Once upon a time, many years ago – just 20 years ago, in fact – I was living in a dormitory. I was 18 and a first-year student. I was new to Tokyo and new to living alone, and so my anxious parents found a private dorm for me to live in rather than the kind of single room that most students took. The dormitory provided meals and other facilities and would probably help their unworldly 18-year-old survive. . .
The paved path leading from the gate circumvented the tree and continued on long and straight across a broad quadrangle, two three-story concrete dorm buildings facing each other on either side of the path. They were large with lots of windows and gave the impression of being either flats that had been converted into jails or jails that had been converted into flats. However there was nothing dirty about them, nor did they feel dark. You could hear radios playing through open windows, all of which had the same cream-coloured curtains that the sun could not fade.
Beyond the two dormitories, the path led up to the entrance of a two-story common building, the first floor of which contained a dining hall and bathrooms, the second consisting of an auditorium, meeting rooms, and even guest rooms, whose use I could never fathom. Next to the common building stood a third dormitory, also three storeys high. Broad green lawns filled the quadrangle, and circulating sprinklers caught the sunlight as they turned. Behind the common building there was a field used for baseball and football, and six tennis courts. The complex had everything you could want.1
The Student Room
When you read this description through the eyes of Watanabe, the 18-year-old protagonist of Haruki Murakami’s novel Norwegian Wood, the student room – as the first (in)dependent residence after the first stage of life (namely as a child who is part of a protected family life) has been completed – can be seen as the starting point for the next phase: life as an independent, young adult scholar-in-training. The universe described by Murakami is the campus of a private university in Tokyo, where the main building, three residence halls, and sports fields form the main elements.
- Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood (London: Vintage, 2012), 16-17. Passages from the novel Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami (original title: Noruuei no mori), which was first published in 1987, and in which the protagonist Watanabe describes how, as an 18-year-old, he wound up in his first student room on the campus of a private university in Tokyo in the late 1970s.