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By Nina Belova

Marvelous works of El Greco, Mucha, Rousseau, Van Gogh, Da Vinchi, Rubens, Michelangelo, and… The collection of ancient Greece and China, Gandhara style Buddhist art, post-war California style design, 20th century’s naïve art, and so on.

Can you guess what the list above is?

They all are the works I had seen during my first year in Tokyo in 2013. You may be surprised that Tokyo has such a rich art environment. Tokyo is just a city on a small island in a part of Asia, and it has no world famous museums with a mammoth collection. However, as Dr. Atsushi Miura, professor of art at the University of Tokyo, says, no other city in the world holds so many and diverse exhibitions almost every day as Tokyo. Most of them are well-balanced, well-organized exciting exhibitions that give the viewer inspiration and great pleasure.

Drawing of Bldg. 101 at the Komaba Campus by author.

Drawing of Bldg. 101 at the Komaba Campus by author.

However, the art education Todai offers in the first two years at Komaba is far behind the city’s advanced view towards fine art. To my disappointment, the art scene at Komaba is not rich enough when compared to all the academic environment this campus has. Only 5 classes were offered that were related to fine art this academic year. In none of them students can pick up a paint brush. Also, it seems that not so many students have an interest in this field. How many of them have ever visited the Komaba Museum? Take a look at circle activities. There are only 3 art-related circles (including manga) in Todai, which is far less than the 41 musical circles.

This shows that art education is considered to be of little significance at this university, though the first two years at Komaba are aimed to provide students with “a comprehensive liberal arts education encompassing the humanities and sciences” according to the official homepage of the College of Arts and Sciences. Can we exclude fine arts, one of the greatest ways to look into human spirit and history, from the curriculum of the best university in Japan?

Perhaps the lack of art education is a fundamental problem that Japanese education system has as a whole, not only Todai. There are many examples that illustrate this problem, but few solutions. However, we can only blame Todai for making little of art after taking full advantage of what it already offers us. Let me give you two examples. First, advanced tickets for art exhibits are sold at the university COOP. You can save your time and money by purchasing tickets on campus than at the museum counter. Second, the University of Tokyo is a member of the “National Museums Campus Members” system. This allows all Todai students to see the permanent collections at national museums for free, and their special exhibitions for a discounted price.

Some of you may say, “Why don’t you go to an art school instead of Todai, then?” Of course that is a choice, too, but I believe that art can be at its height when combined with other intellectual fields like science or psychology, about which Todai knows very well. Also, many students have hidden talent and passion for artistic expressions. Every month there is a new signboard for a play production at the main entrance, which makes me stop for a while. Think of how many attractive signs and T-shirt designs saw at the Komaba Festival!

I hope someday the university will be able to support us properly by providing more opportunities related with art. In addition, I want more students at Komaba to make full use of the rich environment they have in Tokyo.

“Tough and Global”? That’s great, but let me say, “Todai, be Creative!”

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