Some areas of the geopark allowed you to walk along the beach and the rocks, which required a whole lot of stairs down to the beach. Katie and I climbed along the rocks into the sea to catch a glimpse of the fantastic view and hopefully some fish. While I didn’t get to see any fish, the sights were stunning and we took plenty of pictures. However, I did cut my hand on the climb back, so when you’re going exploring while studying abroad, always make sure to bring some band-aids and always go with a buddy. If something does happen, you want someone to be there in case you need help.

Over the course of the entire day, we walked 10 miles through rice fields, mountains and more. Another big tip I have for studying abroad is to bring a good pair of shoes. You’ll find yourself doing a lot of walking because you can’t stop exploring or you’re too cheap to pay for transportation if you can walk instead. I fall into both of these categories, so I definitely get my exercise in every day. A good pair of shoes (and socks too) will keep your feet and body from hurting and help you get through the day. I recommend buying them before going abroad, so you can guarantee you get a pair that’s the right size and style for your feet. Preparing little quality of life things like a good pair of shoes before you study abroad can really help the experience be a lot smoother, so you can spend more time having fun and less time with sore feet!

Hokuei: The Home of Japan’s Favorite Little Detective

Author: Kate Mitchell

Location: Hokuei, Tohaku-Gun, Tottori, Japan

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

When you’re studying abroad, it’s important to do something really memorable. Something you thought you’d never be able to do or see, but now you can. For me, that was visiting Hokuei (also known as Detective Conan town) in Tottori Prefecture. I bet you probably have never heard of the town or Detective Conan, so here’s a bit of background. Detective Conan, also known in America as Case Closed, is a Japanese mystery anime and manga series that’s been running for over 25 years. The series is a Japanese cultural icon and a personal favorite of mine. The town, Hokuei, is Detective Conan’s author, Gosho Aoyama, hometown. The town is decked out in Detective Conan buildings, shops and merchandise. I’ve wanted to visit it for the past five years, but never thought I would have the chance. But a friend and I decided to make a weekend trip visting the town and other places in Tottori prefecture where the town is located. So let me take you on a tour of the town that was a dream come true!

My friend, Katie, and I arrived at the station around noon and I couldn’t contain my smiles when I saw it. The entire station was Detective Conan themed, complete with the theme song and everything. Outside the station was a statue of the titular character, Conan, who I immediately took a picture with. Statues of other characters from the show lead us down the street and towards a beautiful bridge. The bridge crossed over a stunning river. Most rivers in Japan are absolutely breathtaking and well-taken care of and this river was no exception. On the other side were a group of buildings all dedicated to Conan. One was a gift shop and another a delicious gelato store! There was also a café and restaurant all named after places in the series. The little details put into the buildings really made me happy.

My favorite part of the trip was the Gosho Aoyama Manga Factory. It was a museum dedicated to the series with lots of fun mystery solving games, character statues and a nice gift shop. We were able to try out detective tricks from the series and play with some of Conan’s gadgets. The best part was the section on how manga is made. It’s a long process that requires tons of drawing, editing, and drawing again. I never realized how much work went into creating my favorite manga. The museum ended up being the perfect spot for a Detective Conan nerd like me. And even Katie, who had never read or watched Detective Conan, found the place super cool. Before we left, we wrote on some post-it notes and stuck them on a board filled with them to leave our mark. We were some of the few English speakers that had come to the museum that year, so our notes were extra special!

After the first day in my three-day trip, I was exhausted. We did tons of walking, had taken plenty of pictures, and spent probably a little too much money. But we had to hop on the train to our next location, Iwami, located along the coast of Japan. Weekend trips like this are always super fun, but it’s important not to forget that while studying abroad, you still have your responsibilities as a student. The Tuesday after I would get back, I had a midterm exam for one of my classes. To prepare, I bought a ring of flashcards and wrote everything I needed to know for my exam on them. Since my notes were in a neat and rather small place, they were easy to bring on my trip to study on the go. I was able to study on the train and before bed. Don’t let studying stop you from exploring while studying abroad. There are lots of clever ways to do both at the same time!

