Introduction

Life at the University of Tokyo

Life at the University of Tokyo

The University of Tokyo has two undergraduate campuses: Hongo and Komaba. I spend most of my time at Komaba, where the Faculty of Arts & Science is located.

An image of the University of Tokyo, Komaba Campus Station. A bright neon sign featuring Japanese text can be seen in the top right corner of the image. Stairs leading into the station occupy the rest of the image.
The University of Tokyo, Komaba Station – Where I start and end my day.
An image of a building on the University of Tokyo's Komaba Campus. It features minimalist architecture and concrete construction. An artificial pond can be seen in the immediate foreground.
Komaba Campus

Komaba is austere. Hard lines, glass, and concrete characterize its Ando-inspired facade. In the middle of Tokyo’s urban jungle, this is a refreshing change. Its simplicity offers mental relief from the city’s narrow, winding streets of metropolitan mayhem. The campus’ calm aesthetic also produces a great environment for studying; there are few visual distractions.

 

This image shows a paved corridor at the University of Tokyo's Komaba Campus. There is a concrete building to the left of the corridor.
Komaba Campus
A view of the Shinjuku skyline as seen from the University of Tokyo's Komaba Campus. A running track can be seen in the immediate foreground. Clusters of buildings can be seen beyond the field. A tall skyline (Shinjuku) can be seen in the distance.
The concrete jungle surrounding the campus.

I’m happy with my academic experience here so far. Class sizes are phenomenal. My largest class has twelve people in it, and my smallest is a one-on-one seminar with a professor. The teaching staff are capable as both researchers and lecturers, and most of mine seem genuinely interested in helping their students succeed.

The University of Tokyo’s difficulty is comparable to that of U of T, but the source of its difficulty is slightly different. Courses here tend to be less demanding; most classes only meet once per week, and they have no tutorials. However, the school’s administration expects students to take seven to nine courses per semester. Exchange students are not off the hook either; U of T expects the same from its students who study abroad at the University of Tokyo, if they wish to receive a full 5.0 FCE. In this way, while courses here are individually lighter than at U of T, they collectively require about the same amount of work.

The campus is quiet during the day, but it comes to life after the last period ends at six o’clock. Campus groups all meet at this time. Hip-hop dancers, political activists, and vocal ensembles are some of the campus’ most visible groups. They gather in the corridors, and excite the campus’ otherwise calm atmosphere.

Groups of shoes haphazardly placed at the entrance to the University of Tokyo's gym. Lockers can be seen beside a door in the background.
The entrance to the gym after the last period.

There is no partying on campus. Instead, students tend to go to the nearby neighborhoods of Shibuya or Shimokitazawa to enjoy nightlife. Many bars feature a service called nomihoudai, or ‘all you can drink,’ for about ¥1200 ($12). This service allows customers to indulge in a sort of buffet of beer and spirits for two hours. Singing karaoke afterwards is a popular way to end the night. Karaoke parlours occupy high-rise buildings filled with small rooms equipped with TVs and microphones. Instead of singing in front of strangers in a bar, as is often the case in Canada, groups can book rooms where they can sing their guilty pleasures all night long in the company of their friends.

Anyway, that’s life at Komaba in a nutshell. Next week I’ll be writing about a weekend trip to the town of Nikko. Until then, happy listening.

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