5 Things I Love About Taiwan

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Category: Taiwan

January 10th, 2012. Currently in: Kanagawa, Japan / GMT+9

This blog post is also available in Japanese.


The time flies. It’s been already over two weeks since I returned to Japan from Taiwan. It’s great to be home, but I truly loved my life in Taiwan.

Before I forget it all, here are the 5 things I love about Taiwan.


1. Soy Milk and Taiwanese Pancake

These are my favorite breakfast, how I started my day in Taiwan.

In Taiwan, most people eat out as food is very reasonable. Many breakfast shops are open early and you see many people buying breakfast to take to their work. The soybean milk and tanpin (the Taiwanese pancake) taste quite different in every restaurant. I used to buy these two at the street stand near my office building every morning – truly delicious!

The lady and a younger man at the street stand are very nice, gave me big smiles when they see me every morning. When I wake up late, they tease me tapping on the watch “you’re late!”. They even let me taste their new menu.

This breakfast is my favorite not only because of its wonderful taste but also because of the warm time they gave me to start my day with a smile.


2. Kindest People

Taiwanese people are generally super kind. I was surprised by how nice they are when I first arrived, and always appreciated their personality.

People come talk to me to help when I am lost on a street. When I went into a wrong cafe to meet my friend, the staff at the cafe kindly walked me to the other cafe a few hundred meters away. People always give their seats for those who are older on MRT.

There were moments when I was touched how naturally kind Taiwanese people are to others, almost every day.


3. The Environment

I thought Taiwan has a great environment for living. The city of Taipei is surrounded by great mountains and we see many green around the town. They are still adding more stations and probably lines too for MRT but it’s already quite convenient especially with the size of the city. And what I appreciated the most is it’s safeness. I never felt scared when I am out alone at night. I say Taipei is even safer than it is in Tokyo!


4. Night Market

There are several fun night markets in Taipei – and other parts of Taiwan. It is like we have festivals every day!

Some night markets have more food than others, and some have more clothings than others. Night markets are popular every night but they get especially clouded during weekends. I went to several night markets with friends to eat or just to walk through after dinner. Anyone from families to youngs, locals to tourists goes to night markets in Taiwan.

Now I’m used to the smell of the stinky tofu too :)


5. Scooters

People in Taiwan ride scooters a lot. It’s really handy there.

Honestly speaking, I don’t feel comfortable watching small children or even babies riding scooters with their moms and dads but I could not stop smiling when my roommate or friends gave me a ride on their scooters. Riding on scooter and going through the town of Taipei is simply fun!


Ok, 5 is definitely not enough for me to write my favorite things in Taiwan. The food is great, I love how good the needle and miso soup tasted in early morning after clubbing. People in Taiwan do not drink much while they eat but I liked how we enjoyed drinks after dinner. The dance school in Taipei was great with very attractive instructors. And more than anything, I was really lucky to be able to meet my roommates and friends in Taiwan. The time I spent with them is truly precious.


With much thanks to them all.

Taiwan is highly recommended especially for those who have not yet been there!



Hualien Trip

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Category: Taiwan

December 19th, 2012. Currently in: Taipei, Taiwan / GMT+8

This blog post is also available in Japanese.


Last week my best friend visited me from Japan so we took a short trip together to Hualien, a town in East Taiwan, together.



There is a train you can take if you would like to go straight to Hualien from Taipei, but we stopped by at Jiufen on our way to Hualien.

Taking a bus from Zhongxiao Fuxing station, it is about an hour trip from Taipei to Jiufen. The driver spoke Japanese and helped us from getting off at a wrong station!


Jiufen, unfortunately, was raining quite hard. We have rain pretty much every day in Taipei in December but it seems like it rains even harder in Jiufen.

We quickly walked through the arcade full of small shops, went to see the famous tea house from the movie Spirited Away by Miyao Hayazaki and ended our Jiufen sightseeing.

You should be able to see the great view if it was sunny. And even if it is raining hard and cold, it was definitely worth going.


Stay in Hualien

We took taxi from Jiufen to Ruifang then got on the train from there to Hualien. After 2.5 hours of train ride in which my friend and I did not stop talking catching up each other’s stories of the last two months, we arrived at Hualien station. One of the owners of the hostel we stayed in came to pick us up at the station.

We stayed at Shin-i Sei-chi Minshuku, a very clean hostel (more like a hotel) ran by a Japanese and Taiwanese couple. It’s a Japanese-friendly hostel (I believe the website is only available in Japanese) however the owner told me that about half of their customers are Japanese and the other half is a complete mix. The owners can also speak English.

The beautiful room renovated just two years ago had pretty much everything you need – wifi, a double bed, TV, small table with two chairs, fridge, quite big bathroom with wonderful water pressure (I find this quite rare in Taiwan), and all the goods including toothbrush, shampoo, soap, towels and hair dryer. 1,200 NT (about 36 USD) for a room / night for two people.

