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Vol. 80 No. 9 (2004)

Vol. 80 No. 9 (2004)

The Akamon, the symbol of the University of Tokyo

  “Akamon”, which means the Red Gate, holds a special status among the several gates that lead to the campus of the University of Tokyo, widely acknowledged as one of the leading institutions of higher education and research in Japan. The origin of the unofficial but commonly known name, Akamon, should be obvious from its finish of rich red lacquer. Beyond the ordinary function as an entrance to the campus, it is regarded as the symbol of the university because of its historical heritage and its distinct architectural design. For example, graduates of the University of Tokyo are often referred to as “Akamon graduates”. History of the Akamon goes back to the early 19th century. The present University of Tokyo campus was then the site of the manor of one of the most powerful feudal lords, the Maeda family, which ruled a large area surrounding the present Kanazawa City on the Japan Sea side. The family occupied the manor while they stationed in Edo, now Tokyo. The Akamon was built in 1827 in commemoration of marriage of one of the daughters of the 11th Tokugawa Shogun to the 13th head of the Maeda family. Although building such a gate on festive occasions was common those days, the Akamon is the only remaining example, because all other similar gates have been lost to fire and other causes and, once lost, rebuilding was not allowed. The entire Maeda manor property, including the gate, was transferred to the management of the University of Tokyo in 1877. Since then, the gate, which was originally built to welcome a young princess as the bride to the family in 1827, has been welcoming all students and visitors to the University of Tokyo for nearly 130 years. As the finest example of the manor gates in the Edo feudal period, the gate is designated by the Japanese Government as an Important Cultural Property.

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