Another tourist spot I managed to visit was the great castle of Osaka! This time, it was my host family that guided me around. The program here also has a seminar house option. However, I chose to stay with a host family because I felt I would learn the language faster, and experience more of the culture. They're great! While they do their best to make me feel at home, they also expose me to various parts of the Japanese lifestyle.
For example, before we visited the castle, my host mom and sister took me to what I can only call a food fair. There were fifty or so booths setup by farms and factories from up and down Japan. Each one was offering free samples to anybody and everybody. They let me try apples, milk, raw fish (sashimi), Naato, fried chicken, squid, rice burger (!), yogurt, and much more. From what I could glean from my host mom, the companies run these events to advertise their products that later you can purchase at a special market. I would never have gone to one of these back in America.
Once we were full, we took the walk to the castle. It's hard to explain the size of the fortress; while the building itself only stands maybe ten stories, the grounds around it were made with defense in mind. Our walk was made tougher by the steps and steps we had to climb to get to the tower. On the way, we passed two large moats – and inner and an outer one, my host mom told me. It wasn't until we took the (totally ancient) elevator to get to the top that I noticed that the skyscrapers of Osaka barely passed the peak of the castle. Osaka is the second largest city in Japan!
Before leaving, I was guided through the museum portion of the castle, learning about its somewhat short history, and bloody fall because of an inept heir. These sort of field trips happen everyday in any country, where they become almost dull. But, living in another country, learning their history, changes my focus. Why wouldn't I want to learn about this stuff?