My photo gallery of Kyoto University’s famous Yoshida-ryo, with article, on CNNGo


Dammit, I can smell the rooms in your pictures, Roy.

Said my friend Jon after looking at my piece just published at CNNGo.

Little known outside of Kyoto is the fact that Kyoto University has the last remaining truly old style dormitory, constructed in the late Meiji era timber construction style. Opened in 1913, Yoshida-ryo (吉田寮) still exists nearly 100 years later despite decades of attempts by the school to raze it and replace it with a less scummy and earthquake-unsafe bland concrete box. A relic in both architectural and social terms, it exists today in a weird nebulous state somewhere between an official school dormitory and a giant squat-house.

When I took our friend, and current CNNGo editor, David Marx on a tour of the campus during his brief visit to Kyoto some time last year he demanded that I do a piece on Yoshida-ryō for him, and we finally got it done. For my 20 part photo gallery and a brief history of the dorm, check out my article at CNNGo.

16 thoughts on “My photo gallery of Kyoto University’s famous Yoshida-ryo, with article, on CNNGo”

  1. Photos are awesome. You should do a Kyoto piece for CNNGo – a “tourist’s Kyoto” vs. “unseen Kyoto” side-by-side thing would be great.

  2. That place looks like a death trap. I am surprised it hasn’t burned down or just toppled over. It seems like kind of a mixed blessing that the residents association kept the dorm from being demolished because instead of a nice historic building you get this rotten mess. How often do they even change the tatami?

  3. Looking at the pictures with all the garbage scattered on the floor reminds me of the discussion here about littering in Japan. If students elite enough to get into Kyoto can’t be bothered to use trash bags I don’t think the roadways, beaches, and rivers of Japan stand a chance.

  4. Looking at the pictures with all the garbage scattered on the floor reminds me of the discussion elsewhere about coming bankruptcy of Japan. If students elite enough to get into Kyoto can’t be bothered to live a better life I don’t think the salaryman in Shinbashi and the-ever-complaining-Eikaiwa teachers of Japan stand a chance.

  5. Looking at the pictures with all the garbage scattered on the floor reminds me of the discussion here about boot camp style training for new employees. If students elite enough to get into Kyoto U can’t be bothered to avoid living in squalor like perhaps new Japanese employees do need the Gunnery Sergeant Hartman treatment.

  6. You were allowed to visit their home, and as a thank you note for their warm welcome you post photo`s of their place online with the message downright dirty. This is just consumerism. No background on the dorm and its struggle to survive(the university wants to demolish the place). Nor the importance of a cheap place to live for the not so elite students.

  7. Annadoria, did you actually read the article? I had a strict limit on how many words I could include in that article and some of the history I wrote was edited out, but I still definitely made the point. About half of the article is about the struggle to survive.

    Regarding “the importance of a cheap place to live for the not so elite students”, I also included the following line:

    “While the facilities are sub-par by modern standards, the unbelievably low rent of ¥2,500 per month (technically ¥400 rent, ¥1,600 utilities and ¥500 to fund the Yoshida-ryo Residents Association) and bohemian atmosphere make it an attractive living place for financially challenged students”

    As for the headline calling it “downright dirty” I’ll admit that I don’t really like it, but headlines are written by the editors, not writers and it was posted with that title before I saw it.

  8. In Roy’s defense the article left me thinking that it was cool that these Pigpens have a fight the power social capital thing going on here. (I’d like to have a go on that jyantaku).

  9. M-Bone, they play by kyoto rules. Furiten on genbutsu only. Also, wareme counts for everything, including no-ten bappu and chombo. It’s kinda weird.

  10. Hi there, I posted this to MetaFilter. It’s really great that Marxy et al are actually providing some real insight into Japan on CNN, instead of the usual misinformed stuff cranked out by journos stationed for a couple of years in Japan before being rotated back to Japan.

    Anyway, I thought I would comment on Aceface’s own comment:

    >If students elite enough to get into Kyoto can’t be bothered to live a better life I don’t think the salaryman in Shinbashi and the-ever-complaining-Eikaiwa teachers of Japan stand a chance.

    Have you ever lived in a communal student house? This (the chaotic filthiness) is pretty much par for the course, especially for young Japanese men who typically are barely able to boil water for tea and cup ramen. Actually, these Japanese students get extra points because they’re self-organized, and have kept things going from generation to generation for about 40 years now (since authorities first started applying pressure to close the place down).

  11. Thanks for posting it to MeFi, KokuRyu. The comments there are actually better than they’ve been on the threads CNNgo, Boingboing, or (unusually) even here! It’s nice to see how many people with insight into similar coop or squat style housing in other places are contributing their thoughts.

  12. Kokuryu,that was actually a satirical comment.
    Mine was exactly like that until I got married at the age of 33.The room has ecosystem of it’s own,but my newly bride didn’t take it that way and transformed the entire landscape just like that mining company in AVATAR did to the jungle of Pandora…

    ”Have you ever lived in a communal student house?”

    I occasionally visited the equivalent of Yoshida Ryo of Todai,now-gone Komaba Ryo in Komaba Campus of Todai way back in my college years of early 90’s.I was associated with group of environmentalist and there were inter-university meeting at Komaba Ryo organized by All Japan College Natural Conservation Network or something a like.And I had many chance to spend my time with cans of beer.
    Problem was one of the group that had enlisted with the network seemingly connected with Aum Shinrikyo in clandestine network.(AS had organized various college circles to infiltrate in school campus at the time)

    After I graduated college and few years later,I got a phone call from public security officer from Metropolitan Police,telling me that they had raided one of the Aum Safehouse in Tokorozawa,Saitama in search of runaway Aum member Kikuchi Naoko.From the confiscated PC,cops discovered my name,address and phone number.Which puts me into a little complicated position,since my company had been infiltrated by Aum members and one of the employee had allowed them to enter into the HQ.So cops had suspected I could be an Aum mole or something.

    So yeah,I respect the self organization by student and their struggle against school authority and all.But I also know the other aspects.

  13. Great anecdote Aceface. I assume you’ve read about the closing of the Komaba Ryo?

    http://www.t-shinpo.com/838/komaryo.html

    It definitely has a lot of similarity with the Yoshida-ryo cases, but it seems as if the Kyodai administration has generally been a lot more cautious about being so oppositional to students and other protesters over the past 20 years or so.

  14. I think that’s because Todai is much more reform minded than Kyodai.
    Both Yoshida-ryo and Komaba-ryo were housing way to small numbers of student(and almost no female)while the estate could have been rebuilt and expand vetically.

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