Sunday, October 26, 2008
Of course he is. It isn't often you read of newly-appointed diplomats expressing pessimism over their new postings (http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20081026a3.html):
"As Taiwan's de facto ambassador to Japan, John Feng believes that strengthening ties between Tōkyō 東京 and Taipei (T'aipei/Taihoku) 台北 is vital to securing bilateral prosperity. 'Taiwan and Japan have a genuine, people-to-people relationship. We are close strategically, historically and geographically,' Feng...said during an interview with The Japan Times ジャパンタイムズ..."
After getting off to a rocky start vis-a-vis Japan, both the administration of Ma Ying-jeou (Ma Ying-chiu/Ba Eikyū) and KMT 中国国民党 heavyweights like Legislative President Wang Jin-pyng (Wang Chin-p'ing/Oh Kimpei) 王金平 have worked hard in recent months to repair the initial damage. The arrival of Feng in Japan on Sept. 27 to head up the Taipei Economic Cultural Representative Office 台北経済文化代表処 is the latest step in the process. Feng has some personal experience with Japan, having:
"...spent more than five years in Tōkyō with his diplomat father and attended local schools in Minato Ward 港区. During a reception in Tōkyō earlier this month to celebrate Taiwan's national commemoration day, Feng surprised guests by reciting the 1957 starting lineup for the...Yomiuri Giants 読売ジャイアンツ. 'My favorite player was (Tatsuro) Hirooka,' Feng said, favoring the reliable shortstop over superstar slugger Shigeo Nagashima 長嶋茂雄."
It figures a member of a political party with an authoritarian past would've rooted for Japan's version of the "Evil Empire", but I do give him credit for not worshiping at the altar of Nagashima (Sadaharu Oh 王貞治 was a much better player).
Feng replaced Koh Se-kai (Hsu Shih-k'ai) 許世楷, who resigned in June ((though "forced out by nationalist KMT legislators" might be the more accurate description) following the brouhaha that arose (all on the Taiwanese side) over the sinking of a Taiwanese fishing vessel following a collision with a Japanese Coast Guard 海上保安庁 ship in waters around the Senkaku Islands 尖閣諸島. In the JT interview, Feng:
"...acknowledged that the territorial dispute (over the Senkakus) is a matter of concern. His stance is that the collision is an isolated case and that the two sides should 'shelve the issue and move on.'"
The article notes that:
"The time-consuming appointment to fill the vacuum left by Koh triggered worries that Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou was taking ties with Japan too lightly."
The reason it took Ma so long to appoint Feng to the post was probably due to the difficulty in finding qualified Taiwanese representatives who held the proper Chinese nationalist ideological beliefs. Koh's treatment in the wake of the Senkaku crisis might also have dissuaded some from taking up the position. Feng (of course):
"...said there was no political motive behind the delay (in his appointment). He stated that Taiwan's ties with Japan are as important as its ties with the United States, if not more, and that the ruling Kuomintang simply lacked the resources to find an appropriate representative after being the opposition party for eight years."
So now Feng is in Tōkyō, playing golf with nationalist politicians such as Tōkyō Governor Shintarō Ishihara 石原慎太郎 and promoting "youth exchanges", a typically nice-sounding but ultimately meaningless idea, and therefore an ideal program to be pursued by the Ma administration. Perhaps Ishihara can take a few Taiwanese young people with him the next time he visits Yasukuni Shrine 靖国神社!
Friday, October 24, 2008
From today's Japan Times ジャパンタイムズ, "Renesas mulls tieup with Taiwan firm" http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nb20081024a4.html:
"Renesas Technology Corp. ルネサステクノロジ, Japan's second-largest semiconductor maker, is mulling a tie-up with major maker Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) to mass-produce next-generation chips, sources said. Renesas is considering outsourcing a large part of its production to the Taiwan company to cut its mounting production costs and instead use more of its financial resources on product development, the sources said Wednesday. The tie-up talks come at a time when other chip makers are gearing up to start mass production of next-generation chips to make digital consumer appliances smaller and help cut their electricity consumption. The development of such chips is expected to lead to the creation of highly functional digital appliances...Through the tie-up, Renesas aims to cut costs that are projected to run into tens of billions of yen to develop production technologies and hundreds of billions of yen more to set up large-scale production lines...Major Japanese chip makers generally engage in the full process from product planning and development to production, but some are beginning to outsource production in an effort to cut costs."
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Almost everyday in Taiwan is a crisis of sorts for me. But the Japan Times ジャパンタイムズ today has an article on a different kind of Taiwanese crisis, and how it was related to Japan. The headline of the article, "'58 Taiwan Strait crisis saw nukes in Okinawa" http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20081023f3.html, says it all:
"Two types of nuclear bombs were deployed at Kadena Air Base 嘉手納飛行場 in Okinawa 沖縄 around the time the United States was considering nuclear strikes on China during the Taiwan Strait crisis 金門砲戦 in 1958, a declassified U.S. document showed Tuesday. Previously released documents have shown the U.S. military was considering a plan to carry out nuclear strikes against mainland China from then U.S.-occupied Okinawa during the crisis, in which Chinese and Taiwanese forces clashed in the strait."
