Follow Us




The Lure of Tainan: The “Roots” of Taiwan with Links to Japan

Hitoto Tae [Profile]


The City Where Taiwanese History Began

Taiwan is just a three-hour flight from Tokyo. Although it is a small island—around a tenth the size of Japan—its history of colonial control by a range of foreign powers gives it a unique, multicultural atmosphere. The capital of Taipei, known for its xiaolongbao steamed buns, night markets, and massage, is a particularly popular destination for Japanese travelers. The city of Tainan, some two hours south on the country’s high-speed rail line, is also booming. The streets are full of tourists, and there has also been a large influx of new residents.

What makes Tainan special is that it is here that Taiwanese history began. Buildings remain from the days when the island was controlled by the Netherlands in the seventeenth century, China’s Qing dynasty from the late seventeenth to late nineteenth century, and Japan from 1895 to 1945; just walking around gives one a sense of the island’s history. The whole city is like a living museum. As Taiwanese people have sought to develop an identity distinct from mainland China, Tainan has risen to prominence as a place they can go to reclaim their roots and look for “the real Taiwan.”

I have lived in Japan for most of my life, but my father was Taiwanese, so traveling to Tainan was a journey of self-discovery. I have come to love the city just as much as the Taiwanese do and have been visiting it every month or so for the past several years, leading to the publication of a book titled Watashi no Tainan (My Tainan) in 2014. Through these visits, I have come to meet many Japanese people who now live in the city.

  • [2016.05.25]

Actress, dentist, and writer. Born in 1970 in Tokyo to a Taiwanese father and Japanese mother. Lived in Taiwan as a child before moving to Japan at the age of 11. Author of Watashi no shanzu (My Box), Mama, gohan mada? (Is Dinner Ready, Mom?), and Watashi no Tainan (My Tainan). Sister of pop singer Hitoto Yō.

Related articles
Other columns

Related articles

Video highlights

  • From our columnists
  • In the news