Nostalgic Journey

Japanese-Era Buildings in Hualien
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2018 / September

Camille Kuo /photos courtesy of Chuang Kung-ju /tr. by Phil Newell


“The wise love water, the benevolent love the mountains.” It just so happens that of the two main north‡south roads through Hualien County, one follows the coast while the other runs between two mountain ranges. This month, our occasional “Cycling Taiwan” series takes us to Provincial Highway 9, which passes between the Central and Coastal Ranges. Just as the benevolent embrace all things, so has Hualien’s East Rift Valley embraced all manner of architectural styles over the last century.

Trista Wu, owner of “Time 1939” bookstore, says: “I only started because I love this old house.” Our reason for getting on the road was just as simple: We love old Japanese­-style houses. So come with us as we follow in the footsteps of Japanese immigrants of yester­year and ­cycle through Hua­lien, a paradise filled with Japanese style.


We set out on our bikes from Qi­xing­tan Beach, and follow County Highway 193 around the Port of Hua­lien until we arrive at “D Park” (Taiwan Fertilizer Company’s Deep Ocean Water Industrial Park). In D Park there are two clusters of wooden structures from the era of Japanese colonial rule (1895-1945). Of these, the main office building has been renovated and turned into a theme restaurant. The institutional Shinto shrine, where Japanese workers worshipped in the past, remains standing outside the building, which is very rare.

After eating, we continue southward along Highway 193 past the port until we enter downtown Hua­lien City, where in a street across from National Hua­lien Senior High School (NHSHS) we find the Kuo Tzu-chiu Music Culture Hall.

In the footsteps of soldiers

“With the passing of Spring, blossoms fly away on the wind / And though festivals come and go, departed loved ones still do not return / I remember the green, green willows / When they left for far away….” In the Taiwan of the 1970s and 1980s, this song, “Memory,” was an essential piece for choirs. The music was composed by Kuo Tzu-chiu, a teacher at NHSHS, who was known as “the father of music in Hualien.”

The words of the song, though written after WWII, could just as well describe the fate of the Japanese who had migrated to Taiwan under colonial rule. Some went off to fight in WWII, while others returned to Japan, never to return, after the Japanese defeat. Each building they left behind carries historical memories.

After NHSHS was founded in 1936, dormitories were built for its teachers according to the specifications for junior officials’ dormitories under regulations decreed by the Taiwan Governor-General’s Office, and included a Grade A residence that was built to the highest standard provided for. This building, which is no longer extant, was allocated to high-ranking military officers who were hired from Japan to come and teach in Taiwan.

Jhong Hong-cheng, executive director of the Kuo Tzu Chiu Culture and Art Foundation, explains: “It was only the residence for a high-ranking official that had both a porch outside the entrance and a vestibule inside. The herringbone or ‘palm-frond’ patterns on the pillars of the porch and on the ceiling of the children’s room symbolized that this was a Japanese colonial territory in the South Pacific.”

Naturally, one no longer sees teachers here wearing military uniform and bearing samurai swords. The weather-beaten teachers’ dorms have been restored, and one of them now serves as a cultural hall commemorating Kuo Tzu-chiu.

The poet Chen Li described Kuo, who was his high-school music teacher, as “a legendary musician of Taiwan.” His works included “Memory,” “Your Coming,” and other standards for choirs. Kuo was born into a poor family and only graduated from elementary school. In 1946 he was hired to teach music at NHSHS, and worked hard to supplement his education, earning his junior and senior high school certificates and a junior college degree.

Kuo’s motto was, “If you’re poor you have to improvise, and if you can improvise you can get through,” and he put this philosophy into practice in music education. He invented an electrically powered audiovisual device for teaching staff notation of music. He himself drew up the design, then asked an electrician to make a light board of the musical staff attached to an organ keyboard, so that when the note C was played on the organ, the position on the staff corresponding to C would light up. Combining the senses of hearing and vision, the device helped students to learn better.

Having tapped on reproductions of an organ keyboard and an 80-year-old typewriter, we set off again on our journey, headed for the Mei­lun River.

