ICU Dorms Explained: The Pros and Cons of Dormitories at International Christian University Tokyo

The most common question I get asked at ICU (International Christian University) on my blog is “Why did you want to come to Japan?” The second most common question is “Why aren’t you living in the dorms?”

Both questions have complicated answers, but I think no one really cares about the first question. The second question is the most useful, mostly because I didn’t realize how “unique” ICU dorm life was until I actually got to campus. I wish someone had warned me.

Zelkova House is connected to the Cafeteria

Zelkova House is connected to the Cafeteria

So now, if you’re applying to ICU, here is a quick breakdown of the dorms:

Quick note: Dorm meetings are really serious at ICU (except for Global House – meetings at Global House are serious, but if you miss one, it’s not the end of the world). If you miss a meeting for whatever reason, expect to get in trouble. It’s like you’ve “let everyone down.” Most dorms will make you write an apology note and make you read it out at the next dorm meeting. So don’t skip the dorm meetings.

Also, this is my personal blog about ICU / living in Japan. Most of it is only my opinion. Everyone has different experiences.

Oak House, Gingo House, and Zelkova House: These dorms are the newest. They also essentially feel like a really clean prison/hospital. Apparently the Emperor’s granddaughter is studying at ICU. Actually, right now she’s abroad, so I haven’t met here. Rumor goes that when she was thinking of applying to ICU, they made these dorms for her, updated with all sorts of security measures.

But then she decided to live off-campus and commute.

These dorms are full of wide spaces, un-painted cement walls, large glass windows, and ample lightings. They do not allow visitors – not even into the lobby. By “visitors,” I mean they do not allow anyone who lives outside the dorm to take a step inside the dorm. I lived in Oak House during the summer program at ICU; it drove me crazy. It’s really difficult to hang out with friends if you live in these dorms.

The front of Oak House

The front of Oak House

Each resident has a special key card that activates next to a sensor and opens the door. The system then registers you as “inside” the building. To get onto your floor (segregated by genders) or inside the building, you have to use your special card, However, if you forget to swipe “out” of the building (like, for instance if you are walking with a group of friends), the system registers you as still “inside” the building. It has no way of knowing you are actually “outside.” So then, when you try to swipe “in” at the front door, it won’t let you. Then you’re just stuck waiting until someone comes by and saves you.

I was once late to class (by about 15 minutes) because I couldn’t get the door on my floor to open. It was awful.

I had already decided I would live in my own apartment off-campus in Mitaka once the summer program finished. I don’t do well with rules and restrictions. Since International Christian University is in Mitaka, Tokyo – rent was fairly cheap.

The rooms for Oak House, Zelkova House, and Gingo House Dorm

The rooms for Oak House, Zelkova House, and Gingo House Dorm

Pros: High security = very safe. You have a roommate to talk to. Lots of closet space. The Kitchen is beautiful, with rice cookers, several refrigerators, a water heater, and a full assortment of pots, pans, plates, bowls, and utensils. Everything is always very clean. It’s easy to make friends.

Cons: High security = limited freedom. If you lose your special card, it’s a pain to replace. You can’t bring any of your friends over to study. It’s really hard to date (or get any action). It’s really hard to meet people outside the dorm. You can’t swipe out of the building after 10:00pm. It’s really expensive.

Canada House: Canada House is a men’s dorm. I’ve never lived there, but I visit all the time. All the people I’ve met in Canada House are wonderful; it has a great community. It’s a much older dorm, so the rent is cheap(ish).

They have a nice common room with a  tv and a fun tatami smoking room. I like to go over to Canada House to play video games and hang out with friends.

Canada House Dorm

Canada House Dorm

Girls aren’t allowed into the rooms, but can hang out in the common room. You can bring girls back to your room… but they will know. I’ve had friends get caught and given warnings. I guess they threaten to kick you out – but I don’t know if that actually happens.

Pros: All male. Has a great mix of international, study abroad, four year students, and traditional Japanese students. Has a great community. Good for smokers. Have roommate to talk to. Rent is cheap. Girls and outside students can visit.

Cons: All male. Can’t bring girls back to your room/have them spend the night. Dorm is old.

Global House: Global house is where a bulk of the yearlong international students live. When I was still considering living in the ICU dorms, I was going to live at Global House. A lot of my friends live there, so I visit pretty often.

The front doors are automatic; residents have the pass code. Visitors have to sign in at the front desk in a large book. You write the name of the person you are visiting, their room number, and the time you entered. When you leave, you write your sign-out time.

Anyone can visit, boys, girls, parents, friends, friends who don’t go to ICU, and family members. No one can spend the night, though. Visitors have to leave and sign out by a certain time every night (I forget).

