Songshan Railway Dormitories 松山台鐵宿舍

Japanese colonial style residence in Songshan

Songshan District 松山區 has long been a major hub for the railway industry in Taiwan. It is home to the Taipei Railway Workshop, a sprawling maintenance depot and rail yard presently undergoing renovations into a full-scale museum. The Western Trunk Line 縱貫線 also runs through the district, although it is completely underground now, following the path of Civic Boulevard 市民大道 for much of its length. I went poking around the area sometime in 2016 and stumbled upon a block of dilapidated homes wedged into a small parcel of land at the tail end of the railway workshop. It turns out these are former railway worker dormitories (sushe 宿舍) dating back to the Japanese colonial era.

Futai Street Mansion 撫臺街洋樓

In front of Futai Street Mansion, Taipei

In front of the historic Futai Street Mansion in central Taipei.

Futai Street Mansion 撫臺街洋樓 is a Japanese colonial era commercial building dating back to 1910. Located immediately to the south of Beimen 北門, recently the site of a major urban renewal project, it has been witness to more than a century of history here in the administrative heart of Taiwan. For more information I recommend reading this great article in Taiwan Today, this Taipei Times feature, and this post by Aris Teon. The mansion also has an official Facebook page if you’re interested in whatever events they might be hosting.…

Shuinan Tobacco Barn 水湳菸樓

Outside the Shuinan Tobacco Barn

Shuinan Tobacco Barn 水湳菸樓 is a historic Japanese colonial era building located in Beitun 北屯, Taichung 台中. It is an “Osaka-style” tobacco barn (named after Osaka Castle) much like these more famous examples from Meinong 美濃. Nobody seems to know for sure when it was built, though this article claims it is a century old. Without better information I would say the 1930s are a safe bet—that’s when industrial-scale tobacco cultivation was spreading all over central and south Taiwan—but it might be older than that.

Taiping Old Street 太平老街

Hen 1/2, Taiping Old Street, Douliu

Taiping Old Street 太平老街 is an unusually long stretch of Japanese colonial era shophouses in central Douliu 斗六, the administrative seat of Yunlin 雲林, Taiwan. Located not far from the train station, this old street is remarkable for its length (600 meters long), consistent architectural style (almost entirely local variations on Baroque Revival), and relatively good state of preservation. Despite this, it is not a huge attraction, which is just as well if you’re not a big fan of mass tourism in Taiwan.

Fengzhong Theater 豐中戲院

Outside Fengzhong Theater 豐中戲院

Fengzhong Theater 豐中戲院 is one of many abandoned theaters in downtown Taichung 台中. Located a stone’s throw away from Taichung Station, this theater was originally the Taiwan Opera Theater 台灣歌劇戲院, a performance venue founded at the very end of Japanese colonial rule in 1944. According to this source the name was changed to Fengzhong Theater when it was converted for use as a cinema in 1953. It was in continuous operation until 2004 when it was closed and finally abandoned.

Fugang Old Street 富岡老街

Fugang Old Street 富岡老街

Fugang Old Street 富岡老街 is an obscure anachronism in the western part of Taoyuan 桃園, Taiwan. It extends from a railway station that opened during the Japanese colonial era in 1929 through the heart of this small Hakka town. The coming of the railroad brought prosperity to the area and several ornate shophouses were built around the station in a mishmash of architectural styles common at the time. Nowadays it is just another street in rural Taiwan, albeit one with a little more history than most, possibly because it is too unimportant a place for modernization to have swept away these vestiges of the past.

Changhua Roundhouse 彰化扇形車庫

Changhua Roundhouse vista

One of the most extraordinary attractions in Taiwan is the historic Changhua Roundhouse 彰化扇形車庫, originally built in 1922 during Japanese colonial rule and still in operation today. Although information is hard to come by it seems that it might be the only roundhouse still operating in Asia—and certainly one of the oldest still in regular use anywhere in the world. Every other roundhouse I researched for this article has been abandoned, demolished, repurposed, or converted into a museum—and those rare few that are still operational have been mighty hard to date. As such, the Changhua Roundhouse is a dream to visit for a railway enthusiast like myself, particularly since the ambiance hasn’t been ruined by the sort of tacky treatment you’ll often find at Taiwanese tourist attractions. After signing in with the guard at the gate I had free run of the place—and as you can see from some of the following photos, nobody minded me getting shockingly close to moving trains as the mechanics went about their daily routines.

Neiwan Hexing Station 內灣合興車站

Vintage clocks at Hexing Station

Last week I went out with a friend to explore rural Hsinchu 新竹. After checking out a cable car tower in Guanxi 關西 we slipped over the township line to Hengshan 橫山 to make a brief pitstop at Hexing Station 合興車站, the only wooden train station on the newly reopened Neiwan Line 內灣線. Inside the station house we discovered this wall of vintage clocks, obviously somewhat contrived but every bit as photogenic as intended. Although this station (and the rest of the railway line) was built in the 1950s, after the Japanese colonial period, many of these mechanical wind-up clocks bear Japanese names like Gifutokei, Aichi, and, of course, Seiko.

Khoo Tsu-song Old House 許梓桑古厝

A closer look at the empty nameplate at Qingyu Hall

Khoo Tsu-song Old House 許梓桑古厝 is a scenic historic site atop a modest hill near Miaokou Night Market 廟口夜市 in Keelung 基隆. Built in 1931 while Taiwan was under Japanese rule, it is structured somewhat like a traditional Taiwanese three-sided courtyard home with some Western influences and building materials. Formally named Qingyu Hall 慶餘堂, it was the residence of Khoo Tsu-song (1874–1945), an important figure in local politics and civic affairs during the Japanese colonial era. His name is rendered here in romanized Taiwanese Hokkien, in keeping with the conventions adopted by the Keelung cultural bureau.