Along the Mei­lun River is a row of Japanese-style dormitories, with towering Chinese tallow trees shading the wooden buildings from the scorching sun. After they were built  in 1928 as living quarters for military officers, one of the buildings, known as the “General’s House,” became the official residence of the highest-ranking Japanese officer in Hua­lien and Tai­tung, Colonel Mi­tsuo Naka­mura. Located in a pine grove at the foot of Mt. Mei­lun, it was his office and military command center.

Our guide on this day, cultural volunteer Li Yong­zhen, is 90, the same age as the General’s House.

Li explains, “The term ‘wan­sei’ referred to Japanese born in Taiwan under Japanese rule. I had one wan­sei classmate who joined the kamikaze force near the end of WWII, and never came back.” Six years ago, other wan­sei classmates came back to NHSHS from Japan to attend a school reunion. Everyone was saying to each other, “So you are still alive!” It was quite a moving scene.

Experiencing the lives of wansei

Beautiful afternoon sunshine falls at an angle on the moss-covered tiles of the old houses. After cycling nearly nine kilometers, it is time to let our bodies and minds relax.

We enter the “Time 1939” bookstore, housed in a Japanese-era building, which offers a combination of vegetarian cuisine, second-hand books, and arts and cultural activities. “We feel very much at home here! It feels like we have been living here for 80 years,” says business owner Trista Wu. Perhaps it is the fragrance of Taiwan cypress that fills the room that causes people to forget the existence of time.

In order to further experience the way of life of the wan­sei in days past, we next take Provincial Highway 9C to the Qing­xiu Yuan, a temple in Ji’an Township.

The Qing­xiu Yuan is Taiwan’s best-preserved Japanese temple. Tradition has it that the 88 stone Buddhas that line the walls were brought to Taiwan from 88 different temples on Japan’s Shi­koku Island. Thus when believers circle the inside of the temple as they worship, it is as if they were making a pilgrimage to temples throughout Shi­koku.

Continuing southward, our road becomes quite straight in Shou­feng Township, where east‡west and north‡south roads form a grid like a chessboard. This is the location of the foremost of the three large immigrant villages in Hua­lien that were planned by Japanese colonial officials: Feng­tian (To­yoda) Immigrant Village.

Outside the east side of Feng­tian Train Station is a wooden house that is now a second-hand shop called 5-Way House. The roof structure of the building is markedly different from the gable roofs that we have previously seen on the official dormitories. It is a hipped roof, sloped on all four sides.

The roof’s ridge beam is especially short, causing the whole roof to resemble a pointed cone. The rafters are overlaid with a covering woven from Pacific island silvergrass (Miscanthus floridulus). The shop shelves, the wooden tables and chairs, and the children moving among them form a particularly engaging scene.

Dormitories for sugar employees

Next we ride to the southernmost point in our nostalgic journey through Hualien, the Hualien Tourism Sugar Factory. The distance covered on our trip has already surpassed 59 kilo­meters.

The black tiles on the sloping roofs are especially enchanting under the starry sky. Guided by old-fashioned streetlights and stone lanterns, we reach the place where we will stay tonight. Pulling open the sliding door, we are struck by the fragrance of Taiwan cypress and China fir wood. There is no need to consume alcohol, for the aroma of the cypress is intoxicating enough.

On the outside there are slanting wooden buttresses, and inside there is a living area with short tables, traditional tatami rooms, and built-in cupboards, while the hallway, bathroom, and other areas have been restored in accordance with the original structure of the employees’ dormitories.

This night, having taken a relaxing bath in a cypress tub, and dressed in yu­kata (light kimonos), we sleep exceptionally well on our tatamis, enjoying the omni­present fragrance of cypress.

The Hua­lien Sugar Factory began refining sugar in 1921, and had many employees. The following year employees’ dormitories were built according to the Governor-General’s Office’s standards. Today this is Taiwan’s one and only National Cultural Landscape where one can stay overnight.

