COLONIAL UTOPIA – Streetscape

COLONIAL UTOPIA – Streetscape
Japan's Streetscape source: https://mcraeblog.files.wordpress.com/2016/06/img_0320.jpg?w=870

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)

Taipei’s Tree-lined Streets
source: https://www.amba-hotels.com/en/zhongshan/photos
Japan’s Tree-lined Street
source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omotesand%C5%8D#/media/File:Omotesando_Tokyo_spring_2012.JPG

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)

Taipei’s Streetscape
source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omotesand%C5%8D#/media/File:Omotesando_Tokyo_spring_2012.JPG
Japan’s Streetscape
source: https://mcraeblog.files.wordpress.com/2016/06/img_0320.jpg?w=870

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.

 

References:

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.

 

3 Comments on “COLONIAL UTOPIA – Streetscape

  1. It is interesting to notice that Taipei and Japan, as two of the most common tourist destinations of Hong Kong people, share similarities in the aspects of films, video games and streetscape.

    You mentioned that on the streets of Taipei, there are store signs with both Chinese and Japanese, which makes Taipei more Japanese-like and Japanese-tourist-friendly. In my opinion, such a similarity in streetscape may only happen on some of the more popular streets, as Japanese signage may not be that common in other less popular areas.

    On the other hand, as shown from your two photos of Taipei and Japan’s respective tree-lined street, their settings are indeed similar. It would be even more interesting to compare and contrast the architectural features of the housing, which seems to be of similar style as well.

  2. The colonial effect from Japan to Taiwan is manifested in the city through different scale. This blog post revealed how streetscape in Taipei in particularly similar to those in Japan. The system of streetscape and function is efficient and symmetrical in Japan. It actually resembled to the western modernization beliefs on how street should be built. However, due to the similar culture, climate and background of Taiwan and Japan, the colonial effect on Taiwan makes it a even more successful case of Japanese colonial utopia. The vegetation, the languages, the vehicles etc. are more or less the same as those in Japan. Undoubtedly, the Japanese would find Taipei as a easy location for inhabitation because of all those similarities from its hometown. It will be interesting to find out how Taiwan develop it’s own logic in urban planning in order to create a Taiwanese aesthetic in design that could be distinguished from the Japanese colonial effect.

  3. The similarity of streetscape has certainly generated a sense of belonging between the two places. I am particularly interested in your statement, which I quote “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”.”

    This phenomenon has triggered my interest in understanding the idea of promoting mixed culture. In the case of Taipei being a colonial city of Japan, it was a forced intrusion of culture to start off with. Education of Japnese language and insertion of local cultural practices were not to be rejected by the Taiwanese.

    However, the effect of globalization also resembles such sense of belonging in different places around the world without any violence or forces. It is to my interest that the technology in social media, the ease of travelling and the forever growing global industries that branch themselves in all regions, successfully achieved a mixed culture in all places. For example, being in a store of H&M (a global clothing brand) in Central, Hong Kong would not be much different than the one in Oxford Street, London. The clothes they offer are similar as well as the price and most importantly, the setting of the shop. With a forever increase of these global identities, the situation of such mutual sensation would not only apply to the colonized cities but every civilized corner of the world.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.