Sophia Academy

Sophia Academy

Sophia Academy is a large educational institution situated in the eastern part of Katashiba. The Academy itself is built on a generous, expansive plot of land, but once one factors in the affiliated businesses, other properties owned by the Academy and dormitories catering to the Academy, roughly a third of the entire city sits within the Academy’s direct sphere of influence. The entire city, however, is influenced by the Academy in various ways.

The Academy has over 60,000 students (known locally as Sophians), most of which (55,000) are university students. The Academy is not just a university, as it also incorporates an elementary school and a secondary school. These three elements are known as the ‘Academy University’, the ‘Academy Secondary School’ and ‘Academy Elementary School’ respectively, although conventionally, the University part is mostly just known as the Academy. In common practice, though, Sophians refer to these three elements as ‘Aoi (‘hollyhock’) Hall’, ‘Lion Hall’ and ‘Ume (Japanese apricot/plum blossom) Hall’ respectively, after the three parts of the Academy crest.

Sophia Academy is considered an ‘esukareitā gakkō’, or ‘escalator school’. This means that students enrolled in the Academy can usually progress to the next tier of education without taking entrance exams. Considering the gruelling nature of entrance exams in Japan, this makes Sophia Academy an appealing option, and many in the Academy attend its secondary school solely so they can enter the University.

Unlike other schools in Japan, Sophia Academy has a large population of international students. The proportion of domestic to international students shifts towards the latter the higher the institution- in elementary, the balance is 9:1; in secondary it becomes 7:3; and finally in the University itself it becomes 1:1. Part of this is deliberate on the Academy’s part: its University classes are almost always taught either in English or in English and Japanese, and English fluency is stressed at the start of secondary school. The Academy offers extensive scholarships to both domestic and international students, with these scholarships paying for a year’s tuition, accommodation and food. Most scholarships students automatically benefit from the same scholarship as they graduate through the grades, although poor academic performance or behaviour can lead to scholarship suspension.

Most of Sophia Academy’s students come from places other than Katashiba, and so most of them live in dormitories near the Academy. As one might expect, the influx of a young, culturally diverse population injects a good deal of money into Katashiba’s economy, as well as providing a pool of labour willing to do unskilled work.

Sophia Academy has a good reputation for scholastic excellence. However, it also has a reputation for eccentricity, at least relative to other Japanese schools. It was one of the first major schools to drop Saturday classes, and it offers a broader range of elective classes at earlier ages than other schools. It also requires all of its teachers to be fluent in English, and furthermore recruits its teachers from its graduate population whenever possible. This gives the Academy a cosmopolitan, diverse pool of teachers, some of whom the Academy has assisted in permanent settlement in Japan. In many cases, the Academy is more willing to incorporate foreign ideas on education than its fellow schools, giving the school a reputation as experimental and avant-garde.

Layout

The Academy proper sits on a 5 square-kilometre plot of land, most of which is flat, but becomes gradually hilly in the east. The Academy is built on an east-west axis. In the centre of the square is Sophia Court, a wide, open green space sparsely populated by large trees. The northern, east and southern edges of Sophia Court are bound by University buildings, which spread out in those directions, generally trending toward the east. The western lip of Sophia Court is bound by the secondary school and elementary school both, who extend towards the western part of the grounds. A road separates the secondary and elementary school, leading to the city proper. Both the secondary and elementary schools have a good deal of space to themselves to fill with their own libraries, labs and spaces.

Most of the space is dedicated to the university buildings, which includes laboratories, libraries, art galleries, museums, theatres, food courts and gymnasiums. The University sports world-class sporting facilities, although low school students are required to obtain permission to use them. The rest of the space is given over to gardens, parks, preserves and other spaces, which are open to all students.

In many ways, Sophia Academy is much like its own self-contained town, and it’s not uncommon to see people using buggies or other electronic vehicles to get around.

History

Sophia Academy was officially named and opened as such in 1950, but its roots are somewhat older than that. The first educational institution to occupy the space Sophia Academy now occupies was the Honga Confucian temple-school, founded in the 1400s. The temple-school attracted many nobles and scholars, who built libraries and houses in the surrounding area.

