Cultural resources in the Hongo Campus of the University of Tokyo - Part 2

Unusual finds, at unusual locations

By University of Tokyo

University of Tokyo

The statue of HAMAO Arata and the Himalayan cedarOriginal Source: KIRIYA Shiene

The Himalayan Cedar

Along the road between the Yasuda Auditorium and the Ikutokuen Garden (where the Sanshiro Pond is located), there is a statue of HAMAO Arata, who served as the President of the Tokyo Imperial University from 1905-12. In the surroundings of the statue, the Himalayan cedar can be seen towering high amongst the other trees.

The Himalayan cedar and stone monumentOriginal Source: KIRIYA Shiene

Going inside and towards the back of Ikutokuen, you can find a small and unassuming stone stele at the foot of the Himalayan cedar tree. This stele was built in 1907 by MATSUMOTO Momozō, a university staff member who made 300 Himalayan cedar cuttings at the instruction of the then-President HAMAO Arata. Only one out of all developed roots and thrived, and that is the Himalayan cedar next to the HAMAO Arata statue.

An ink rubbing of the letters on the surface of the stone stele was taken as follows.

The Himalayan cedar inscriptionOriginal Source: OGANE Aki, LEE Kah Hui, MATSUDA Akira

In the spring of 1907, the late President HAMAO Arata ordered me to make cuttings of Himalayan cedars. Hence I made over 300 cuttings, but none of them took root except for one. That sole seedling is this tree. It even survived the fires caused by the Great Kanto Earthquake on 1 September 1923, and thrived, as if to celebrate the bright future of the university. This year, September 1928, with permission, this monument was built beside the tree to explain its origins.   

Elderly servant of the university for more than 40 years, MATSUMOTO Momozō.

Behind the achievements of HAMAO Arata, known as the civil engineering president, there was a person who succeeded in growing one Himalayan cedar, which was considered an alien species at the time in 1907, and watched over this tree that withstood the Great Kanto Earthquake, and built this stele in 1928.

The graffiti in white letters reading ‘anti-centennial’ written on the wall of the porch of the Yasuda AuditoriumOriginal Source: KIRIYA Shiene

Graffiti and Posters

At the mention of student movements in the University of Tokyo, one might think of the 1969 “Yasuda Auditorium Incident” whose aerial photos are well-known. However, student activism did not disappear after that incident. Graffiti drawn in the 1970s and 80s as well as the posters that were put up in the same period can still be found in the campus.

“Anti-centennial (反百年)” can be read from the letters in white on the façade of Yasuda Auditorium. This was probably written amidst the movement against the 1977 celebration of the university’s 100th anniversary.

A poster adhered to the emergency exit of the Faculty of Engineering Building 5Original Source: KIRIYA Shiene

In the poster adhered to the emergency exit of the Faculty of Engineering Building 5, one can read “Wreck the 60th anniversary of the Emperor’s Ascension (天皇在位60年粉砕), 29 April ‘86. Wreck the ‘Ceremony of the 60th anniversary of the Emperor’s Ascension’! Stop the nationalisation of the Yasukuni Shrine! Do not allow the nationalistic restructuring of education!”

The graffiti in black letters reading ‘Southern Court’ written on the outer wall of the Experimental Tank RoomOriginal Source: KIRIYA Shiene

The letters “Southern Court (南朝)” are visible on the outer wall of the Experimental Tank Room.

The “anti-centennial” in protest of the 1977 celebration of the university’s 100th anniversary, the “Wreck the 60th anniversary of the Emperor’s Ascension to the Throne” from 1986, and “the Southern Court" whose origin and intention remain unknown…. None of these has been intentionally preserved, but they have nonetheless survived to the present day. 

These graffiti tell us today that to the students of that time, universities were not simply just spaces for research.

The graffiti in whilte letters written on the brick wall of the Main GateOriginal Source: KIRIYA Shiene

With a closer look, traces of history that are not mentioned in any textbook can be found.

A karakasa-kozō (唐傘小僧; a mythical yōkai in Japanese folklore) is drawn, presumably with chalk, on the brick wall at the Main Gate.

The graffiti depicing a mythcal ghost 'karakasa kozō' on the brick wall of the Main GateOriginal Source: KIRIYA Shiene

On a different part of the same brick wall, one can read, on the left, “On 20 October 1940, I came here for the first time (昭和十五年 十月二十日 コヽニ初メテ來タ)”, written probably with a pencil. 

Who exactly wrote this? Was it a student from somewhere or a rare tourist who came from far away? Or was it, perhaps, more recent where someone decided to play a prank by making a seemingly old graffiti?

On the right, you can read “6 1948 (昭和二十三年 六)”.

Universities were by no means spaces simply for the usage by its students and staff members. It is also where the anonymous gradually and quietly engraved traces of their presence on the campus.

Part 2 of our story comes to an end here.

In the final Part 3, we dig even deeper into 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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