You can read about the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Taiwan_Strait_Crisis. The article goes on to say that:
"...the U.S. had a plan to drop nuclear bombs on Chinese airfields in Amoy, now Xiamen 廈門, in the event the Chinese blockaded the islands. According to a separate, declassified U.S. Air Force document...the U.S. had a plan to launch initial atomic strikes against China from Clark Air Base in the Philippines and Kadena, with the option of more strikes from these bases if necessary."
For those of you who might otherwise be unaware, the Republic of China 中華民国 government on Taiwan controls two groups of islands just offshore from the Chinese mainland, Kinmen (Chinmen/Kimmon) 金門 and Matsu 馬祖. I've never had an overwhelming urge to visit these places, as I've always considered them to be more a part of China, and not Taiwan. Sinophiliacs such as my Aussie co-worker Ivan might have trouble wrapping their minds around this, but I've never had much of an interest in visiting the mainland (I did spend a great week in Hong Kong 香港 back in 1993, but at that time it was still a British colony, and the combination of British and Chinese influences was part of the attraction for me). Technically speaking, if you follow the One China 一つの中国 line of thinking, Kinmen and Matsu are not part of the province of Taiwan, but fall under the administration of Fujian (Fukken) Province 福建省. In the unlikely event the Chinese government should ever acquiesce to the establishment of an independent Republic of Taiwan 台湾共和国, I would think these islands would have to be returned to China's control. Seeing as the residents of Kinmen and Matsu vote overwhelmingly for the KMT 中国国民党 in every election, I doubt such a reversion would become an impediment.
But I digress, for the Japan Times article got me to do some additional perusing of the latest edition of Lonely Planet's ロンリープラネット Taiwan guide. And from what I've read so far, it sounds like these islands could make for an interesting trip. Matsu, in particular, seems to have great beaches, interesting sites related to military history and the chance to stay overnight in a 200 year-old Fujian-style stone house. It seems I may have to rethink what constitutes "Taiwan".
As for that dedicated Sinologist Ivan, his love of things Chinese apparently extends to sturgeon チョウザメ fishing and caviar キャビア production in Heilongjiang (Kokuryūkō) Province 黒龍江省, judging from a conversation I had with him the other day. The more I listen to him, the more I'm convinced Sinophilia is much like alcoholism アルコール依存症: most of us can enjoy what Chinese culture has to offer without letting it dominate our lives/thinking (not to mention clouding our judgment/moral compasses), but for an unfortunate few...
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Getting up close and personal with a whip scorpion サンリモドキ in Dakeng (Tak'eng).
The Taiwanese movie "Cape No. 7" has been a runaway success in this country, and the Japan Times ジャパンタイムズ has taken note of the phenomenon ("Taiwan love story conjures colonial nostalgia" http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20081021f2.html):
"A Taiwanese movie depicting a love story between a Japanese woman and a Taiwanese man has become a huge blockbuster on the island, setting box-office records since its release at the end of August. 'Cape No. 7,' which cost just 50 million Taiwanese dollars (￥155 million/$1.5 million) to make, but has so far generated NT400 million, or about ¥1.2 billion ($12.2 million). The actors and actresses featured in the movie have all become stars in Taiwan, and spin off goods are selling well."
Many of my students have seen the film (though in true Taiwanese fashion, some of them didn't pay for the privilege, if you get my meaning), and the overall consensus is positive. The JT summarizes the plot of "Cape No. 7":
"The story centers on seven love letters written by a male Japanese teacher who left Taiwan after World War II and the end of Japan's colonial rule of Taiwan. The letters were written to a Taiwanese woman living in a town on the coast of southern Taiwan. Sixty years later, a group of Taiwanese boys and a Japanese girl discover the letters and try to deliver them to the woman addressed in the letters."
One interesting thing about "Cape No. 7" is that the dialog isn't in Mandarin 中国官話 as might be expected. Instead, Japanese and Taiwanese 台湾語 are the dominant languages in the movie. As the Japan Times explains:
"Chinese Mandarin was introduced to Taiwan by Chinese mainlanders who emigrated to the island together with the Kuomintang 中国国民党 government in the late 1940s. Critics lay the movie's popularity to nostalgia for the period of Japanese colonial rule and frustration over the Nationalist Party government..."
Hmm...a touching love story with a subtle anti-Chinese nationalism undercurrent (though the director denies any political motivations)? "Cape No. 7" might be worth seeing. Here's one review in English: http://culturatti.com/2008/10/10/cape-no-7-about-710-but-worth-seeing/
UPDATE: Michael Turton http://michaelturton.blogspot.com/ passed along this interpretation of the movie from his friend Micheal:
"It's Taiwanese love for Japanese pop culture cleverly packaged by the director to get people to think about the colonial period, a period which is a complete blank for young people."
