TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — On Wednesday (Dec. 4), a group of Japanese high school students at the Presidential Office were listening attentively to a tour guide introducing the building while a life-size cardboard cutout of President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) could be seen nearby, when all of a sudden, the real Tsai entered the hall and offered a warm greeting.
As the students looked on in surprise, Tsai, who rarely appears in the tour zone during the Office’s opening hours, greeted them in Japanese, saying “I am President Tsai Ing-wen. This is my office.”
Tsai reminded the students to keep themselves warm, as a cold air mass has hit Taiwan this week, before asking them, “Have you tried bubble tea?” She stayed with the students for about 10 minutes, taking group photos and shaking hands with them.
According to Japanese media, the 60 second-year students and five teachers from Matsuyama Jonan High School were on a four-day trip to Taiwan. In addition to visiting the Presidential Office Building, they have also tried making xiaolongbao (steamed dumplings) and had exchanges with a Taiwanese high school.
Japanese media reported that many students were amazed and pleased to have met Tsai. “The president suddenly showed up. I was really surprised,” a 16-year-old student who shook hands with Tsai later told Kyodo News. “This is my first time visiting Taiwan, and [meeting with Tsai] would become the most wonderful memory.”
NHK reported that the Presidential Office has become a popular destination for Japanese students taking school trips to Taiwan in recent years, as the building was designed by a Japanese official and constructed during Japan’s colonization of the island, which spanned from 1895 to 1945.
According to reports, Taiwan has been the top choice for Japanese high school trips due to the safety of the island country and amicable ties between Taiwan and Japan. Government data shows that in 2017, 332 Japanese high schools picked Taiwan as their school trip destination, while 208 schools chose the U.S.