Another free Wednesday afternoon, another excursion to some of the hiking trails of Tak'eng (Dakeng) 大坑. The No. 8 Trail is still officially closed due to recent typhoon damage, but someone has dug out some makeshift paths to go over and behind the several landslides that have wiped out portions of the road. This was probably done to give farmers access to the fruit orchards in the area, but it also meant I was able to go up the No. 8 despite the crime scene-like yellow tape barrier. The main route to the top is still barred, as the wooden steps in one section were destroyed by a landslide, but there is another trail that hugs the side of the hill, and makes for an alternative path to the karaoke カラオケ joints up above (oh joy). From the summit (if you can call it that - it's a short walk up), I joined up with the No. 6 Trail, and took that to where it meets up with the relatively new No. 9. There were plenty of insects to see along the way:
After a couple of days of extreme low-visibility conditions, the views of the mountains and the city of T'aichung (Taijhong) 台中 were pretty good today:
While walking down the No. 9 Trail, I discovered a new trail, the No. 10 (もちろん), that appeared to be in the final stages of completion. I thus have a good excuse to return to the area soon to see what the new route is like (a quick note to the superstitious: the way leading from the No. 9 Trail back to the parking lot for Trails 6, 7 and 8 passes right through a cemetery. It is Ghost Month 盂蘭盆, after all).
Today's Japan Times ジャパンタイムズ has an article ("Japan-bred canines have leg up in Taiwan guide dog industry" http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20080806f2.html), by Max Hirsch of Kyōdō News 共同通信社, about how dogs from Japan are:
"...transforming Taiwan from an island once known for putting dogs on menus to one that increasingly uses them to lead its blind and patrol its airports."
This trend is being led by the demand for guide dogs 盲導犬:
"...the guide dog industry (in Taiwan) is tiny, with just 24 dogs for the island's some 60,000 visually impaired people. But it was only last year that Taiwan's parliament OK'd fines for peddling dog meat, once a popular food. The (Taiwan Guide Dog Association) itself, the island's biggest, didn't emerge until 2002. Since then, however, the number of dogs processed through the association has increased yearly amid growing demand for service and police dogs islandwide. Just last month, Japan donated four puppies to the association, which had already graduated four other Japanese guide dogs this year...Among the nearly 20 canines the association has trained, some three-fourths are Japan-bred, while Japanese guide dog authorities hold the most seminars in the region on training...Lacking proper canine breeding conditions, Taiwan's reliance on Japan in building up a sizable service dog industry is clear."
I remember when Pamela and I were dating how she would point out dog meat restaurants while we were driving around Fengyuan (Fongyuan) 豊原. The signs would say 香肉, or "fragrant meat"! According to professional dog trainer Rei Chang:
"'Taiwanese dogs trend toward sickness or emotional instability, so we have to look overseas.' Japan, Feng said, is an ideal source because experts there have bred superior strains and developed related expertise over decades. Japanese canines, she said, enjoy the extra advantage of being able to get by the island's strict animal quarantine measures, which all but ban dogs — even top-notch service canines — from countries farther away. Not surprisingly, Japan represents the regional nexus for the service dog industry, with its training schools comprising the bulk of the Asian Guide Dog Breeding Network. Using English as its lingua franca, the network facilitates exchanges of dogs and knowhow among Japan, Taiwan and South Korea. Representing AGBN in Taiwan, the association typically receives dogs from fellow chapters in Japan and trains them locally."
The thing is, when I was living in Japan during the 1990's, I can remember reading stories in the newspapers of hotels refusing entry to guide dogs (due to "No Pets" policies), with the implication being that Japan was far behind the United States in that regard. I don't know if things are any better for the visually-impaired these days in Japan, but the JT article does serve as a reminder of how some ideas make their way from the U.S. to Taiwan after being passed through a Japanese filter.