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Before going to Taichung (T'aichung/Taichū) 台中, we stopped by a small "river" near Jhong-jheng Park, to say hello to Amber's uncle, who was doing some fishing. My brother-in-law is one of the most nicest people I have ever met.
The festival was held in the park meridian that runs between Taizhonggang and Gongyi Roads, not far from the National Museum of Natural Science 国立自然科学博物館. The number of food stalls and other vendors there made it seem more like a market than a music festival, but then what would Taiwan be if there weren't people out there trying to sell you things? Amber had a try at an electronic drum kit:
We stopped for a break at a nearby Mister Donut ミスタードーナツ, where Amber had her first, and presumably (for a while, at least), last sip of coffee (with cream and sugar):
We actually didn't hear all that much in the way of music. I did, however, record one jazz quartet for about 90 seconds:
The somewhat shaky camerawork comes from trying to film with one hand, while carrying my daughter in my other arm.
As night fell (and Amber started getting tired), we headed back to Fengyuan (Hōgen) 豊原, stopping off at a roadside teppanyaki 鉄板焼き stand to pick up some food to take home for dinner.
For myself, Taichung's Jazz Festival ended up being a celebration of Taiwan's budding craft beer industry. I've long complained about the generally poor quality of the government-monopoly produced Taiwan Beer (if you like Budweiser, you'll love Taiwan Beer!), and the lack of selection of beers in general to be found in convenience stores and supermarkets. The retail situation is still pretty bleak, but microbreweries are starting to appear on the scene, and not a moment too soon!
The large bottle in the middle is brewed by a company called Le ble d'or, while the two on either side are from North Taiwan Brewing. Both breweries are based in the Taipei (T'aipei/Taihoku) 台北 area, though Le ble d'or also has a couple of restaurants in Taichung. I've already polished off the bottle on the right (the Abbey Beer) while I've been writing this (and it was delicious!), and I'm looking forward to the other two. In fact, combined with the sake-in-a-can and sake-in-a-carton (straw included!) that I was given by a student on Friday (her mother-in-law had just returned from a trip to Japan), I think I'm going to be feeling pretty good for most of this upcoming week!
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Though it appeared in the Japan Times ジャパンタイムズ on Tuesday of last week, "New Japanese makes inroads into Chinese vocabulary" http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/ek20081007a1.html is a pretty interesting article, and one which will no doubt annoy the hell out of your (un)friendly neighborhood Chinese nationalist. The story describes "Wasei kango" 和製漢語, literally "Japan-made Chinese words", which were coined in Japan, starting from the Meiji Period 明治時代 (1868-1912) and continuing up to the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War 日中戦争 in 1937. "Wasei kango" served to translate knowledge from Western countries into Chinese characters 漢字 as Japan was modernizing after 250 years of relative isolation, and these in turn were adopted by the Chinese and became part of their language. The article gives a sample list of such words (I've added the Mandarin pronunciations):
直接 chokusetsu (direct; zhijie)
注射 chūsha (injection; zhushe)
出口 deguchi (exit; chukou)
伝染病 densenbyō (contagious disease; chuanranbing, with 傳 used in Taiwan in place of 伝)
電子 denshi (electron; dianzi)
動脈 dōmyaku (artery; dongmai)
原子 denshi (atom; yuanzi)
百貨店 yakkaten (department store; baihuodian)
入口 iriguchi (entrance; rukou)
時間 jikan (time; shijian)
決算 kessan (closing of accounts; juesuan)
企業 kigyō (business; qiye)
小型 kogata (compact; xiaoxing)
工業 kōgyō (industry; gongye)
広告 kōkoku (advertisement; guanggao. In Taiwan it's 廣告)
国際 kokusai (international; guoji 國際)
空間 kǖkan (space; kongjian)
民族 minzoku (people; minzu)
農民 nōmin (farmer; nongmin)
大型 ōgata (large scale; daxing)
歴史 rekishi (history; lishi)
劣勢 ressei (inferiority; lieshi)
政党 seitō (political party; zhendang)
社会 shakai (society; shehui, with Taiwanese writing 會 for 会)
市場 shijō (market; shichang)
自然科学 shizen kagaku (natural science; ziran kexue 學 in place of 学)
所得税 shotokuzei (income tax; suodeshui)
出版 shuppan (publishing; chuban)
主体 shutai (main subject; zhuti 體 replacing 体)
相対 sōtai (relative; xiangdui 相對)
体育 taiiku (physical education; tiyu 體育)
体操 taisō (calisthenics; ticao 體操)
投資 tōshi (investment; touzi)
優勢 yǖsei (superiority; youshi)
絶対 zettai (absolute; juedui 絶對)
In the early centuries of Japanese history, China (via Korea) was the source of numerous concepts and vocabulary for Japan. Now the flow has been reversed, and the story concludes by pointing out that the Japanese language today still has a big influence on Chinese.