Global House Dorm

Global House Dorm

One of the best qualities of Global House is the fact that everyone gets their own room. Floors are segregated by gender and broken up into pods or suites. Each suite has four rooms; each room has one person. The suites are have a kitchen with a refrigerator, oven, and basic kitchen necessities. Suites are usually decked out with couches, rugs, chairs, and possibly a tv. Each suite comes with a wooden table and chairs.

From a Global House resident: “It has no curfew! You can come and go whenever you please, and have visitors over from 9am to 11pm, except for over exam periods.”

Global House gives you the chance to live alone (not having to deal with a roommate) while still having suitemates to hang out with. I think that is a wonderful system.

No doubt about it, if Global House allowed overnight visitors, I would have lived there. But when I applied, I had a serious boyfriend – now he’s my fiancé, and several friends from America who wanted to visit me/stay with me for about a week and travel through Japan. I had issues with living somewhere that wouldn’t even allow my sister to spend the night.

Pros: You get your own room but still have suitemates. Everything is clean. The common room is well furnished. Visitors can go to your room. All your friends can visit. Great community. Great mix of Japanese and foreign students.

Cons: Kind of expensive. Overnight visitors aren’t allowed.

Dialogue House: Dialogue House is where one-term study abroad students. If students who are studying abroad at ICU for only one semester choose to live on campus, they are required to live in Dialogue House. Per usual, there are always exceptions, some one-term students successfully applied to and lived in other dorms.

Dialogue House is actually located on top of the cafeteria. It encompasses several floors. Like Oak, Zelkova House, and Gingo House, it is a new dorm. And just like them, it is also very clean and hospital-like. It’s also expensive.

Dialogue House

Dialogue House

You need to swipe your student card to use the elevator near the cafeteria to get up to your rooms. Visitors can visit, but men can’t go inside women’s rooms and vice versa. Everyone breaks that rule for the first month or so until someone gets caught and the dorm parents threaten to kick them out.

Then everyone behaves.

Each floor has a common room that overlooks campus. The common room has a mini kitchenette – with a microwave and basic necessities – but there are no cooking materials. If you live in Dialogue House you will probably have to eat in the cafeteria most meals.

The rooms are huge, with full desks and lots of storage space.

ICU's Dialogue House

ICU’s Dialogue House

Pros: Roommate to talk to. Large, spacious rooms. Plenty of storage space. Rooms are clean and safe. Visitors can visit. Connected to the cafeteria, so you don’t have to go outside to get food. Great view of campus.

Cons: Expensive. The opposite sex can’t visit your room. No overnight visitors. No kitchen. Only foreign students, no Japanese students. Reminds me of a hospital.

Second Women’s Dorm, Third Women’s Dorm, Fourth Women’s Dorm: I don’t know much about these dorms. I have a couple friends that live in 3rd Women’s Dorm. All I know is it’s apparently a great community, guys can’t visit, and they sneak guys in all the time.

Pros: Roommate to talk to. Rent is very cheap. The rooms are nice. Great way to practice Japanese. Fun community. Great bond with the men’s dorms.

Cons: Men can’t visit. Men can’t spend the night. You have a roommate. You have to change your roommate once a year and roommate assignments are random (you can’t choose your roommate). Not a lot of storage space.

Second Men’s Dorm.

Just like the “Women’s Dorms,” I don’t know much about the men’s dorms (except that there’s only one of them). It’s supposed to be a great community, though.

Second Men's Dorm

Second Men’s Dorm

Pros: Roommate to talk to. Rent is very cheap. The rooms are nice. Great way to practice Japanese. Fun community. Great bond with the women’s dorms.

Cons: Women can’t visit. Women can’t spend the night. You have a roommate. You have to change your roommate once a year and roommate assignments are random (you can’t choose your roommate). Not a lot of storage space.

For more information about the dorms, including price and capacity, check the ICU website.

If you have any additional questions about the International Christian University Dormitories, just leave a comment in the section below and I can ask around for you!

Add me on Google Plus: +Grace Buchele

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4 responses to “ICU Dorms Explained: The Pros and Cons of Dormitories at International Christian University Tokyo

  1. You forgot to mention the dorm meetings. They make me so glad I’m not living in one of the dorms. In Global House it seems to be fine if you miss a meeting, but one of my friends in second or third women’s dorm said that if she misses a meeting or is late, she has to write a letter of apology and read it out during the next meeting.

  2. Another point about Global House: It has no curfew! You can come and go whenever you please, and have visitors over from 9am to 11pm, except for over exam periods.

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