Celebrating Setsubun at Iwashimizu Hachimangū in Japan

Author: Kate Mitchell

Location: Yawata, Kyoto, Japan

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

On February 3rd, some friends and I traveled to Iwashimizu Hachimangū shrine located in Yawata city in Kyoto prefecture. The shrine is located at the top of a small mountain and to get there, you can either walk up the mountain or take a cable car run by the regional train company. We opted for the cable car and rode into the mountains while listening to the magical music and history of the shrine played during the ride. Once we reached the top of the mountain, we followed a path through a bamboo forest to discover a restaurant and several food trucks waiting for us before the shrine’s entrance. The entire day I had been craving a Japanese crepe and right in front of me was a pink food truck selling exactly that. I decided on a caramel banana crepe which was topped with whipped crème and a small jelly pawprint, the logo of the crepe company. It was a delicious treat to start the day!

Although the food was a pleasant surprise, we had actually come to Iwashimizu Hachimangū to celebrate Setsubun. I didn’t know anything about this holiday before coming to Japan, so I did some research before going to the shrine to learn all about it. Setsubun is about getting rid of bad luck and gaining good luck. The shrine’s priest pretended to shoot an arrow from a giant bow in this year’s unlucky directions to send out the bad luck. Shrine visitors could buy their own arrows and have them blessed by the local priestess for good luck. Another way to get rid of bad luck is for people to throw roasted soybeans at people dressed as demons to send the demons away. At Iwashimizu Hachimangū, the shrine’s priests and priestesses threw beans at a group of demons, sending them tumbling down the shrine’s steps in a silly fashion. From the side of the shrine, I could see a group of young priestesses watching the ceremony eagerly like schoolgirls. It was super cute! Once the demons were gone, the shrine threw bags of roasted soybeans into the crowd. Those who caught a bag are supposed to eat the beans for good luck. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to catch a bag, but I still think I have some good luck.

Later after the ceremony, my friends and I were approached by an elderly man and woman who were training to be English tour guides at Iwashimizu Hachimangū. They recognized us as foreigners and offered to give us a free tour of the shrine as training practice. We decided to take a tour with them around the shrine and its surrounding area. The shrine was surrounded by other small shrines all dedicated to different Shintō gods or kami although the main kami of Iwashimizu Hachimangū is Hachiman. The shrine is over a thousand years old and Japan’s three most important historical figures, Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu all contributed to building different parts of the shrine throughout history. We also saw a surprising American face! There was a memorial dedicated to Thomas Edison since he used bamboo filaments taken from the bamboo at Iwashimizu Hachimangū in his light bulb.

With most of the festivities finished, we decided to take a break and watch my friend, Katie, do one last Setsubun ritual. You’re supposed to eat a long maki roll in the year’s lucky direction all in one bite. While you eat it, everyone around you has to be silent. But the roll was so big Katie couldn’t finish it all in one bite and the rest of us couldn’t stop ourselves from laughing while she ate it. So she fed the rest of her roll to a cat who snuck up behind us. We got to play with the cat for a little bit before it disappeared into the bushes with its food to hide from the coming rain. We decided to do the same and take the train home before we got soaked!

For Incoming International Students

Author: Olivia Dausch

Location: Japan

Pronouns: They/Them

I had a lot of ideas for my final blog post. I decided on listing things I think would be beneficial for incoming international students. Some of these are things I wish I knew, and others are things I learned.

– Get a Speaking Partner

I was reluctant to get one at first, but having a speaking partner is definitely one of the best decisions I’ve made here. I was able to practice speaking Japanese regularly and I eventually got more confident in what I knew.

– Sign up for an Experience Japan event

Another fortunate decision I made early on was signing up for one of these events. The events might be different in the spring semester, but they should also be very enjoyable. You get to meet local and international students and have a fun day with them.

