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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Welcome to J Town!

Next door to the swimming school where my daughter has lessons every Saturday afternoon, is a kindergarten that promotes itself as being "Japanese-style". It isn't clear what that means exactly, and the school looks no different from any other local kindergarten (though a little bigger than most, perhaps), but the banner on the gate informs us that we are welcome to visit anytime to inquire. Despite the awkward Japanese on the sign, Amber decided she would like to register there because "it has a soccer field":

An admitted Japanophile I may be, but an admirer of the Japanese education system I am not, so I doubt that my daughter will be enrolling in such a school anytime soon. I do wonder, though, why this kindergarten would model itself in such a fashion. Could it be that there are a lot of Japanese residing in this part of T'aichung 台中? After all, Amber's swimming school calls itself "Jen Jen Itōman", in an odd mixture of Chinese 人人 and Japanese 伊藤萬 (though in Japan the last character would more likely be written as 万). On one wall is a list of all the names of the students, broken down by classes and levels, which revealed that there is one Masako Iwamoto 岩元雅子 enrolled.

A short walk from the Ren Ren Itoman Swimming School is the Japanese-style supermarket Capita'n. There is also an onigiri おにぎり stand with a trilingual menu (Chinese/English/Japanese) that is full of mistakes in two of the languages (guess which ones?), plus several Japanese restaurants in the vicinity. The latter include a branch of Sushi Express, a tonkatsu 豚カツ chain that recently opened an outlet in Fengyuan 豐原, and a so-called kaiseki 懐石 restaurant, Momo-chan.

Maybe Compass Magazine, the expat zine that likes to give areas of the city such comforting-sounding names like the "Canal District" or "Little Europe", should start calling the area around the intersection of Wenhsin and Ch'ungte Roads "Japantown" or "Little Tōkyō".

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