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Student life immediately after the war

Standing among ruins

Waseda University Archives
Hisanori Ito

On the night of May 25, 1945, the area around Waseda University was pummeled by bombing raids by US armed forces. Around one-third of school buildings were consumed by flames as sparks flowed from ground hill to campus.

Over time, students returned from the battlefield, barracks installations, and mobilization units to the unrecognizable north-west of Tokyo. With little to no obstructions blocking one’s view on the scorched earth, views of the sunset and Mt. Fuji were said to beautiful. The sense of liberation and the opportunity to study once again filled students with joy, but most were concerned with finding a way to make a living.

Waseda University Senior High School located in present day Toyama campus before calamity struck (1924)

Waseda University Senior High School after the US bombing raids (May, 1945)

For most demobilized students, part-time work was unavoidable. Tutoring opportunities decreased dramatically after the war and as a result most students resorted to physical labor jobs in storehouses and as assistants for public work projects. The predecessor of today’s Student Cooperative, the Student Mutual Aid Association, was established in May, 1946 to provide students with necessary goods and facilities. There was an earnest desire to help students during these troubling times.

Amidst these difficult circumstances were faculty members returning from deployment and living their lives out on campus. Examples include the chief librarian who lived in the library’s basement and a newly-wed assistant who lived in the School of Law’s attic.

Classes resumed one month after the end of the war. Regardless of their unstable livelihoods and physical exhaustion, there is no doubt that as they lined up without their mobilized uniforms and listened to their teachers, students felt the start of a new beginning.

There were a total of eleven departments at Waseda when the university was reformed in April, 1949. Five of these departments (Politics and Economics, Law, Literature, Commerce, and Science and Engineering) were held at night to accommodate working students.

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