The China Post had an "editorial" yesterday on the relationship between Yonaguni Island 与那国島 in Japan's Okinawa Prefecture 沖縄県 and Taiwan's Hualien (Karen) 花連: "Japan isle looks to Taiwan" http://www.chinapost.com.tw/editorial/taiwan-issues/2008/10/15/178696/Japan-isle.htm. The reason for the quotation marks around the word "editorial" is that the piece is anything but. It seems the editors at the China Post took a few facts about Yonaguni from its Wikipedia entry http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yonaguni, and then "borrowed" very liberally from the same Kyōdō News 共同通信社 story that appeared in the Japan Times a week ago ("Yonaguni looks to Taiwan to survive" http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20081009f1.html). While Kyōdō News was credited in the second paragraph of the Post's article, if I were a college professor and this a term paper handed in by one of my students, I would be raising some questions about plagiarism 盗作. But my biggest question is why this appeared as an editorial. The opinions of the editors on Yonaguni and Hualien are not stated anywhere. If this were truly an editorial, shouldn't there be some words about encouraging the two places to grow closer together, thus further improving the overall Japan-Taiwan relationship? Or, seeing as the China Post is generally anti-Japanese in tone, couldn't the editors have passed along a warning about the "threat from the rise of Japanese nationalism"? Even a completely reactionary assertion (not beyond the realm of possibility for the Post!) that Okinawa is still a tribute state of China, and that therefore Taiwan has a claim over Yonaguni, would at least constitute an opinion, which is what an editorial is supposed to do. This story belongs in either the Asia-Pacific or Taiwan sections of the newspaper, and not on the Op/Ed page. Is the China Post too cheap to actually pay Kyōdō News for the article? I guess you could call it "night market journalism".
Finally, if you're a Japanese who commits a felony, it looks like Taiwan isn't the place for you to hide: "Taiwan to extradite murder suspect" http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/A/AS_TAIWAN_JAPAN_MURDER_ASOL-?SITE=YOMIURI&SECTION=HOSTED_ASIA&TEMPLATE=ap_national.html.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
We're halfway through the three-day weekend courtesy of the Double Ten national holiday 中華民国国慶日 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double_Ten_Day, and I'm already exhausted, but feeling good nonetheless. Yesterday morning (Friday), the Kaminoge family set off in their motorcar, and moved in a southerly direction. Our plan was to visit Chiayi (Kagi) 嘉義, spend the night there, and then drive to the Guanziling (Kanshirei) Hot Springs 関子嶺温泉 on Saturday morning. Things didn't turn out quite as planned, but the result in the end was better than anticipated. For the sweet twist of fate, read on...
We didn't leave home until after 11:30am, but that was no problem, as the idea was to spend the afternoon strolling around Chiayi Park (Kagi-kōen) 嘉義公園, before locating a hotel in the downtown area to spend the night, whereupon after checking in and parking the car, we would go to a night market and soak up some local atmosphere. Southbound-traffic on the No. 1 Freeway was heavier than expected, which Pamela put down to being the result of a festival of some sort being held at Sun Moon Lake (Nichigettan) 日月潭 . However, I learned from talking on the phone to my friend Steve that a big national day fireworks show was scheduled to be held in Chiayi on Friday evening, right in the very park we were planning to visit. After a quick visit to my wife's hometown of Siluo (Seira) 西螺 in Yunlin (Unrin) County 雲林県 (where we had lunch at a noodle restaurant that Pamela used to frequent back in her elementary and junior high school days, so you know it's been around for a while!), we got to Chiayi around 2:30, where the Statue of Liberty 自由の女神像 welcomed the huddled masses yearning to breathe free in the middle of a traffic circle:
Heading towards Chiayi Park, we saw that the police were already instituting crowd-control measures on the roads, so we figured the best thing to do would be to find accommodation ASAP, and go to the park on foot. Well, every hotel we either telephoned or stopped at was fully booked, and the love hotels ラブホテル were not accepting overnight visitors until after 10pm. After about 90 minutes of driving around downtown Chiayi in search of a place to stay (and with me wondering what the hell was I thinking when I decided earlier in the week that it wouldn't be necessary to book ahead!), we gave up on the city. A quick phone call to a hotel in Guanziling secured a room for us for the evening, and so we drove into the hills of northern Tainan County 台南県, arriving at the Jing Leh Hotel around 5:30. According to "The Rough Guide to Taiwan", the Jing Leh:
"...is the oldest hotel in town, established in 1902 with Japanese-style rooms and white-tiled bathrooms..."