Although I was really happy to find this comfortable room, it was not the best part. The owners were very kind and knew exactly what we need. As soon as we arrived, the Japanese owner, Katagiri-san, welcomed us and gave us all the details about where to see and eat with his handmade map. The two restaurants we went from his list were both amazingly delicious: a goose restaurant and a seafood restaurant, both specialty of Hualien.


Taroko Tour

We had asked for the Taroko Gorge tour on our second day when we made our reservation. Leaving the hostel at 9am, the tour took the whole day until our return at 5pm. Katagiri-san, our hostel owner, was our wonderful guide.

It is not a surprise that his tour is so good, now I know that he has taken over 4,000 people on his tour!


The Ocean in Hualien

The first stop of our tour was the seashore of Hualien, so beautiful in color with huge waves. It’s hard to tell by the photo but the waves were so big I was even frightened a little.

Because the sea deepens down close to the shore, Katagiri-san told us that the nets we saw not too far from the shore can catch fishes in deep ocean such as headfishes and bonitos. Hualien is actually famous for headfish, which we enjoyed at a seafood restaurant for our second dinner at Hualien.

It’s hard to believe such a beautiful ocean and the amazing mountains can be seen in a single view!


Katagiri-san tells us so many stories as we go. He also gives us his original 10 quizzes, so difficult that the average score he says is 2.5 and the highest is 5.5 of 10 points, but really interesting and you can learn so much about Taiwan, also about Japan.


Taroko George

Here we come! We arrived at the Taroko National Park, where the famous Taroko George is in. I can hardly tell how amazing it is just by the words of photos.


Driving through the magnificent gorge, we stopped and walked around at certain spots, had lunch, listened to Katagiri-san’s talk. But really, we were just blown away by this nature.


It is not just tourists who take the road at Taroko National Park. This is the only road to go to Taichung from Hualien therefore used by many locals however with this dynamic nature, the road is often damaged by rockfall or mudslide, especially after typhoon. We too saw a lot of signs “Beware of Rockfall!” and traces of the damages.


I would highly recommend Taroko National Park if you ever have a chance to visit Hualien. I’m not sure how much information he would be able to give you in English, but Katagiri-san’s tour was great indeed. It was 1,500 NT (about 45 USD) per person for more than two.


The Native Dance

We went to see the dance by natives at night, held daily for free of charge. The girls were very pretty with colorful costumes and the men’s dance were very powerful.


I really liked Hualien, so glad I had a chance to visit. It is not very far from Taipei, highly recommended!


Related Post

Tainan Trip



Why Taiwan is Friendly to Japan

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Category: Taiwan

December 17th, 2012. Currently in: Taipei, Taiwan / GMT+8

This blog post is also available in Japanese.


Since I arrived in Taiwan, I have been wondering why people here are so friendly to everything Japanese. Stores carry various Japanese products, Japanese is written on signs and advertisements everywhere, Japanese TV shows, musics and magazines seem to be quite popular and a lot of people learn Japanese. When people notice that I am Japanese, they become even friendlier. (Taiwanese people in general are really friendly, super nice people.)


Japan used to rule Taiwan for 50 years from 1895 to 1945. Although it was not colonized, it is easy to assume they would have a negative impression about Japan. But the fact is, they are super Japan-friendly. Why?

It is famous that Chiang Kai-shek, the 20th-century Chinese political and military leader, was Japan-friendly and many say that this is the reason behind Taiwan’s friendliness to Japan. Yes, maybe this is one of the reasons but this cannot be the only reason especially now with the anti-Japan sentiments in China and South Korea. (And people’s opinions toward Chiang Kai-shek varies.)


So I asked some people in Taiwan for their ideas. It’s embarrassing to admit that I haven’t learned history so well but with their ideas I was able to understand the reason behind. Well, it’s history. And opinions vary. But I’d like to share mine here with thanks to those who shared their ideas with me.


Changes in Taiwan due to Japanese Ruling

During the period of Japanese rule, Taiwan has experienced big changes. There are different aspects in this but it is said that the 50 years have brought big changes to Taiwan, which was not as developed as Japan then. And many said that people appreciate Japan for bringing these changes and that is one of the biggest reasons for the Japan-friendliness of today.



There are a number of native groups in Taiwan and they used to fight each other. They are independent from others and each group speak its own language without text.

Not being able to communicate is said to have been one of the reasons for the private war and the fact that Japan introduced education to the natives and made Japanese as their official language (and their common language) was appreciated.


Time, Law and Sanitary Management

I have heard that Japan introduced these three key things to Taiwan during those years: the concept of time and law, and the importance and methods of sanitary management. There is no doubt that the sanitary management is essential. I would not make an argument here about whether the time and law management is right or wrong. But if this was true, these definitely have been penetrated into Taiwanese culture.



It is said that Japan focused most on railways in the urban development and traffic improvement. In Taiwan, where they have five great mountain chains and 293 mountains that are over 3,000 meters (about 9,900 feet), transportation had been a major issue. It is said that Japan’s railway project has immensely improved their mobility.


There are several other things that Japan has introduced to Taiwan and we can recognize many of them today. Opium-eradication is one of them.

