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.



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