COLONIAL UTOPIA: Hints of Japanese colonial urban planning in modern Taipei

Major urban planning initiated as Goto Shinpei was appointed as the civil administrator in Taiwan. He introduced modernization in Taiwan and shaped Taiwan’s urban structure. Goto phased Japanese systems and capitalism into Taiwanese society. He embarked on many projects of infrastructure development.

In the first stage of his urban plans for Taipei, Colonial space was created and allocated in the center of the Taipei Fu City as a demonstration of power of the Japanese colonial government. E.g. the construction of monumental western-styled buildings such as the Government Offices and the Jonai (Walled City).

In the first stage, Goto expanded on the Qing plans and built a railway station facing a large square linked to a grid pattern of streets (“block”) for commercial purposes, as well as imposing administrative buildings on a separate square, so that there is a distinct difference between different blocks and squares. However, the main purpose of the first stage was to create colonial space to demonstrate the power of the colonial government, e.g. the construction of distinguished buildings such as the Government Offices and other magnificent buildings within the Jonai (Walled City). These constructions made the political status of Taiwan apparent to visitors and at the same time creating new symbols of Japanese Imperial power. Certain areas of the inner city became places of assembly for the Japanese Colonial government, which later altered its local essence. In modern days, the Taiwanese government have similarly placed various different governmental and monumental buildings in the same region, some what emulating the same logic of the Japanese colonial administration.

In the second stage, narrow roads within the city were rearranged and widened to pave way for the a new road system. This adjustment in the structure of major roads introduced a new form of transportation infrastructure for modern Taipei that acts as a replacement for the old city wall. The essence of a boundary is still there, but instead of having a wall, Japanese colonial government replaced the walled boundary with boulevards. This typology of boulevards (central part divided by shade trees into three carriageways, with two walkways on each side) still remain in the planning for roads in modern Taipei. (Fig. 1, Fig. 2) The idea of these boulevards might have been inspired by 19th century European model cities such as Paris and Berlin. Goto Shinpei studied and lived in such cities. Berlin’s wide streets in the 1890s (Fig. 3) might have inspired his vision of a new colonial Taipei. Multiple roundabouts were also planned at landmarks which later became nodes for these boulevards that are still present in the city now, e.g. the roundabout circulating the old city gates. (Fig. 4) In additional to the boulevard, new streets were laid out in a grid pattern parallel to the city walls. This is the first introduction of the “block” concept in the city planning of Taipei and the city was divided into fifty-two blocks. This typology is obviously taken from how Japanese organize their cities, e.g. Kyoto (Fig. 5)


Fig. 1
Fig. 2 Tai Wan Boulevard (Source:
Fig. 3 Berlin Boulevard(Source:
Fig. 4 North Gate roundabout
Fig. 5 Kyoto plan(Source:

To conclude, Japan colonial urban planning imposed by Goto Shinpei continued to exist in modern day Taipei, changed its transportation infrastructure forever and led way to a more structured and organized modern Taipei.


Ping-Sheng Wu. Walking in Colonial Taiwan: A Study on Urban Modernization of Taipei, 1895-1945.

Journal of Asian Architecture and Building Engineering. November, 2010.

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