By Kamiyu Hijikata
As a new PEAK student, the first thing you will do when you arrive in Tokyo is to settle into your new home for the next two to four years, the University of Tokyo’s Komaba International Lodge. I quickly got accustomed to the cosy room, my new neighbours and the shared kitchen facilities in the lodge, followed by my exploration of the areas surrounding the lodge. In just a few short weeks, I realized how lucky I was to be living here, as there are a multitude of aspects that make it the perfect accommodation for PEAK students.
First and foremost, the great thing about the Komaba Lodge is its location. Right next to the Keio Inokashira line’s track and a few minutes walk from Komaba-todaimae Station, its location provides easy access to the university campus, a mere ten-minute walk away. Not being a morning person myself, I cherish the moderate amount of extra sleep I can enjoy in the mornings avoiding the daily hustle on Tokyo’s perpetually crowded trains. Additionally, options of what to do during free periods increase when you have the ability to return to your room. Whether you want to study in the comfort of your own room, take a well-deserved nap to reenergize, take the free time to do some cleaning or cook a homemade lunch, the options will always be there.
Not only is the dormitory close to the campus, one of Tokyo’s most famous city districts, Shibuya, is in close proximity, too. Heading east along the Inokashira line, Shibuya is only a four-minute ride away, or for those feeling more adventurous, a 20-30 minute walk. Here, students can purchase almost anything they need, from clothes (at retailers such as H&M, Uniqlo, Forever 21, ABC mart) and appliances/electronics (Yamada Denki, Bic Camera etc) to various everyday needs at Japan’s ubiquitous 100-yen stores (Daiso, Seria) and Don Quijote. Those looking for a nice meal can find an endless selection of restaurants to choose from, ranging from cheap establishments such as Hanamaru (udon) and Sukiya (donburi – dishes served on a bowl of rice), to more lavish eateries, usually located within department buildings. Entertainment such as bowling alleys, movie theaters and countless karaoke establishments can also be found, and for those over twenty years of age, cheap izakayas exist everywhere. It is extremely beneficial to live so close to an area with a comprehensive assortment of shops and facilities that are accessible at any time of the day.
Heading in the opposite direction, Shimokitazawa is just two stops west from Komaba-todaimae station. Marginally closer than Shibuya, it takes three minutes on the train and approximately 20 minutes on foot. This area offers similar things as Shibuya in terms of food, shopping and leisure activities, but in a smaller, more local area. In addition, Shimokitazawa’s main convenience lies in its two main supermarkets, Ozeki and Foodium that are frequented by the lodge occupants for groceries. Some PEAK students may find particular interest in Kaldi Coffee Farm, a store thats sells a variety of foreign foods that may appeal to those who miss their local delicacies (I was delighted to see Australian Tim Tams when I first visited). Between Shibuya and Shimokitazawa, as well as the several convenience stores in the vicinity of the lodge, there is little that lodge occupants would not be able to purchase within walking distance in either direction.
Apart from the prime location of the lodge, dormitory life in itself has been a very beneficial experience. Having arrived from a multitude of different nations, we were all the epitome of being strangers to each other upon our arrivals. However, living in close proximity with each other has created a situation that quickly cultivated strong friendships amongst us all. Being able to do things such as knocking on a neighbour’s door a few steps away for a late night talk, or taking a spontaneous midnight trip to the convenience store has brought us closer together. Additionally, the common room in the boys’ lodge B is frequently livened by gatherings for birthdays, pizza parties or general dinner relaxation.
The longer I live here, the more thankful I am that we were assigned housing at the Komaba Lodge. While not the most technologically modern building, its convenience has made living alone in a foreign country a much less painful episode than what could have been possible, and I will surely continue enjoying the liveliness and spontaneity that occurs from living here.
Kamiyu Hijikata is a first-year PEAK student at the University of Tokyo.