The University of Tokyo is a difficult school to get into, and also around, it seems.

In Japan, the reputation of the university you graduated from, often more so than your grades or field of study, can give you a serious advantage when job-hunting. Because of that, the competition to get into elite schools is intense, and the University of Tokyo, the most respected institute of higher learning in the country, is the most difficult of all to win acceptance to.

Thanks to its prestige, Todai, as the school is nicknamed, commands a special place in the popular imagination, and scenes from movies, TV dramas, and anime often take place on its campus. The school’s Red Gate and clock tower are instantly recognizable cultural landmarks, but Japanese Twitter user @kazuokiriyama_ recently shared a photo of another extremely memorable aspect of Todai architecture, taken inside Building 1 of the medical department.

At a glance it looks like an ordinary staircase with some attractively old-school stonework. But take a longer look, and you’ll see that after three steps up from where the photo was taken, there’s a solid wall that the handrail disappears into.

“An example of graphical glitches in the real world,” @kazuokiriyama_ quipped, prompting responses including:

“The polygons are bugging out (but collision detection is working).”
“It’s like an Escher drawing.”
“Can’t stop laughing as I imagine people walking face first into this.”
“I wonder if there’s a person sealed inside the wall.”
“I thought it was an optical illusion, but there’s really no way through.”
“Only pure-hearted people can pass through.”

The most likely explanation, though, involves neither tests of character nor concealed corpses. One commenter, apparently a Todai alumnus, pointed out that 30 years ago the building had no such stairway. Yet another commenter, after looking at the thickness of the column that intersects the stairs, offered the plausible theory that it’s a seismic reinforcement to help make the building safer in the event of an earthquake, and which was added after the building’s construction was completed, utilizing more modern knowledge and techniques unknown to the original designers.

Reason for its existence aside, the dead-ending staircase looks like a pretty big inconvenience, and we imagine it gets used pretty frequently as an excuse when students are late to class.

Source: Hachima Kiko
Top image: Twitter/@kazuokiriyama_

Follow Casey on Twitter, where he’s glad that the stairs at Waseda went all the way to the top.