Fushimi-Inari Shrine, with 10,000 Torii Gates
Name: Hannah Epstein
Hometown: Gastonia, North Carolina
Graduation year: 2018
Major(s)/Minor(s) [if applicable]: Japanese Language/Culture
Where are you studying abroad? Why did you choose this country/program?
Japan’s Kansai Gaidai University in Osaka Prefecture. I chose KGU because it offers a unique home stay program that I am participating in, which means I get to live with a Japanese family and experience home life up close. I have to commute about 45 minutes every morning, which sounds like a lot but it’s a lot easier than it sounds, and the train ride is easily one of the most relaxing parts of the trip.
Trying a seasoned crab stick at Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto
What is your favorite place in your host city/country?
There are many places I’ve been to so far, but I’ve really enjoyed Fushimi-Inari Shrine, with the 10,000 Torii Gates, and Todai-ji, with the largest Buddha in Japan. My host parents took me to both places, and it was such an incredible experience. I plan to go back to both come fall when the leaves are different colors. It will certainly be an experience! I’ve experienced several festivals, most that I found by chance, and the Japanese are overjoyed to see foreigners having fun, and go out of their way to make sure we enjoy ourselves.
Posing in front of Todai-ji in Nara, home to the largest bronze Buddha in the world
What has been your proudest/most exciting moment abroad?
Most likely how quickly I mastered the train system! I had heard that Japan’s public transportation system was one of the best in the world, and now I understand why. The timetable is incredibly easy to understand, the trains are clearly marked in Japanese and English, and the staff is very helpful to foreigners and tourists. I’ve already gone on several solo trips to Osaka city and the heart of Kyoto, and those trips are even more fun if you go with friends.
My proudest moment is finding my way to Abeno Harukas, the tallest building in Japan, located in Osaka City. It was a bit hard to find once I got off the train, but once I found it, it was so amazing to explore. There are department stores and malls all around, and there’s an incredible art museum on the 16th floor and an incredible balcony garden with a view overlooking the heart of Osaka.
What is a common food there? What is the best meal you’ve had abroad?
You know how in New York City everywhere you turn there seems to be a hot dog stand? Imagine that, but with something called takoyaki. Basically, fried octopus rolls in different flavorful sauces and spices. There are takoyaki stands everywhere, and they can be served hot or cold, so perfect for any season. My favorite food so far is a dish called donburi, which is basically any type of meat (usually pork or beef) in a special sauce over white rice and some small vegetables. It’s really delicious and easy to eat if you’re in a hurry.
Sharing an ice cream cone with my host parents
What is one song from your host country that you think everyone here should listen to?
A really interesting song I’ve heard while here was introduced to me by my host mother. It’s called “Torisetsu” (“Instruction Manual”) by Nishino Kana. It has a great tune, adorable lyrics, and is the perfect song to sing at karaoke with your friends.