Colonization of Taipei (1895-1905) – Scheme 2. Prioritized interests of Japanese Rulers and extended influence to citizens: Transportation infrastructure (Narrative 4)

The evolution of transportation infrastructure was another thing the colonial government paid attention to at the beginning of the ruling. According to W. W. Rostow, the deployment of the railway system has a revolutionary impact on accelerating productivity. A complete railway system around the island could keep the costs down for domestic goods transportation as well as merge individual markets into a national one. It is the axiom of indispensability (Fogel 1964 p1). Guided by this principle, Japanese rulers commenced the expansion of the transport networks. The Railway system enjoyed the top priority during the advancement and within 10 years, the entire Taiwan was connected together with railways (Huang 1997). The intriguing impetus of the colonial government by implementing transportation reform is to incorporate entire Taiwan into the Japanese Imperial Economic Circle. An integrated economic circle with Japan means more than a larger territory and more raw materials, it can also prevent the exchange of the goods between Taiwan and the Mainland. The accelerated economic growth of Taiwan was benefited from this development as well.

The Japanese leader behind this movement was Goto Shinpei (後藤新平), the governor of Taiwan from 1898 to 1906. He held the belief that “colonialization is not charity”, that’s the main drive behind constructing the local railway system, with an aim to accelerate the material transportation to Japan. He documented his basic principles in his draft below.

Figure 1. Taiwan Governing Principles, 1915, Reproduced by

If we zoom into the city of Taipei, Municipal Reform Project in 1900 also put constructing a more integrated transportation network in the city as one of the top priorities. The project included improvements on streets, railways, shipping, and airports.

Within the period of 1900 to 1905, the city wall was taken down for the replacement of a 3-lanes boulevard as replace. The boulevard connected the transport network of the Inner-city to other parts of Taipei to form a system. The three lanes included a high-speed lane, a low-speed lane, and a pedestrian walkway, this major boulevard had linked three districts together with a new hierarchical road system in this city. Notes began to shape up at several significant points in this network to regulate tricky transportation problems. Several sections of main roads were set to one-way roads in order to minimize the laggard traffic (Figure 2) (Huang, 1997). The road system also expanded quickly under a progressive reform project, as we can spot in Figure 3, there was a gradual growth and expansion on the existing roadwork of Taipei every year, which aided the roads to take an embryonic form. The progress of the Municipal Reform Project took Taipei into a new stage, a modernized city.

Figure 2. Notes distribution in the city, reproduced by Contemporary Taipei City planning in Japanese colonial age, 1917


Figure 3. Taipei Urban plan 1905, reproduced by Contemporary Taipei city planning in Japanese colonial age, 1997

Besides pure road development, Japanese rulers incorporated Taipei into the national railway network. Most of the stocks and substances will be transported to Taipei before they sailed to Japan. A more ameliorated railway system in Taipei could strengthen its capital in Taiwan.

In the meantime, the colonial government refurbished the decks over the Danshui river for sea transportation. As the major transportation means between Japan and Taiwan, water traffic is inevitable for Taipei. The Japanese official reinforced the old decks and built a new revetment wall along the Danshui River reached a length of 3.09km (Huang, 1997). A 16.53ha-size harbor was constructed adjacent to the revetment (Huang, 1997). During the period of the Japanese ruling era, a good number of ships with stocks sailed from this place to Japan.

This is a map drawn by a Japanese artist, trying to depict the great picture of Taipei as a result of Japanese colonization and the ambitions of the colonizer. We can see on the top the drawing also included other places such as Japan, Korea, Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Guangzhou. Transportation means was emphasized within this image with two airports and a developed road and railway system in this image. The drawing has linked Taipei to the outer world from a perspective of transportation, showing the great potential and benefits of better transportation they built in Taiwan (Chen, 1997).

Figure 4. Great Taipei Birdview, 1925. Reproduced by Taipei City History, 1997.





Chen Zhengxiang, Journal of Taipei 2nd Edition (Taipei: South Sky book limited company, 1997).


Huang Wuda,  Contemporary Taipei city planning in Japanese colonial age (1895 – 1945)  (Taipei: Taiwan urban history studio, 1997)


Robert William Fogel, Railroads and American economic growth : essays in econometric

history(Baltimore : Johns Hopkins Press, 1964), pp1-9.


Taiwan Governing Principles, 1915, Reproduced by



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