Recover our liberty: The Clock Tower Occupation

Recover our liberty: The Clock Tower Occupation



Kyoto University is one of the most prestigious universities in Japan and has taken pride in the atmosphere of liberty. The atmosphere creates safety for all people whatever their opinions are and however they behave. This fundamental part of Kyoto University, its atmosphere of liberty, has cultivated various students, scholars, and staff including eleven Nobel prize winners.

Recently, in Kyoto University, however, liberty and freedom have been taken away from classes, student clubs, laboratories, offices, and other various places on our campus1. Freedom of expression has unilaterally been restricted gradually. Some students are threatened or purged. The University authority has constantly denied the requests from students for communications and dialogues on an equal footing. Students who protested were purged by the authority for illogical and unacceptable reasons. Very few Administrative committee2 members of the University have been in charge of almost all the powers and suppressing not only students but other faculty members, researchers, administrative office members, and others.


Isn’t the same tragedy being repeated in other universities, 

in workplaces, and in politics? 

Aren’t you disappointed at the deprivation of your freedom and rights, but fed up with the reality that never changes?


To show the possibility of our university community to establish real liberty again, we will demonstrate the occupation of the Clock Tower, a monument of Kyoto University, and open the place free from the authority to all people equally. The Clock Tower Occupation means getting back freedom from the administrative committee to all students and all members of the university. We can argue, discuss and express ourselves in the sanctuary without any suppression. To make our campus a place of liberty again, we hope that you will join us climbing the Clock Tower and/or support us!


What is the Clock Tower Occupation? 

Clock Tower Occupation is a festival to climb the Clock Tower, one of the central monuments of Kyoto University, and make it “the building D of Kumano Dormitory” *3for one day (Note that Kumano Dormitory has buildings A, B, and C). On that day, the place will be open for everyone just like an agora. Every student, staff, and citizen can use it freely. This is a traditional event of the Kumano Dormitory festival and in total, over 1000 students have participated. The liberal and equal atmosphere has been prevalent in Kyoto University. Such a tradition is the classic core of administrative policy, “Academic freedom ” from the foundation of Kyoto University since 1897.


Administrative Committee is Breaking the liberty 

Since 2017, the authorities of Kyoto University4 have introduced police on the campus to suppress students with an iron fist to shut down the Clock Tower Occupation. After three years we stopped conducting it and the liberty of Kyoto university became eroded gradually, but soundly. Other events were also restricted, while expressions with notices were restricted or banned. One of the traditional student-governed dormitories, Yoshida Dormitory, was threatened by a SLAPP lawsuit. Almost all of the student activities were unilaterally restricted in the cause of COVID-19 infection prevention, but had not been re-opened even after the number of new infection cases in Japan reached zero. Only a few negotiations were accepted for re-opening despite the students’ cooperation to the prevention measures for the infection that university imposed for more than one year. The administrative committee has pushed the suppression of freedom forward without democratic integration and obeyed blindly the restructuring pressure from the Japanese government. Now the committee can work like a dictator and this new order enables the committee to appropriate our university. Moderate negotiations or dialogs have been declined recently5. The Rights of students, faculties, researchers and staff are ignored*6.

Moreover, protests from students were repressed again and again7. Private company repression guards are hired with decades of millions yen per year, which has been diverted from outside grants for pure and applied research and preparation of research environments. They watch, obstruct and sometimes violate the protest students directly, which gives the university means to punish students through suspensions and so on8.

We find it difficult to perform any extracurricular activity without adjustment to suit the temperaments of the administrative committee and to do research without adjusting the intention and pressures from the administrative committee, Japanese government and private companies (Universities tend to stand on the outside authorities recently). The freedom of study is now diminishing and universities have been reinforced in the ways that would only seek the increased profit for private companies and encourage the expansion of military research*9.

We’ve had enough of this!


Sustain our Liberty and Freedom 

Our classical policy, “Academic freedom”, has been sustained by activities and union of students, staff, researchers and others. In original rules, even the gathering of more than five people, inexpensive student-governed dormitories, opinion notions by signboards were not permitted. But we have overcome all of them and have been sustaining the atmosphere of liberty by ourselves through our history*10.