– Budget appropriately

One thing that definitely would have helped in the long run was budgeting my money. Since Valpo has an agreement with Kansai Gaidai, you are given around $2,000. Set aside whatever money you think you need for your whole trip and commit to using it only for groceries. That will still leave a lot for doing any travelling you would need. A lot of my friends were able to take trips to Tokyo and are still fine money-wise.

Also, one thing to be aware of is ATMs. If you want to take money out of your American bank account, unless you go to Aeon Mall, you will have to take out your money in $100 increments. At Aeon, it’s only $10 increments. Also, if you have Chase, there is a $5 fee for using a non-Chase ATM, as well as a conversion rate fee, which is usually less than a dollar. I don’t know if this applies for other banks but be careful.

– Carry cash

Japan is primarily a cash-based society. There are a lot of places that flat-out don’t accept card. Make it a habit to carry cash and you’ll be fine. Coins are substantial here, too. It will be a bit difficult to adjust, since America’s largest common coin is a quarter. The largest coin here is equivalent to $5, and the first bill starts at $10. Try to avoid spending bills first.

– Dress appropriately

Not only is there a different social standard for dress, as would be expected, but the weather is considerably warmer than at Valpo. It is the middle of December now and it has only gone below 40 degrees once or twice. Don’t hesitate to go shopping for clothes while you’re here, too. Be mindful of sizes, but most places have fitting rooms so you can see what works best for you. Generally, avoid low- cut shirts and dresses and you’ll be fine.

A lot of people here wear layers, regardless of the weather. Seeing someone, regardless of gender, wearing a cardigan, long sleeve shirt, beanie, and jeans is incredibly common, especially now that it’s colder. Keep an eye out for clothes you like. It’s hard to find something similar in America.

– Try new things

You’re in another country, so try to take it in as much as you can. You wouldn’t go to Italy for burgers and fries, right? Japan has a lot of foods that America simply doesn’t, so indulge in it. I was hesitant to try the different kinds of onigiri, and I usually picked either salmon or beef, which are on the more expensive side. I tried tuna mayonnaise on a whim, and it was honestly a surprisingly good choice. Mayonnaise is different here in Japan, so give it a try.

Also, convenience store food is definitely the best choice when you’re in a rush. Nothing is more than $5, and it’s usually not hard to find a favorite. It’s easy to pick up onigiri or bread up before class but be careful not to walk and eat. It’s generally frowned upon here.

– Lunch Break

Lunch break here is like Chapel Break at Valpo. The only difference is that everyone is free for an hour, so trying to get food is going to take a lot longer than usual no matter where you go. Avoid the cafeterias on both campuses, since everything is extremely crowded, and you might have to eat outside. Try getting your food before or after break or cook in the kitchen in the dorm.

– Go to class

I think this should be obvious but go to class. Kansai Gaidai has a lot of different classes than Valpo and it’s definitely worth it to see what they have in store. Classes here are 90 minutes long, but it goes fast if you’re interested in the topic. There are a lot of fun classes here, so it’s a bit hard to completely be bored.

Also, all Japanese classes are held in first period(9:00am) or second period (10:45) three days out of the week. I’m in 4a now, so my class is at 9:00 on Mondays and Fridays and at 10:45 on Tuesdays. Usually, none of the other classes are held during those times, but there are exceptions.

Classes are generally a lot easier here. I’m taking four classes (around 14 credits) and I only regularly have homework in one. For two, I write a response to whatever we read or watch, and the other is just readings. If you’re going to stay for two semesters, grades are especially important. If you fail a class, you won’t be able to stay for the second semester.

– Learn what you want

When learning a foreign language, one of the best ways to learn is to find something you want to say and learn how to say it. You will learn vocabulary, grammar, and sentence structure while doing it, and you’re able to say what you want. There’s almost no downside and it works for any language.

– Download LINE

LINE is a messenger app that’s really popular here. If people ask for your contact info, they usually ask for Facebook, Instagram, or LINE. It’s not a necessity, but I recommend it.

