University of Tokyo

Tokyo, Japan | C.1925

Photo Credit: Accidentally Wes Anderson

The University of Tokyo is a public research university widely considered the most selective and prestigious in Japan. Established in 1877, it serves about 30,000 students across five campuses. Its faculty, researchers, and graduates count seventeen prime ministers, sixteen Nobel laureates, and three astronauts, among other luminaries.

Early in the twentieth century, prominent entrepreneur Yasuda Zenjiro was concerned that the esteemed institution did not have a building grand enough to receive the Japanese emperor on his visits to the capital. So he took it upon himself to donate the funds to construct the dynamic Yasuda Auditorium. The iconic brick clock tower and atrium were completed in 1925 and became the new symbol of UTokyo.

Yasuda unfortunately never got to see his building; he was killed in 1921 by a nationalist enraged by Yasuda’s refusal to offer money to a struggling worker’s hotel. He was mourned by many whom he never met…most notably his great-granddaughter, Yoko Ono. According to a biographer, when her husband John Lennon first saw Yasuda’s photograph, he said, “That’s me in a former life,” to which Ono replied, “Don’t say that. He was assassinated.”

📖 Featured on Page 310 of AWA, The Book 📖

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