Universities lure students with upscale dorms

by Masaaki Kameda

Staff Writer

Universities in Japan are doing everything they can to attract students amid the aging society and decline in young people.

One approach to lure applicants is to provide dormitories with state-of-the-art facilities.

Takushoku University opened a dormitory in April last year at its Hachioji campus in western Tokyo. The orange and brown College House Fuso complex includes four four-story buildings and a three-floor one. They only admit residents who have cleared its strict security system.

There are 405 individual rooms in the dorm, each just over 17.5 sq. meters and featuring a bath, toilet, kitchen, bed, desk and a chair. The rent is ¥58,000 a month, which also includes two meals a day.

The dorm also boasts a cafeteria, a convenience store and a bicycle shop for students.

What makes Takushoku’s Hachioji dorm unique is its upmarket facilities — a large bathing area featuring a sauna and whirlpool spa, and a training gym — for use by dorm residents only.

Sophomore Sayaka Ozawa, a resident, said she enjoys life in the dorm and has no major complaints or has not come across many inconveniences. She said the big bathing area is one of the biggest attractions.

“You can make friends while bathing together. It’s a good place to communicate with fellow students.”

This student house is the product of “cooperation between the college and the private sector,” said Mitsuo Nakahora, a Takushoku University official.

“We decided to work together with a private firm to do something new, based on new ideas we couldn’t come up with by ourselves, in order to attract students in a society with fewer children,” he said.

The dormitory was built by Kyoto-based J.S.B. Co., which manages apartment complexes for students around the country. Under a 30-year contract with the university, the company shouldered all construction costs and will receive all the rent money, while the university provides the land for free, according to Nakahora, chief of the section handling campus life.

Nakahoro said the arrangement is probably the first between a college and a private firm.

Even though the dorm boasts modern conveniences, Nakahora said he did not expect to see 400 applicants, its maximum level, because students generally prefer to live off-campus. He was thus surprised by the 650 applications that came in before the dorm even opened.

This year, the university again received more applications than available rooms: 450 students applied for the 150 rooms available.

Nakahora said a parent even asked him at a recent open campus event how to get an offspring accepted by the dorm. He believes the facility has helped the university’s enrollment.

“The existence of this dorm apparently convinces students to consider Takushoku as an option when they apply for university.”

The Chuo University International Residence in Hino, also in western Tokyo, is unique in that it used to be one of the units that made up the Tamadaira Housing Complex built in 1960.

The university leased a building from ReBITA Inc., which renovated the building and, under a five-year contract, in March 2011 began using it as a dorm to house both domestic and international students.

ReBITA is a Tokyo-based firm specializing in renovations of old offices and apartment buildings.

In 2010, ReBITA offered the apartment building to the university after college officials discussed the need for an international dorm, according to Shinya Aoyagi, assistant section chief of the university’s international center.

“We came to the conclusion we needed a dorm for exchange students from abroad and Japanese students who come from the countryside. And we wanted to rejuvenate the campus (with an international dorm).”

The four-story dorm now houses 57 students, including 28 from the United States, United Kingdom, France, China, South Korea and Taiwan.

With an individual room allocated to each student, the dorm has a common area where they can get together to cook or hold meetings. The dorm offers students privacy and at the same time affords them opportunities to interact, Aoyagi said.

Yu Nakamura, a senior who has lived in the facility since April 2012, said life with other students is fun and he has learned a lot from the exchange students who also live there.

“We talk a lot until late at night, and hold events together. Sometimes Japanese students take foreign students to famous tourist spots, such as Tsukiji and Akihabara, in Tokyo. I could learn the difference of cultures and ways of thinking.”

One of the merits of living in a dorm adjacent to other housing units in the complex, Aoyagi said, is that students have the chance to mingle.

“Students can interact with people who live in other buildings through various events,” he said.

Another facility is Shibaura Institute of Technology’s Global Dormitory in Omiya, Saitama Prefecture, which opened at the beginning of the new academic year in April.

“Many engineering major students will have opportunities to work abroad to use their expertise, rather than students who major in liberal arts, because of increased business chances amid globalization,” said Yong Jin Chung, general manager of the institute’s academic affairs division.

“It’s necessary to interact with people who have different cultural backgrounds to broaden their education and develop a global view in engineering.”

Chung expects dormitory life to be meaningful for students as it requires a good deal of communication and mutual understanding.

The benefits are well worth the effort, he added.

Currently, the Global Dormitory has 103 students, 29 of them from abroad, including from Vietnam, Malaysia, China and South Korea.

“Stable housing supply for students from abroad is part of the strategy to increase the number of international students and for the globalization of our university,” Chung said.

  • kyushuphil

    Good — architecture indeed can help bring people better together.

    One thing this article is missing, however, is some focus on the dining areas — do they also encourage more discussion, more mingling?

    And, too, what about the carry-over into class time? Do the students energized by better human connections in their dorms also dare to ask better questions, or even any questions at all, in the classes where all have too long been nortoriously passive?

  • http://www.facebook.com/leon.torres.52 Leon Torres

    yeah that sounds nice for rich people …
    unfortunately rich kids (even in japan) don’t want to do anything important with their own lives (like taking engineering, medical or more socially impacting professions)

    and even more unfortunate is that japan likes to relax (not to say forget) its own rules for admission for Chinese and Native English speakers

    and I know what I am talking about