Wooden floors and futons constitute "Japanese-style" in Taiwan, but the hotel didn't look much like it was 106 years old. In fact, the neighboring Hotel Kuanzuling (in English)/Kanshirei Onsen Hotel 関子嶺温泉ホテル (in Japanese) looked much older, and more Japanese.
However, the hotel was a reasonably-priced NT2200 ($68 or ￥6800) for a large room with bath/toilet en suite, and a Western-style breakfast in the morning, plus friendly staff. After dropping our bags off at the hotel we drove 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) up the hill, along a road made treacherous in parts due to recent typhoon damage, to the Water Fire Cave - a natural spring pool that has escaping natural gas igniting above it. We got there just after the sun had set, which had the added bonus of making the flames look even more spectacular. After returning back to the lower part of Guanziling village (where the Jing Leh Hotel is located) and having dinner, the three of us went into a communal (but private) bath at our hotel to enjoy the hot springs. To quote Rough Trade again, the spring water at Guanziling:
"is a rare type found in only two other places (Japan and Sicily). It contains alkali and iodine, has a light sulfuric smell and a grayish 'muddy' color."
What the book doesn't mention is that the water also produces actual mud, heaps of it, which Amber, in particular, enjoyed flinging at us and rubbing on herself:
Definitely the most interesting hot spring experience I've had so far!
The next morning (today), we got up at 6 and took a walk up some stairs that overlooked the lower village:
Following our stroll and breakfast, we checked out, then drove off to visit the Bi Yun Temple, a further 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) past the Water Fire Cave. Consisting of a Taoist temple at the bottom and a Buddhist one at the top, the complex (again to quote RT):
"occupies a stunning location beneath a craggy peak with great views of the plains below."
Which is all true, but on this morning the weather was hazy, which limited the view. In addition, soon after we got there, a festival began that involved lots of firecrackers being set off, which only served to terrify Amber, and made her want to leave. It was a good thing we did, though, because as we were pulling out of the parking lot, busloads of "pilgrims" (for want of a better description) began showing up, and the narrow mountain road was quickly beginning to back up with traffic. Fortunately for us, we were heading in the opposite direction, back towards Chiayi.
Driving into Chiayi on Highway 1, our next stop was the Tropic of Cancer Monument 北回帰線標塔. There's a museum nearby that reminds of Los Angeles International Airport. The actual line marking the northern boundary of the tropics crosses the highway. Meanwhile, replicas of previous monuments (the earliest one having been erected in 1908) can be seen in front of the museum. Afterward, we returned to a still-busy central Chiayi, but now a city in which all roads were free of restrictions. And in a case of "When in Rome", we naturally had turkey rice for lunch.
And so, roughly 24 hours later than originally intended, we arrived at Chiayi Park. A fair question might be "What's so special about the park?". For Amber, it was a chance to play on some slides and blow some bubbles, but for myself, it was an opportunity to visit the site of the old Kagi Shrine 嘉義神社 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kagi_Shrine, one of the 66 official Shintō shrines 神社 established during the Japanese colonial era. The Koma-inu 狛犬 guardian lion statues and stone lanterns still line the approach, and though the torii 鳥居 is gone, the shrine's beautiful old cypress office buildings have been preserved as the Chiayi Historical Relics Museum. Funny how in Matsue 松江, the local history museum was housed in a Meiji-era Western-style building, while here, displays on Chiayi's early history are presented in a very Japanese-looking structure. Free of charge, the buildings are interesting to walk through. It's great to see the old architectural examples being put to good use instead of being torn down and replaced by some KMT-designed monstrosity.
(The last picture, by the way, was taken by a photographer who is isn't quite 2 years and 9 months old!)
Where the main hall of Kagi-jinja once stood, there now stands the Chiayi Tower. There would've been good views of the city from the top, had the sky not been full of haze, but it was possible to look down through a glassed section of floor at the interior of the tower, all the way down to the bottom:
By the time we left the tower, it was after 4, so we got back in the car and headed home to Fengyuan (Hōgen) 豊原. There is still one more day left in this holiday weekend, but we figured the freeways will be jammed tomorrow (Sunday) with people returning home. Besides, the apartment needs a good cleaning, so that's what I'm going to be doing on Sunday. It was enough that we were able to get away for as long as we could, and to where we could go. In fact, things worked out even better by us staying in Guanziling. After all, we were able to enjoy a hot springs experience at a leisurely pace, and still get to enjoy Chiayi Park, and with the added bonus of avoiding the crowds that would have been there on Saturday evening.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
Japan and Taiwan are much closer than most people think. Only 68 miles off the east coast of Taiwan lies Yonaguni-jima 与那国島, the westernmost island in Okinawa Prefecture 沖縄県, and therefore the westernmost point of Japan 日本最西端の碑 (it's said that on clear days the mountains of Taiwan are visible from Irizaki 西崎). A part of Japan since armies from the Satsuma Domain 薩摩藩 invaded the Ryūkyū Kingdom 琉球王国 in 1609 (though hardcore Sinophiles might believe that "once a tribute state of China, always a tribute state of China"), these days "Yonaguni looks to Taiwan to survive", according to an article in today's Japan Times ジャパンタイムズ http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20081009f1.html:
"Residents of Japan's westernmost island of Yonaguni are trying to find a way to counter its declining population by strengthening interactions with Taiwan."
