Little Known History in Well-Known Places

Cultural resources in the Hongo Campus of the University of Tokyo - Part 3

By University of Tokyo

University of Tokyo

The wall along the Hongo Avenue and the corner pillar of south of the Main GateOriginal Source: KOGUCHI Aoi

The Perimeter Wall

Part 3 of our story begins by focusing on the perimeter wall along Hongo-dori Avenue.

At the top of the pillar is an ornament with the nickname “chonmage (丁髷; a type of traditional topknot haircut worn by Japanese men)”. 

There are varying shapes of chonmage, and some look like the roof of a house. The top of the iron fence has an ornamentation that mimics the shape of a plant.

The third wall pillar south of the Main GateOriginal Source: KIRIYA Shiene

It is also worth examining how the bricks are stacked.

With this pillar -- the third one from the corner pillar located south of the Main Gate -- as a border, the perimeter wall in the north (left) is stacked in English bond and the south (right) in Header bond. The walls between the Main Gate and the Akamon Gate are particularly old and were built in the Meiji 30s (1897-1907).

Despite its seemingly mundane appearance, new discoveries may be made after stopping to observe it closely.

Even these side walls are not to be sidelined and overlooked.

The Shinjiike Pond of the Ikutokuen GardenOriginal Source: KOGUCHI Aoi

Remnants of the Kaga Domain Residence

In the Edo period, the residence of the daimyo (feudal lord) of Kaga Domain occupied most of the premises where Hongo Campus is located today.

Despite the gradual disappearance of buildings with roots to the residence of the Kaga Domain ever since the land came under the jurisdiction of the Meiji Government in 1871, there are still places where the remnants of that era can be felt.

First on the list is Ikutokuen, the private garden in the domain residence.

In the Edo period, Ikutokuen was furnished with a pond, miniature artificial hills, and pergolas, which were used by the feudal lord to entertain visitors.

In this photo you can see the pond of the Ikutokuen Garden. It is commonly called “Sanshiro Pond”, but its official name is “Ikutokuen Shinji-ike”. 

Stairway leading to the remains of the Karakasa PergolaOriginal Source: KOGUCHI Aoi

The pergolas were located in places overlooking the pond and the greenery, allowing one to take a break during a stroll whilst viewing the Ikutokuen Shinji-ike.

The Karakasa PergolaOriginal Source: KIRIYA Shiene

The foundation of the Karakasa Pergola still remains today.

The relocated stone wall of the Kaga Domain residenceOriginal Source: KIRIYA Shiene

A stone wall linked to the Kaga Domain residence unearthed during an archaeological excavation in the 1980s was relocated in the vicinity of Ikutokuen, informing us of how things looked at the time as a vestige of the past. 

The stone wall with chisel and kokuin marksOriginal Source: KOGUCHI Aoi

Original chisel and engraving marks are still visible on the surface of the wall.

Sewer remains in front of the General LibraryOriginal Source: MATSUDA Akira

Sewer Remains in Front of the General Library

In the plaza in front of the General Library, a mysterious pattern is visible on the ground.
What is this pattern about?

Near the General Library lies what was part of the Yohime Palace, which was built when Yohime, the daughter of the eleventh Tokugawa shōgun, TOKUGAWA Ienari, married MAEDA Nariyasu, the head of the Kaga Domain in 1827. An archaeological excavation conducted in 2013–14 prior to the construction of the library underground storage resulted in the discovery of the remains of a stonework structure. It is thought to be a drainage sewer for the palace based on its structure and inclination.

A layer of burnt soil, containing an enormous quantity of burnt tiles, was deposited at the top inside the trench. This was created when the Yohime Palace building was completely burnt down due to the fire in Hongo Harukicho in 1868.

The stones assembled in the sewer contained many variations of stones in addition to natural stones, hence it is possible that they were diverted from other sources. In preparing the underground storage and the plaza in front of the General Library, these stones were washed, processed with surface finishing, and then embedded in the plaza in a way where the shape of the aqueduct is made visible.   

Can you now vividly imagine the Yohime Palace at the end of the sewer remains?

The Library PlazaOriginal Source: KOGUCHI Aoi

The Mandala on the Library Plaza

The plaza in front of the General Library is one of the few places where memories of the Pacific War still remain.

The Library PlazaOriginal Source: KOGUCHI Aoi

In the mid-1980s, OTANI Sachio, who was appointed to design new school buildings east and west of the plaza, conceived the grand design of the “Mandala of the Plaza” for the site in front of the library.

OTANI was born in 1924 and he graduated from the Department of Architecture, Faculty of Engineering, Tokyo Imperial University in 1946 immediately after the defeat in the war. His seniors and classmates had been conscripted as student soldiers and never returned.

The design of the ‘Mandala of the Plaza’ kept at the Faculty of Letters of the University of TokyoOriginal Source: Faculty of Letters, University of Tokyo

The design of the plaza remains in the Faculty of Letters at the University of Tokyo. The plan is drawn precisely and lightly with a coloured pencil. 

The entirety of the design can only be captured when looking down upon the plaza from far above in the sky. 

It is a “mandala” that memorialises the classmates who died on the battlefield and retains traces of memories of their short-lived youth in this place.

Mosaic tiles that were part of the ‘Mandala of the Plaza’Original Source: KOGUCHI Aoi

Even though the design was not realised as a whole, portions of it have been applied to parts of the plaza as a mosaic.

However, most of it has disappeared due to renovations done in 2017. 

Now only the ribbon-like traces can be seen at the foot of the Faculty of Letter Building 3.

Hydrant PumpsOriginal Source: MATSUDA Akira


Our story, consisting of 3 parts, has highlighted some of the intriguing cultural resources in the Hongo Campus.

There are still many cultural resources left unintroduced, but we hope you are now interested in discovering and exploring them by yourself too.

Each and every time a cultural resource is recognised, the Hongo Campus changes from being just a campus to a place rich in meanings and nuances.

Come join us in Cultural Resource Studies at the Hongo Campus.

Credits: Story

Courtesy of:
University of Tokyo Archives
University of Tokyo, Faculty of Letters
University of Tokyo, Department of Cultural Resources Studies
Text written by:
- LEE Kah Hui (Avenue of Ginkgo Trees)
- SUNEYA Kohei (Crossroads of Law and Letters)
- OGANE Aki (The Himalayan Cedar)
- KIRIYA Shiene (Graffiti and Posters)
- SHIMIZU Akifumi (The Perimeter Wall)
- AOKI Ran (Remnants of the Kaga Domain Residence)
- MATSUMOTO Reiko (Sewer remains in Front of the General Library)
- KOGUCHI Aoi (The Mandala on the Library Plaza)
All belonged to the Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Tokyo, at the time of writing.
Photo by:
English text proofread by:
LEE Kah Hui
Curated by:

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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