COLONIAL UTOPIA: Colonial culture and infrastructure enhancement in Taipei

Taiwan was the very first colony of Japan, the Japanese had had no prior experience in how to administer a colony at all, therefore they had great determination to modernize Taiwan and mold it into a model colony whilst improving its economy for the benefit of the Japanese Empire. The reason why Japan put in so much effort and resources into Taiwan stems from its desire to be treated as equal by the big “Western Powers”. As we can see from numerous Japanese colonial buildings in Taipei, it’s evident that Japanese wanted to form Taipei into a modern westernized utopia of its age, economically, culturally and technologically.


To create a model colony/ colonial capital, first of all, people must live comfortably in prosperity and under good living conditions, hence the Japanese invested heavily on improving Taipei’s public services, e.g. new sewage systems along the newly built boulevards and widened roads. In addition, culturally, the Japanese had positively affected the Taiwanese in terms of time. The Taiwanese learnt to follow the rules and the culture of their colonizers, who are most famous for their punctuality and their love for order. During the time of occupancy, Taipei was very clean and ordered. “To avoid missing your train and losing your job, working people became punctual, a virtue lacking before the Japanese came,” Lee said. The promptness of Taiwanese showing up to meetings and catching trains nowadays shows us how deeply the Japanese culture has influenced Taiwanese. Many of them admire the Japanese and see its culture as the golden standard of order and structure. Taiwanese adapted this ideology and passed it onto the younger generations.


Economically, Japanese drastically improved Taiwan’s economy and made it financially independent from Japan very soon after Japanese colonization. Early immigrants from Japan were mostly businessmen and investors, hoping to explore the financial potential of this newly formed colony. Their presence was able to provide jobs that subsequently improved the economy and reduced unemployment in Taiwan. Its economy bloomed more under Japan’s rule than any other former colonizers. Another contributing factor in Taiwan’s blooming economy was the improved railway system. Japanese saw the train system as the “pioneers of civilization”, key stepping stone of industrial modernization and the foundation of their colonial economy in Taiwan. At that time, the Japanese administrators even bought out private railroads and integrated them with the public ones, hence improving efficiency of the system. When there is railway, there is people and business. Fast and efficient train system over long distances between Taipei and these factory towns made businesses like the sugar and rice industry bloom as well. It provides perfect encouragements for rapid industrial developments in rural towns their connections with Taipei. Railway improvement by the Japanese also changed city structure in Taipei, stimulating urbanization within Taipei. Central Business Districts started to emerge near the train stations.


In conclusion, Japan’s culture during colonization not only changed Taiwanese’s mentality on the ideal of a modern city, but also changed the quality and expectation of lives. Japanese colonization practically gave Taiwan a huge momentum in modernization which was not provided by previous colonizers, therefore making the Japanese likeable or even admirable by the Taiwanese.

1 Comment on “COLONIAL UTOPIA: Colonial culture and infrastructure enhancement in Taipei

  1. Glad to know that Taipei has benefited from its colonisation, as to my understanding, Japan’s colonisation of Korea in the same period was quite ruthless.
    Perhaps due to the fact that Taiwan was rather underdeveloped before the Japanese came, they were much more welcoming to the new ideology and cultures brought to the land. Thanks to the economic development and public works on the part of the Japanese administration, the living standard of the Taiwanese was raised, leading to pro-Japanese feelings.
    Korea, however, was already developed as a society and more resistant towards foreign invasion, hence the brutality from Japan. Even now, there is much anti-Japanese sentiment among the Koreas towards these events. It is interesting how the same country’s rule over two colonies can lead to drastically different results. Thus, it is important how a colony is treated after being occupied.

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