Dis/Re-Connecting Japan to Taiwan

The Complex Feelings of Different Japanese Generations toward Taiwan in Yoshida Shūichi’s Road

Hiroko Matsuzaki, Nihon University [About | Email]

Volume 18, Issue 3 (Discussion paper 5 in 2018). First published in ejcjs on 16 December 2018.


This paper considers the Japanese people’s complex feelings toward Taiwan after Japan’s defeat in the Pacific War and its withdrawal from colonial Taiwan by examining a popular novel by a Japanese writer: Yoshida Shūichi’s Road. Staged both in contemporary Taiwan, which experienced the 921 earthquake, and in Japan where the Great Hanshin earthquake occurred, this full-length novel can be considered a narratological attempt at re-connecting Japan to Taiwan and reconstructing the “friendship” between Japan and Taiwan, on the premise that Japan disconnected from Taiwan in the aftermath of traumatic war. While Taiwan attracts the young Japanese female protagonist through its popular music and delicious food, feelings of guilt toward Taiwan torment the old Japanese male protagonist who was born and raised in a Taiwan that was part of a greater Japanese empire. Meanwhile, the middle-aged Japanese male protagonist suffers a nervous breakdown because of stress from work and seeks comfort from his Taiwanese girlfriend. Their travel to Taiwan, where the Taiwan High Speed Rail is constructed based primarily on Japan’s “Shinkansen (bullet train)” technology, can be read as an allegory of the shifting trajectories of different Japanese generations’ memories of Taiwan as a former colony. Reading the text against the backdrop of the political, social, and gender contexts in the relationship between post-war Japan and Taiwan, this paper discusses the complexity of the sentiments of Japanese people toward Taiwan and how they grapple with the forgotten colonial memories there.

Keywords: Taiwan, Japan-Taiwan Relations, memory, Yoshida Shūichi.


The relationship between Taiwan and Japan is complicated. Japan occupied Taiwan from 1895 to 1945. After the defeat of the Empire of Japan in World War II, Taiwan was placed under the control of the Republic of China (ROC). Taiwanese youth devoted themselves to the Baodiao movement in the 1970s, the social movement that asserts Chinese authority over the Diaoyu Islands, based on anti-Japanese sentiment. Japan and Taiwan (i.e., the ROC) broke off diplomatic relations in 1972, when Japan established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China. On the other hand, when the 921 earthquake1 occurred in Taiwan in 1999, Japan sent the largest number of rescue workers and was the largest contributor of monetary aid. And in 2011, when the Tohoku earthquake occurred in Japan, Taiwan in turn provided over $252 million in combined aid; and many Taiwanese charities arranged fundraising concerts or events.

The memory of Japanese colonisation has percolated through both Taiwanese and Japanese society and, to this day, influences the subjectivity of their narratives and the formation of their identities.

In Taiwan, the older generation can speak Japanese, the middle-aged generation has received an education in which they called the Japanese “Japanese Devils” (Riben Guizi, 日本鬼子),and the younger generation has an especially strong interest in Japanese popular culture (Harizu, 哈日族, Japan fans). Taiwan has inherited and described its colonial memories in many ways, such as through houses, books, language, and songs. Japan’s colonial legacy in Taiwan is to be found not merely in the railway system and the neocolonial architecture; it also survives in cultural features such as food and customs, and in elements of the self-definition of the Taiwanese people. As the scholar Huang Yingzhe has remarked, its colonial history has been a radical aporia for Taiwan (Huang 2005: p. 22).

On the other side, in post-war Japan, the colonial memory of Taiwan has been forgotten as a memory of the past. Komori Yōichi states that although the defeat had broken off Japanese colonial consciousness, a consciousness which had extended for over 80 years from the Meiji Restoration, the Japanese nation did not participate in the same way in the discourse of decolonisation of its former colonies, during the period when the GHQ (General Headquarters, i.e., Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers) policy fulfilled the deimperialisation of the Japanese Empire (Komori 2007: p.84). Colonial memories in Taiwan were not the memories of a “Japanised” overseas territory, but rather those of the outside the state, a “foreign country.”

