JSPS Quarterly
No.60 2017 Summer

Introducing Japan: Tokyo-The University of Tokyo and Its Neighborhood

Dr. Suang Suang Koid

My lab is based at the University of Tokyo (also known as “Todai”). Todai has five campuses: Hongo, Komaba, Kashiwa, Shirokanedai and Nakano. The Hongo campus is built on the location of the previous Maeda Clan residence in the Edo Period. One of the famous landmarks on the campus is the Akamon gate, or Red Gate. In 1827, Lord Nariyasu Maeda built the gate to welcome his bride, Lady Yasu, who was the daughter of the 11th Tokugawa shogun. It is said that the gate was painted red in accordance with the conventional practice when marrying a shogun’s daughter. The Akamon gate in Hongo is designated a national treasure, being the only such gate still in existence.

With her husband in springtime Ueno Park

Next to the Akamon, there is a row of gingko trees, whose fan-shaped leaves are the symbol of the University of Tokyo. Every summer the trees are lush and green, but by autumn their leaves turn yellow and the distinct scent of gingko nuts fills the air. It is common to see people scavenging for the ripe nuts that fall off the trees. When the temperature drops, fallen leaves from the trees carpet the streets running through the campus in yellow. I love seeing the trees go through this transformation in the different seasons.

Red Gate at Hongo Campus
 on the map of Japan

The Hongo campus is a short walk from Ueno Park and Shinobazu Pond, which are famous spots for viewing spring cherry blossoms. There are about 600 yoshino cherry trees in the park. Every year between mid-March and mid-April, large crowds of people lay plastic sheets under the cherry trees, and enjoy chatting, eating and drinking with friends and colleagues while viewing the blossoms. During the evening in the cherry blossom season, the park is illuminated with 1,000 lanterns, celebrating the arrival of spring and the end of the winter cold!

page top

JSPS Quarterly No.60 2017