Explore Taiwan's colonial history in Hualien with a stay at an authentic Japanese Ryokan

Hualien County is full of history, and beautiful natural scenery, well worth an extended visit

TaiSugar Corporation's Japanese style Ryokan

TaiSugar Corporation's Japanese style Ryokan (By Taiwan News photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Taiwan’s Hualien County may not be the first place most tourists think of when they think of Taiwan’s colonial past under the Japanese.

Most probably think of the major tourist attractions of Jiufen or Jinguashi in Taiwan’s northeast, however, for travelers that want to seek out the remnants of Japanese culture in a quiet, and slower-paced area of Taiwan, it would be hard to beat a visit to Hualien.

In addition to several sites of historic and cultural significance, visitors to the region can even experience a bit of the Japanese influence that still remains by staying in the largest preserved Japanese residential area from the colonial period still extant in Taiwan.

(Taiwan News Photo)

The Taiwan Sugar Corporation (台糖), or Taisugar, has taken up the task of restoring and maintaining a complex of dormitories in Guangfu Township (光復鄉), originally built to house Japanese laborers and officials throughout the colonial period. Now these are available for guests to experience as traditional Japanese Ryokan (旅館).

The buildings have all been refurbished with modern insulation and electricity, however many of the original wooden frames of the buildings are still intact, and Taisugar has made every effort to provide an authentic, yet polished historical image for guests to enjoy.

(Taiwan News Photo)

(Taiwan News Photo)

Even Japanese tourists may be surprised by the early modern style of the Ryokan, and the subtle differences with most Ryokans operating in Japan today.

Nearby the Ryokans, the old Taisugar factory is also still standing, and the corporation has organized several DIY activities, and tours of the grounds for those that are interested. There are also quaint cafes, and an absolutely amazing restaurant on the grounds called the Woodpecker’s CASA, whose spectacular meal sets will leave a lasting memory for guests.

(Taiwan News Photo)

Local produce and culinary skill combine for delicious meals at the Woodpecker Casa (Taiwan News Photos)

In all, the area is an excellent spot for a few days of quiet rest and relaxation among the traditional Japanese architecture, set against the backdrop of the beautiful Hualien Mountains.

(Taiwan News Photo)

For travelers interested in further exploring the colonial history of Hualien County, consider visiting the Ji-An Temple or the Old Hualien Railway Station and museum in Hualien city either on the way to, or from the Taitang Sugar Corporation's Ryokan.

The Ji-An Temple has been called the most well preserved Buddhist shrine in Taiwan. It was constructed as a Shingon Buddhist outreach center in 1917 and served a central role in the religious lives of Japanese settlers in the region.

Ji-An Temple (Wikimedia Commons Photo)

The Hualien Railway Culture Park and museum are another great location to explore the colonial legacy left behind by the Japanese in eastern Taiwan. The old train station and head office of the Hualien Branch Railways Department completed in 1932 now houses a small museum and old train engines, along with a café and restaurant.

Hualien Railway Culture Park (Wikimedia Commons)

For more information on room availability and different rates and sizes, check out the home page for the Hualien Tourism Sugar Factory.

Grounds of the Taisugar Ryokan in Guangfu Township, Hualien County (Taiwan News Photo)