Taiwan and Japan have a long, tangled relationship going back to the 16th century. If you blow away the political dust, you’ll see that the 400-year Taiwan-Japan story is a grand tapestry with many nations, cultures, languages, trading partners, arts and crafts movements, and other aspects of humanity woven in. In 1972, diplomatic ties between the two states were severed and relations entered a more practical phase with the set up of Japan Interchange Association (財團法人交流協會) and the Association of East Asian Relations (亞東關係協會). These two associations allowed each nation to participate in a non-governmental interactive platform, and thus continue working on economic cooperation. After 45 years, these two associations changed their names to the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association (公益財團法人日本台灣交流協會) and the Taiwan-Japan Relations Association (臺灣與日本關係協會) in 2017. By so doing, exchanges between these two nations has been confirmed, and stands as an important cornerstone of their friendship and mutual development.
Remembering the Good Old Days while Meeting Taipei Again
Mikio Numata (沼田幹夫) took office in July, 2014, but this wasn’t his first visit to Taiwan. 47 years ago, college student Numata visited Taipei, which was just half its present size at the time. There was no MRT, no HSR (高鐵) – not even a bus route that crossed the whole city! The infrastructure of the east side was just being laid, and the current financial and economic center – the Xinyi district (信義區) was just a vast rice paddy. In the 1970s, Ximending (西門町) was at its peak; on Wuchang Street (武昌街) alone, there were more than 10 movie theaters! The neighborhood was considered a cornucopia of delicacies for young people, and an entertainment oasis for all Taipeiers. Young Numata was deeply impressed by the similar culture, understandable language, and fabulous eatables he found there. Almost half a century has passed, and now he is an ambassador who has seen it all in the diplomatic world. He has been assigned to the USA, China, Hong Kong, and Myanmar, but Taiwan will be the last stop of his illustrious forty-year career. He compares metropolis of Taiwan with other international cities, and concludes: “To me, Taipei is the best.”
For Japanese travelers, Taiwan is very amenable, with the basic necessities of life all readily available. According to the Tourism Bureau’s (觀光局) statistics, in 2016, there were over 6 million trips taken between Taiwan and Japan about 4.29 million Taiwanese travelling to Japan, and about 1.89 million Japanese coming to Taiwan. In short, one out of every five Taiwanese went to Japan, and one out of seventy Japanese came here, with most of them visiting Taipei only. This variance in number is probably due to the difference in size of each country’s population, although there’s also a dissimilarity in the cultural knowledge of each place. Numata says frankly that Taiwanese people are more familiar with the local culture, traditions, natural scenery, architecture and food in Japan than Japanese tourists are with Taiwan outside of Taipei.
Making Friends with the Arts; Discovering a Different Taiwan
“If you visit Taiwan but stay only in Taipei, then what you will see is not Taiwan.” Having lived in Taiwan for more than three years, Numata can chat fluently in Chinese, and knows the beauty of every part of this land. He believes that each county, city and even small town should exploit their tourism potential, so that more travelers can experience the unique charms of Formosa. From 2014 onward, the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association has been helping government and civic groups in the planning of many arts activities. For example, in 2014, the treasures of the National Palace Museum (國立故宮博物院) in Taipei: the jadeite cabbage with insects (翠玉白菜) and the meat-shaped stone (肉形石) made their first appearance at Tokyo National Museum (東京國立博物館). And, in 2015, the JTEA worked with Japan’s NHK network to bring the Takarazuka Revue (寶塚劇團) to perform for a second time in Taipei. In 2016, Tainan’s (台南) Chimei Museum (奇美博物館) and the Southern Branch of the National Palace Museum (故宮南院) in Chiayi (嘉義) mounted the exhibitions: Omotenashi, Ceramics for Feasting and for Enjoying the Tea Ceremony (待客之心－日本靜嘉堂精選陶瓷名品展) and Japanese Art at Its Finest: Masterpieces from the Tokyo and Kyushu National Museums (日本美術之最－九州、東京國立博物館精品展) respectively. It is hoped that these arts exchange programs will promote tourism in different parts of Taiwan.
Welcome to Taiwan! Take a Different Kind of Trip
Since the Open Sky Policy was included in 2011’s Taiwan-Japan Air Transport Agreement, direct flights between a variety of airports in Japan and Taichung (台中), Tainan (台南) and Kaohsiung (高雄) have begun. And, no matter which starting port you choose, you can always add a train ride on TRA (台鐵) or HSR (高鐵) to enjoy the best Taiwan has to offer! You can drink in the scenery of this earthly heaven: Taoyuan (桃園) is famous for its numerous ponds, Hsinchu (新竹) is the city of wind, Miaoli (苗栗) offers breathtaking mountain vistas. You can journey down the path of tradition – Taichung provides several fun and historic railroad trips, Changhua (彰化) is known for its religious heritage, and Nantou (南投) is home to many places that preserve and demonstrate the agricultural arts. Yunlin (雲林), Chiayi and Tainan are abundant, prosperous regions full of history and humanity. The “Deep South” cities of Kaohsiung and Pingtung (屏東) are famous for waves, tides and blue skies. In Yilan (宜蘭), Hualien (花蓮) and Taitung (台東), an nature-loving can spend all day exploring a scenic feast of plains, mountains and valleys. And let us not forget, last but not least, there’s Taipei, our fabulous capital, a city of glory.
“My hope is that Japanese youth will make friends with their Taiwanese peers.” This is not just Numata’s wish; it’s something all Taiwanese young people can look forward to, as well. This island of Formosa has been part of the planet’s landscape for hundreds of millions of years, yet, in many ways, the big boat called “Taiwan” is still a youthful voyager on the Pacific Ocean. And handsome, brave, passionate, rough hewn and innovative are the sailors on this boat. Ride the Kuroshio Current, hoist the sails and pull on those oars! We’re sailing toward the world!
Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association, Taipei Office
This is the window for connections between Taiwan and Japan. It is officially authorized to handle exchanges in economics, culture, academics and technology. It also provides assistance and consultation on immigration and visa issues, education, work and day-to-day problems for Japanese tourists and residents in Taiwan. Its scope includes all the official business an overseas embassy would do.
28, Qingcheng St., Sunshan Dist., Taipei
Mon. to Fri., 9:00-12:30 am. and 13:30-16:00 pm.
National Palace Museum
The collections in the museum date from the Neolithic Period until today, about 8,000 years, with approximately 700,000 artifacts divided into 19 categories, including painting, calligraphy, utensils, sculpture, and documents. However, the largest component comes from the Imperial Chinese families. The NPM is the largest museum in Taiwan, and is recognized as the premier center for Chinese research worldwide. For lovers of Chinese history, this is a place you just can’t miss!
221, Sec. 2, Zhishan Rd., Shilin Dist., Taipei City
Opening hours: 08:30~18:30
Extension of opening hours at night: 18:30 - 21:00 on Fridays and Saturdays.