As first glance, Taichung appears as a modern city filled with high-rise and broad avenues. Yet within it exists an old town where the allure of the past seems to linger on every single street and building.
Taichung Old Town refers to the area around the old train station which was the centre of prosperity during the Japanese era. Sought to make it the first “modern” area of Taiwan, the Japanese planned and invested heavily in this district’s infrastructure. Hence, many heritages in this area bears the mark of this time period.
With a nostalgic feeling, I walked through the street grid of Taichung Old Town. Unlike Wanhua in Taipei, the buildings here exude a Western vibe, with red brick wall, granite stone roofing and intricate design. They reflect the architectural style during the Meiji Restoration, which was defined by direct copies of the European style. Through dedicated preservation efforts, many of these cultural relics remain in good shape. Some are re-designed but still retain much of their old charm.
Taichung Railway Station
The starting point of my walk is the city’s old train station – a red-brick structure with high ceilings, a large arcade window and a central bell tower. Originally constructed in 1905 and then expanded in 1917, the building had served as the main gateway to Taichung for nearly a century. When the new elevated station was in inaugurated in 2016, the old station was shut down. The architecture itself, however, remains as an icon of the industrialisation in the memories of many Taichung citizens.
A short walking distance from the train station is Taichung Park – the city’s oldest green space. Since it was opened in 1903, this has been one of the most popular places for people to relax. The park features many pretty landscapes, including an artificial lake, pavilion and arch bridges. There are also a lot of recreational facilities such as outdoor stadium, playground and tennis court.
Taichung Prefecture Hall
White stone pillars, elaborate entrance and intricate ornaments, Taichung Prefecture Hall is probably the crown jewel of Meiji architecture in the city. The building has a street corner style configuration, with two sides extend back like wings, intended to make the structure even more imposing.
During the Japanese era, this grandiose mansion was the seat of the Governor-General in Taichū Prefecture (former name of Taichung). The building was first constructed in 1913 but had its current appearance in 1934, after four expansions. Today, it’s used as the office of the city’s Urban Development Bureau and Environmental Protection Bureau.
Natural Way Six Arts Cultural Centre
Another unmissable place is the Natural Way Six Arts Cultural Centre. Built in 1937, this dojo complex is an outstanding exemplar of Japanese martial arts hall in Taichung. It features elegant wood structure, hip-and-gable roof design, as well as an elevated base. The buildings are surrounded by a serene garden, giving visitors a mentally soothing feel. Aside from its role as a training place, the complex serves as venue for various cultural events, such as tea ceremonies, flower arrangements or themed lectures.
On my way back to the station, I made a stop at one of Taichung’s most popular sweet shops, the Miyahara. Owned by Japanese optician Dr. Miyahara Takeo, this red-brick architecture had been the city’s largest eye clinic before it became Taichung Health Bureau in 1945. As time passed by, the office was suspended and the building slowly fell into demise. Fortunately, Dawn Cake – a local pastry company renowned for its pineapple cakes – acquired the building and preserved Miyahara’s original red-brick walls and archway. A stylish modern glass roof was also installed in the place of the collapsed roof.
Pushing through the doors, I feel like I’ve stumbled upon a Harry Potter set. It’s a dreamlike place filled with high ceiling bookshelves, faux-antique decoration and opulent chandeliers. However, the main magic lies in Dawn Cake’s signature ice-creams and pastries which enchanted me after the first bite.