The University of Tokyo (Tokyo Daigaku, often shortened to Todai) is the oldest of the National Universities of Japan, and easily the most prestigious. Considered the nucleus of higher education in the country, Tokyo University has 10 Faculties (this is roughly equivalent to an Academic Department or College in the U.S.) and is spread around five campuses in the Greater Tokyo area. The Other Wiki has a full article about the University here.
Getting accepted to a university is one of the main goals of Japanese high school students, and the majority aspire to be accepted by one of the National Universities. All tertiary schools in Japan base their admissions on competitive entrance exams, Todai's being the hardest to pass. If they did not get accepted (which is most of them, as fewer than 1 in 4 applicants are accepted each year), instead of finding another school to take them in, Japanese students often opt instead to take a year off in their studies, preparing themselves to retake the exam for an indefinite number of times until they pass. These students are called Rōnin, as students without a university to attend are deemed similar to a Samurai without a feudal Lord to serve.
Since Tokyo Is the Center of the Universe in Anime and Manga, Tokyo University serves the purpose of being a university where the main characters in the story study (if they are not Ordinary High School Students anymore), or a school where the Ordinary High-School Student dreams to enter after graduation. Being a student at Todai is also a way to imply that the character is extremely intelligent in their own right, since admission to the university is very stringent.
The University of Tokyo in Japanese Media
- Tokyo Daigaku Monogatari, which is about two high school seniors who met and fell in love with each other while studying for the Tokyo University entrance examinations.
- Love Hina revolves around klutzy Keitaro Urashima hopelessly trying to pass the exams at Tokyo University because of a promise he made to a girl many years earlier. Eventually, after failing three times, he manages to get in.
- Some of the girls in the dormitory, like Naru, Mutsumi, and later Motoko, also dream of entering Todai. It's shown that in the epilogue, they all do (except Kitsune, who doesn't care about college and never sat the exam). The Hinata dorm gains a legendary reputation as being a good luck charm for those aspiring for Todai.
- Kintaro Oe of Golden Boy is a brilliant law student at Tokyo University who, while being only months away from graduating at the top of his class, decides to leave college and travel Japan to find a purpose for his life.
- Police Superintendent and Bunny-Ears Lawyer Ryoko Yakushiji of The Case Files of Yakushiji Ryoko is a graduate of Tokyo University. Her insane intellectual level serves as a valid testament to this fact. Yukiko Muromachi also graduated from Tokyo University and she has a Law degree with Ryoko.
- Genius Bruiser Kyou Manabizaki's dream is to enter Tokyo University and attain high grades in order to be employed by NASA and build a spaceship for the agency.
- In Death Note, Light and L are shown passing the Todai entrance exam (with tied high scores) to underline their genius.
- Azumanga Daioh makes a passing reference to one of the girls (Tomo?) wanting to get into Todai. Naturally, they're shot down immediately.
- Nana of Nana to Kaoru mentions wanting to go to Todai. Hiroshi, the school council president is going too because his sister told him to. In the Arashi spin-off, Tachibana reveals she studied there and has a degree in History.
- In Sakura Gari, Masataka Tagami goes to Tokyo intending to enter the Teikoku Daigaku aka the Imperial University, the direct predecessor of the Todai. In his path to education, he's sponsored by the powerful Saiki family in exchange for his work as a butler in their Big Fancy House, and is specially doted on by the Princely Young Man Souma Saiki. Which is the first step to a truckload of misfortune. By the time the Bittersweet Ending of the series kicks in, Masataka has been accepted in it.
- In Hiromu Arakawa's Silver Spoon, Yuugo Hachiken's older brother Shingo managed to get into the Todai but dropped out immediately. It's revealed later that having a son at Todai was their very strict father's dream rather than his, and he seems genuinely happy doing odd-jobs and working as a tutor.
- In the original '90s Japanese Iron Chef, the actress Mayuko Takata was a frequent panelist; Takata was a Tokyo University graduate, and regular commentator Kenji Fukui (not a Todai gradnote ) would frequently tease her about her "Tokyo U IQ".
- In Oshin, the protagonist's best friend marries a man from Osaka who is a graduate of the Imperial University.
The University of Tokyo in other media
- Apparently, Toshio "Samurai" Eto from Challenge of the Super Friends worked as a professor in the Tokyo University before he was turned into a super hero by the New Gods of New Genesis.