Saturday, April 5, 2014

Imperial Palace, Gardens and Gigabar

     For those you tried to view the previous post's slideshow and it failed to show, I've since been able to rectify the problem. The previous slideshow should now be visible on the blog, if there is any trouble viewing it please leave a commit below, thanks!

     On Wednesday, the majority of the class split up and explored around. Music majors who chose to visited the Tokyo Tower and a separate group explored Tokyo Disneyland. The remainder of the trip was difficult to track what everybody did for the remaining days so I'll just briefly describe those that I explored with.

     The bulk of the day I shadowed Dr. Hake and a group of students to the Imperial Palace and gardens. I found this to be a very unique experience because I've never in my life seen a palace situated within sight of skyscrapers. Past the bustling of cars and cement forests, the city opened up to a barren field with trees planted every ten or fifteen feet, the kind of trees you expect to see in Asia (the little ones with bend and curve parallel to the earth). As we were approaching the gate to the Imperial Palace, someone of some true significance drove up. The guards on post saluted the vehicle as it drove on past. We wandered about the facility which was encircled by a moat around its several thick stone walls reaching up to the sky. We were able to go inside portions of the palace which had walkways lined with Cherry Blossoms ready to bloom. The portion of the palace that tourists were allowed entrance was a garden, historical structures and very unique architecture.

     We left the Palace and met up with several others from the group. I was rather impressed that D.J. and Elizabeth were able to find us in such an expansive city. At this point in the trip several people just wanted some Americanized food so we waited for the other group at Subway. If I recall correctly we had quite a bit of trouble actually meeting up with the others and ended up relaxing outside of the main gate to the national park. Dr. Hake, Morgan and myself ended up chilling in the shade of the large trees while we waited for the others. When we all finally made it, I found out that of course cameras weren't allowed in the national park as well as rules restricting everything else. We actually watched a park staff ride up on a bicycle and tell a young couple to stop playing catch. However we were able to get some good photos here anyways, the rules were I guess against commercially taking photos so I'll add a pdf or slideshow with these photos as well. Because it took so long to meet up with the other group we were only at the park for maybe an hour but enjoyed a great sunset in Tokyo.

     Wednesday night everybody met up to go to the Gigabar which was similar to karaoke. Jake Martin as well as other restaurant patrons performed songs and instruments to appease the crowds. While it was certainly a unique experience I would highly recommend eating ahead of time unless you want to wait an hour and a half for Chef Boyardee.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

International Christian University and Bank of Japan

     Tuesday the classes took the railways out to the suburbs of Tokyo, while we were still technically in the limits of Tokyo it was eye-opening just to see the scale of the world's largest city. We rode for about an hour by train but were still in the city, that's ridiculous. That would be like Salisbury being considered part of Charlotte. As we ventured further from the city, high-rises opened up to views of landscapes and briefly we were able to see Mount Fuji from our rail car.

     ICU or the International Christian University was the first stop. The University was build on the grounds of what used to be an airstrip. The entrance was a long road leading up to the complex lined with large Japanese Cherry trees, not yet in full bloom. Unfortunately we would miss the cherry blossom festival by several weeks.

     We enjoyed a tour of the facilities followed by a lesson on abenomics then lunch at their cafeteria where we had the opportunity for discussion. Immediately following the tour of ICU several of the groups parted ways, I accompanied the business tour of the Bank of Japan (BOJ), unfortunately my services weren't required or allowed so there aren't many photos from the tour.

     BOJ was extremely fascinating, especially for myself who collects American currency it was interesting to hear about the Japanese banking system. One practice that was especially unique was that no matter where we received money the bills/notes were always crisp. Japan, in an effort to cut down on illegal copies shreds a bill after too much use. Where American bills show their journal in the tears and wrinkles, rarely do you find a bill hot of the press.

Below I've attached a video/slideshow of the photos taken:

Sunday, March 23, 2014


            To start off, and also catch everybody up to what happened on our visit to Tokyo we arrived at the Hostel on Saturday night. Part of the group took advantage and toured the surrounding area around the hostel the night before however some people (namely myself) passed out from exhaustion and slept. On Sunday (the first post), the combined classes visited Asakusa, the Tokyo Sky Tree and Akihabara, the electronic district. Originally we had intended on seeing Shibuya and the world famous crossing that night but ran short on time. Shibuya would have to wait until later on in the week.