However all of these are not enough for me to be fully convinced. No one knows what would have happened if Japan did not rule Taiwan then. One could argue that maybe Taiwan would have been better if Japan did not rule. And, most importantly, even though it is said that Taiwanese people’s living level have improved by Japanese rule, ruling never goes so smoothly that, although it is hard to face, there were many deaths in this.


Comparison with the Chinese Rule

Japan lost the World War II in 1945 and Taiwan was placed under the administrative control of the Republic of China. I have heard that then everything that was sort of straightened by Japan was collapsed and people in Taiwan had to go through hard times, which made them think that “Japanese rule was better compared to China”. Anyone struggles when their environment they were used to change. I have not looked into how their lives actually changed but I thought this explains a lot about how people became to like Japan more.

Of course, the current situation has influence of many other factors including Japan-friendly policies and obviously it is not that all Taiwanese people love Japan. We have received a great amount of donations from Taiwan for 3.11 tsunami and earthquake disaster and I have heard that many of them were by the so-called “elites” in Taiwan, such as doctors and the representatives of major companies, who tend to think that Japan has brought all the education and technology for them that they are thankful. Some of the company representatives have decided to take a certain amount of percentage “automatically” from their employees’ salary as the donation to Japan.


For me, a Japanese, it is wonderful that Taiwanese people are friendly to Japanese and I really appreciate their kindness to us and our friendly relationship. I want to introduce many other wonderful things about Japan, the country I love. But at the same time, I think it is essential for us to think about the reason behind of the friendliness instead of just appreciating it without knowing or thinking.

If all of us could face these factors, I think more Japanese people will be able to have their own opinions about our own country, our politics and the issues around them, including the territorial issue with China and South Korea.



Tainan Trip

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Category: Taiwan

Currently in: Taipei, Taiwan / GMT+8

This blog post is also available in Japanese.


As I am here in Taiwan to live instead of to travel around, I hadn’t really gone outside of Taipei. But I had a chance to visit Tainan, a South West part of Taiwan during the weekend in November with a group of friends. I thought I’d share a bit of the information including how to get there, the hostel we stayed in and the places we went to see.



HSR (High Speed Rail)

Taiwan is a fairly small island, approximately 36,000 km2 (14,000 sq mi). The High Speed Rail is running on the west coast, exactly like the Shinkansen in Japan but in MUCH MORE reasonable fee of 1,300 NT (about 40 USD) from Taipei to Tainan. Took us about 2 hours.

Leaving in the early afternoon on Saturday, we had no problem getting tickets at Taipei station from the ticketing machine however it is better to check the availability during the weekend, especially early or late in the day on their website.



For the first time in my life I stayed in a hostel! Two of our international group of friends had lived in Tainan before so we received the “friendship discount” to this cozy hostel called DODORO’S.

The newer building was fully booked but we were able to have another building just for five of us. We didn’t use it but they had kitchen with fridge downstairs. We stayed upstairs where we had a room filled with four futon mattresses and another room with a bed. It was fun, kind of reminded me of my school days. We enjoyed beer and long time chat until just before the sunrise on the lovely balcony, in a really nice and warm Tainan breeze.



Unlike Taipei, there is no MRT type of transportation in Tainan so we used buses and walked a lot. The bus is 18 NT (abot .6 USD) per ride.


Anping Old Fort

The oldest castle in Taiwan, built in 1964 by the Dutch. You can also go up the observation tower and see the town of Tainan.



There are so many temples in Tainan and we visited the one right next to the Anping Old Fort.



We ate really good seafood nearby (unfortunately I don’t remember the name of the place…) in a casual restaurant.

The food in Tainan is said to be really good and they have a lot of Tainan original food. We had oysters, shrimps and others and everything we had was very tasty :)

The food was so good I filled my stomach a little too much. I know I shouldn’t have because we went to a desert place right after that.

I must admit, I was not so excited when I saw what we were going to have but when I tasted it I really wished I had left some space in my stomach. I think it was Tofu with pearls in a milk soup served cold. Not too sweet at all that even I, who normally don’t really eat so much sweets, loved it. No wonder the place was so busy!


Fort Provintia

This place too is from the period of Dutch rule.


Long Distance Bus

We took a bus to get back to Taipei from Tainan on Sunday night. It was a lot busier than we expected. We went to the street where all the bus companies are lined around 4pm to get the tickets for the bus leaving a little after 5pm and it was all sold out in all three companies. We were lucky to be able to book the bus leaving around 8pm, it only had some seats left.

Leaving around 8pm, we got to Taipei around midnight. The seats were so comfortable that I slept 4 hours straight! It’s hard to believe it costs only 400 NT (around 12 USD)!


Tainan was a very lovely town. Many of my Taiwanese friends told me that “there is not much in Tainan!” but the sunshine and warm temperature warmed our hearts as we had been a little too tired of the continuous cold rainy days in Taipei. I really liked Tainan.

Thanks to the friends who made the trip so much fun!



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