Tokyo University is a very prestigious school in Japan. It is ranked at the best university in Japan and often at the top when compared to other universities across Asia. While it may not beat the top US and UK schools, Tokyo University does hold its own. I have met a lot of people who have worked or studied at Tokyo University. I may not know exactly how their classes are held but I have had the opportunity to visit the campus. The campus itself is pretty large and has a lot of history with it. The school symbol is the ginkgo leaf which is pretty fitting as they are famous for their ginkgo trees. While I’m not a fan of visiting universities when I travel, I do enjoy the university atmosphere and Tokyo University is what I would call a traditional university.
Most universities in Tokyo focus on occupying bland buildings where each department is separated by floors. Tokyo University was built using the original development style from the west and has several buildings and a lot of historical buildings as well. The age of each building is showing but the facades still look good and they all appear very functional. Originally established in 1877, Tokyo University didn’t assume its current name until around WWII, even though in 1866 the name Tokyo Imperial University was used. Today, if you have a child, you want them to go to a good university. Tokyo, Kyoto, and Tohoku Universities are the best government run universities and they are renowned for churning out smart students. Unlike the private universities, these universities tend to have a better academic image. Waseda and Keio Universities in Tokyo also have a good image but they tend to have a privileged image where you need to be rich or the child of alumni to get in. It isn’t necessarily the case but their academic record is not as strong and many students who get into Waseda or Keio generally rely on getting jobs with companies that are affiliated with them or where past alumni run the companies.
Tokyo University’s Hongo campus is probably the best one to visit, and it is the main campus. It isn’t easy to access if you want to visit via the JR Lines but you can walk there from Ochanomizu. I would recommend taking the Oedo line as it is a little closer. As I approached the main entrances on the west side of the school, I came upon the Akamon (Red Gate). This is probably the nicest entrance to the university as it has a traditional Japanese style gate. I even thought it was the main gate, but the main gate is actually located north of the Akamon. The main gate is not as good looking as it is a typical concrete and iron gate, but it is the more modern style gate that helps add character to the university. As I walked around the main campus with the various faculty buildings, I noticed a hodgepodge of new and old buildings. The new buildings looked great and very modern and the old buildings looked very beautiful but like a dungeon. As I mentioned in my 2013 Autumn report, the ginkgo trees are very spectacular and I only learned about them from Rurosha on her blog. I highly recommend visiting Tokyo University during the ginkgo season.
Once you finish admiring the architecture around Tokyo University, you must visit the Sanshiro Pond. It isn’t hard to find but it can be a little difficult to realize that it is more than an undeveloped area of the university grounds. The pond is essentially a large park with a central pond in the middle. The outside looks like a forest due to the age of the plant life. The pond itself is designed to look like the kanji for heart which leads to its nickname, “Ikutokuen”, or heart garden. I found the pond to be very beautiful and the hills surrounding the pond are a lot of fun to explore. I didn’t have a lot of time so I just walked around the pond and left. Walking around the pond can be a little dangerous, especially with a large camera in one hand. The area is a little dark and many of the rocks surrounding the pond are very smooth. If they get wet, especially from the rain, it can be pretty slippery causing you to be a little embarrassed. While the pathways are not so dangerous, it is worthwhile to note that you should be a little careful, take your time, and enjoy the park. I can imagine a lot of students just going there to relax, but honestly, I only saw tourists and old people there so I doubt the students go there to just enjoy a lovely pond, although it makes a good place to hide from barbarians.
Tokyo University isn’t the most accessible place in Tokyo. While there are several stations and several train lines surrounding the university, I found it a little difficult to get in. The university is surrounded by a wall and you have to go through one of the gates and they are not conveniently located next to a train station. It isn’t very inaccessible as you can walk a couple minutes to get there but it can be annoying when you want to go to a class in one corner, but you have to walk to an entrance gate just to backtrack because of the wall. Don’t even think about scaling the walls as you are likely to get caught. I doubt they look fondly on people scaling the walls of Tokyo University. Once you do get in, you are greeted by the beauty that is Tokyo University and it is worth the visit. The autumn season is the best time to visit and I would challenge you to find a better ginkgo spot in Tokyo. Other areas are beautiful but there is something magical or mysterious about Tokyo University.