A short history lesson follows:
"Before World War II, when Taiwan was under Japanese control and there was no border between the two islands, Yonaguni was affluent and had a population of 4,000 to 5,000 who could freely visit Taiwan, about 110 km away. Yonaguni, which has only one town, named Yonaguni 与那国町, was at its zenith for several years after the end of the war as a base for a thriving black market. It overflowed with people and material goods. The town boasted a population of 12,000 at a time when food and other things were scarce in the rest of the country. But the authorities cracked down on the black market and the island lost its vitality. The number of tourists, however, has exceeded 30,000 in the last two or three years thanks to a popular TV drama and the townspeople's efforts to promote the tourism industry."
Yonaguni is noted for sake 日本酒, horses, marlin カジキ fishing, the largest moth in the world (the Yonaguni atlas moth ヨナグニサン http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E3%83%A8%E3%83%8A%E3%82%B0%E3%83%8B%E3%82%B5%E3%83%B3) and some underwater rock formations that people with double-digit IQ's believe to be man-made (those with single-digit IQ's think it's the lost continent of Atlantis アトランティス, or the work of extraterrestrials 宇宙人). Despite its popularity with Japanese travelers, trouble is looming:
"...the population of the island has fallen by about 200 in the past five years to about 1,650 at present."
As proof that all things are relative in this world, while the government in Taipei (Taihoku) 台北 looks to Chinese visitors as the potential saviors of the local economy, the people of Yonaguni (where jobs are scarce) are:
"...focusing on Taiwan as a means of survival and are trying to establish the island as a gateway to Asia. About 70 people from Hualien (Karen) 花連, Yonaguni's sister city in central Taiwan, made a group tour from July 4 to 7 to participate in an international fishing event to catch marlin. More than 300 Taiwanese reportedly applied for the trip. The group's trip marked the second time a chartered plane had been sent to Taiwan. The town set up a liaison office in Hualien in May 2007 to attract tourists and companies in an effort to strengthen relations."
According to Chiyoki Tasato, head of the Hualien liaison office:
"If we can function as a border, people and material goods from Taiwan, which has a population of 23 million, will come through Yonaguni, which has a history of sharing culture and of living within the sphere of Taiwan..."
The island has received ¥50 million from the central government in Tōkyō 東京, with which it is planning to:
"...use the money for a high-speed ship that will make two round trips to Taiwan on a trial basis in November. It had earlier petitioned the central government to designate the island as a special border interaction zone and assign a high-speed vessel to run between Taiwan and Yonaguni, but the government rejected it on grounds that there was no precedent. Local officials hope to establish a track record for Yonaguni as a 'border town' and customs, immigration and quarantine officials will eventually be stationed there on a permanent basis."
Considering how close Yonaguni-jima is to Taiwan, it would be great if direct transport links could be set up. At present, visiting the island from Taiwan means flying first to Naha 那覇, the prefectural capital, from which Yonaguni is a 90-minute flight away. The Japanese government should act on this, and do so soon, for, as the mayor of Yonaguni points out:
"If the situation remains as is, remote border islands like Yonaguni will go into decline. The residents will disappear."
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
I had an interesting "conversation" yesterday afternoon with an Australian colleague at the cram school where I teach. Let's refer to him as "Ivan", because that's his name. Ivan, among other things, believes that the Republic of China 中華民国 is not a sovereign nation (despite the fact that most countries accept the validity of R.O.C. passports and the existence of representative offices, even while denying diplomatic recognition); that Taiwan is a province of China that will soon be returned to the motherland (after all, virtually everyone here is "Han Chinese" 漢民族, as if it were some kind of homogeneous ethnic grouping); that it is alright for the Chinese to station over a 1000 missiles at Taiwan, because after all the Americans and Russians have missiles pointed at each other (Ivan frequently lapsed into the same old tired anti-American, and to a lesser extent, anti-Israeli rantings that serve as irrelevant "justifications" for those who are unable to find logical reasons for their positions on issues); that China's control over Tibet チベット and Xinjiang 新疆 is justified because the Tibetans and Muslims (Uyghurs ウイグル) are now minorities in their own homelands thanks to Chinese immigration (destruction and/or dilution of other cultures is apparently not a problem); and that the Kuomintang 中国国民党 were not outside invaders suppressing the Taiwanese because Lien Chan's (Ren Sen) 連戦 family was from Taiwan, but he grew up in China in order to escape Japanese colonization, and besides, the 228 Incident 二・ニハ地事件 and the White Terror 白色テロ "happened a long time ago". Basically, Ivan was saying (though I don't think he realized it) that my daughter should be growing up in a police state, but I feel I did a good job of keeping my anger in check.
