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Preserving Japanese houses from colonial era in Taipei's Showacho

Japanese-style wooden houses embody Taiwan's checkered history

A restored traditional Japanese house that was built in Taipei during the Japanese rule of Taiwan.

TAIPEI -- In Taipei, Taiwan's capital, there is a quarter where some 50 old Japanese-style houses remain. They were built during Japan's colonial rule of the island (1895-1945) and the quarter was once known as "Showacho," from the Japanese era name of Showa (1926-1989). After the area's Japanese residents returned home following the end of the Pacific War, empty houses were requisitioned by the Nationalist Party, or Kuomintang, government and used as accommodations for bureaucrats, military officers and civilians.

These traditional wooden houses -- home not only to Japanese but also to prewar Taiwanese and postwar immigrants from the mainland -- symbolize Taiwan's multilayered history. As they have aged, many have been razed to make way for contemporary buildings. But I have been working to preserve them.

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