Marukawa Tetsushi cautions about the potential for misinterpreting the colonial nostalgia that still prevails among a certain generation of Taiwanese. He warns that some Japanese, ignorant of the labyrinthine identity politics that inform this attitude, might naively assume that Japan has atoned for the misdeeds of its colonial past (Marukawa 2000: pp. 10-22). Faye Kleeman points out that Shiba Ryotarō’s account of his trip to Taiwan is a prime example of this type of misreading. Shiba Ryotarō’s Taiwan kikō kaidō wo yuku(1997) is one installment in a series of travelogues, started in the early 1980s by Shiba, nostalgically recording journeys he made to many parts of Japan and reminiscing about its people and history. The series was later expanded to foreign countries such as Ireland, Holland, and Taiwan. Kleeman states that Shiba seems to have taken what he heard at face value and accepted the colonial nostalgia he encountered there without reflection (Kleeman 2003: p. 247).

From Hou Hsiao-Hsien’sA City of Sadness(1989) to Wei Te-Sheng’s Cape No. 7(2007) and Seediq Bale(2011), Umin Boya’s Kano(2014) and Ye Tianlun’s Twa-Tiu-Tiann(2014), Taiwan has produced many films representing the Japanese colonial period. Taiwanese films continue to foreground the problem of how the post-war Japanese remember colonial Taiwan. Meanwhile, NHK, the Japanese public broadcasting network, broadcast a documentary about the colonial period in Taiwan, “The first-class power in Asia” (“Asia no Ittokoku”) in 2009. In the same year, Sakai Mitsuko made a documentary film about older Taiwanese people who had spent their youth during the Japanese colonial period “Taiwanese Life” (“Taiwan Jinsei”).

This paper shall explore how the identity and subjectivity formation of Japanese people in the post-war era is fundamentally shaped by their colonial experiences in Taiwan. By examining the texts of Japanese Akutagawa Prize-writer Yoshida Shūichi’s popular novel Road(Japanese title Lū, Chinese translation, Lu, 路, ルウ) against the backdrop of the political, social, and gender contexts in the post-war Japan-Taiwan relationship, the ways in which memories of the colonial past and postcolonial present are invoked across different generations and genders of the Japanese society are explored.

Yoshida Shūichi and Taiwan

Yoshida Shūichi was born in Nagasaki in 1968 and studied at Hosei University in Tokyo. He won the Akutagawa Prize, one of the most important literary awards in Japan, in 2002 for the short story “Park Life” (Kōen Seikatsu, 公園生活). His 2007 novel, Villain(Akunin, 悪人) was recently adapted into an award-winning 2010 film, and long listed for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in the United Kingdom. His 16 novels have been translated into Chinese and published in Taiwan.

Since 2007, his short stories and essays have appeared serially in Wing Span(Tsubasa no ōkoku, 翼の王国), All Nippon Airway’s monthly inflight journal. These short stories were published as a collection in book form, as Under the Sky(Ano sora no shita de, あの空の下で) in 2008. These stories are based on Yoshida Shūichi’s experience traveling to cities around the world, including Taipei, Hong Kong, Ho Chi Minh City, Switzerland, Tokyo, Bangkok, and Oslo. This book contains one short story set against the background of Taiwan. It is titled “Dust in the Wind” (Renren fūjin, Lianlian fengchen, 戀戀風塵), the same title as that of a famous Taiwanese movie by Hou Hsiao-Hsien. In this story, a Japanese man travels to Taiwan, and remembers that his ex-girlfriend had said, “I do not feel any stress in Taiwan! Everything is simple and cheerful in this country”; he then takes a train to Hualian, on the east coast of Taiwan.

