Japanese colonial houses -- why is no effort being made to preserve them?

According to the folks I talked to at the TRA, the old adminstration headquarters across from the North Gate will be preserved. The property also includes the original Moriyama designed courtyard building and an old WWII anti-aircraft battery. I hope the work begins soon as the building is on the verge of collapse.

Many of the individual Japanese era homes have been destroyed because they lack historical architectural importance. Most of the structures were neither works of art nor revolutionary in terms of design. I would even suggest that Haigo Shen’s “international style” Chia Hsin Office Building is a more worthy candidate for preservation.

On a related topic, Huashan is currently hosting an exhibition dedicated to the last hundred years of Taiwanese architecture. The exhibit is based on the recently published book - “Building Taiwan the Beautiful”. The book retails for NT$1500 and is available at Eslite and the Council for Cultural Affairs. http://www.2004twarch.org

[quote=“Maoman”]There is a famous dance studio on Zhongshan Road Section 2 that had been slated to receive a historical designation, which would have entitled it to a complete renovation. SOme developers were not too happy about this and the building was “mysteriously” burned to the ground one night. Mayor Ma was pissed and the Taipei City Government was directed to rebuild the whole thing in the same style, with original techniques and materials, where possible.

You can see this building now at Zhongshan Road, Section 2, Lane 48, #10. It’s just up the road from SPOT, the former US Ambassador’s residence, and very close to the new Zhongshan Community Sports Centre.[/quote]

Another “historical designation” is between Wenchow St. and “Taisun” St., which is very close to ShiDa area. It belonged to National Taiwan U.
I was told it will be a beautiful park with some Japanese style building renovated.

[quote=“Maoman”]There is a famous dance studio on Zhongshan Road Section 2 that had been slated to receive a historical designation, which would have entitled it to a complete renovation. SOme developers were not too happy about this and the building was “mysteriously” burned to the ground one night. Mayor Ma was pissed and the Taipei City Government was directed to rebuild the whole thing in the same style, with original techniques and materials, where possible.

You can see this building now at Zhongshan Road, Section 2, Lane 48, #10. It’s just up the road from SPOT, the former US Ambassador’s residence, and very close to the new Zhongshan Community Sports Centre.[/quote]
Where is Zhongshan Rd. Maoman?

Another issue is that many of the wooden houses, especially in Taipei, are not actually from the Japanese colonial era, but were built by the KMT after they took over the island.

Most of the KMT-built imitations of Japanese colonial-era houses were of rather shoddy construction.

I wondered why more wasn’t being done to preserve the buildings, but when I talked to friends from Japan about it they were aghast. Although westerners have some idea in their heads that these buildings are the ultimate in Eastern design, apparently the Japanese have no such illusions. The houses are cold in winter, very expensive to maintain (roof, wood, etc.), stinky (when not connected to the city plumbing), and offer no intra-home privacy. They look quaint, and there is a part of me that would love to have my own little wooden-walled oriental house with perfectly clean tatami mats inside, but apparently that will never be.

I had also been quite partial to the Japanese-era mix of Chinese and Western architecture that you see on Di Hua Jie – all those nice little storefront homes would have been nice as 2-storey townhouses. However, the wrecking ball is already tearing down many so they can be replaced with concrete imitations.

In Seoul, the government took a bunch of the outstanding examples of Korean traditional home architecture and consolidated them into a park. Although nobody now lives in these houses, at least you can get a sense of what they looked like in a group and can learn a bit about traditional home life. In Taiwan, it would be nice to do the same thing, perhaps.

You mean like the Taiwan Folk Village outside Changhua? Or the Taichung Folklore park? Or even the Youth Activity Centre in Kenting with its Fujian style design complex?

[quote=“daltongang”][quote=“Maoman”]There is a famous dance studio on Zhongshan Road Section 2 that had been slated to receive a historical designation, which would have entitled it to a complete renovation. SOme developers were not too happy about this and the building was “mysteriously” burned to the ground one night. Mayor Ma was pissed and the Taipei City Government was directed to rebuild the whole thing in the same style, with original techniques and materials, where possible.

You can see this building now at Zhongshan Road, Section 2, Lane 48, #10. It’s just up the road from SPOT, the former US Ambassador’s residence, and very close to the new Zhongshan Community Sports Centre.[/quote]
Where is Zhongshan Rd. Maoman?[/quote]
Huh? :s Are you serious? I thought you lived in Taipei…

Or is this a pinyin issue? Don’t you know that HP is the ONLY romanization system for Taipei?

[quote=“Maoman”]
Huh? :s Are you serious? I thought you lived in Taipei…

Or is this a pinyin issue? Don’t you know that HP is the ONLY romanization system for Taipei?[/quote]

It’s an issue of there is no such road in taipei i’m aware of and i want to be sure before i head over there :slight_smile: I guess Zhongshan North Road? hope the pinyin is correct there, WISEASS :slight_smile:

I live in one of these old Japanese houses, and it’s a shithole. A Taiwanese friend came over last night and was so impressed - he actually called it high-class. How anything this badly built could be considered high-class, I don’t know. It makes me afraid to ask what kind of place he was raised in - a barn, maybe, or a cardboard shack under the bridge.
Problems: it leaks badly when it rains; it is unbearably hot in the summer; it has open sewers !!! - I mean it: there is an open gutter running from the bathroom to the sewer drain out in the street; this means that the place stinks to high heaven, especially in the summer; the original construction was terrible - it looks kind of cool, but honestly I think I could bang together a few boards with more skill than the original builders; everything is rotting or going moldy; anything modern is a casual afterthought, and so very badly installed - ie. the (exposed) wiring, because when it was built they didn’t have electricity, the plumbing (as mentioned above); it’s nice to have a yard, but since there is an open sewer running through it, this detracts slightly from the ambiance.
I honestly don’t think it’s worth preserving, and I am usually in favor of preserving old buildings. In this case, the original construction is of such poor quality that I don’t think it is really a heritage building, it’s just old. We wouldn’t bother preserving slum dwellings back home, so why expect the Taiwanese to do so here?

I suppose that explains a lot about the Japanese.

I recommend some villages of old Japanese houses:

  1. Lin-Tian- Shan (林田山) in Hualian:
    You may find a few pictures on this page. (Sorry, it

Many of the Japanese era houses were dorms for Japanese civil servants and thus became the property of the KMT. Japanese archetecture was targeted for demolition for being an ugly reminder, not to locals, but to Chinese of the war against Japan. Many of the shinto shrines were also replaces whith “Chinese” temples. The buildings are also located in high rent districts and thus the property value is deemed preferable to aesthetic value.
The dorms also house the Chinese who fled with the KMT and occupied the vacated dorms turning them into a Chinese ghetto.

A really interesting area in in Chang Hua near the base of Ba Gua Shan. There is an old community of bank employees complete with Japanese era tennis courts. At the right time you can imagine Japanese bank officials in their whites playing tennis in the back. You can also see where the Japanese policemen would stand to chase away nosey kids. Actually, the base of ba gua shan has a really great shinto prayer room with tatamis.