Monday, August 1, 2016

Japanese colonial buildings in Taipei - Zhongshan Hall (中山堂) - Ximen Red House (西門紅樓) - Nishi Honganji Temple (西本願寺) - Railway Ministry (台灣總督府交通局鐵道部) - Taipei Post Office (臺北郵局) - Futai Street Mansion (撫臺街洋樓) - Presidential Office Building (中華民國總統府) - Taipei Guest House (臺北賓館) - Control Yuan (監察院) - NTU Hospital (台大醫院) - Huashan 1914 Creative Park (華山1914文創園區) - Qidong Street (齊東老街) - Taipei Qin Hall (臺北琴道舘) [Taiwan Day 1065: Traces of Japan - July 31, 2016]


Taiwan – the little Japan. The island had become a colony of Japan when representatives of the Qing Dynasty signed the Treaty of Shimonoseki in 1895. Since then, tremendous development was done by the Japanese empire for Formosa from its railway system to its premier university. More than 70 years had already passed since the defeat of the Land of the Rising Sun but its legacy still remains in Taipei. They are scattered around the city serving as windows to the island’s glorious past. I wanted to see their grandeur with my own very eyes and be the first one to trace their locations one by one.







Let's start first around the area in MRT Ximen Station because the Zhongshan Hall is near to this place. This good looking building with its mighty arches on its facade houses a large theater. It was built to celebrate the accession of Prince Hirohito when he became the Emperor of Japan. Architect Ide Kaoru designed the building and its construction was finished in 1936.








Have you been to Shinkigai Market? Oops! It sounds Japanese. I'm actually talking about the Ximen Red House. The iconic building is one of the most visited colonial buildings in Taipei. Here, the old meets new. The red brick structure with an octagonal hall is just walking distance from the Ximending commercial district where modern neon lights, shops, and good food rule. Do you know who designed the Ximen Red House? It was Matsuzaki Tsumunaga and it was built in 1908.




A Shinto shrine originally stands on top of this staircase. However, it turned into ashes during a fire.







Are you religious? Why not visit the Nishi Honganji Temple. It was one of the newest attractions of Taipei City after its renovation in 2012. It was the center of Zen Buddhism in the capital a long time ago. There was a shrine here before but it was turned into ashes after a fire broke up but its wide staircase will remind every visitor that it had once existed. A bungalow house now stands in the complex called the Rinbansyo. If you have time then you can have your afternoon tea here. Another interesting structure was the big hall with a characteristic facade. Its roof resembles the free flowing style of the Shinto Shrine that I saw in Taoyuan in Taiwan Day 295 (Shinto 101). 









Beimen Station was the next area that I explored. This is where the North Gate was located during the time when a great wall surrounded the ancient city of Taipei. It was torn down by the Japanese to develop the city and around this corner were majestic buildings that remind Taipei residents of its past. One of them is the building of the Railway Ministry. This is where the governor-general of the Transportation Bureau have its office during Taiwan’s Japanese colonial time. The building was designed by the Improvement Division of the Railway Ministry and was finished in 1919. It is now under the care of the National Taiwan Museum. It was still undergoing renovation during my visit but I'm praying that someday it would soon open its doors for foreign visitors like me.









Located along the Zhongxiao West Road is the Taipei Post Office. A flyover used to stand beside this building but when it was demolished by the city government the beauty of the building was unveiled. It has a small clock on its top while its columns give that illusion of strength. Architect Kuriyama Shunichi designed the building and its construction was done in 1930. 









A few meters from the Taipei Post Office was Futai Street where a European-style mansion stand until today. Walk slowly as you suddenly notice the Futai Mansion. It was originally owned by Takaishi Gumi Construction Company after it had built the two-story building in 1910. The mansion now houses a photo exhibit where people can learn some interesting facts about Taipei city. It’s a rare structure in the city nowadays so at least have a selfie with this building once you get a chance to visit the North Gate.











The scorching heat of the sun didn't stop me in looking for the Presidential Office Building. It was one of the most important imperial buildings in Taiwan during its Japanese colonial period and even up to this present time. Its central tower gives that impression of power to the island's 23 million residents. The building was built in 1919 and designed by Moriyama Matsunosuke of the Construction Division of the Office of the Governor-General. It was hard to take photos of this place and I don't know why the guards were so in particular with the tripod that I was holding. I was allowed to take photos but to open my tripod was like illegal for them.



I continued walking along Ketagalan Road until I got a sight of the Taipei Guest House. I could only see its beautiful windows from afar which have the same design as the Futai Mansion. Its original architect was Fukoda Togo and the building was constructed in 1901. Nomura Ichiro and Moriyama Matsunosuke made some improvements to the design of the building. I walked near its gate. Too bad! It was closed permanently for visitors. It used to be a guest house for prominent leaders of other countries especially the Japanese governor-general of Taiwan.







The National Taiwan University (NTU) Hospital was my next destination but I somehow got lost and I stumbled myself in the pink building of the Control Yuan. It was located at the corner of Section 1 Zhongxiao West Road and Zhongshan South Road. Architect Moriyama Matsunosuke designed the building and its construction was done 1915. If you are wondering what is the function of the Control Yuan in Taiwan’s government then the answer is just simple. The ombudsman works here! 







I finally found the NTU Hospital along Gongyuan Road and it was near to the Exit 2 of the MRT NTU Hospital Station. The construction of the building was done in 1916 using the design of Kondo Juro and it functions as the main hospital of Taiwan’s top university. Modern buildings had already been built to expand the hospital's services but this old structure serves as a symbol of Japan's dedication to provide quality healthcare to its colony. 

















Going back to the hustle and bustle of Taipei along Section 2, Zhongxiao East Road was the Taipei Winery. It was turned into a modern arts hub and is now known as the Huashan 1914 Creative Park. The young and old come here to enjoy various exhibits and even watch movies that they won't easily find in cinemas around the city. The giant chimney of the factory was still standing there serving like a monument of its glorious past. Its warehouses were converted into exhibit halls with each one of them featuring a different kind of attraction. Go inside the halls and enjoy the displays. But go outside and you will still see evidences of its architectural beauty. The whole complex was built in 1914.









Just a few meters from the Huashan 1914 Creative Park was Qidong Street. It was an old trade route during the time when Taipei was still bounded by a great wall. Before World War II, Japanese wooden houses lined this street and only a few are surviving now. The houses were in the process of restoration but I was able to get inside one house and it was the Taipei Qin Hall. Taking photos and videos inside was not allowed so I could only tell what I saw. It was a typical Japanese house with a classroom inside. Inside this building, visitors can learn different forms of art like calligraphy. The house was also a center of learning for a musical instrument called “qin”. If you want to know how to play this guitar-like instrument then you can send a message through their Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ChineseGuqin/) to know more about their class schedules. 


I wanted to see more buildings but I was already tired so I decided to cut this adventure. There are still a lot of colonial structures in the capital that had been built before 1945 and some of them had been redesigned to fit the standards of today's modern living. Others still retain their exotic red brick beauty. Finding them would mean another exciting city tour in Taipei in search of the traces of Japan.
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