– Be prepared to walk (or bike) everywhere

In Japan, it’s usually not necessary to own a car. The station is about 15 minutes away walking and Nakamiya is about the same. There are a lot of rules around riding bikes, so I prefer walking. Either one you choose, be prepared to walk a lot.

– Be a little more outgoing

Especially if you’re a more reserved person, step out of your shell a bit. Take the chance to meet international friends. It’s going to be disappointing coming back to America and not being able to talk to anyone you met abroad.

Orientation week is the best time to form a group of friends, so take advantage of it. Once local students start classes and you start attending events, it will definitely be difficult to leave without at least one friend.

– Get an IC card

IC cards are basically train passes. They can be used all over Japan. If you’ve been in Chicago, it’s basically the same as the train passes there. It’s a reloadable card that functions as a train ticket. In Japan, these cards are used for even more as well. Some restaurants take them as payment and even some vending machines take them. They’re incredibly useful.

– Go wherever you can, but be safe

You’re not going to have a lot of fun if you just stick around Hirakata your whole time here. It’s incredibly easy to travel in Japan, so take advantage of it. Through the school alone, I was able to go to Kyoto, Nara, and Osaka. There are so many cool places a train ride away. You can even take a trip to another country. One of my classmates went to Thailand early in the semester.

Whatever you decide to do, be safe about it. Try to travel with someone. Japan may be one of the safest countries in the world, but things can still happen. Even if you just get lost, it’s easier to be lost with someone else. When my friend and I got lost in Osaka trying to find a music store, it was a lot easier to find our way with a barely-functioning Google Maps together than it would have alone. And, if nothing happens, you were able to hang out with a friend.

Going to Japan is going to be an amazing experience for you. Make the most of it and have a great time. Don’t forget to check in sometimes, but don’t worry about doing it constantly. Also, don’t forget to take pictures. There’s no better way to remember all the fun you had.

Living in Hirakata

Author: Olivia Dausch

Location: Hirakata, Japan

Pronouns: They/Them

In my first blog post, I said I wanted to explore more of Hirakata to see everything it has in store. I can definitely say that I learned a lot about this little city. It has a lot to offer, even though it doesn’t seem like much at first.

Hirakata has a lot of train stations, the largest one being Hirakata Station. It mostly gets express trains during the day, and local trains closer to midnight. Closer to campus, there is Gotenyama Station. It’s smaller and only has local trains, but it will get you where you need to go. Halfway between campus and Hirakata Station is Makino Station. It’s also a smaller station. All three are on the Keihan line, which can get you just about anywhere in the Kansai Region. If you transfer to a different line, getting anywhere in Japan is possible, but also very expensive.

My favorite route to travel is from Hirakata Station to Kyobashi, the connecting stop for the Osaka Loop Line. The loop can get you to a lot of amazing places in Osaka, like Osaka Castle, Tsuruhashi, and even Tennoji.

As for things to do in Hirakata, there are a lot of cool stores to go to. Just past Lawson, there is a road branching to the right, leading to an entrance to a grocery store. That street has a few cool stores, but my favorite is down an alley to the left. There is a tiny secondhand store selling really cool items for almost pennies. I was able to get a pack of Pokemon cards for my nephew for less than $1.50. There is a lot of cool things in that store, I recommend checking it out at least once.

The second store I’d recommend is Aeon Mall. It’s where my friend and I do most of out grocery shopping, especially since there is an ATM that allows us to take out money from our international accounts in less than $100 increments. There’s also an arcade on the 4th floor, as well as a dollar store that has a lot of cool stuff. There are clothing stores, grocery stores, and art stores in this mall. If you head down to the station, it’s definitely worth finding Aeon Mall.

Finally, for really cheap groceries in bulk, there’s a grocery store on the way to the station called Gyomu Super (業務スーパー). It sells a lot of groceries in bulk, including things that are generally difficult to find in Japan, like cheese.