Roadwas published serially in Bungakukai(文學界) from 2009 to 2012. The story is set against the background of Taiwan; the Chinese translation was published in Taiwan in 2013. When Roadwas published in book form in 2012, he mentioned, “When I visited Taiwan for the first time in the early 1990s, I fell in love with Taiwan at my first step in the airport there. Its dampness, atmosphere, the behaviour and the pace of the people, all these things led me into the confusion about whether I was back in my hometown, Nagasaki. From then on, I have been to Taiwan more than 30 times”(Yoshida 2012b). In the novel, he represents the Taiwanese climate, the landscape, and the kinds of food in the night markets; he also describes the life and habits of Taiwanese people. Some Japanese readers have commented that this novel is a kind of “a travel guide to Taiwan,” since they would decide to visit Taiwan after reading the story.

Road, Lu

This novel opens with a scene set in 2000: a Japanese company was on the verge of winning its bid for the contract to build the Taiwan High Speed Rail, whose system was based on Japan’s Shinkansen technology. Then, the female protagonist Haruka, who was sent from the Japanese company to Taiwan, wondered weather she would find the unforgettable Taiwanese man, Eric (i.e., Liu Renho), whom Haruka had met when she traveled in Taiwan six years earlier, even though she had a boyfriend in Japan. Their story runs parallel to that of an older Japanese couple, Mr. and Mrs. Hayama, in the novel. When Mr. and Mrs. Hayama read in an article that the Japanese Shinkansen would be imported to Taiwan, their old memories come rushing back. They had taken a ship at the port of Keelong and left Taiwan about a half century ago, after Japan lost the war.

With the Taiwan High Speed Rail project playing a central role, Roadis a full-length novel that combines Taiwan and Japan, two different countries, and different generations. The novel represents not only the nostalgia of the foreigners working in a foreign land, but also the nostalgia of the “Wansei”, 湾生, or Taiwan-born Japanese during the Japanese colonial period, who went back to Japan after the war. Considering that the construction route of the Taiwan High Speed Rail was very much based on the Taiwan Cross Country Rail, which is a product of Japanese colonial rule, the building of the Taiwan High Speed Rail and the opening of the railroad could be a metaphor for the reconnection of Japan to Taiwan, whose relationship has gone back and forth, at something of a distance.

Yoshida Shūichi stated that in 2008, he watched the Taiwanese romance film Cape No.7twice, once in Taipei and once in Tokyo. He was moved to tears by the last scene of Taiwanese and Japanese people singing “Heidenröslein (Little Rose of the Field)” and the tragic love between a Taiwanese girl and a Japanese man forty years ago being reconciled at last. If the love letter from the Japanese teacher to the Taiwanese girl is a covert reference in Cape No.7, Yoshida Shūichi’s novel, Roadis his love letter to Taiwan.

Hayama Shōichirō and Nakano Takeo (Lü Yaozong): Dis/re-connecting Japan to Taiwan

Hayama Shoichirō and his wife Yōko were born and grew up in Taiwan, and left Taiwan soon after Japan’s surrender in 1945. Since they “came back” to Japan, Shōichirō had worked in a big Japanese construction company, and he had avoided talking about Taiwan. However, just after Shōichirō retired and then Yōko entered the hospital, their old memories in Taiwan were awakened because of the news that the technology of the Japanese Shinkansen was to be imported to build the Taiwan High Speed Rail. Shōichirōbrought the newspaper to the hospital and showed Yōko the article:

“At that time, how long did it take from Taipei to Takao by train?”
His wife started to read the article seriously and asked. He saw her thin spine under the cardigan.
“It must have taken a long time.”
“They left windows opened, and so we were exposed to the comfortable breeze, and we could see the beautiful mountains, right?”
“You said such a thing, but you hadn’t ridden it so many times.”
“Yes, I had. I had relatives in Takao, I had takentrains so many times in my childhood.”
“You had?”
Shōichirō took a cup and stood by the window. The warm sunlight touched his cold neck. He looked down at the courtyard that he walked in just a little while ago. He saw a young mother and a little son sitting on the grass, maybe they had already finished their lunch.
“It is unusual for you to talk about Taiwan.”
His wife spoke to his back. Shōichirō looked back at her and said,
“Is it?”
“I think you do not dare to avoid to talk about Taiwan.”
The sunlight, which streamed in through the window rose to his wife’s knees.
“How about going to Taiwan when the Shinkansen is opened?”
His wife lookedupin surprise2 (Yoshida 2012a: pp. 27-28).

