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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Colonial legacy 植民地主義の遺贈

In today's Japan Times, there is an article on a 40-year-old row between the government in Taiwan and a group of pro-Beijing Chinese over ownership of a student dormitory in Kyoto 京都, and how this case is going to be heard by the Supreme Court of Japan 最高裁判所. According to the article, it appears the Supreme Court is taking steps to overturn a high court ruling in 1987 that favored Taiwan. It seems to me that if the R.O.C. government legally purchased the dorm back in 1952, it should still hold legal title to the property, regardless of the present lack of diplomatic relations between it and Japan. However, I'm not a legal expert, so what do I know?

What I do recognize, however, are signs of the legacy of the Japanese colonial period visible in Taiwan. Here are some examples I've come across this week in Fengyuan (Fongyuan), or should I say "Toyohara" 豊原?

This house is clearly Japanese in design. I don't know when it was built, but it appears to be old (though well-maintained). There are a few houses like this one scattered about Fengyuan, but it's a shame there aren't more of them still standing. They look a lot more aesthetically pleasing than the homes most Taiwanese have had built for themselves these days, including the building in the background.

The use of Japanese in advertising is widespread in Taiwan. This sign outside a bakery on Chung-cheng (Jhong-jheng) Road 中正路 is promoting a pineapple cookie with the words "Nihonjin no daisukina omiyage" 日本人の大すきなおみやげ - "The souvenir that Japanese love".

Even when the writing is in Chinese, the Japanese influence crops up. A case in point is the Japanese possessive particle "no" の, which is often used in advertisements instead of the Mandarin "te (de)" 的. This cafe a few doors down from the bakery above combines English, Japanese and Mandarin

"SOFT の 開間". "Soft no k'ungchien (kongjian)", or "Soft space".
"SWEET の 服務". "Sweet no fuwu", or "Sweet service".

Further along Chung-cheng Road, you will soon come across Fengyuan's most famous sight, the Matsu (Mazu) Miao or Matsu Temple 媽祖廟, aka "Miao Tung (Miao Dong)" 廟東. In the front of the temple are several stone lanterns 献灯 that look very similar to those found in Shinto shrines or Buddhist temples in Japan

If you go the back of the temple, where the bathrooms are located, you will see this, a torii 鳥居 like those found at Shinto shrines

Some concrete has been added to the original structure near the top of the arch, and the Chinese lettering is relatively new, but it is clearly a torii. I don't know the history of Miao Tung, but it's possible it may have been a 神社 that was converted into a Taoist temple after the Kuomintang took over in Taiwan.

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