At some point or another, most of Asia was occupied by the Japanese, usually with disastrous consequences. But Taiwan is a bit different. From 1895 to 1945, Taiwan was a full-fledged Japanese colony, a legacy that continues to manifest itself in many subtle aspects of Taiwanese culture. Not the least of this is the urban landscape of Taipei. It’s hard to pin down, exactly, but there’s something that makes it feel very different from mainland Chinese cities, and I’m willing to bet that much of this has to do with the way the city evolved during the Japanese period.
Japanese bungalows are one example of this. In the early twentieth century, low-slung wood cottages were built on the edges of Taipei. Somehow, even as the city expanded into its current bulky mass of low-rise apartment blocks, many of the cottages survived. They’re usually surrounded by concrete walls and sit amidst lush greenery; a bit of the old countryside left behind in the concrete and asphalt of Taipei. Peek over the walls and you’ll see an elegant but dilapidated house, its garden unkempt, windows dusty. Many of the houses seem abandoned but there are often scooters or cars parked in the yard, and sometimes laundry drying, which seems to suggest that some are still occupied, despite the dilapidation.
Tags: Exploring the City, Housing, Taipei