Hometown: Kansas City, Kansas
Where I studied abroad: Hirakata City, Japan (Close to Osaka)
Favorite Foreign Food: Yakisoba (Fried noodles with all types of meat, a fried egg, and bean sprouts)
Favorite city/site visited while abroad: Osaka, Japan
My next trip is going to be to: South Korea
I have only been in Japan for about 6 weeks, but I cannot believe how much I have done in that time. Hirakata City is about the same size as Kansas City population wise, but it resembles a much smaller town with the way people interact. While you are close to the university many people speak English, even the local storeowners which is very convenient. Step outside that bubble though, and you quickly realize that you are in fact in Japan. That is the amazing thing about Hirakata City though, you can go 45 minutes in any direction and you will always find something new. Hirakata City is located about equidistant to Kyoto, Osaka, and Nara, three cities in Japan that have so much to do you could go every single weekend to each one and not experience half of what they have to offer.
One of my favorite experiences in Japan so far has got to be going to Tokyo. I only got to go for two days, and would love to go back soon for a longer time. While I was there I did something that is called the Gaijin Scramble. Basically you just try to hit every hot spot in Tokyo that you can, and because I only had two days to do it, it was definitely a scramble. I went to Shinjuku and Shibuya, which are both popular shopping and entertainment districts as well as Akihabara which is an anime, manga, and cosplayer central. I finished off the first night by experiencing some of club life in Tokyo, and the second night I went to the Tokyo Skytree and got to see the city lit up from 600 meters in the air which was an amazing experience.
Being half way around the world, it is to be expected that some things would be a tad bit off what you are used to. Japan is no exception. Vending machines are literally everywhere. Plus they are cheap, and you can get anything from food to warm coffee. Yes they have warm canned coffee in their vending machines. The toilets are also a few steps from achieving sentience. If they had any more functions they would need their own hard drive. They are heated, have a sink on them which turns on when you flush to wash your hands, and have other many practical features, such as 3 types of bidets and a soundtrack to help things out in crowded places. Never having been to a very big city, I was exceptionally surprised to find out how convenient it is to get around using public transportation. You just search where you are, and where you want to go using Google maps, and it will give you the exact details, to the minute, of when you need to be at which train going in which direction. It runs like clockwork. Walking down the street, you can expect to see a brand new apartment, right next to a historic temple. Temples and parks are pretty much everywhere.
There are some other strange things that take a bit more getting used to. For instance squat toilets. They don’t need much explanation but the first time you encounter one, you will be a bit shocked at the fact that they still exist. Moped and motorcycle drivers here are absolutely insane. They weave in and out of traffic like it is nothing and whiz down one-way streets like nobody’s business. It is worth looking twice when stepping into the street. I think the strangest thing I have encountered while here though, is Japanese television. It is like watching a game show about reaction videos to cat videos while half the screen is being filled with subtitles and graphics. I once watched an infomercial about a weight loss belt for 15 minutes before I even realized it was an infomercial.
The quirks are what make this trip so great to me though. Everything you do seems like an adventure, because everything you do is something you haven’t done before. I am so glad that I decided to study abroad in Japan, and if I weren’t in my last semester, I would without a doubt spend another semester abroad. This is the type of experience that everyone should have while in college.
Me and my Japanese friend Takuya in front of Osaka-Jo. He spent some time at K-State last spring and it was great catching back up with him.
This is Kyoto from the Arashiyama Monkey Park where I went to feed and hang out with the monkeys, oh and to see this crazy view of Kyoto!
This is the Giant Buddha at Todai-ji in Nara. The picture doesn’t do it justice but it is quite the awe-inspiring sight.
While you are here, make the most of your time, because even though you don’t think it would, the time goes by so fast.