Vince Ou, assistant manager of the tourism factory, says: “The refinery had all kinds of basic facilities, from a canteen, primary school, and clinic, to a movie theater and barber.” The complete group of employee services buildings from the Japanese era has been preserved intact, so when you cycle around the factory grounds, it is just like being in the sugar refinery of 90 years ago.

A leisurely ride in the forest

Following enthusiastic recommendations from numerous people at the sugar refinery, next morning we ride southward three or four kilometers from the refinery to roughly the 255 km mark of Provincial Highway 9, where we turn left and see a ruler­-straight road heading toward the horizon. This road leads into Da­nong­dafu Forest Park.

This manmade forest park, which covers 1,250 hectares of the rift valley plain, is planted with nearly 20 species of trees. Senior guide Yang Meng­yao takes us on a ride around the northern circuit of the park’s bike trail, where we are surrounded by Formosan sweetgum, Oliver’s maple and woodland elaeo­carpus trees.

The park has a rich ecology, offering the chance to encounter ferret-badger, masked palm civet, and wild boar during a ride. If you visit at night in March or April, you can also admire the fireflies along the northern circuit of the trail.

Without Yang’s guidance, we would never have discovered that the Oliver’s maple leaves here carry a hint of the sweet fragrance of passionfruit. Surrounding the bicycle trail are flamegold rain trees where ants build nests, enabling us to observe the symbiotic relationship between the ants and the trees.

The Song-Dynasty poet Su Shi (aka Su Dongpo, 1037-1101) said: “Life is like traveling backward, and I am also a traveler.”

The immigrants and wan­sei who lived in the East Rift Valley in the Japanese colonial era left behind not only buildings, but also an endless fount of stories and a spirit of fortitude.

Riding through Hua­lien, I too am just a visitor passing hurriedly through. I got on my bike out of a love for these old houses, and passed by the footprints left behind by Japanese immigrants and wan­sei, and the traces of the sugar-cane plantations that once occupied the land of today’s forest park. These layered imprints in my mind have been woven into this record of a nostalgic journey.                                                            

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花蓮懷舊之旅

文‧郭玉平 圖‧莊坤儒

「智者樂水,仁者樂山。」花蓮兩條主要的縱貫路線,正好是海線與山線。《光華》「騎行台灣」提案,這次來到位於中央山脈和海岸山脈之間的山線——省道台9線,如仁者包容萬物,花蓮縱谷百年來包容著各式建築風格,如日治時期的木造老建築與歐美新式公寓兼容並蓄。

正如「時光1939書店」店長吳秀寧所說:「就是愛這個老房子才開始的。」上路的理由亦是如此純粹,因為愛日式老房舍而起程,就跟著我們沿著舊時日本移民的足跡,騎行慢遊花蓮這座充滿和風的世外桃源吧!


騎行以七星潭作為起點,從縣道193線沿著花蓮港,來到D Park台肥海洋深層水園區,園區裡有2個日治時期的木造建築群,其中辦公大廳修復成主題餐廳,廳外還保留著以前日本工人寄託心靈的構內社(機構內的神社),相當少見。

用餐後,繼續沿著花蓮港向南騎行193縣道,進入花蓮市區,於國立花蓮高級中學(簡稱花中)的對街,就可以找到郭子究音樂文化館以及他的故居。

踏在軍人的足印上

「春朝一去花亂飛,又是佳節人不歸,記得當年楊柳青,長征別離時……」這首〈回憶〉在1970、80年代的台灣,舉凡有合唱團必有此歌,由花中教師、又獲稱「花蓮音樂之父」的郭子究作曲,傳唱四方。

一如歌詞所述,早期移居來台的日本人,有的在二次世界大戰時離台長征,有的在日本戰敗後撤退歸國,不再回來過。他們留下的房舍,每戶都承載著歷史的記憶。

花中創校於1936年,日治時期為落實軍國主義教育,政府從日本聘請高階軍官來台任教,「早期等同於軍校,前三屆的學長還得每個月存錢,畢業時自費到日本參加閱兵典禮。」同身為花中校友的郭子究文化藝術基金會執行長鄭宏成說。