We have not been caught in a pitfall of musical chairs. We did not fight over a few chairs under the rules of the authorities. Instead, we have increased the number of chairs through active protests and negotiations.

As a result, now we provide an inexpensive self-governed dormitory for all people’s needs, including women, graduate students, and the foreign students. (In Japan, students from the foreign countries tend to face difficulties in renting apartment rooms, so our dormitory plays an essential role in securing their shelter.) Now we can hold festivals and events by ourselves in support of Kumano Dormitory for intercommunication among students, citizens, and outside communities. Historically, these activities for enlargement rights had been repressed over and over again, but we have finally won the fight with the authorities and established the places for everybody who desires to receive education.

In many places in our society, human rights and freedoms that we’ve won are attacked as vested interests, and weak people and communities are threatened continuously. Freedoms, rights, and even the opportunity for negotiation are not gifted from heaven. Without efforts and activities to obtain them, our prospects for life would shrink more and more.


Now is our turn to make actions again for our rights by accumulating our efforts as previous members did for our current community. Nothing will turn out better if you do nothing. Now is your time.


We have not begged to threaten. 

We have made a lot of efforts trying to negotiate for some years, but the authorities, which rob freedom from our campus, ignore our hope. However, we performed the occupation of the Clock Tower for the first time in three years from the heart emotion of new students. We could surmount the repression by the authorities and successfully climbed the Clock Tower to make a demonstration to demand sincere dialog and negotiation to the administrative committee.

However, authorities’ reply for the sincere hope was to summon nine students for punishment without disclosure of evidence, the largest repression in recent years. We protested the decision quickly with other student communities. As serious questions arose about the punishment, students fought with authorities and prevented them from imposing awful punishments11. As a result, we succeeded in reducing the repression for the students compared with the recent absurd punishments. Now we are gaining the prospect to restore liberty and freedom on our campus12.


The frontline for making the atmosphere of liberty. 

Today, we will perform the Clock Tower Occupation again dealing jointly with students under suppression. Recent governance from the administrative committee has been removing all kinds of liberty from everywhere on campus. That is a frontline to retain our atmosphere of freedom and liberty in Kyoto University against the repression from the authorities. We hope, we desire you to listen to what is happening and what we try. Let’s climb the Clock Tower together. Let’s create an atmosphere of liberty and freedom again in our universities and our societies.


1.We have sought freedom from suppression and restriction. Liberty from the intentions of sponsors and authorities is particularly important . For example, there was a case where data on drug efficacy and safety had been falsified in response to donations from pharmaceutical companies. It was not academic. And even at Kyoto University, faculty members who were in different positions from the national government and electric power companies were discriminated against over nuclear research. Once freedom is deprived of teachers and students, it will not be possible to prevent authoritative and financial power from twisting what is right. Regarding the Clock Tower Occupation, some may argue that “Kyoto University is saying that it is not good, so it is not good, is it?”, but isn’t it based on the premise that “What Kyoto University is saying = correct”? We want to make our own distinctions between what we should and should not do without being distracted by prestige, thereby protecting a free university that is open to all.

  1. In this document, it refers to the highest voting body of the university, consisting of the president and directors. The board of directors also includes corporate executive Sachiko Kuno and a former executive of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. In addition to the mayor of Kyoto and the governor of Kyoto Prefecture, the chairman of the board of Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma Co., Ltd. and the special advisor of The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Ltd. participate in the management council, which deliberates on management under the board of directors. It is a place where key figures in industry, government and academia can make arbitrary decisions.

3.You might not be familiar with the term “Kumano Dormitory D building”. This expression aims at accusing the authorities for not responding to the repeated requests by the Dormitory’s Residents Association for the expansion of the dormitory. At the same time, by occupying the Clock Tower where the president’s office used to be located and remains as the symbol of the power of Kyoto university, we may successfully appeal that the university belongs to students and is as open for all people as Kumano dormitory has embodied.