Shōichirō’s memories of Taiwan were recalled more and more after Yōko passed away:

Suddenly, a man named “Nakano Takeo” came to his mind. At that moment, he went pale. Of course, he had never forgotten him. Rather, he had tried to shut the door on Takeo’s image, which was just waiting for a chance to appear in Shōichirō’s mind.

However, after his wife passed away, maybe he became nervous; that image resurfaced in his mind constantly (Yoshida 2012a: p. 113).

Nakano Takeo was Shōichirō’s childhood friend, and was also his high school classmate in Taiwan. Takeo was from a Taiwanese family, and his father practiced medicine in the neighbourhood. Shōichirō spent a lot of time with Takeo. Shōichirō remembered that he was not so conscious of the ethnic differences between them. However, he remembered so clearly the day he left Taiwan:

After the war, Shōichirō’s family went back to Japan on an evacuation ship, which left from Keelung. Yōko and her family, who had also lived in the neighbourhood, rode on the same ship, too. They received a departure examination from the KMT (Chinese Nationalist Party), and then they had to board the ship. Shōichirō remembered very vividly the words that Yōko muttered at that time.
“Takeo-san said that he would come to see us.” She murmured sorrowfully.
“He is the person who will remain here. He has already forgotten us.” Shōichirō answered coldly. Of course, he did not seriously think so, and he knew that Takeo was not such a cold-hearted man.
“I will send him a letter when I settle down there.”
Shōichirō remembered that Yōko said so while she was climbing up the ladder.
“You maybe give him trouble if you do such a thing. Times have changed.”
Shōichirō answered. He surprised himself, speaking in such a hurtful tone. He took her heavy parcel bluntly without speaking.
“I am OK, I can hold it by myself.” She said.
“No, I’ll hold it.” He answered.
The KMT policed the pier strictly. Taiwanese people were waving their hands over the fence. Everybody on deck was crying and saying good-bye, to Taiwan, and to their neighbors until yesterday (Yoshida 2012a: p. 115).

Shōichirō had avoided facing up to Taiwan, not only because of the traumatic defeat of Japan, but also because he felt that he owed someone an apology. But when he wondered why he had feelings of guilt, he could not think about it anymore. One night, after Yōko’s death, he accidentallywatched Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s film A City of Sadnesson TV. He remembered the Taiwanese hot and humid climate through the screen. Then, he finally remembered his conversation with Nakamura Takeo. When they were walking around the streets of Taipei at night, Takeo had confessed that he loved Yōko when they talked about the students who went to the war. At that time, Shōichirō realised that he himself also liked Yōko, and could not help being agitated:

“If I can come back from the war, I will make Yōko-san happy for life.”
Takeo said. At that time, Shōichirō’s mouth moved on its own.
“Wait. You are not Japanese. Do you think that Yōko-san’s parents will agree to let her marrya second rank citizen?”
He had already finished his words when he came to himself.
“No, no. I mean, I don’t know if Yōko-san can be happy marrying you.”
Shōichirō was just nervous. He already knew what he said. He looked at Takeo’s face, which was expressionless. There was not any anger, sadness, nor mortification on his face.
“So… sorry, I didn’t meant to…”
He said his words in a hurry.
“No, it’s fine. Please forget everything I said just now.”
Takeo answered, and just left (Yoshida 2012a: p. 188).

Shōichirō had insulted his good Taiwanese friend Takeo; moreover, he had snatched a woman whom Takeo liked. Feelings of guilt toward Taiwan had tormented the old man, Shōichiro, for his whole life. This situation reminds us of Natsume Sōseki’s Kokoro. In the last part of Kokoro, Sensei’s confession of guilt implies a kind of atonement. Yoshida Shūichi also recounts the indemnity against Taiwan. For example, Shōichirō once met a Taiwanese young man, Liu Renhao (i.e., Eric), in Japan, who was in the same profession;he put his confidence in Liu Renhao:

