Monday, June 23, 2014

Takasago Koku (高砂国) / Turning Japanese I Think I'm Turning Japanese I Really Think So!

Between 1895 to 1945, Taiwan was a dependency of the Empire of Japan after China lost the first Sino-Japanese War.  Even before that, Japan has always had its eye on this little mountainous island named for the Formosa flower.
In fact, Japan had been seeking imperial control over Taiwan since 1592, calling it "Takasago Koku," or "Highland Nation."  This led to centuries of attempted invasion and take-over plots by different Japanese rulers, mostly all  being unsuccessful.  The Taiwanese resistance was very strong. I mean, come on, do you really want to pick a jungle fight with a bunch of aboriginal head hunters?  Seriously...?
One of the strangest eras of Japanese rule in Taiwan erupted during the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937 and ended with the conclusion of World War II in 1945, during which Japan sought to utilize resource material in Taiwan for the war effort.  It was believed then that Taiwanese people should be fully assimilated as members of Japanese society.  This was called the "Kominka Movement."  Its aim was fully "Japanizing" Taiwanese society.
 This meant locals had to speak Japanese language and wear Japanese clothing and live in Japanese style houses.  Pretty cool if  you like your sushi on a tatami mat while wearing indoor geta clogs.
But of course... the Taiwanese weren't having it!  They are revolutionaries at heart.  (Look at this mustache and tell me this guy doesn't want to brawl?)  So... in the end, the Taiwanese had to fight for their right to party just like every body else.
The funny thing is, there is still large Japanese support among elderly Taiwanese...but the young people have completely forgotten their history lessons.  Korean music, movies, and celebrities now dominate, creating a new area of colonization.  (In fact, when my students discover I can read and write in Korean, they instantly discard English for this new hipster mania)
It has taken me five years to really see the Taiwanese people for who they are.  Revolutionaries.  Still trapped between powerful warring nations, attempting to carve out a national identity, looking to neighbors for hints on style, still evolving.  I hope to leave them better for their cause.  

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