4.It refers to the entire Kyoto University institution that manages students,  faculty members and others with the administrative committee at the top.

5.The offer for “collective bargaining”(“Danko”) has been rejected. Collective bargaining means a negotiation style for direct convention of the voices of students to the university management team and for providing the right to attend for all interested parties. The authorities have proposed negotiation styles in a small group under the restrictions on time and the number of participants, and demand name and job titles of the attendees. However, under such a condition, the voices of all students cannot be integrated into management of the university. This small-group style potentially causes serious harassment from the top members to students and students’ rights are endangered in this style. In the past, one of the vice presidents of the university had performed serious harassment that threatened the participating students. In addition, the Information Disclosure Liaison Committee, where everyone can talk and discuss directly with the vice presidents, has been abolished. The alternate “Student Opinion Box” unilaterally has disguised and ignored most of the opinions expressed by students online.

We have desired to hold collective bargaining to make decisions through sincere communications and dialogs on equal footing, rather than being harassed with dangling notices and dispositions that only impose arbitrary decisions in closed rooms.

6.Regarding the faculty and staff, the faculty councils have been deprived of the right to make decisions related to the university administration and can merely express their opinions. As for the staff union, the bulletin board for them had been removed and the termination and reduction in employment have been evident.

7.For instance, they mobilized staff to disperse the students by threatening them, to rob the materials used for the event, and to shoot students with video cameras whenever the Kyoto University authorities detect events organized by students. Authorities sometimes summoned individual students and disciplined later based on video cameras and surveillance cameras. In addition, they hire professional security guards by diverting research grants of about 25 million yen per a year to repress specific “off-campus” people such as unreasonably purged students from the campus. It seems that the authority even conducts kinds of ideological censorship such as making logging of book contents read at student study groups. In addition, the authority notifies the police in advance to repress large events such as rallies and make them stand by on the street, to show coercive pressure as well as to arrest the above-mentioned “off-campus” students for handing out leaflets on campus.

These repressions are seriously against the freedom of study and self-governance of university.

8.Arbitrary disciplinary actions have repeatedly taken place based on the Student Disciplinary Code revised in February 2017. Protesting the unilateral crackdown from the authorities are regarded as reason for the disposition.  The protests were gratuitously judged as “obstruction of staff duties”, “violation of human rights”, and “acts that do not follow the students’ duties” by the authorities. A student even got an indefinite suspension only for resisting a violation from staff. Moreover, a closed-door trial-like procedure which is nothing more than severe harassment has been held under this situation.  Students cannot be accompanied by lawyers. Demanding disclosure of evidence as well as making objections are not even permitted.

9.Basic budgets for daily operation of universities have been reduced continuously in Japan according to the Japanese government objectives.  The authorities of Kyoto University do not resist it in an obvious manner.  Research projects that are not related to monetary profits have been expelled gradually.

Due to the destabilization of employment, more and more researchers in universities tend to place importance on immediate results and patent acquisition more than intrinsic development of scholarships, resulting in the pressure to downplay academics.

In addition, secret patents and secret research systems for military technology have been deliberated, and preparations are underway for the full lifting of the ban on military research, such as through imposing a license system on the provision of military technology to foreign students. This could lead to the denial of free international exchange and stall the development of science and technology.

10.All of them were original neglected along with obvious rights such as freedom of assembly. However, after piled efforts for many years, it has evolved to the point where, for example, former President Oike declares that the signboard (“Tatekanban”) is the culture of Kyoto University.

11.In the past, the authorities had been suspending students indefinitely when they merely tried to resist or stop the assault by staff. However, as voices against the disposition (punishment) spread, students in question for the occupation of the Clock Tower last year were only reprimanded (attention only) or suspended for a short period of time. Of course, the disposition itself is unjustified and we will continue the movement for revocation.

12.Disposition is the greatest punishment weapon for the administrative committee to subdue students. Therefore, blocking or revoking the disposition directly means removing weapons from the authorities and ensuring the free activities of the students.