Chicken Hearts and Ninja Theme Parks

Another successful week here in Hirakata! I’m officially done with one month of my study abroad experience. It feels like I’ve been here forever, but, at the same time, it’s going by far too fast.

This Monday was a national holiday (why don’t we get the Autumn Equinox off?!), so I had another three-day weekend to explore the depths of Japan. The two most memorable experiences I had this week were meeting my home-visit family and going to the Toei Studio Park in Kyoto.


Kansai Gaidai University has a program called the Home Visit Program, where you can sign up to be paired with a Japanese family that you visit every once in a while to get a feel for Japanese home life. This is a perfect program for students like me that are living in the dorms and are not experiencing that side of Japan.

Home Visit
Me with my home visit family.

I made the 2-hour trip to Hyogo Prefecture to my family’s home this weekend. I was pleasantly surprised by the size of the house; most of the residential areas I’ve seen in Japan are ridiculously crowded, with paper-thin, miniscule houses shoved in corners and the like. But this house was nicely-sized, except for the ceilings, as I had to duck when going through any doorway.

4 of the 5 members of the family spoke practically no English and my Japanese is very poor, so communication was quite difficult. I still had lots of fun though, getting a traditional Japanese dinner (including trying grilled chicken hearts, which neither sound or taste appetizing) and talking about my time thus far and what I still have to go see. One of the daughters asked if I dyed my hair blonde, and said it was beautiful. Never gotten that one before! It was a lot of fun and it was a great experience to see the residential side of Japan.

Samurai Practice
My friend Jacob practicing samurai moves.

On Monday, a couple friends and I headed to Toei Studio Park in Kyoto. Also known as Eigamura (“movie town”), it’s a theme park that also functions as a group of film sets for the current installation of Japanese Power Rangers, as well as various other productions. You get to walk through recreations of “traditional” Japan, seeing an old police station, a red-light district and other sets. On top of that, there’s a ninja ‘mystery house,’ a haunted house, and a load of restuarants, shops and ninja and samurai-themed shows.

I didn’t know if this place would be lame or awesome, and I was very pleasantly surprised. Eigamura is primarily geared towards kids, so all of the attractions featured a healthy helping of cheese. But this just made it all the more fun. Lots of laughs and lots of good times. And, for being in the middle of a kiddie amusement park, the haunted house wasn’t actually half bad!

I also saw a bamboo garden, a couple temples and a Zen Buddhist garden, so it was a busy weekend (and also a great one!). That’s all for now, but I’ll be back next week, Colorado!