            The second full day in Tokyo many who were interested awoke bright and early at 4:30 A.M. for a visit to the Tsukiji Fish Market. This was somewhat of a let-down though because once we arrived we were made aware that the fish sale happened around 3:00 A.M. and a crowd of roughly 500 people showed up for the event (the first 50 get in to watch).  Bummed and tired, we all returned back to the hostel for some much needed rest.
Tokyo view, sky tree in the background early morning.
            We met back later on that morning to start off the day. After a long walking tour and various subway rides we arrived at the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden only to find that it was closed on Mondays. To make up for lost time the group called on a series of taxi cabs to take us to the next destination

Following the bust at the gardens we rode over to a Shinto Shrine (one of the two major religions). The Meiji Shrine was a large structure nestled in the woods out of view of the city. Driving up we came to an enormous gateway then were dropped off at numerous entrances around the shrine. It turned out that each taxi cab ended up going to a separate gate. Lost in Tokyo is not a great feeling, especially this early in the week. In the end and after about an hour of wandering about aimlessly, we all found the rest of the groups. It actually turned out a good thing to get lost because I found that it allowed the students to branch out and get to know everybody else on the trip.

While our trip to the shrine was short we did happen to walk up on a traditional Japanese wedding procession as they were leaving. It was quite neat to see how other cultures celebrated. After the shrine the groups had an opportunity to dabble around in the local area and have a chance to do some shopping.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


     Alright so the day-by-day plan I had initially planned on making the posts obviously didn't happen and I apologize for that. Finally getting over jet-lag and now starting the daunting process of editing a thousand plus images. Hopefully by tomorrow I'll have a new post up and I'm going to try to put together a slideshow of the trip to play on this blog. In the mean time here is a snip-it of what we'd experienced on our trip to Japan. Over the course of the next week I'll include these photos in additional posts to describe the trip better. Thank you!

Monday, March 10, 2014


 Our first full day in Tokyo was packed full. We started off the day by visiting the Tokyo Sky Tree which at one time was the highest free standing structure in the world sitting at a staggering height of 2,080 feet. The view from atop was breathtaking, unlike much of the continental United States which is expansive with much open land Tokyo is a clutter of civilization with a population of 13.23 million people, that’s nearly double the total population of all of North Carolina! Looking out from the Sky Tree was probably the neatest opportunity and I would highly recommend anyone visiting Tokyo to visit the tower.
View from atop the Tokyo Sky Tree

Shadow of the tower cast over the city

  The Sky tree took longer than expected, because of this we had to push visiting Shibuya Crossing until Thursday. If you’re unsure of what exactly Shibuya is, look it up, it would be too difficult to explain in this blog. Tune in later on this week and I’ll have some photos of Shibuya put up. Following the Tokyo Sky Tree the group went to visit the electronic district, neon signs lining the streets everywhere you look. The district was illuminated and vaguely resembled Time Square New York except on a grander scale.
Student Theo Zatterstrom posing in front of the electronic district

  The last stop of the day was at Akihabara, which is an intriguing place attracting crowds in the thousands. Those of us in the group that were anime enthusiasts were in heaven. People on the streets dressed as their favorite characters, girls dressed in very flattering dresses and numerous other odd customs. The stores, as one student very accurately described it were similar to that of a flea market with rows upon rows of anything imaginable.
Students Liz Renteria and Morgan King

Delay, Internet Troubles

  Originally I had anticipated on making posts at the closure of each day, I have discovered that I won`t be able to do this due to the massive amounts of photos needing to be filtered and converted to smaller files. There is also some issues with the local Internet and the capacity to do work, I apologize for any inconveniences and will work diligently to get the next few posts up in the coming days. Thank you.

Elijah Wittum Photography

Saturday, March 8, 2014


Everyone is wiped out from the relenting flight over here, summing up to fourteen some hours crammed together in plane cabins. It was truly an eye opening experience realizing the vastness of our own country as we flew a 7,000 mile journey through the Northeastern United States into Canada and over Alaska. The landscapes were covered in snow, the ones for which we could catch a glimpse of and much time over the Pacific and Bering Sea. The time change really screwed up everyone`s internal clock. Truthfully, I still don`t know what today is being ten hours ahead or behind? We will be going out touring the area around the Hostel today, some students chose to have a look around last night while others crashed in their bunks. Planning on having a full day of shooting today so hopefully I`ll get some shots up later on.