During the Meiji period (1868-1912), much of the land around the temple-school was reappropriated by the government and turned over to creating a new, westernised educational institution. The German-Japanese Technical College of Excellence, as it was known, was the brainchild of two men: German foreign advisor Maximilian Lӧwe, and Japanese professor Tomoyo Matsudaira. The school’s name was changed to Katashiba Technical College in 1914.

The school came under intense government control during the Second World War. Much of the school was devastated by Allied bombing.

In 1950, with help from reconstruction funding and a new push towards rebuilding basic infrastructure, the school was reestablished as Sophia Academy. At first, little distinguished the school, but as the years passed, the Academy gained a reputation for excellence, experimentality and diversity that continues to this day.

The Academy crest is a large, blossoming white ume tree, with two red lions holding each side of the tree; on each side of the tree are the Matsudaira clan mons. The ume tree pays homage to Tenjin, the kami of the Honga Tenman-gū; it also represents a take on the fabled tree of knowledge. The lions pay homage to Maximilian Lӧwe, whilst the Matsudaira clan mons- representing hollyhock flowers- pays homage to the Matsudaira family.

Landmarks

The Academy has a few notable landmarks.

  • Sophia Court sits at the centre of the Academy. A great green space dotted with trees, the largest of which is the ‘Tree of Knowledge’, a grand white tree that sits in the middle of the Court.
  • The Academy Zoological Garden is a well-stocked zoo that sits on the northern edge of the grounds. It is shared by the Faculties of Biology and Agriculture. It is open to the public for a small fee, whilst students can attend for free on weekends.
  • Blossom College is a large dormitory building and one of the only ones on the actual grounds. Blossom College houses and cares for all of the non-local elementary school students.
  • The World Gardens are a seemingly sprawling, yet meticulously designed garden taking up much of the southern grounds. It boasts plants from all over the world.
  • The Old Temple-School is a collection of buildings in the far eastern end of the grounds. These used to be home to the Honga Confucian Temple-School. The school merged with the Academy and the temple itself is now situated in a new location in the east-northeast part of the grounds. As a result, these old buildings remain unused. They are generally considered off-limits and are even considered haunted. Most people forget they exist.

Incidents

Throughout its history, Sophia Academy has had its share of major incidents. In recent years, delinquency has been on the rise, and student suicide attempts- generally lower at Sophia than at other schools- have started to spike. In 2017, a fire swept through Lion Hall’s science labs. These incidents are minor in comparison to the 1988 Disappearances, when seven students- including the Student Council President- vanished without a trace.

Uniform

The uniform colours of Sophia Academy are red and gold, with red taking most of the colour and the gold taking up edges, accessories, etc. University students don’t wear uniforms, but the elementary and secondary school children are expected to do so.
The high school uniforms are as follows.
Male:

  • Winter uniforms consist of a white long-sleeved button-up shirt and black trousers, with a golden tie, and a red blazer edged in gold.
  • Summer uniforms replace the blazer with a red waistcoat and a lighter short-sleeved shirt.

Female:

  • Winter uniforms consist of a white long-sleeved button-up blouse and a black knee-length pleated skirt, with a golden ribbon, and a red blazer edged in gold; black or white stockings optional.
  • Summer uniforms replace the blazer with a red vest that doesn’t close.

The middle school uniforms, which take on more traditional designs, are as follows:
Male:

  • Winter uniforms consist of a white long-sleeved button-up shirt and black trousers, with a red gakuran with gold buttons and edging.
  • Summer uniforms replace the shirt with a short-sleeved one, and remove the gakuran.

Female:

  • Winter uniforms consist of a white short-sleeved sailor fuku with a flared skirt, with a golden ribbon, and a red jacket edged in gold; black or white stockings optional.
  • Summer uniforms remove the jacket but are otherwise identical.

All secondary students, regardless of gender or age, are expected to wear a small pin or badge on their collar denoting their grade and class number.

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