A personal narrative about the Yoshida-Ryo Dormitory in Kyoto, Japan. Sept. 2018

I needed a cheap place to stay while I was in Kyoto and so it happened that this beautiful Japanese girl, who looked like an Asian Cleopatra, told me about the Yoshida-Ryo dormitory. For as little as¥200 (apx.1.50€) per night one is welcome to stay. I was intrigued and very curious about this place, so I made my way there. 

Yoshida dorm residence banner in the Kanji alphabet, translates to "Celebrate 105 years of residence" Anniversary.     I was lost for quite some time in the huge, modern university campus. And as I was walking around, looking at all those grand scary-looking neo complexes, I couldn’t help but wonder if this 105-year-old wooden utilitarian building I was told about really existed. It was getting late and I was about to leave the campus when suddenly a huge banner caught my eye, it said something in the Kanji alphabet that I couldn’t read, I could only read the number 105 and I thought that must be it.

Yoshida dorm residence banner in the Kanji alphabet, translates to "Celebrate 105 years of residence" Anniversary.

I was lost for quite some time in the huge, modern university campus. And as I was walking around, looking at all those grand scary-looking neo complexes, I couldn’t help but wonder if this 105-year-old wooden utilitarian building I was told about really existed. It was getting late and I was about to leave the campus when suddenly a huge banner caught my eye, it said something in the Kanji alphabet that I couldn’t read, I could only read the number 105 and I thought that must be it.

Yoshida-Ryo entrance.   So I followed a short path lined with tall Gingko trees, the ground covered with bicycles, which is not an unusual sight in Japan. And there I was at the entrance of the Yoshida-Ryo Dormitory. I had a funny feeling in my stomach as I could feel the mysterious, intellectual and historical vibration of this place. I walked in and it felt like crossing the portal into an underworld, something I had only experienced in my dreams while meditating. I had a brief exchange with one student at the reception area who put my name down for my overnight stay. Then he disappeared, in fact everything earthly seemed to have disappeared including myself.

Yoshida-Ryo entrance.

So I followed a short path lined with tall Gingko trees, the ground covered with bicycles, which is not an unusual sight in Japan. And there I was at the entrance of the Yoshida-Ryo Dormitory. I had a funny feeling in my stomach as I could feel the mysterious, intellectual and historical vibration of this place. I walked in and it felt like crossing the portal into an underworld, something I had only experienced in my dreams while meditating. I had a brief exchange with one student at the reception area who put my name down for my overnight stay. Then he disappeared, in fact everything earthly seemed to have disappeared including myself.

A pair of zōri (Japanese sandals) and a pair of crocks, indoors corridor.

A pair of zōri (Japanese sandals) and a pair of crocks, indoors corridor.

An umbrella for the many rainy days in Kyoto.    I was walking around feeling invisible and almost in a trance along those long wooden ghostly corridors. Everywhere I looked, everywhere I walked seemed to open a new universe of wonder and excitement. The corridors and rooms were filled with many objects, that one might call trash, I call it art. It felt like each object fit right in and was supposed to be there to complete the picture. I was completely taken by this wondrous, exotic place that not only hosts students but also chickens, birds, turtles and fish.

An umbrella for the many rainy days in Kyoto.

I was walking around feeling invisible and almost in a trance along those long wooden ghostly corridors. Everywhere I looked, everywhere I walked seemed to open a new universe of wonder and excitement. The corridors and rooms were filled with many objects, that one might call trash, I call it art. It felt like each object fit right in and was supposed to be there to complete the picture. I was completely taken by this wondrous, exotic place that not only hosts students but also chickens, birds, turtles and fish.

A bottle of Sake in the communal kitchen area.

A bottle of Sake in the communal kitchen area.

Kitchen stove.

Kitchen stove.

Oily residues.

Oily residues.

View when doing the dishes.

View when doing the dishes.

Outdoor Yard.    I was captivated by the outdoor area, the sun was setting as I was walking around and it gave the old wooden building a special glow and charm. An explosion of growth and death, nature in its pure wilderness, sweetened by pretty red vibrant flowers that were setting the scene. It was just wonderful and heartwarming to experience such a unique and divine place.

Outdoor Yard.

I was captivated by the outdoor area, the sun was setting as I was walking around and it gave the old wooden building a special glow and charm. An explosion of growth and death, nature in its pure wilderness, sweetened by pretty red vibrant flowers that were setting the scene. It was just wonderful and heartwarming to experience such a unique and divine place.

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Each dorm room has access to the yard.

Each dorm room has access to the yard.

Pad-locked dorm room.    Most rooms were locked with a padlock but I peeked into some vacant rooms and each one of them carried its unique spirit of a long gone history, almost like an old tree that has been standing there forever surviving many earthquakes, typhoons and other hardships.

Pad-locked dorm room.

Most rooms were locked with a padlock but I peeked into some vacant rooms and each one of them carried its unique spirit of a long gone history, almost like an old tree that has been standing there forever surviving many earthquakes, typhoons and other hardships.

A little peek inside.

A little peek inside.

Communal area.

Communal area.

Longing history of past stories, vacant room.

Longing history of past stories, vacant room.

Remains of the past for the future, vacant room.

Remains of the past for the future, vacant room.

Bathroom urinals.

Bathroom urinals.

Bathroom sink and toilet.

Bathroom sink and toilet.

Sadly the future of Yoshida-Ryo Dormitory is unclear. Nearly a century old and probably the last remaining example of the once common Japanese wooden university dormitory is now facing its closure. Kyoto university wants students out of their self-administrated residence. The official reason: safety risk in the event of an earthquake. Although in agreement on this point, students call for restoration instead of deterioration and demolition of their living space. Looking at the long, rigorous history of Yoshida-Ryo dormitory students will not budge this time round either. Yoshida-Ryo Dormitory is a safety net for many students with financial difficulties with a low rent of ¥2,500 (apx.19.50€) per month that certainly takes away the burden of financial anxiety and worries to make ends meet. Watanabe, a former resident, told Yahoo News. “I hope that a place like Yoshida Ryo will always exist in our society. The building itself and the spirit that inhabits the building are inseparable, so if you destroy one of them, you cannot rebuild them easily.” And having experienced this unique place I couldn’t agree more with Watanabe’s words. Destroying Yoshida-Ryo Dormitory would be like uprooting an ancient tree that has outlived many natural disasters but will it outlive the human hazard? I hope it will.

Sadly the future of Yoshida-Ryo Dormitory is unclear. Nearly a century old and probably the last remaining example of the once common Japanese wooden university dormitory is now facing its closure. Kyoto university wants students out of their self-administrated residence. The official reason: safety risk in the event of an earthquake. Although in agreement on this point, students call for restoration instead of deterioration and demolition of their living space. Looking at the long, rigorous history of Yoshida-Ryo dormitory students will not budge this time round either. Yoshida-Ryo Dormitory is a safety net for many students with financial difficulties with a low rent of ¥2,500 (apx.19.50€) per month that certainly takes away the burden of financial anxiety and worries to make ends meet. Watanabe, a former resident, told Yahoo News. “I hope that a place like Yoshida Ryo will always exist in our society. The building itself and the spirit that inhabits the building are inseparable, so if you destroy one of them, you cannot rebuild them easily.” And having experienced this unique place I couldn’t agree more with Watanabe’s words. Destroying Yoshida-Ryo Dormitory would be like uprooting an ancient tree that has outlived many natural disasters but will it outlive the human hazard? I hope it will.