« Do you hope Yoshida Dorm exist long ? And why ? » a resident asked me for his article in this year’s pamphlet. Unfortunately, amid the joys of living in the Bissau-Guinean countryside, comes the privation of electricity and wifi coverage. I was therefore late in my reply. Too late for him, but fortunately not too late for a direct submission in the pamphlet.
Izumi, here is your answer.
I would reformulate the question as « Will the dormitory continue to be ? », because that’s a question no one wants to answer. By no one, I mean current or previous residents. As the reflection on this issue implies the possibility of a destruction of the dormitory. The destruction or more precisely the extinction of the Yoshida dormitory.
Extinction, because unlike other buildings, the dormitory possesses its own culture and identity, resulting from the thousands of students that enriched its walls, over a hundred years. In this way erasing it to the ground, as planned by Kyoto University’s administration, goes far beyond the « simple » destruction of an historical building but refers, in my opinion, more to the principle of extinction, just as we speak of extinction for the disappearance of living species.
The thought of this possible and maybe imminent future, fills my heart with sorrow. I’m afraid that on my next visit to Japan the dormitory will be no more. That the aged and fading wooden plates of the dorm, seemingly here since and for ever, will have been replaced. Replaced by another one of the poorly designed and impersonal buildings decadent Japanese architects seem to have specialized in for the last decades after thriving for centuries.
I also feel powerless and angry. Powerless because I am so far from you right now. Angry against the blind and stupid administration’s machine, and also a bit angry against myself for leaving you guys. (“Guys”, girls and non gender people all included, you know what I mean, don’t wanna have this text censored.)
In many action and adventure movies you have this recurrent scene, when the protagonist smells danger but returns too late to his village, only to watch it burn and cry powerless in front of gigantic flames knowing his home and loved ones are now gone.
That’s the feeling I have when I ask myself this question.
At the same time, I come from a people that faced total annihilation in the midst of the second world war. The family of my mother had to leave every material goods in order not to be killed. Thankfully they survived – thankfully because otherwise you wouldn’t be reading those lines – but at a great cost.
The material goods they left behind were not only of materialistic importance, but also had a social, cultural and religious importance.
Losing your house to flee in a new country means losing your tools and the architectural knowledge and skills to reproduce it. With the loss of the house comes the loss of the socio-spatial organization of the family and by extension of the whole community you belong to. When moving to a new country with a different language you also lose your own and the specificities of your dialect.
A migration can also imply the loss or rarefaction of the natural resources you previously had, ressources indispensable to the cooking of ancestral recipes or the craft of traditional clothes and ornaments.
The list can go on for a while but I think you get my point. The family of my mother survived but lost its cultural identity.
Now you may ask yourself why is Leo speaking of himself again ?
Because now I ask myself if our family, the family of residents that we form, will face the same fate once the place we consider our home will be destroyed and residents forced to relocate to a new one.
After we lose the current trial, after the appeal to regional court gets rejected, after the appeal to the national court fails as well, what will it be ?
Can the identity of the dorm continue to exist without the building that gave birth to it ?
Can such cultural life continue to thrive in the new dormitory designed to suppress social expression ?
Will most residents move to Kumano dormitory and slowly assimilate themselves to its culture and become either radical leftist zelotes or boring and docile Kyodai students ?
There’s no answer yet to these questions.
Only two things can be done in my opinion :
1. Stand up and fight.
2. Once you lose, continue to carry our memory one way or another.
On my side, once I will live with electricity and wifi again I will work on point 2. but I really hope to get back to you soon to work together on point 1.
I am deeply grateful for the memories we share anyway.
Take care if you’re a resident reading me.
Dare to enter the dorm if you’re a freshman with an existing English level.