|Nagao Station (seen from my host family's 10th floor apartment)|
One thing that has been a huge help in getting to know the area is the fact that my host mother was raised here and knows much more about the area than I could ever learn a guidebook (although I doubt there is any mention of Nagao in any Japan guidebook…). For example, last week my host mother and I went to a small, tanuki-themed restaurant located on a street off of the main road leading to the train station, a place I don't think I would have gone to had I been exploring the area myself. In fact, my host mother said that she has been coming to this restaurant since she was a little girl, which adds so much more meaning to visiting the restaurant besides its incredibly delicious chahan!
In contrast to the large, modern apartment I live in are the numerous temples and shrines in the area. Right next door to the apartment building is a small temple, and a bit further down the street is a larger, more secluded temple filled with statues, from actual Buddhist-related statues you would expect to see at a temple to statues of Astro Boy and Pikachu. One thing that I loved about this temple is that despite the fact that it is right next to the station, it is still isolated from the city. In fact, although I passed many people on the street before entering the temple, I did not encounter a single other person in the temple, something I didn't expect in my busy corner of Nagao.
I still have more exploring to do around Nagao, since I have been spending quite a lot of time at the other stations around Kansai Gaidai, but hopefully with the help of my host family I'll be able to learn more about my neighborhood, my home for the next year.