This year’s field trip to Taiwan (from March 10-17) was organized jointly by Tokyo and Kyushu Universities, with Dr. AKO Tomoko of Tokyo University providing crucial assistance with many of the arrangements. The Kyudai and Todai groups got along very well together, and benefitted from the chance to learn from each other as well as from the opportunities to meet and interact with many different Taiwanese groups.
We at Kyushu University were very grateful on this occasion to receive financial assistance from the 九州台日文化交流会, which enabled us to take more students from across the university on the field trip this year. We are also very grateful for financial assistance provided by the 228 Peace Foundation to all Kyudai and Todai participants, and to Dr. Ako of Tokyo University for her key role in helping to secure this funding.
Due to our collaboration with the 228 Foundation, our trip began on March 10 (Sunday) with a visit to the National 228 Museum in central Taipei. This was followed by a two-day trip to Green Island and Taidong (March 11-13), where students visited the former jail for political prisoners that is now part of the National Human Rights Museum.
In Taidong, we visited a village of the Paiwan tribe, and the students met two tribal elders – including Sukinu, who has become famous in Taiwan and internationally for his writings on aboriginal culture – as well as the local schoolteacher. The students then slept overnight in the traditional wood-built village halls – the girls and boys each in a separate hall.
Throughout our visits to Green Island and the Paiwan village, we were extremely fortunate to have with us Ms. Chen Airi, a first-year student at Kyushu University who is herself Taiwanese. Ms. Chen was able to translate fluently from Chinese to Japanese and vice-versa.
On returning to Taipei, we first visited the Zheng Nan-rong (Nylon Cheng) Memorial, which commemorates a pro-democracy activist who immolated himself in 1989. We then visited another branch of the National Human Rights Museum (at the former prison for political inmates in Jingmei), and enjoyed a dinner with representatives of the 228 Peace Foundation, including Mr. Tsai, a former political prisoner who guided the group around the museum.
On March 14-15, we visited various different sites and organisations in Taipei. This Taipei tour began early on the 14th with a lecture on Museums, heritage and the politics of identity in contemporary Taiwan, delivered by Prof. Vickers at National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU) – which aimed to provide some background and context to help the students understand and interpret some of the historical sites we were due to visit.
Our itinerary on March 14 began with a visit to the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, where Dr. Ketty Chen and her colleagues introduced the activities of the TFD to students and engaged in a discussion with them about the meaning of democracy and differences between the democratic cultures of Taiwan and Japan.
This was followed by a visit to the New Frontier Foundation, a think-tank affiliated with the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, where we discussed aspects of the government’s social policy relating especially to the elderly and women. Once again, the focus was on Taiwan-Japan comparisons.
In the afternoon, the group visited the Ama Museum, dedicated to the experiences of Taiwan’s wartime ‘comfort women’, where they heard a lecture from a curator about the activities of the museum and the Taipei Women’s Rescue Foundation, which runs it. The students then toured the museum, including its current special exhibition on Anne Frank.
The tour continued with a guided walk around the streets of the Gongguan District, led by Ms. SUMIKI Hikari, a Japanese resident of Taipei and expert on the architectural history of the city’s colonial period. This brought the students back to NTNU, where they listened to a talk from Mr. Makinoda, the Taiwan correspondent of the Yomiuri Shimbun. This focused mainly on Taiwan’s international relations, and the state of the relationship with the People’s Republic of China. Mr. Makinoda then took questions from students, before joining them for dinner.
On Friday, March 15, the day began with a visit to the Green Citizens Action Alliance, an environmentalist group especially dedicated to campaigning against nuclear power. Here, students learnt about the impact of Japan’s Fukushima disaster on public attitudes towards nuclear power in Taiwan. This was followed by a visit to the Chinese Christian Relief Association, a charity that engages in various activities aimed at relieving poverty – from running ‘food banks’ to providing after-school tuition and support for underprivileged children and their families. This culminated in a discussion that touched on the problems inherent in a reliance on charity to provide this kind of welfare.
In the afternoon, the group split up – with Prof. Vickers leading one group on a visit to the National Taiwan Museum (Taiwan’s oldest museum, dating to the colonial period), while Dr. Ako led another group to the Lung Ying-tai Foundation (a think-tank that describes its mission as raising ‘global awareness’ amongst young people). We then reconvened at the Prospect Foundation, a government-affiliated think-tank devoted to foreign affairs, where we heard a lecture from the foundation’s president, Lai I-Chung, on the legal and political aspects of Taiwan’s international status, and a lecture from Dr. Liu Hsia-Ju on the Taiwanese-Japanese novelist Kyu Ei-kan (邱永漢).
In the evening, the Kyushu University students attended a dinner with staff and students from NTNU’s Dept of Taiwan Culture and College of Education, where they were joined by another group of Kyudai students who were studying Chinese at NTNU’s Mandarin training centre. The Kyudai students were given materials introducing NTNU, and encouraged to consider returning there on longer exchanges.
On the final full day of the trip (Saturday, March 16), Kyudai and Todai students spent the morning preparing for a colloquium at National Taiwan University (NTU) – involving presentations about what they had learnt during their time in Taiwan, followed by discussions with Japanese-speaking Taiwanese students from NTU and Tamkang University. The students gave some impressively thoughtful presentations, on topics ranging from gender and civic activism to foreign affairs, identity politics, and the situation of Taiwan’s indigenous peoples (the ‘aboriginal tribes’).
The tour ended on Saturday evening with a dinner for all colloquium participants at the former canteen of the Legislative Yuan (立法院), kindly arranged for us by Prof. Chang Yu-Hsin of Taipei Normal University.