By NAOKI MIZUTANI
The monument of Komaba Dormitories (photo by author)
Have you ever wondered why Komaba campus does not have dormitories on campus? They evidently existed until 15 years ago.
Komaba dormitories derive from the first high school under the pre-WWⅡ education system, in Japanese, “ichiko”. The first dormitories of icchu (the predecessor of ichiko) were built in 1890 at Mukougaoka, where the Faculty of Agriculture is currently located, and not at Komaba. At the opening of dormitories, the principal at that time gave students four principles; –prudence, affection, self-effacement, and cleanliness. All ichiko students had to live in the dormitories, however, students were authorized self-governing, legislation and administration system, which was inherited by Komaba dormitories.
In 1935, as part of the restricting that occurred after the 1923 Kanto Earthquake, the dormitories moved to Komaba. The new dormitories` buildings were designed by Professor Uchida, who also designed the first building in Komaba, Yasuda auditorium in Hongo, and many main buildings in University of Tokyo. The solidly built dormitories were used for over 60 years.
After WWⅡ, ichiko became the College of Arts and Sciences in accordance with the postwar education reform. Female students were permitted to enter UTokyo, but not to live in the dormitories. Living in the dormitories became optional, and students themselves conducted selection of students who could reside. Shortly after WWⅡ, around 1000 people were living there. Because dormitories had common rooms, it was opened for all people, even for strangers. Not only individual students, but also many clubs used the dormitories as their rooms.
‘The typical image of Komaba dormitories were “old” and “dirty”’ says Hirofumi Matsumoto in his book- “The Story of Todai Komaba Dormitories” -(Kadokawa,2015). Three or more students lived in one room, and the use varied widely. Some were distinctly separated to individual spaces with bookshelves or plywood, others were not.
Dormitories had their own dining hall, which provided plenty and inexpensive food for residents living short of money. Food was such a serious matter for students that they organized riots against employees of dining hall complaining about the taste of meals before WWⅡ. Wide space of dining hall played an important role as the space students made free use of, such as for theater, for party revenue.
The dormitories` festivals were held every summer and autumn. Each room created booths and attracted many people. Once, a club stand sold grilled meat of a stray campus dog. This incident was strongly criticized, but became one of the famous events in the history of festivals.
Protests by students against the school authorities were also held frequently. They protested about social issues, tuition increases, and disuse plan proposed one-sidedly in 1991.The university was planning to build new accommodations in Mitaka and abolish Komaba dormitories. The chief reason of this was deterioration of dormitories.
While the students protested to maintain the dormitories, the university executed their plan. In 1996, the authorities declared Komaba dormitories condemned. The dormitories` electricity and gas supply was cut off, and the demolition started while, students continued living in the buildings. The university trustees resolved to take legal action. In the court, execution of the surrender was decided.
Ultimately, on August 22nd 2001, the day typhoon was approaching, the evacuation was executed. Students did not resist. People remaining on the site of the dormitories were also evicted in 2002. Dormitories were absorbed into Mitaka International Hall of Residence.
Now, at the site of Komaba dormitories stands Multi-purpose Hall, Communications Plaza, and Library among other things. The monument of the dormitories is left quiet in a corner of the garden. It is easy to say the disuse of Komaba dormitories was historically inevitable. However, we shall not forget the dormitories existed and many students lived on Komaba campus.