Taiwan II: Jiufen

Jiu Fen A Mei Tea House
Jiu Fen A Mei Tea House

Jiufen is a tiny mountain town located to the east of Taipei across a set of steep hills.  In the early 1900s, Jiufen became the center of Taiwan’s gold rush.  Mines opened up beneath the mountains and workers flocked into the tunnels to mine the precious metal.  Some workers came voluntarily, others were part of forced labor networks.  During WWII, a Chinese POW camp was located in the village, and soldiers were forced to work in the mines.  Today, Jiufen is a popular tourist escape from the city.  Its sweeping views of the mountains and the coastline along with it’s bustling market street and traditional Chinese tea houses offer a calming, rural experience of Taiwan’s culture.

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Taiwan I: Taipei

View of the national halls and the gate
View of the national halls and the gate

My first international destination from Japan was Taiwan.  Only a 2.5 hour flight Osaka, this tiny island is a popular destination for tourists of all nationalities.  I knew very little about Taiwan before embarking on this trip.  My short stay in Taiwan would include two day trips to small mountain towns and a tour around the city of Taipei.

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Okayama II: Kibitsu Temple and Okayama Castle

 

Very Japanese!
Very Japanese!

*This post is severely overdue, this event took place in February*

The following day, we visited Kibitsu Shrine and Okayama Castle.  Kibitsu Shrine is unique for its double-gabled roof, called kibitsu-zukuri.  The twin sloping points sit proudly above a beautiful main hall.  Kibitsu is the only surviving example of this form of architecture.  The main building of the shrine was rebuilt in 1425, making the structure quite old.

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Okayama I: Naked Man Festival

9,000 Naked Men
9,000 Naked Men

*This post is severely overdue, this event took place in February*

When a group of lovely JETs from Okayama Prefecture organized transportation to the Naked Man festival in February, I took full advantage of the opportunity!  Hadaka Matsuri is an annual festival at the Saidaiji Temple in Okayama City.  In the evening, 9,000 “naked men” clad only in mawashi crowd into the temple’s main hall and skirmish for possession of one of several sticks.  Yes, you read that right: hundreds of naked men fighting each other for a stick.  Humorous though it may sound, this festival is 500 years old and, like all festivals in Japan, its symbolism and rituals are very important aspects of traditional culture.

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