Day in the life: UTokyo edition

16 November 2023

With a month of classes under her belt as well as nearly two months in the city of Tokyo, Isabel takes us through a a typical day

I can finally say I’m developing a routine and adjusting to my new reality. The first few weeks were a chaotic mess of bureaucracy, getting used to being surrounded by the Japanese language and eating lots and lots of good food. However, although none of these things have disappeared, I’ve definitely found a sense of stability in my daily life.

My Friday is the perfect day to get a sense of life as a UTokyo (or tōdai) student - starting strong with an 8.30am class on the Hongo campus! Although I usually take classes on the Komaba campus, I make the trek to the Hongo campus every Friday morning and yes, an 8:30am class start means a 7am wake-up for me… Luckily, since I take most of my classes on the Komaba campus, I can usually avoid the infamous Tokyo rush hour, but Friday mornings, I join the sea of people flowing around the city.

With my Sociolinguistics class over at 10, my friends and I commute back to the Komaba campus for lunch. I would love to stay on the Hongo campus, but my Japanese class awaits me! But before I head off to Japanese, it’s time for lunch…

Both the Komaba and Hongo campuses have several places to get food, from the university co-op shop to the general canteen to the “Italian” cafe (I’ve now learnt to expect a Japanese spin on foreign dishes), but my usual haunt is the school canteen or gakushoku (学食). Serving Japanese classics, e.g., ramen, udon, katsu curry, for only around £2-4, it’s too good a deal to ignore, especially when comparing to London prices!


Now that I’ve had lunch, it’s time for Japanese class! Involving speaking, listening, reading, writing, I feel that my Japanese is improving immensely and that the constant tests are a good way to keep me in check… It’s also important to recognise that living in Tokyo means there is always something to learn from your surroundings (and that Google picture translate will become your best friend).

Now that Japanese is finished, what to do? With another class later this afternoon, studying in the library sounds like a brilliant idea - although not quite UCL Main Library, Komaba Library has beautiful views of the campus’ nature and there is nothing quite like watching a plane in the distance fly over the Tokyo skyline and trees of Tokyo Uni…


And now onto my final class of the day: Language Acquisition, taking place in the iconic UTokyo clock tower building. Fun fact: there is an identical clock tower (as pictured) in the Komaba and Hongo campuses! Taking classes focusing on linguistics here has been great, especially because many of the students are Japanese local students and can give amazing insight into a very different language-learning experience to my own. However, as much as I love this class, now the real fun starts…

Komaba campus has the added benefit of being incredibly close to Shibuya city centre, as well as the trendy Shimokitazawa area, with both being <15 min on the train or if I’m feeling very energetic after all my classes, a 10 min cycle. In previous weeks, I’ve gone for katsu curry in Shimokitazawa followed by a venture into the local jazz and live music bars, getting crepes in Takeshita St, Harajuku, had endless yakitori skewers in Torikizoku before karaoke-ing the night away (and missing the last train at midnight) or simply gotten caught up in the crazy Shibuya Scramble Crossing crowd (although the police presence to combat the Halloween craziness has stepped up this year – see the picture below!).

Coming from London I thought I was used to people, people, people, and the busy city life but truly, Tokyo is another beast. Endless food, endless activities, endless sights to see and I feel I’ve barely scratched the surface.