All this got me to wondering what makes someone like Ivan tick. If he were ethnically Chinese, I could understand the attraction a Greater China might have (I've been known to harbor a secret admiration for the British Empire イギリス帝国 from time to time), a vindication of one's ancestors and all that they accomplished. But therein lies the rub, for Ivan (like myself) is as white as they come. So what is it that turns some people who I assume were taught right from wrong by their parents (and Ivan is an affable bloke) into amoral アホ's when it comes to certain topics? Could it be Sinophilia, for Ivan, by all appearances, is a Sinophile. His wife comes from China (the lack of family ties to Taiwan could be one reason why he is so willing to damn 23 million people to their fate without letting them have a say in the matter), he speaks Mandarin 中国官話 very well, has spent time in China (though he says he has been in Taiwan for nearly a decade) and talks about reading web sites from the mainland. Is there something about having a strong interest in things Chinese that can skew one's moral compass? Is it the 5000 years of history? The difficulties in mastering the language? The admittedly magnificent legacy to found in the arts? A New Age ニューエイジ attraction to feng shui 風水 and Taoism 道教? A keen interest in busting heads from watching too many kung fu movies? Or simply a case of the dreaded "yellow fever"? Having never developed more than a passing interest in Chinese culture (I did take a class on Chinese history in college - "5000 years in 10 weeks!" - and have read "Dream of the Red Chamber" 紅楼夢 and "Wild Swans" ワイルド・スワン), I'm having trouble trying to understand why an otherwise level-headed person would seemingly think it's perfectly OK for the Chinese government to try to reestablish the borders of the 17th-century Manchu 満州民族 empire.
Perhaps Ivan is an aberration, like those Japanophiliac Westerners employed by the Institute of Cetacean Research 日本鯨類研究所 in Japan, which believes that white mouthpieces do a better job than native ones of trying to persuade the Western world that there is nothing wrong in letting the Japanese slaughter whales to the point of extinction.
Or is Ivan one of those lovable cranks who seem perfectly normal until they start talking about how the Jews are behind everything?
Whatever the reason(s), I'm going to have to try my best to make sure Amber develops a solid moral foundation while growing up. And that in addition to avoiding pedophiles ペドファイル, she might want to keep her distance from Sinophiles as well.
Sunday, October 5, 2008
We're home after a long and tiring, but enjoyable nonetheless, day trip to Taipei (Taihoku) 台北. I've spent a lot of time in the capital city over the years, and it never fails to underwhelm me. I suppose it's because I used to live in Tōkyō 東京, and I'm also familiar with Ōsaka 大阪, but compared to those two megalopolises, Taipei seems much quieter and slower-paced. This may come as a surprise to those Western bloggers for whom Taipei is their first experience in coming to terms with living in a large Asian city, but to me, Taipei is no more intimidating than Nagoya 名古屋, for example. It's unfair to compare Taipei with Tōkyō, but seeing as how Taiwan's capital tries so hard to be like Japan's largest city, I'll go ahead and point out that while Tōkyō serves as a gateway to the rest of Japan, Taipei acts as a protective cocoon sheltering its citizens (and resident Westerners) from the oftentimes ugly reality that can be life in (the rest of) Taiwan. Which is probably why I look forward to visiting Taipei each time!
We began our trip by catching the 9:22am Tze-Chiang 自強 express train from Fengyuan (Hōgen) 豊原:
and arriving at Taipei Main Station 台北駅 before 11:30. On the way, the train passed a Taoist 道教 temple with a somewhat garish statue perched on top (unfortunately, I forgot to note the location, but thanks to a commenter below, I remember now that it was in Jhunan in Miaoli County.):
Once in Taipei, we transferred to the MRT 台北捷運 subway system, and took it to the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall 中正記念堂 Station. Upon entering the CKS Memorial Hall after lunch, we came to the main reason for our trip up north today - the Taipei 2008 Mammoth Exhibition:
On display were the head (including the two tusks) and left foreleg of an adult woolly mammoth, and the head and part of the torso of a mammoth calf, both discovered frozen in Siberia. The exhibit was small, but interesting, and for Pamela and I, seeing these remains was the completion of some unfinished business. Back in 2005, when we were living in Yokkaichi 四日市, Mie Prefecture 三重県, in Japan, we traveled one afternoon to the Expo 2005 2005年日本国際博覧会 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aichi_Expo in Aichi Prefecture 愛知県, which was being held on the outskirts of Nagoya. One of the most popular attractions at the expo was the aforementioned adult mammoth. However, it proved to be too popular, as the line to get in to the hall displaying the remains was one of the longest I've ever seen, and so we ended up concentrating on the less-popular exhibits (and getting to see more of the expo in the process than most single-trip visitors, but that's another story). So when my wife heard that the mammoth was coming to Taipei, she suggested we try again. Mission accomplished, we then headed upstairs to visit the memorial proper.
