Written by Michelle Kihara, Rebecca Barrett, & Olivia De Keyser
Published by Vanessa Rosales
Michelle: When I think of cities in Japan, Tokyo first comes to mind. It’s cosmopolitan and packed with cool neighborhoods, so it’s hard to imagine how any other city in Japan could possibly measure up. Last summer, I spent two weeks in Tokyo before heading to Nara, Matsuyama, and Osaka. I absolutely loved being in the Osaka and chose to return for this summer. Osaka won me over due to it’s eclectic vibe, amazing food options (takoyaki and okonomiyaki), and its proximity to Kyoto and Kobe. I asked some of my co-mentors why they chose to return to Osaka this year, and this is what they said:
Rebecca: I choose the Kansai region mainly because of Kyoto. It's the historical capital of Japan, and there is so much culture and history around every corner. The area also allowed me to visit many different cities, as Kobe, Nara, and Osaka are all in the same area. These cities have a deep roots in Japanese traditions and culture, and living in the center of the area made me feel more connected to the country than if I was just in the modern capital city. Being in Kansai allowed me to have a very culturally rich experience surrounded by Japanese historical traditions, locations, and ways of life, and was a totally amazing experience!
Olivia: They don’t have Hallmark cards that convey how I feel about Osaka. There was no hesitation in my mind when I elected to be placed in the Kansai region for another year of English Camp, and I made my way through Tokyo by counting down the days until the high speed rail to Osaka. On the Shinkansen taking us far away from the cacophony and immeasurable claustrophobia of Tokyo, within the fleeting moments of serenity between rolling mountains and thatched rooftops, therealization that, soon, I might visit these beautiful places and get out of the train crossed my mind. I look forward to navigating the red gates of Fushimi Inari in Kyoto; petting the wild deer in Nara; eating Pablo and mountains of karaage and exploring the arcades near Umeda station. It’s a near-Freudian experience to live and work, again, in such a place that is so uncannily familiar yet so far from the city of Chicago that I’ve called home for the past twenty-two years. To walk by a shop, in pause, and say “I remember going here after work with Rebecca and Drew last year.” To reminisce, to recreate, to show to new interns everything from last year and more—to impart upon them every tip and tidbit about this place. I think there’s something to be said for a city that you can’t truly get lost in; being somewhere I can navigate every street from muscle memory is especially grounding. They recognize me at the Family Mart. The path to the kaizen sushi place I got us lost during lunch breaks with students is now emblazoned in my soles of my shoes. To be in such a city yet again—my only regret is that I cannot be in Osaka for longer.