In the end, he trusted him only because he was from Taiwan. Shōichirō was a person who said, “I will go BACK to Taiwan” unconsciously. Viewed in this way, not only Shōichirō, but also anybody absolutely felt secure with whoever was from the same hometown. Only because knowing that the person grew up in the same hometown, he could be generous, even if he did not know anything about that person; there was no need to know about him.
When he thought this, he gave a gasp of surprise. There was no doubt that his homeland was Taiwan. Still, why he had turned his back on Taiwan? (Yoshida 2012a: p. 268)

Intimacy with Liu Renhao prompted him to reconnect to Taiwan. One day, when he broke down and realised that he was all alone in the world after losing his wife, Liu Renhao was the first person who came to his mind. He asked Liu Renhao to go to Taiwan with him. With Renhao’s help, Shōichirō finally went “back” to Taiwan for the first time in sixty years. Nakano Takeo, i.e., Lü Yaozong, who heard of Shōichirō’s visit from his another Japanese friend, greeted Shōichirō at the airport:

“Here I come.”
Shōichirō said again.
“Yes, nice to see you again.”
Nakano nodded.
Shōichirō held Nakano’s hand. They held each other’s hands, to assureeach other that they both felt that way. Then, Nakano hit his chest against Shōichirō’s body. In return, Shōichirō held Nakano’s back in his arms strongly. At that moment, Shōichirō said the words naturally.
“Yōko is dead.”
He could not see Nakano’s face. “Yes.” Nakano answered. Then he patted Shōichirō’s back again and again.
“I am back. I am back.”
Shōichirō repeated.
“Yes, I know. Welcome back.”
Nakano answered.
Shōichirō realized that he was crying. Somefeelingsthat he had shut out of his heart since Yōko passed away, no, since the day that he could only abandon Taiwan sixty years ago, suddenly welled up now. (Yoshida 2012a: p. 316)

Their first reunion was dramatic, but Shōichirō spent quite a busy time during his short stay in Taiwan; they seemed not to talk a lot to each other. They began a correspondence after Shōichirō went back to Japan, and Shōichirō visited Taiwan with Liu Renhao again three years later. When Nakano took Shōichirō to see the place that used to be their neighbourhood where they grew up, Shōichirō finally found a chance to apologise to Nakano: “I betrayed our friendship. I know this is unpardonable no matter how much I beg forgiveness. However, I have lived to regret it for sixty years” (Yoshida 2012a: p.424). Nakano put his hand on Shōichirō’s shoulder and consoled him: “Never mind. You know, we Taiwanese remember fun things rather than painful things. We forget the hardship immediately, and live to talk about the joyful times” (Yoshida 2012a: p. 425). Impressed by Nakano’s tolerance, Shōichirō confessed that he had cancer and would not live long, and was already prepared to die alone. Nakano, who was a doctor and who had inherited his father’s hospital, offered him helpand said: “Then, you, die here. Die in my hospital, here, in Taiwan” (Yoshida 2012a: p. 429). Shōichirō said to Nakano “Thank you,” the phrase which immediatelycame to his mind.

Feelings of guilt, apologies, and gratitude toward Taiwan are very complicated feelings of this older Taiwan-born Japanese man, Shōichirō. The traumatic defeat of Japan disconnected him from Taiwan; however, after sixty years, his wife’s death and an encounter with a Taiwanese youth reconnected him to Taiwan. For Shōichirō, who was born in a Taiwan that was part of the greater Japanese empire, postwar Japan could not be his homeland. Feelings of guilt had tormented himfor his whole life; however, the reconciliation with his old Taiwanese friend finally healed his trauma. At last, Shōichirō rode the Taiwan High Speed Rail with his wife Yōko’s picture, and watched the changing scenery of their homeland, Taiwan,from the train window. Shōichirō decided to die in Taiwan, and be buried in Taiwan to rest.

