Takuzo Itakura, former Dean of the Faculty of Law before World War II, once called the dormitories at Keio "a microcosm of the institution itself." More than just residential spaces, these dormitories—which have existed since the end of the Edo period, nearly as long as Keio University itself—act as experiential classrooms, instilling the Keio principles of "independence and self-respect" and hangaku-hankyo, roughly translated as "learning while teaching, teaching while learning." In this article, we explore the enduring traditions and educational approaches that have continued to shape Keio University's student dormitories for well over a century.
The origins of Keio University's dormitories can be traced back to the residence of the Nakatsu Domain in Teppozu, Edo (present-day Akashi-cho, Chuo City, Tokyo), where Yukichi Fukuzawa and his students lived and studied together. With an influx of young, promising talent from across the nation, the original living quarters soon proved inadequate, prompting a move to Shiba-Shinzenza in 1868. This new boarding facility, known as Kishukusha, promoted a culture of student self-governance deeply rooted in "independence and self-respect" and featured its own set of community guidelines.
In the aftermath of the Meiji Restoration, a booming student population necessitated yet another relocation—this time to the former residence of the Shimabara Domain, the current site of Mita Campus. The residence, repurposed by Fukuzawa, quickly exceeded its intended capacity and underwent extensive renovations. Though derived from a traditional Japanese residence, this updated structure became a model for modern architecture and is said to have even influenced landmark buildings like the Shinbashi Railway Station. Interestingly, Japan's first-ever consumer co-operative, a forerunner to today's student co-ops, was conceived within its walls.
By the turn of the 20th century, a spacious dormitory designed to house 400 students was built to the north of Mita, where Keio Yochisha Elementary School once stood. Here, the ethos of student self-governance continued to foster a sense of equality between faculty and students within the dormitory community. The facility offered more than just essential amenities such as baths. It also included a barbershop and recreation room. Bedrooms came furnished with beds and steam heating, designed thoughtfully to optimize natural light and airflow, all with a particular emphasis on maintaining a hygienic environment.
By 1917, amid plans to launch a medical school, the dormitory moved to Fukuzawa's Hiroo residence in Tengenji, near the current location of Keio Yochisha Elementary School. The Kishukusha epitomized modern living, boasting amenities like a grand dining hall, baths, a library, and a barbershop. It remained a pivotal part of student life for nearly two decades.
In 1936, the decision was made to relocate Keio Yochisha Elementary School from Mita to the Tengenji dormitory site. This necessitated yet another move for the dormitory, this time to the newly constructed Hiyoshi Campus, where a Preparatory School Building had recently been erected. Completed the following year, the Kishukusha at Hiyoshi was designed by architect Yoshiro Taniguchi. This state-of-the-art structure featured three distinct dormitory wings—North, Central, and South—alongside a separate building housing a kitchen, bathroom, and recreational room. Each dormitory offered private rooms, advanced panel heaters with underfloor water heating, and flush toilets on every floor. The Kishukusha set new standards for student living, bucking the trend for shared rooms to offer private living quarters to students. Each dormitory had a resident supervisor and a deputy supervisor, for a total of six individuals, at least one of whom had to be a qualified physician.
Life at Hiyoshi Kishukusha followed a disciplined regimen. Days began at 7:00 a.m., followed by a communal breakfast at 7:30. Students ate lunch at the dormitory, after which they would return to their classes. The curfew was strictly enforced at 11:00 p.m., and unauthorized overnight stays were not allowed. The bathing facilities included a panoramic bath—nicknamed the "Roman Baths"— which provided sweeping views of peach orchards that stretched all the way to Tsunashima. Ice cream vendors visited the dormitory and even offered a convenient month-end payment system to the delight of the students there.
In 1944, the Kishukusha closed its doors as World War II escalated. During the conflict, it was repurposed to accommodate senior officers of the Imperial Navy. Following the war, the dormitory, along with other campus facilities, was requisitioned by the General Headquarters (GHQ) of the Allied Forces.
Despite these challenges, Keio University recognized the critical need for student housing for the many young people studying here. Thus, while Hiyoshi was under GHQ occupation, makeshift dormitories sprang up near temporary school structures in areas like Ikuta, Fuchu, Suginami, and Koganei.
As soon as GHQ's occupation ended in 1950, Keio quickly restored its Central dormitory. The following year, the university repurposed four Quonset hut barracks left by GHQ, which it used as dormitories. Due to their D-shaped design, these were colloquially termed "kamaboko (fishcake) barracks." Notably, two female students were admitted to the dormitories for the first time during this period.
Currently, Keio University has a total of 11 dormitories, which include the Hiyoshi Kishukusha, Shimoda Student Village, Omori Student Dormitory, Tsunashima Student Dormitory, Motosumiyoshi Kishukusha, Hiyoshi International Dormitory, Motosumiyoshi International Dormitory, Tsunashima SST International Dormitory, Takanawa International Dormitory, Shonan Fujisawa International Dormitory, and H (Eta) Village, which opened this spring on Shonan Fujisawa Campus. Additionally, there are two dormitories exclusively available to international students.
These dormitories continue to uphold their traditions of self-governance while also serving as platforms for cross-cultural and interdisciplinary dialogue that transcends geographical, departmental, and academic boundaries. Many have adopted the Resident Assistant (RA) system, where Japanese students living in dormitories aid international students in acclimating to daily life in Japan. This RA system, which Keio University is said to have introduced to Japan, embodies the foundational Keio principle of hangaku-hankyo, or "learning while teaching, teaching while learning." Through this system, resident assistants themselves learn and grow while aiding their international counterparts.
These dormitories thus function as living embodiments of Keio University's core philosophies: fostering "independence and self-respect" and the reciprocal growth process of hangaku-hankyo. They act as incubators for "leaders in society" and individuals who stand as the "source of honorable character and paragons of intellect and morals." As the introductory statement from the Meiji era affirms, "The dormitories at Keio University are a microcosm of the institution itself," underscoring that this approach to student living has been integral to Keio for well over a century.
*This article originally appeared in Stained Glass in the 2023 Spring edition (No. 318) of Juku.