The Chiang Kai-shek Memorial may be offensive (as would any monument showing respect to a dictator responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of his own people), but it certainly is damn impressive, if just for the sheer size of the structure, and the vast grounds it occupies. Gargantuanism obviously has a role to play in Chinese culture:
Walking towards the front gate, we lucked out in a big way, as rehearsals for next Friday's Double Ten Day 中華民国国慶日 celebrations were just about to get under way. Drill teams from the army, navy and air force (with the sailors being the ones closest to where we were standing) went through their precision routines flawlessly, at least as far I could tell. It was quite a show, and we were able to see it all up close, and without having to deal with the crowds that will no doubt be lining the parade route on the 10th. Here are three video clips of the rehearsal. I filmed the first one, and my wife recorded the other two, while I was holding Amber aloft so that she could see the show. Please excuse the poor quality of our digital camera, and the sometimes shaky camera work - Pamela was getting tired holding the camera up for several minutes straight!
It was getting late in the afternoon, so we left the CKS Memorial, and headed back on the MRT towards Taipei Station.
At last, we boarded our 6:10pm Tze Chiang for the trip back to Fengyuan (with reservations having been made several days in advance, of course). Amber was a non-stop ball of energy the entire two hours on the train, but once we got home, after she had a shower and a bottle of milk, it didn't take her long to pass out from the day's activities. I'm guessing it won't take me long tonight, either!
Saturday, October 4, 2008
Amber in the child carrier, ready for a ride on my back this morning in the hills above Chung-cheng Park in Fengyuan (Hōgen)豊原.
There are three English-language daily newspapers in Taiwan (China Post, Taipei Times and Taiwan News), and I like to take turns reading all of them, in order to get a better idea of what is going on both in Taiwan and the greater world. The Taiwan News, however, is getting harder to find in Fengyuan. The one 7-Eleven セブン-イレブン near my apartment that had been carrying the paper stopped selling it last week, and now I have to go across town to another 7-Eleven, across from the city hospital, to buy a copy.
Of the three dailies, the Taiwan News is the leanest in terms of content (due to its decision to go to a tabloid タブロイド format), though it does run good in-depth articles from time to time. It's also a pro-Green publication, providing a welcome contrast to the pro-Blue (read "wacko") leanings of the China Post, and the editorials are generally excellent. Two other points in its favor are the daily crossword puzzle (the most challenging of the three) and the fact it carries "Doonesbury" ドゥーンズベリー. On the other hand, the paper has a habit of printing glorified adverts in the guise of news stories, without identifying the articles as being "publicity". But once in a while, one of these pseudo-stories (the newspaper world's version of infomercials インフォマーシャル) turns out to be mildly interesting, like this one which caught my eye this morning:
Japanese fun for all at the Hotel Royal: Japan's best sake, delicious food, delicacies in abundance at hotels' gourmet banquet http://www.etaiwannews.com/etn/news_content.php?id=754861&lang=eng_news&cate_rss=TAIWAN_eng
"Autumn is a time to sip and savor Japanese sake 日本酒. The experience is even better if you are able to drink sake with gourmet delicacies, specially made to accompany the Japanese wine. From Oct. 1 to Oct. 31, the Hotel Royal Taipei ホテル・ロイヤル・タイペイ, Hotel Royal Hsinchu, Hotel Royal Chiao Hsi, and Hotel Royal Chipen are jointly running a gourmet banquet and accommodation discount to invite everyone to come and enjoy the large array of sakes available at the four grand hotels."
The Royal Hotels are part of the Nikko Hotel International chain, a part of the larger JAL Hotels JALホテルズ group. The story describes how diners can enjoy a seven-course meal of Japanese-style dishes (though the only one actually mentioned in the article is "roasted duck breast with a blueberry sauce", hardly 日本料理!) with seven chilled sakes. It sounds like it would make for a fine dining experience, something I haven't had in quite a long time. However, although no prices for the meal were mentioned in the story, I'm pretty sure such a night out would stretch the budget of a humble English teacher and his equally humble salary. So for now, when it comes to Japanese cuisine, I'm just going to have to make do with the mediocre local Japanese eateries, until my next visit to Japan, where even the budget diners outshine the finest establishments of central Taiwan (here's a hint to our local, wannabe Japanese chefs: don't be afraid to use salt, dammit! Though it might come as a surprise to you, Japanese food is actually supposed to have flavor!). And as for the sake, I'm presently enjoying a glass from the NT1200 bottle of Takaisami 鷹勇 that I a bought a few weeks ago at the Tottori 鳥取県 Fair held at Fengyuan's one and only department store.