Anzai and Yuki: Taiwan as a “healing land”

Anzai Makoto is a middle-aged Japanese man, the superior of the female protagonist, Haruka, and who was also sent to Taipei to take part in building the Taiwan High Speed Rail. In the beginning, he could not get used to life in Taiwan: he could not understand why things could not take place as scheduled in Taiwan, since he thought that it was a matter of course in Japan to carry things out on schedule. He suffered a nervous breakdown because of stress from work; he was caught in a dilemma between a European company and a Taiwanese company, since the Taiwan High Speed Rail innovated a system combining the Japanese Shinkansen with a European rail system. Anzai sought comfort from his Taiwanese girlfriend, Yuki, who worked at a nightclub on Linsen Beilu Street, a famous nightlife area in Taipei which has been called “an oasis for Japanese businessmen”:

He relaxed once he drained a cup of whisky-and-water, which Yuki made for him. Drinking with Yuki gave him a mysterious sense; as if he was not in Taiwan, or as if he was in neither Tokyo nor Taiwan (Yoshida 2012a: p. 91).

For him, Yuki was a very innocent girl. When he met her in the nightclub for the first time, “Anzai tried to hold her hand, but she put back her hand quickly. However, immediately, she seemed to notice, ‘oh, I see’, and she put that hand back in the original place. From this behaviour, he knew that she was very innocent” (Yoshida 2012a: p. 87). He also had strong nostalgic feelings about the scenery of Taiwan:

Even he was walking in modern Taipei, and he knew that the 101 building that was under construction could be seen over the fog, somehow the baroque architecture, which was built in the Taishō era, like the Presidential Office and Dihua Street, appeared in front of him. He heard that most of the Japanese tourists who visited Taiwan felt nostalgic, and he felt this too. (Yoshida 2012a: p. 93).

Sakamoto Hiroko states that the “image of girls and young women” in Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s Taiwanese films represents a nostalgic longing for “the women in the good old days”; neat, innocent, brave but gentle, obedient, quiet, and shy, and an image that obviously reflects the desire of Japanese men (Sakai 1998: p.79). Yuki, in Road, also represents a desire of Japanese man, with nostalgic feelings in the post-colonial discourse. Even though Yuki is a Taiwanese girl, we cannot know her Taiwanese name, i.e., her real name. Therefore, she behaves as a good luck mascot character for Anzai; she never gets angry with him, just stays innocent and tries to heal him.

When Anzai’s stress builds up and he can neither work nor believe Yuki, he gets drunk and heaps abuse on her: “Believe you? What a joke! How can I believe a Taiwanese nightclub hostess like you?” (Yoshida 2012a: p.159). Later, Anzai takes a week vacation following his boss’s orders, and rests. When he recovers his composure, he calls Yuki and apologises. Yuki does not say anything, but asks him “Are you OK?” Then Yuki takes Anzai to Mt. Yangming, which has a famous hot spring, in the suburbs of Taipei. Anzai is healed completely by Yuki, and he adapts himself to the Taiwanese lifestyle. In the end, he decides to divorce his wife, living in Japan with his son, and to marry Yuki.

Haruka and Eric (Liu Renhao): More than a friend and less than a lover

Haruka and Eric (i.e., Liu Renhao) are the leading figures of the story, and they are the youngest generation in this novel. Haruka met Eric on her first trip to Taiwan alone when she was a college student. Haruka was only interested in Taiwan because she was a fan of Kaneshiro Takeshi (金城武), a famous Taiwanese actor and singer. During the trip to Taipei, Haruka happened to ask Eric for directions, and the next day, she met Eric again by chance in a local noodle shop in Tamshui, which is a famous tourist spot in Taipei. At that time, she could not speak Chinese, so they had a conversation mostly in English, and some in writing:

“I am a college student, too. What is your major?”
Thinking back now, it was a pretty corny question, but Haruka asked it, following just what it said in the English textbook. However, she could not understand the word that he answered. He promptly picked up the order sheet and a pen on the table, and wrote “architecture (建築)” in Kanji Chinese characters.
Haruka marveled at the Kanji Chinese characters, which the foreigner wrote with effortless ease. Of course, they were Chinese native speakers in Taiwan, so it is natural for them to write Kanji Chinese characters; however, she was pretty impressed by the two Kanji Chinese characters written in front of her (Yoshida 2012a: p. 59).

