Drs. Ikuko and Hiroshi Mizukami were in the first class at ICU. They currently reside in Southern California and continue to be actively involved in the alumni association there. We asked them to look back at their time at ICU. The Mizukamis co-wrote the article below, and shared some valuable photos from the 1950s.
Lives of the First Biology Students at ICU
This is a short story about Ikuko Fukuda and Hiroshi Mizukami. We were in the first group of science majors admitted to ICU in 1953 and graduated in 1957. Ikuko started as a student of the Language Institute of ICU one year earlier. After graduation, we moved to the USA to start our graduate education and eventually became citizens of the USA.
At the beginning, the university campus was a large wilderness where the birds sang in the woods, cows roamed in the pasture and frogs croaked in the streams. In addition to several faculty housings and an old tea-house, there was a large four-level concrete main building, Honkan (Photo 1), and a couple of large half torn down airplane hangars stood in the open space of the rural Osawa. Traces of World War II were still lingering in the air and made us all believe that we were going to build something unique in this space.
First, the welcome ceremony for students of the Language Institute took place in the spring of 1952 in the top room of Honkan (Photo 2 ). One year later (1953), the entire ICU freshmen (198 students) gathered in the same hall (Photo 3), which seemed to have gotten smaller filled with faculty, guests, and other staff. While Ikuko smoothly made her transition from a student of the Language Institute to that of ICU, other freshman science majors were assigned to Section G. In other words, it was the section identified as a group of science and engineering geniuses, but who knew little of what to do in other scenarios at ICU, including sitting still and speaking with proper English. Keeping them together in one group to avoid influencing the other new students at ICU was a brilliant strategy by the University.
Studying in the open space was wonderful, but commuting was not. Many of us took the Chūōo-sen followed by a bus to get to ICU. It dropped us off at the university campus entrance but still some distance away from the main building, Honkan. The road was paved and beautiful cherry trees were planted along both sides, but still it was a long walk. Eventually, the bus stop was moved closer to Honkan. In early 1955, long awaited dormitories were opened, one for women and another for men. Both of us were fortunate to be able to move into the dorms. A photograph of the men’s dormitory (Photo 4) and how students studied in their rooms (Photo 5) are shown. Another set of photographs show how we did our laundry and hung the washed clothes on the wires to dry (Photo 6 a and b). As a matter of fact, a student had the brilliant idea to dry his wet sausages sent from home on these wires. But, unfortunately for him, a smart dog found them and took them all away.
About the same time, a new dining hall (Shoku-do) was built, but Hiroshi almost always missed the breakfast. The quality of food was not too bad, but Sunday dinner was just a sandwich for each student. It was usually gone by early Sunday afternoon and often Hiroshi and his roommates had to cook special dinners in our own room, though this was not allowed.
Among the first year students, five of us specialized in Biological Sciences (Photo. 7). The Chair of the Science Departments was a well known geneticist, Professor Sinoto, who used to invite all of us Science Students to his home for dinner (Photo 8).
The materials needed for the biology labs such as different types of plants and frogs were abundant on campus. Ikuko specialized in plant genetics and her graduation thesis was “on the movement of photosynthesized products using eggplants”. Were these large eggplants she was holding used to carry out her dissertation? (Photo 9). Hiroshi’s project was on Paramecium (Zori-mushi) and he demonstrated with homemade electronic devices and a microscope that they breathed under water (Photo 10).
The ICU campus was large enough to have cows with excellent milk (Photo 11) and to play softball (Photo 12). We belonged to the ICU Glee Club and gave concerts on many occasions, with our homemade banner in the back (Photo 13). Occasionally, we also performed at the ICU Church (Photo 14). Our basketball club tried to practice in the old airplane hangar, but we quickly found out that the ball was worn out by the rough concrete floor and could not practice too long. We still dared to compete with the other schools, but our records were not something we wanted to talk about. Obviously, the skiing trip was nice and some of us ventured out (Photo 15).
Four years at ICU passed quickly and soon it was time to graduate. After the graduation ceremony, six Biological Sciences majors dressed up with caps and gowns took pictures (Photo 16) with President Yuasa and Dr. Sinoto (Photo 17). Among these graduates, three decided to stay in Japan, and we decided to go to the USA for graduate education. In the middle of August, we left Japan on a freighter for Vancouver, Canada (Photo 18). In those days Japan imported lumber from Canada, but didn’t export much to Canada or the USA and thus the freighters took a few passengers looking for new adventures (Photo 19). During the two weeks on the ship, we saw only a few whales. After landing in Vancouver we took trains to reach the final destinations: Department of Botany at the University of Illinois in Champaign/Urbana for Ikuko, and Department of Biophysics at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia for Hiroshi.
Later, Hiroshi moved to Champaign/Urbana and married Ikuko. After retirement from our academic lives, we moved to Pasadena, California close to our son’s family (top photo).
Thank you, Ikuko san and Hiroshi san, for sharing your fascinating story and photographs!