Tainan department store spotlights success of heritage preservation efforts

Hayashi Department Store is a must-visit cultural and retail attraction in southern Taiwan’s Tainan City. (Staff photos/Huang Chung-hsin)

Hayashi Department Store is a must-visit cultural and retail attraction in southern Taiwan’s Tainan City. (Staff photos/Huang Chung-hsin)

TAIPEI (Taiwan Today) -- Hayashi Department Store, located in southern Taiwan’s Tainan City, is celebrating its fifth anniversary with a series of in-store events such as limited edition product launches, music lectures and a special exhibition.

Known locally as Lin Department Store owing to the Mandarin pronunciation of its Japanese title, the iconic facility has attracted more than 6 million visitors since reopening in June 2014. Guided tours of the building’s architectural features, history and refurbishment are organized twice weekly.

The department store was built during the Japanese colonial period (1895-1945) and was the tallest building in Tainan at the time of its completion in 1932. The first business in the city to offer a wide selection of imported luxury goods such as cosmetics, fashion wear and timepieces, it was also the second establishment of its kind in Taiwan after Kikumoto Department Store in Taipei City.

Following the end of World War II, the bomb-damaged facility was converted into dormitories, public administration offices and warehouses. It later fell into disrepair before being designated in 1998 as a heritage site by the local government.

In 2010, a comprehensive renovation program was launched to restore the department store. The project took three years to complete and cost around NT$80 million (US$2.6 million). Traditional materials and methods were used, and many original features were preserved. These included a manually operated roller door, a rooftop Shinto shrine and the store’s original elevator—the first in a commercial building in southern Taiwan.

Three years later, Tainan-based Koche Development Co. Ltd. was awarded management rights to Hayashi for 10 years by Tainan City Government. The facility is among the more than 1,000 historic buildings around Taiwan given a new lease of life following promulgation of the Cultural Heritage Preservation Act in 1982. Extensive revisions to the legislation in 2005 permitted private organizations to assume the management of heritage sites. Public-private partnerships such as the arrangement at Hayashi have become increasingly common in the years since.

Since its reopening, the department store has developed into a showcase of Taiwan cultural and creative products. Accessories, clothing, jewelry, tableware and traditional desserts are just some of the many eye-catching and high-quality items on display.

In addition, the fourth floor of the facility is a repository of books on Tainan’s tourist destinations, as well as a venue for exhibitions and lectures. Once viewed as a window to the world for local residents in the days of yore, the department store now plays a similar role, but for visitors from home and abroad to gain a deeper understanding of the city’s distinctive cultural landscape.