Haruka’s first impression of Taiwan is “a kind of nostalgic place” but also “an exotic place”; she was just like a typical young female Japanese tourist, who loves Taiwanese gourmet foods like Xiaolongbao and night market foods, as well as Taiwanese-style spa-like foot massages. Eric guided Harukaaround Tamshui for a half day, including his apartment. They had feelings for each other, and Eric gave her his phone number; Haruka then promised him that she would call him when she arrived in Japan. However, Haruka lost the paper on which Eric had written his phone number, and she did not have any way to contact him nor to meet him again. Eric and Haruka could not forget each other, and they went to each other’s hometowns to look for each other. Whenthe Great Hanshin earthquake occurred in 1995 in Kōbe, Haruka’s hometown, Eric visited Kōbe to find Haruka, and joined a local volunteer group for a week, even though he could not speak Japanese or find her as a result. And Haruka also visited Taichung, Eric’s hometown, when the 921 earthquake occurred there in 1999.

Later, Eric, whose Chinese name was Liu Renhao, went to Japan to get a Master’s degree, and worked as a successful architect in Tokyo. On the other hand, Haruka worked in a Japanese company, which took part in building the Taiwan High Speed Rail; soon she was sent to Taiwan. She immediately got acclimated to Taiwan: she loved Taiwanese food, got along well with Taiwanese colleagues, and enjoyed the scenery of “the southern country.” She described Taipei as “the city with the most beautiful scenery when you stop and see” (Yoshida 2012a: p. 414). For her, Taiwan meant a place with a lot of energy, compared to Japan, where her boyfriend Shigeyuki lived and suffered from depression:

Haruka watched the scenery from the window. The trees bathed in the southern sun were shining in the beautiful greens. They seemed to declare aloud that they were alive. They basked in the sun when the southern sunlight poured, they drunk up the rain when the southern rain fell. She felt that being alive was so simple when she watched the trees here, in Yanchao. Since it was simple, it turned out to give her energy.
In another moment, the scene in front of her suddenly changed. She immediately could not know where it was. The weak greens, the leaves on the branch looked fragile.
That scene was the sanitarium in Atami, in which Shigeyuki had been. She saw the courtyard with slender trees, from the window in his hospital room (Yoshida 2012a: p. 292).

Haruka got more and more healthy and lively, while her Japanese boyfriend Shigeyuki got sick because of stress from work. Here Yoshida Shūichi represents the contrast between Japan and Taiwan: Japan, as a society in which the people, especially Japanese men, are tired and suffering from stress; Taiwan, as a society in which the people are strong and free from stress, as he has the female protagonist mention “You do not feel any stress in Taiwan! Everything is simple and cheerful in this country”, in his short story, “Dust in the Wind (Renren fūjin, Lianlian fengchen)” in 2008. The Taiwanese young man, Liu Renhao (Eric), who worked in Japan, also appears as a healthy man compared to the Japanese men in the novel, Shigeyuki and Anzai.

With the help of Haruka’s Taiwanese colleague, who was also her good friend in Taiwan, Haruka and Liu Renhao (i.e., Eric) get in touch with each other for the first time in nine years, and meet again when Renhao is back in Taiwan. From that time, they kept in touch and met constantly, but their relationship did develop to that of lovers. They also thought “the love had been born at that time, but after ten years, they could not say so clearly, since a long time had passed” (Yoshida 2012: p. 346). When they took a trip to Hualian together, they recognised that they had both had feelings for each other. Haruka confessed that she found herself useless when she was in Taichung just after the earthquake. She apologised to him for making him have the same feeling when he visited Kōbe just after the earthquake as well;

Even though they had both had feelings for each other, maybe it did not mean anything if they had bad timing. She could not find him, and he could not find her. She wished that Renhao who was looking for her was here, and “I” who was looking for him was here. However, what she could see was, Renhao who could not find her, and “I” who could not find him (Yoshida 2012a: p. 358)

