Monday, January 9, 2017

Beitou Museum (北投文物馆) [Travel in Taiwan 170108: The House That Hid the Moon]


Have you ever gone to a house that shines so bright? I had been to one and it's the old Kazan Hotel in the hot spring town of Beitou. Stories of the past, present, and future illuminate the entire home and I was so intrigued by its history. Kamikaze pilots used to stay here granting the wish of the Emperor to keep the Land of the Rising Sun shine brighter than the ordinary moon.

The Kazan Hotel is a two-story Japanese house in Taipei which makes it interesting to visit.
The second floor of the Kazan Hotel



Before entering, I left my shoes at one of the cabinets.

The ticket booth is inside the house.

The Kazan Hotel of the 1920s is now known as the Beitou Museum and I was able to get inside for a student ticket price of NTD 50. Regular adult tickets cost NTD 120 but special discounts are given to a group of tourists compose of 20 members. Visitors are required to remove their shoes and explore the entire house using a special pair of socks where the underside has an anti-slip surface.

After paying the ticket, I was given this special pair of socks in the "genkan" area.


Are you familiar with Japanese houses? It has a place called the “genkan” and it is the area of the house just right after entering the door. The Japanese remove their shoes here before entering their home and its floor is usually lower than the entire house. I paid my ticket at the “genkan” after showing my student ID and before going inside I already left my shoes in one of the lockers outside the house. 

Near the Kazan Hotel are buildings that are probably hot spring hotels

Private Japanese-style house in Beitou District
An illustration of Beitou District in Taipei during the island's Japanese colonial period.

Japanese hot spring map of Taiwan in 1935. Haha!

It was not surprising to see Japanese-style homes in Beitou. This district of Taipei is located at the foot of Yangmingshan and serves as the city's hot spring town. It’s no wonder that during Taiwan's colonial period under Japan the town flourished and became a haven for soaking one's body in a sulfur hot spring. Nowadays, tall and large hot spring resort hotels dominate the scenery and the old Kazan Hotel is one of the remaining well-preserved colonial structures here. 

Artifacts found inside the house during its reconstruction.  Japanese buildings usually have tablets containing important information about the house.


A tile on the Kazan Hotel

displays about Taiwanese folk arts



The house had passed into the hands of various people until it ended up in the care of the Taipei City government. Due to various factors like heat, termites, sulfur corrosion, the house had decayed through time. But thanks to the restoration effort that was put into this house, the Beitou Museum now houses 5,000 Taiwanese artifacts as part of their Permanent Exhibit to show to its visitors the colorful folk arts culture of the island.





In one room of the old Kazan Hotel is a large bathtub and it is a reminder of the glory days of the rich Japanese history of this house. The ceiling of the room was high enough to allow steam from the hot spring water to stay above and not suffocate those who were taking a bath. It was not explained though whether the bathtub was used exclusively for men or not. I've learned from the Beitou Hot Spring Museum in Taiwan Day 463 (A Warm to Welcome to Winter) that women have separate smaller bathrooms in contrast to the men who have the privilege to swim in large bathtubs as big as a swimming pool. Let's just assume that in Kazan Hotel everyone has the right to be treated like a royalty.

hallway at the ground floor

The staircase leading to the second floor of the house.

The tearoom


Mt. Fuji

The tea preparation room or "mizuya"
 The house was originally a single floor house until it was expanded into two floors in 1938. It was interesting to enter a two-floor Japanese house in Taiwan. Aside from the usual “tatami” mats that covered the floor, what's inside on the upper floor caught my curiosity. There was a tearoom and guests enjoyed their time talking to each other while someone prepares their tea in another area called the “mizuya”. Here in the “mizuya”, there is a cabinet that serves as a storage place for the different kinds of tea that can be made for the guests.

selfie at the second floor
  
The Banquet Hall or Performance Hall

stage



A performance hall occupies most of the space on the second floor and I was surprised that there were no barriers to prevent visitors in getting inside. There was a stage and I was amazed to see such structure in a Japanese house. Had there been any geisha here who performed in the Kazan Hotel to entertain the kamikaze pilots? Or was it just a place for dining before World War II started? These questions were on my mind as I set my tripod and camera for a memorable photo while sitting on the floor covered with 60 “tatami” mats. In the Bietou Hot Spring Museum, visitors are not allowed to enter the performance hall but here in the old Kazan Hotel, you have the liberty to go inside and capture unlimited selfies.





A modern twist on ramie clothing
The museum had provided a big space for their seasonal exhibits on the first floor. At the time of my visit, the different weaving patterns of the Atayal people were displayed. The colors and the geometry of the shapes in the clothes were somewhat similar to the textiles of the aboriginal people in the Philippines. But beyond the vibrant colors of the Atayal-themed items displayed in the museum, the material on which it was made should be not be missed. The clothes were woven from a kind of fibrous plant called the “ramie” and it undergoes different processes to create a ball of thread reading for weaving. 




If you got hungry, then don't worry because the museum also acts like a restaurant. The prices of the meals were a bit expensive but those interested to experience drinking tea in a Japanese room with a beautiful view of the Danfeng Mountain should ask the staff at the entrance. They will gladly attend to your needs. How to get here to the Beitou Museum? Just board the MRT to Xinbeitou Station and made a hike along the slopes of the mountains in Youya Road. You are heading the right way if you passed by the building of the Spring City Resort. 




My experience in Beitou Museum was fulfilling and it exceeded my expectations for a filler episode in my travel adventures. Yehey! If you are planning to visit Taipei then put the old Kazan Hotel in your itinerary. Discover its secrets and know why I call this place the house that hid the moon.

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Beitou Museum (北投文物馆)
Address: No. 32, Youya Road, Beitou District, Taipei City, 112
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