If you want to eat out, there are quite a few options. On the way to Hirakata Station, there’s a fork in the road. Right before Gyomu Super, there’s a little curry shop. I haven’t been in it yet, but it always smells amazing when I pass it.

Similarly, there’s CoCo Ichibanya. If you turn left at the light on the way to the station, it’s on the left. I talked about it in my last post, so there’s not much else to say about it. The price varies greatly, but it will most often be less than $10.

Finally, there’s a little Ramen shop next to Lawson called Ramen Kurawanka that’s amazing. I’ve been there a couple times and I was always satisfied. If you show your student ID, you can get a size up for free. The average price there is about $8. I definitely recommend getting the Aji-tama (seasoned soft-boiled egg) with it. It makes any ramen dish so much better.

Favorite Memories

Author: Olivia Dausch

Location: Osaka, Japan

Pronouns: They/them

Being anywhere for a few months is bound to make a person form amazing memories, especially in a foreign country. Even if they’re small, I’m going to treasure them

  1. Incheon Airport/The flight to Japan

My trip to Japan marks the first time I’ve been in a plane since I was a baby. I was proud of myself for being able to find my way around an airport on my own, especially with the threat of a typhoon on the other end of the trip.

Landing in Korea was stressful. Since there was a chance the flight from Incheon to Kansai would be cancelled, O’Hare only gave me the ticket to Korea. Fortunately, there were others heading to Kansai Gaidai in the same boat, so we were all able to get our tickets and relax.

We walked through the airport together, as we waited for our delayed flight.

I was fortunate enough to get a window seat, so I was able to see the ocean and Japan eventually coming into view. The second flight was much more enjoyable than the first, which was at midnight. While the flight into Japan was early, it was still easier to get through. While looking out the window, the thought hit me that some people saw the view over the ocean so often, it lost its wonder. It made me a bit sad, but I knew I would never forget how I felt that entire flight.

       2. Opening Ceremony

One of the last events of orientation week was the Opening Ceremony. All of the international students met in the library on Nakamiya Campus, where we were welcomed by the faculty of the Asian Studies Program. I was surprised by how emotional I felt. It came almost out of nowhere and for no reason. Seeing everyone’s flags on the wall and the realization that I was actually there really struck me in that moment.



3. Typhoon Jebi

The second day of classes, Typhoon Jebi struck Japan. Classes were cancelled, and we were all told to stay in the dorm. Since the area around the hallways was completely glass, I was a bit worried, especially because the trees in the courtyard were bending. The power went out a few times, but it turned out mostly alright. None of the buildings on campus had any damage, but there were some trees that fell. Fortunately, that was the extent of the damage on either campus. There were some buildings around the city that needed repairs, but they were fixed quickly.

       4. Tsuruhashi and CoCo Ichibanya

One of my favorite places to go in Osaka was one my friend showed me. Tsuruhashi, known as Korea Town, is a very interesting place. Once you step out of the station, you are thrown into an alley full of shops, some selling clothes, others selling food. It’s like a maze. Once you get out, the main street is lined with restaurants. My friend and I always went to a more remote part of the area. It was still just as crowded, since the stores on that side of town sold K-Pop merchandise, usually a bit cheaper than they can be found in other places.

Our first time there, once we were done, we went to a restaurant that quickly became our favorite. About halfway between the shops and the station, there was a little restaurant called CoCo Ichibanya. It’s a mildly famous curry restaurant that’s wildly customizable. You control the level of spice, the amount of rice, the toppings, and anything extra you put on it. Usually, I get curry with the standard amount of rice, regular spice, and topped with fried fish. My friend always got the standard amount of rice, mild spice, with chicken on top.

Once we found out there was one in Hirakata, we had to fight to keep from going there on our limited budgets.

There are a lot more memories I’d like to talk about, but some of them are too long to explain, or I’ve talked about in previous posts, like Osaka Castle, Arashiyama, and Nara. I would like to stay a bit longer (if only to find more places to make memories) but I’m satisfied with what memories I have.

 

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