At last, just before they went on board the Taiwan High Speed Rail, Renhao introduced Hayama Shōichirō to Haruka, saying, “he was like my father in Tokyo” (Yoshida 2012a: p. 437). On the Taiwan Shinkansen, i.e., the Taiwan High Speed Rail, Haruka thanked Renhao for riding with her, saying, “I wanted to ride with you when I took a ride on the Taiwan Shinkansen for the first time” (Yoshida 2012: p.444). Renhao told Haruka that he would keep working in Japan, and asked her if she would come back to Japan, since she had already finished her obligation—being involved in the Taiwan Shinkansen. However, she told him that she decided to stay in Taiwan and to work at a local Taiwanese company for a while. The story ends with their following conversation:

“Hey, the Taiwan Shinkansen has succeeded in running, right?” Haruka asked.
“Yes, it has successfully run.” Renhao answered gently. (Yoshida 2012a: p. 447)

The relationship between Haruka and Renhao, with their disconnecting and reconnecting, seems to be the relationship between Japan and Taiwan. Probably Japan and Taiwan should adopt such a philosophical acquaintance: as ambiguous as the connection between Haruka and Renhao, more than a friend and less than a lover.


This paper has examined how the post-war Japanese novel, Road, represents the complex feelings of different Japanese people toward Taiwan. We can see the younger generation inherits nostalgic feelings toward Taiwan from the older generation who experienced colonial Taiwan. At the same time, in this novel, all of these protagonists from three different generations are expressing their gratitude for their Taiwanese friends, as well as owing them an apology; Hayama Shoichirō thanked and apologised to Nakano Takeo (i.e., Lū Yaozong), Anzai to Yuki, and Haruka to Eric (i.e., Liu Renhao). Yoshida Shūichi mentioned in his interview that this novel is “the novel that loves Taiwan most” (Mao 2013: p. 94).

Even though this novel still maintains the fundamental stance toward the former colony in the south, one of nostalgia and exoticism, Yoshida Shūichi makes these Japanese protagonists “Taiwanised.” Hayama Shoichirō decided to die in Taiwan in the hospital of his Taiwanese best friend, Takeo, and to be buried in his homeland, Taiwan. Anzai assimilated into Taiwan, then married a Taiwanese women, Yuki.Haruka immediately accustomed herself to Taiwan, which made Renhao think that she looked like a Taiwanese woman (Yoshida Shūichi 2012: p.336). Looking back to Chen Huoquan (陳火泉), an empire writer (皇民作家) under the Japanese colonial period in Taiwan, he wrote the tale “The Way” (“Michi” 道) in which the speculative essential of the Imperial Subject movement is put to a severe assessment. This work represents a scene on the identity politics of Japaneseness with which one Taiwanese youth had tried to get involved. The protagonist of “The Way” is assigned to write a treatise, “The Way to become an Imperial Subject” (“Kōmin e no michi” 皇民への道) (Kleeman 2003: p.217). As if Yoshida Shūichi is responding to Chen’s “The Way,” written in Japanese with the Japanese title “Michi” (道), Yoshida gave his novel a title in Chinese, “Lu” (路), which means “way” or “road.” Even though Yoshida Shūichi himself described this novel as a “love letter to Taiwan,” Road(Lu)could be read as “The Road to reconnect Japan to Taiwan,” or as a “letter of apology to Taiwan,” in the context of post-colonial discourse.


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[1] The 921 earthquake, also nown as the Jiji earthquake, was a 7.3 Ms or 7.6-7.7 Mw earthquakewhich occurred in Jiji, Nantou County, which is next to Taichung County,the central Taiwan, on Tuesday, 21 September 1999. 2,415 people were killed, 11,305 injured. It was the second-deadliest quake in recorded history in Taiwan, after the 1935 Shinchiku-Taichū earthquake.

[2] My translation.

About the Author

Hiroko Matsuzaki is a Research Fellow of Institute of Humanities and Social Science, Nihon University, Japan. She received her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Tokyo. Her research interests include Japanese colonial memory, transculturation, children’s literature and language ideology in Japanophone and Sinophone. In 2018-2019 she is a visiting associate at Harvard Yenching Institute.

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