當年為供教職員住宿,比照「台灣總督府官舍建築標準」的判任官官舍規格建造教師宿舍,包含最高等級的甲級宿舍。鄭宏成解釋:「高級官舍才會有內、外雙玄關,外玄關的門柱和子供室(兒童房)天花板的棕櫚紋,象徵這裡是日本人在南洋的殖民地。」當然,配戴武士刀的軍官教職員今不復見,教師宿舍也歷經風霜,外頭的雨淋板,換過不同的油漆顏色,見證改朝換代。經修復,現作為紀念音樂家郭子究的文化館。

詩人陳黎形容他中學音樂老師郭子究是「台灣傳奇的作曲家」,除了〈回憶〉、〈你來〉等合唱團必唱曲,還作有花中校歌、花蓮縣歌等。郭子究1946年起至花中任教,「郭老師家境貧苦,只有國小畢業,應聘後很認真地補完國中、高中及專科學歷。對我們而言,他是非常勵志的人。」鄭宏成說。

郭子究將口頭禪「窮則變,變則通」實現在音樂教育上,變出樂器,更變出花中學生私下戲稱「五燈獎」的「電動視聽五線譜器」。他自己畫設計圖,請電機師傅製作連結風琴鍵盤的五線譜燈板,當風琴鍵盤Do被按下,與Do對應的音符位置燈就會亮起。結合聽覺與視覺,學生學習更深刻。

敲擊過復刻版的五燈獎鍵盤和80年老打字機,我們再度起行,往台9線朝著美崙溪前去。

美崙溪畔一片日式宿舍,高聳的烏臼樹為木屋群遮擋去螫人的豔陽。

同為軍官宿舍的「將軍府」,當時住著日軍在花東地區的最高指揮官中村三雄大佐,位於美崙山腳的松園,是他辦公的軍事指揮中心。

這裡雖名為「將軍府」,但沒有日本將軍居住過,據傳是附近的居民不知道中村大佐的身分,只知是位階很高的大將軍,所以稱此為「將軍府」。

那個時期,日本人在台灣建造的房舍多是「和洋式建築」,與日本當地的房舍設計不同,如屋頂橫梁的桁架、煙囪造型和大門設置的方向,都融合了西方建築的設計概念。

這天為我們導覽的文化志工李永鎮,高齡90,和將軍府「同年」。

李永鎮解說:「灣生,是指日治時期在台灣出生的日本人,我有一個灣生同學是花中畢業的,二次世界大戰末期他加入神風特攻隊,去了,就沒有回來了。」他的灣生同學們6年前從日本回來參加花中同學會,大家互道一句「你還在啊!」場面相當感動。

體驗灣生舊時日常

午後的陽光很美好,斜斜灑落在老屋瓦的青苔上。騎行將近9公里,是到了讓身心休憩的時候。

進入結合蔬食、二手書和藝文活動的老宅「時光1939書店」,「這邊超日常的啊!好像我們就在這裡住了80年似的,」店長吳秀寧說:「其實老房子一定要有人住,才可以維持的比較好。」

平時有很多拉著行李箱的文青旅客來用餐,或許,滿室的台檜香氣讓人忘記時光的存在,「客人來這邊變得相當的放鬆,」吳秀寧爽朗大笑說:「就有客人躺在榻榻米上,放鬆到不顧旁邊的客人。」

放鬆體驗灣生的舊時生活,我們接著從台9丙線來到吉安慶修院。

慶修院為台灣現存最完整的日本寺院,也是台灣唯一能體驗日本神社參拜禮儀的所在。首先到「手水舍」舀水淨心、淨口及舉杓淨手,以表示誠心敬天。滌淨身心後,就可以到佛堂雙手合十參拜。

慶修院牆面的88尊石佛,相傳是當時信眾沿著真言宗開創者弘法大師空海的足跡,從日本四國境內88所寺院請回台灣,讓信徒於院內參拜一圈,彷彿行遍四國。

慶修院現任管運執行長陳義正說:「古蹟活化,最好是恢復到原始功能,慶修院身為寺院,環境沒有失去宗教的色彩,只不過沒有早晚課和誦經的標準宗教活動。」但每年6月青葉祭和11月護摩法會仍能窺見真言宗的正統儀式。

