Summer came and went as quickly as it normally does. It's a shame because its the season I enjoy the most, mostly due to the food being the most tasty during the months of June-August.
June is not the best month for doing travel or anything outdoor in general. It's the last month of rainy season in Japan, which is two months of non-stop cloudy days and muggy weather. Everyday there is sun, you appreciate it, otherwise, you need to religiously carry an umbrella with you at all times. So in June, I didn't do much of anything except laboratory work. Maybe this was for the better as in July I was quite busy with academic-related tasks.
July is the end of the school-year so there is a lot of preparation. Final exams, final presentations, scholarship deadlines, and end of the year conferences. I had all of those, so it was hectic. First off, I was thrilled to make it into the first selection of a scholarship...hooray!... but there was in interview, in Tokyo, and it was not specified whether it was in Japanese or English... yep, that was not fun. While it was nice the scholarship foundation paid for transportation costs, it was also extremely nerve-wracking to sit on a bullet train 4 hours trying to guess whether my interview would be in Japanese or English. I had to memorize scripts for both, just in case. To my surprise my interviewer (a representative of the company who provides the scholarship) was really laid-back, and bi-lingual. I could do the interview in English, which was a huge relief. Later, I found out every person who interviewed received the scholarship, so it was more or less just to confirm what kind of person you were. Scholarship achieved for at least six months!
The next week, I was in Kansai in Osaka for a scientific conference. This was my second time in Kansai, but first time in Osaka. I was told it's a unique city in Japan, as the people are more extroverted and outgoing than other places in Japan. However, I think I missed most of this aspect, as I was mostly at the conference center of a University with other conference goers. I did manage to do a little sight-seeing, but that was mostly due to the fact I got lost outside a main train station for about three hours. I will have to go back to Osaka another time and do more than just one day of sight-seeing.
The rest of July and most of August was done doing English Camps at Nokonoshima. I always have a lot of fun at these camps, but at the same time they are exhausting. More or less twelve hour days in the hot sun and high humidity with six energetic kids can be tiresome. If I were a child at these camps I know I would be having the time of my life, but as an instructor, you really have to try your best to keep perky and happy for your kids. Some of the other instructors are amazing at this, but I find myself losing my enthusiasm for playing hide and seek when the heat index is about 98 or 99F. Luckily, the staff at these camps are amazing at accommodating both students and instructors, and always schedule one or two indoor activities in the air-conditioning. Trust me, after being outside all day, 1 hour in an air-conditioned room makes a phenomenal difference in your mood and stamina. This coming summer will be my last time doing these camps. I will really miss these!
September arrived, and my 4-year anniversary in Japan was completed! I could hardly believe I had been here so long, and that I needed to complete so much in just one year. It's building quickly, and I can't seem to slow it down. With camps finished, and the school semester not started yet, I had a little free time to travel. I was able to go visit my family again in Kagoshima, and later I was able to travel with one of my graduated friends from Kyushu University.
Kagoshima is still one of my favorite places to go in Japan. While it not may be as bustling as Tokyo or Kyoto, it is in a unique location with a lot of great history to offer. How many cities do you know of that are next to an active volcano? Where you can visit the houses of samurai? Not many, but Kagoshima has all these things. My relatives were kind enough to take me around to some of the historical places in Kagoshima in the summer heat, including Tsurumaru Castle, and Shiroyama Observatory.
Afterwards, I went to a very famous spot in the Miyazaki prefecture called Takachiho, with my travel buddy. This was a day-trip, but we managed to see a few amazing sights that Takachiho had to offer. The Takachiho Gorge and Manai Falls, are the most popular spots to see. The town is also famous for shrines including Takachiho Shrine, Kunimigaoka, and Amanoiwato Shrine. We went to visit all these places! I even found a shrine-cat or two.