六月の空

After my internship and the trip to Taiwan, it was time to go back to school. For most of June, my days were basically consumed by schoolwork, running and aimlessly wandering around my neighbourhood and Tokyo. I went to Seoul for one weekend, which was fun. Other than that, it was just kind of an 'ordinary' month, enjoying the pace of life I'd settled into.

This semester, I took 7 IR/politics courses at the University of Tokyo, which were followed by an intensive summer school in July, consisting of 5 full days of IR classes and a final exam. At the same time, I did have time to appreciate small things and go on long walks around Tokyo. I also spent more time being social - going to see gigs in Ruby Room, taking day trips to Enoshima and so on.

Summer in Japan is brutally hot and humid, but in a way, I liked the reliability of that - it might rain some days, but it's never going to be chilly, and I've never lived in a country like that before, so it was enjoyable. The rainy season also was kind of a dud, as it wasn't that heavy and felt like it was coming to an end before it had even started properly. I could always dress in nice summer clothes without having to worry about layers. Of course, sometimes it gets a bit too much to bear, especially with the massive heatwaves last summer raising the temperature above 40 degrees in some areas. My flat didn't have a very effective aircon - it only had a window-type aircon that sounded like a diesel engine rattling against the panes, so I couldn't keep it on while I was sleeping. Running was also more difficult, as I had to wait until late at night or risk heat exhaustion.

In June, I did one 22-km run during the late morning, and that was all kinds of terrible and stupid - halfway through, I could feel my heart beat erratically, and I ended up desperately pouring water over my head to stop getting sunstroke, but still had nausea and a pounding headache after finishing (I had to go to class later that day, which was kind of an ordeal to get through). After that, I only ran between 9pm and midnight. That became an enjoyable routine in itself - my usual running route went along the Zenpukuji river, and running in the slightly more gentle evening heat beside running water and under rows of trees was very pleasant. Something I love about Tokyo is that it's perfectly practical to run at night there, in terms of both infrastructure and safety. There are drinking water taps (and of course vending machines) littered alongside running paths, so staying hydrated is effortless, and paths are also well-lit; and it's very unlikely to be threatened by anyone while running alone, regardless of your gender. So even though it's too hot to run in the daytime in the summer, it's not really that big a problem, because running at night is also enjoyable.

Before my trip to Seoul, I decided to invest in a better camera and bought a Panasonic Lumix GX8 mirrorless to replace my old point-and-shoot. I also bought a pancake lens alongside the kit lens, because I had heard that using a pancake lens is a good way to teach yourself photography (the logic of that is that because they have no zoom, you're forced to think more about the composition of an image). At the same time, the image quality tends to be better, because the simple working mechanism of the lens allows the image to be captured with as little interference as possible. They're also naturally suited for street photography, due to being so light.

I bought the Lumix G 20mm/F1.7 II ASPH. H-H020A-K lens and really liked it from the start. The sense of depth in photographs is lovely, and I think it's really good for photographing people - it enhances the texture and tone of skin. Downsides are that it took a while to get used to the lack of zoom functionality (which isn't really a downside at all), and the fact that it's quite a talkative lens - it makes a lot of whirring noises while focusing. I spent hours and hours walking around Tokyo just getting to grips with this lens.

Kaisa Saarinen