Sensei-tion: Kyoto U’s Much-Defaced Orita Bust

A bronze bust of
the late educator Hikoichi Orita was vandalized so
often, Kyoto University administrators put it into storage –
still, the students persisted.

Orita-sensei played an instrumental part in the founding of
Kyoto University back in 1897. In 1950, a bronze bust of the
revered former headmaster was set
atop a stone plinth
near the university’s Yoshida South
campus. Uneventful decades passed… until one night in 1990,
students protesting the First Gulf War spray-painted the
statue’s face red and captioned it “Angry Person”.

The school’s Faculty of Integrated Human Studies dutifully
cleaned the bust after each incident and added a signboard
reading: “As headmaster of Third Senior High School, Orita
Hikoichi-sensei assisted in the founding of Kyoto University,
and is a person who has left behind many achievements in
pursuit of academic liberty at Kyoto University. Please do not
dishonor this statue.”
Problem solved!

Notwithstanding the printed admonishment (see “Streisand
”), poor Orita-sensei’s bronze bust was defaced again
and again while the vandalism grew gradually more elaborate. A
bizarre tug-of-war ensued between authorities trying to
maintain the bust and students trying to deface it. Finally in
1997, the school had had enough: the bronze Orita-sensei bust
was removed from its plinth and unceremoniously retired to the
basement of the Integrated Anthropology Department. Problem
solved… again?

It’s still there today, suffering only the occasional minor
indignity of a feather-dusting by the cleaning staff. Poor
Orita-sensei doesn’t look too pleased by his relocation, as
snapped by Flickr member jun sasaki (doublemachen)
in February of 2015. Meanwhile, the stone plinth still stood
outside at the Yoshida South gate, bust-less. It would not
remain so for long.

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