Tokyo University (Tokyo Daigaku)

Lonely Planet review

Most kids in Japan dream of gaining admission to Tokyo University, Japan’s most prestigious institution of higher learning. As with the Ivy League colleges and Oxbridge in the US and UK, admission here practically assures later admission to the halls of power in both business and government. With that in mind, high-school students spend years studying at home and in cram schools for Tōdai’s rigorous admission exam. The campus itself is not beautiful, but does hold historical interest. In 1968–69 Tōdai became the centre of a national crisis when students thrice took over the main administrative building, Yasuda Hall, ousting the school’s president and other administrators before finally being ousted themselves. In order to make an example of the students, police employed tear gas as well as blasting the students’ stronghold with fire hoses on national TV in what came to be called the battle of Yasuda castle. Today, students at Tōdai are a bit more tame, and have a reputation among the Japanese as being somewhat conservative, stodgy and eccentric in comparison to other university students. Regardless of their disposition, standing among the hallowed halls of Japan’s top university is a memorable experience, even if only to rub shoulders with the future Japanese elite.