COLONIAL UTOPIA – Streetscape
Taiwan’s rapid modernization is no doubtedly a result of Japan’s colonization, where they introduced infrastructure, water, sewage systems, education systems as well as transportation. Taipei has gone through so much – from being colonized by the Dutch, the Spanish, China, and the Japanese, but what Taiwan has restored the most from its colonized background are those left over from Japan. Japan’s influence on Taipei is undeniable and one of the most unique is their post-colonial relationship.
One of the most intriguing parts of Taipei’s city is its Japan-like streetscape, which owes all to Shimpei Goto, who was the deputy governor of Taiwan. He was well loved by the Taiwanese, despite his role as a Japanese bureaucrat, and possibly a big portion of the reason why Taiwanese still adore the Japanese nowadays, even after being colonized. (Shoji, 2017) Goto was the one who began the construction of the symbolic tree-lined streets of Taiwan, as well as the wide, vehicle-friendly streets. (Shoji, 2017)
To this day, on the streets of Taipei, there are still store signs with both Chinese and Japanese, making Taipei a very Japanese tourist-friendly destination, especially with Taiwanese elderly, who learnt to speak and read Japanese fluently during the occupation. (Jennings, 2017)
Japanese culture – video games, manga and books are also embedded into Taipei’s modern culture. The number one film of 2016 in Taipei was even a Japanese animation, called “Your Name” – the movie broke box office records across Taiwan. (Shoji, 2017)
Japanese culture is what the Taiwanese follow, as they view Japan as “a symbol of perfection” in Asian culture. (Jennings, 2017) Apart from influencing Taipei’s streetscape, it has also rooted deep into their daily lives – their diet, their mindset, their culture.
What is even more interesting about Japan and Taiwan’s relationship is that their affection towards each other is mutual. More than 12,000 Japanese live in Taipei, and according to them, Taiwan feels familiar to them, just like their home country, like a “parallel universe”.(Shoji, 2017) The late Taiwanese artist and filmmaker Edward Yang even once said, “Some of my favorite places to hang out are in Japan. I feel such an affinity to Japanese culture which is not surprising because most Taiwanese feel the same way.” Taiwan feels like such a second home to the Japanese that 1.89 million Japanese people visited Taiwan in 2016, according to travel agency, JTB.(Shoji, 2017)
Japan and Taiwan’s relationship of course is more complicated than simply its films, streetscape and video games, however, this blogpost begins to dig into the background between Japan and Taiwan, and how these histories contribute to their mutually admirable relations.
Shoji, Kaori. “Taiwan: Where Japanese go to feel at home on vacation.” The Japan Times. March 18, 2017. https://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2017/03/18/travel/taiwan-japanese-go-feel-home-vacation/#.WjEwybRdJQJ.
Jennings, Ralph. “Taiwan finds a lot to like about its former colonizer, Japan – LA Times.” Los Angeles Times. November 6, 2017. Accessed December 13, 2017. http://beta.latimes.com/world/asia/la-fg-taiwan-japan-20171106-story.html.