Be like Alice; come out of the campus sanctuary!
From a four-year Komaba I Campus student who graduated in the summer of 2022
The Year of the Rabbit has begun. You’re sitting on the green chairs of Building 1 at the Komaba I Campus next to your best friend quietly dozing off. The sky starts to turn a pinkish hue and your professor simply will not let you go until they read you the lengthy scroll of final instructions for your Period 5 class. You heave a deep and wary sigh. Every Todai student who has spent even one day on campus must have felt this urge to hop away from a long day of classes and fall into their very own rabbit hole of wonderment and discovery. What nearby wonderland can a Komaba student explore like Alice?
Visit the cozy stores, cafes and bakeries close to campus! Don’t tell on me, but I have always thought of my senpai as my personal Hookah-Smoking Caterpillars. Each of my seniors has a personal space they have claimed as their favorite place to study or to escape reality after classes. Competing for my love of books and our institution’s library, I think a common PEAK favorite must be the Kono Bookstore which is right next to the Komaba-Todaimae konbini. Also, being so close to the Chiyoda line stations of Yoyogi-Koen and Yoyogi-Uehara, one should absolutely take the opportunity to try out new local shops scattered along the big streets on sunny days! In honor of the Red Queen, I always visited the bakery that now sits right next to Sakashita Gate of Komaba I Campus for my royal earl gray-flavored bread. (Practicing Japanese while interviewing bakers is also a fun pastime.)
Try not to use the online maps and wander the parks near campus! The Disney version of Alice in Wonderland starts off with a cozy reading session between sisters. If you’re not really the type to spend money after a long week of studies and you just want to enjoy a quiet day with nature, head to Yoyogi Park which is only a 15-minute walk from the Komaba I Campus through the back gates. Alternatively, you can enjoy the breeze while reading a book or having a picnic with friends at Komaba-koen between Komaba I and II campuses. Here you can also take a peek into the 1929 Western-style mansion of the family of Marquis Maeda. Of course, Komabano Park by the International Lodge (which looks best in autumn) is always open too!
Scour the streets of Shibuya! It goes without saying that Komaba I and II Campuses are blessed with the proximity to Shibuya Crossing, one of the busiest and most photographed Tokyo attractions. If you’re looking for constant stimulation (and do not mind being shoved a few times like Alice down the dining table at the Hatter’s mad tea party), the 5-minute train ride or 25-minute walk to Shibuya from Komaba I Campus is always worth it. Even after years of living near Shibuya, you’ll never run out of museums, theaters, clothes and novelty shops, Michelin star restaurants, or old kissaten to discover.
Indulge in the music scene and the fading homeliness of Shimokitazawa while you can! What other way could one shake off the unfortunate creepiness of Alice’s authorship than to scavenge for quirky secondhand items likely carrying the darkest secrets of their previous owners? It is especially well suited for music-lovers as live music resounds everywhere from the Odakyu line buskers to basement concerts. Shimokita reeks of nostalgia for me; I used to hang out with my friends here the most, and now I mostly talk to owners of shops I frequented as they share their lamentations about new machi-zukuri developments. While I find it unfortunate that the town is undergoing extreme gentrification, Shimokita is still home to some of my favorite secondhand clothing shops, vinyl stores, restaurant-cum-bars, and antique finds.
When I graduated from Komaba I Campus in the summer of 2022, I was left with haunting thoughts of “spaces” and “orientations.” As I was writing my final thesis about Shinjuku Ni-chome, famously known as the queer district of Tokyo, I found myself peeking into the dynamism of Tokyo’s diverse spaces and interviewing the varied array of people who occupied these vibrant areas. The juxtaposition between my academic inquiry, Ni-chome, with my campus at Komaba undoubtedly swept me off my feet at break-neck speed. In the summer, I did not yet know if I was going to continue my studies in Japan, so I had to believe that my dream project of “queering” spaces could happen anywhere. Somewhat inwardly looking into my status as a Komaba student, I noticed that our school’s campuses, Komaba itself, and its neighboring spaces, needed much more work to become inclusive.
There is no way for me to individually get to know each reader who picks up this magazine, but I hope this article has given you a taste of Komaba and its vicinity’s familiar aura. It is a place where one can experience a global city’s abrupt change of pace within a condensed 4-kilometer radius. With or without the magic of size-altering biscuits reminiscent of Alice’s first crisis in Wonderland, I hope that we can go beyond the bounds of arbitrary and institutionalized walls!