From Chinese rural settlement to Japanese colonial modernisation module
Taiwan, as the first ever colony of Japan, holds a great significance, as a model colony. Transforming it in a way the Japanese desires so that it would further benefit the Japanese Empire and its quest to colonise other places became a crucial mission at the time. The Japanese Empire’s strong desire to catch up with the western powers and to be treated equally in the international community. Therefore itself underwent a series of modernisation in terms of economy and culture. As a continuation, a similar transformation is also brought forward in Taiwan.
Before actually gaining full control over Taiwan, Japan struggled to oppress the anti-Japanese movements since they lack the related experience to administrating a colony. Not until a military regime is established did Japan finally secure power over the colony. Therefore the first major goals for the modernisation/ transformation in Taiwan, the constructions “were started with the aim of giving Japan’s first colony pride, purpose and efficiency after the chaotic situation calmed down” and the aim is to “secure the ultimate goal of establishing an inalienable overseas colony” (Kikuchi 2007, p. 172).
In terms of modernisation, the process that transformed Japan can be understood a fascination over the West, bring over a series of westernisation of Japanese’s architecture. This then translated to the Japanese colony- Taiwan with the colonial architecture. These colonial buildings, from first glance, appears to be very “western” in terms of the layout, facade, arches, columns etc. But instead, they are Japanese-Western hybrid Japan generated in their own times of modernisation if inspected more closely.
The series of towns and cities are based on western prototypes, which involve erecting the streets, constructing more government facilities and introducing boulevards. Before the colonization, programs like hospitals, schools, banks, parks, railway stations and school hardly exist. The colonisation involves introducing such types the locals never know, marking an effect more than simple architecture, as it directly shapes the society and economy at the time. This leads to the economic transformation going along with the urban planning, as to provide more job opportunities to improve the livelihood of the locals. With the infrastructure transformed, a faster, more efficient, more advanced and more scientific culture is brought to Taiwan, it does not only became a useful resource to the Japanese Empire, the Empire’s significance over the colony is also solidified.
With all the modernisation process mentioned, it can be treated an experiment for Japanese modernisation on other colonies to come. The new changes and test on architecture can be seen by examples like how in 1901 reinforced concrete is used in order to construct the governor’s general residence, which this kind of method is very rare to be seen in the Asian society or even in the West. Therefore the modernisation in Taiwan can be considered very advanced by the time.
Despite bring into Japanese-Western hybrid and testing out new methods in terms of architecture, the Japanese Empire did not cease to instil the idea of Japanese imperialism into the Taiwan colony, as multiple Japanese Shinto shrines were also built to ensure the Japanese colonists to have a chance to connect with their motherland and own culture while living in Taiwan. Although very few survived after the Guomindang government took over, some are left, like the Taoyuan Shinto shrine built in 1937, as a more explicit reminder of the history of the Japanese colonial era.