The Yoshida Dormitory Old Darkroom


KANTA Nomura

from Japan

About the Book

While continuing to document the 109-year-old Yoshida Dormitory of Kyoto University, the oldest existing student dormitory in Japan, I discovered an old darkroom that still exists in the dormitory. By developing the photographs I had recorded on the photographic paper left in the darkroom, I attempted to burn the time and memories that had accumulated in the Yoshida Dormitory.

It was the spring of 2019 when I first opened the door to the darkroom in the Yoshida dormitory. This darkroom had been unattended for more than 30 years, dusty and like a junkyard. In fact, it had been more than ten years since I started taking pictures of Yoshida Dormitory, but even though I knew of the existence of the darkroom, I had never bothered to open the door. This was because it was located in a particularly dark place at the end of a long corridor, and the darkness that peeked through the door was secretive and eerie. The time suddenly came. I pushed open the hard door of the darkroom. In the dimness, a ray of light leaked through a torn blackout curtain, and dust danced quietly. The air was tranquil but heavy, as if it had been vacuum-packed for a long time. The clutter had been abandoned at a certain point in time. And among the rubble-like oversized garbage, I found photographic paper from that time, covered with dust and mold. What if I could burn new photos of Yoshida Dormitory onto the old photographic paper that had absorbed so much time? With this idea in mind, I restored the old darkroom, which had been neglected for a long time, so that it could once again be used as a darkroom. In this special darkroom, I began printing. The old photographic paper formed an image on the silver particles in the developing solution. The photosensitive agent in the photographic paper had deteriorated, and the shading of the blacks and the sharpness of the image were different from the usual results. It was frustrating, but it was a strange sensation of something overlapping with the photograph I had taken. I felt as if I were facing the memories that had accumulated in this place, and that my record of more than ten years was coming into focus with the memories of the past. Although located in a student dormitory, this isolated space became even quieter at dawn. As if to signal the beginning of a play, the morning sun began to faintly leak through the dark curtains. The cool night air still lay in the long corridor.

This is the story of the Yoshida Dormitory, the oldest student dormitory in Japan.

The Kyoto Imperial University dormitory, the predecessor of Yoshida Dormitory, was established in 1897, more than 100 years ago. The Yoshida Dormitory is a self-governing dormitory that has been run by students themselves for a long time. It was also a place where a lot of people from inside and outside of the university gathered for the performance of plays and music and fostered student culture.

In recent years, the dormitory students have been at odds with the university, which has been demanding that they all leave the dormitory due to the building’s age. However, in April 2019, the university finally filed a lawsuit against the dormitory students, demanding that they vacate the building. The dormitory students disagreed. They have asked for a withdrawal, but the conflict continues.