One of my biggest to do’s on my Japan bucket list was go to Tokyo University, the top-ranked university in Tokyo. Why? To absorb the smartness of course 😉. With only a few days left of my week school break from language school, I undertook the solo venture.
Surprisingly, I arrived without a hitch, an accomplishment considering my track record. However, apart from Siri insisting that I have “arrived at my destination”, it was not immediately clear to me. That is, until I found the main gate entrance building, with a few tourists scattered on the front lawn taking pictures and selfies.
The fanciest building of the best university in Japan, aye? I was unimpressed. The dull brown colouring, the patchy lawn, the basic rectangle windows and discoloured bordering arch doesn’t exactly scream elite.
I backtracked to a path next to a football field by the main university road where I had seen, who I assumed was a university student with his grocery bag, cycle towards a residential area. Because, you know, I figure you have to get close to the smartness you want to absorb.
This is when things got interesting as I soon stumbled upon these two lovely German folk when exploring a fork detour from the path.
Look how the nature, the jungle, seems to be itching to overrun this (random) monument (honestly, what is it doing there, LOL). I felt like I was Laura Croft exploring the ruins of a long, forgotten civilisation.
Then, further along, I discover this temple looking building. I thought it was already cool with it’s peaked blue-tiled roofs. But, that was before I noticed that a karate class was being held in it, the shouts ringing out the three wide-open doors separated by large white pillars. And it was before I noticed the uniforms hung up outside, the pile of broken wooden kendo swords and the selection of kendo armour on the outdoor shelves. Then I thought it was totally awesome.
Having practiced martial arts in Australia for quite a few years (part of the reason why I became interested in Japan in the first place), I was super excited to see karate in it’s traditional form.
The path forked again into a forest garden. Having always found Japan’s lush, wild, jungle-like nature and it’s rolling hills beautiful, I was keen to wander around it’s winding paths. Annnnnd, the next thing I find is another magical temple. This time it’s home to a Japanese archery club. I gave a little squeal of excitement when I beheld the scene. A line of men and women, dressed in long black skirts with white tunics, all with armed with a bow a lot taller than their own height, drawing and firing their arrows at straw targets. The long distance group positioned towards the back of the temple, yelled whenever an arrow met its target. Can you get any more… samurai-ey?
While the outer appearance of Tokyo University’s buildings and facilities were disappointing, it was the garden and martial arts clubs that had me wide-eyed and giddy. It made it easy to imagine I was somewhere else, a world that is fantastical and medieval, where the wilderness is still largely untouched and modern distractions are null.
I’ve always felt that Japan is, in this way, almost fantastical. Even with the giant concrete jungle that is Tokyo, shrines and temples are hidden around every corner, and nature runs wild and free wherever it is given room. Unaffected by the modernity, it thrives.
Until next time,