繼續南行,壽豐鄉的街道變得相當筆直,縱橫交錯如棋盤般,這裡是日治時期官方規劃的花蓮三大移民村之首──豐田移民村。

豐田火車站出口轉角一座木屋,是一間名為「五味屋」的二手雜貨店。店裡的屋頂桁架和先前看到的官舍截然不同,是因為當時來自日本沿海地帶的移民,在此採用故鄉「四邊斜」形式建造「風鼓斗厝」。

最高的主梁特別短,使整個屋頂幾乎呈現尖錐造型;由梁木向四方放射狀鋪開的平面,則是由五節芒草編織而成。商品架、木桌椅,與穿梭其中的孩子們形成特別有趣的畫面。

旅寄製糖職員宿舍

車行至花蓮懷舊之旅最南端「花蓮觀光糖廠」,里程已逾59公里。

星空下的斜頂黑瓦,特別迷人,由古色古香的街燈和石燈籠照路指引,抵達今晚旅寄的房舍。

參觀了一整天的日式宿舍,對日本傳統起居生活充滿綺想,我們滿心喜悅地拉開糖廠宿舍拉門,台灣檜木及寮國香杉的香氣撲鼻而來,無須飲酒,檜香使人醉。

外有斜撐木,內有矮桌起居室、傳統榻榻米房、壁櫥及廊道……等,依循原職員宿舍構造修復,完整保有日本傳統房屋的結構,就連踏步聲都聽得出木地板的厚實。

這晚,在檜木浴桶泡澡徹底放鬆,著浴衣,躺在榻榻米床上享受滿滿的檜香,格外睡得香甜。

花蓮糖廠於1921年開始製糖,職員眾多,隔年起陸續興建職員宿舍,同是依據總督府判任官官舍標準建造,也是全台灣唯一能旅宿的國家文化景觀。

花蓮糖廠副理歐竹南說:「糖廠的基本設施,像酒保(即現代的福利社),裡面柴米油鹽醬醋茶通通有,還有小學、診所、電影院、理髮部……等。」日治時期即有完備的生活機能圈,是全台灣保存最完整的日式木構造建築聚落。騎行在廠區裡,宛如還在九十多年前的花蓮糖廠。

平地森林.悠遊自行

單車旅行的好處就在於機動性高,隨時都能展開說走就走的自由行程。

在糖廠眾人極力推薦下,第二天清晨,我們從糖廠往南騎行3至4公里,約在台9線255K處,有一片連綿不絕的樹林,向左轉看見一條筆直接往天際線的道路,即是進入「大農大富平地森林園區」的迎曦大道。

1,250公頃的平地森林,相當於48座大安森林公園,種植有近20種低海拔常見的樹種,資深解說員楊孟瑤帶我們騎往園區內北環自行車道,被青楓、杜英左右環抱,沉浸在森林芬多精裡。

平地森林有豐富的生態景觀,騎行時有機會遇到鼬獾、白鼻心和山豬;3月中至4月中夜訪,還能在北環車道觀賞螢火蟲。

若沒有楊解說員的帶領,我們不會發現,這裡的楓葉細聞有股略帶百香果的香甜氣味。車道外圍沿線是樹枝上有螞蟻築窩的台灣欒樹,讓我們見識到蟻樹共生的大自然景象;而沿途地景藝術「蟻窩咖啡廳」,長相和真實蟻窩如出一轍,實是有趣。

蘇軾說:「人生如逆旅,我亦是行人。」

日治時期的移民和灣生,都曾寄旅在縱谷之間,萬般帶不去的,不僅僅是建築群,還有說不完的故事和堅忍不拔的精神。

車過花蓮,我也是匆匆過客,愛這些老房子而踏上單車,行經日本移民、灣生,抑或平地森林裡的蔗農昔日足跡,層層疊疊的印記,將又編織一篇懷舊的旅記。                                   

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