Information for Travellers to Formosa.

I took this picture ages ago in Hualien, Taiwan. It's a shot of train from the Japanese colonial era (1895-1945). In a carriage further down, there is, I think, a sleeping car, something you don't see a lot of in Taiwan these days. I was thinking about it because I came across a rundown of tourist information in the British consular report submitted January 17, 1937 from Tamsui, Taiwan by C.H. Archer, who was the consul at the time:


 Best time of year for visit.-- April to June or September to November.

 Best Steamship Routes.--(1) Kobe to Keelung via Meji, three times a week, (2) Shanghai to Keelung direct, and Hongkong to Keelung direct once in four weeks, (3) Hongkong to Keelung via Swatow and Amoy, weekly. (N.B. -- These vessels are very small and (2)is to be preferred [no parenthesis and is how suggestion reads].

 Steamship Companies.--(1) Osaka Shosen Kaisha and Kinkei Yusen Kaisha. Single fares: First class, Yen 65, Second class, Yen 45. (2) Nippon Yusen Kaisha European Line. From Shanghai: First class, Yen 67, Second class, Yen 47. (3) Osaka Shosen Kaisha: Single fares: First class, Yen 51, Second class, Yen 36. 

 Air Route.-- Three times a week from Fukuoda, Japan. (Note. --Under favourable conditions, passengers can go from Osaka to Taihoku within the day, and vice versa.) Fares: from Osaka, Yen 145, from Fukuoda, Yen 110. Free baggage allowance -- 10 kilogrammes.

 Touring Arrangements and Towns to Visit.--Full particulars can best be obtained from pamphlets issued by the Japan Tourist Bureau, Taihoku. Principal towns are Taihoku, Tainan and Taichu, and the most important ports are Keelung and Takao. 

 Internal Communications.--A good railway express service (two trains in 24 hours) is maintained between Keelung and Taihoku and thence to Takao in the south. A portion of this line has been double tracked, and dining and sleeping cars are available. Other lines give inferior service. Transport by motor car or motor bus is usually possible, but the road surfaces are often poor.

 Railway fares, etc.:--
    Taihoku to Takao (1st class)    ... ... ... ... ... 15.17
    Taihoku to Takao (2nd class)    ... ... ... ... ... 10.52
    Express supplement (1st class)  ... ... ... ... ... 2.10
    Express supplement (2nd class)  ... ... ... ... ... 1.40
    Sleeping berth (1st class)      ... ... ... ... ... 7.00
    Sleeping berth (2nd class)upper ... ... ... ... ... 3.00
    Sleeping berth (2nd class)lower ... ... ... ... ... 4.50
 Tram fares, etc.:--
    Rikisha: About 50 sen per hour under normal conditions.
    Taxi: From 50 sen upwards.
    Motor cars: Yen 4 to 8 per hour, according to class of car.

 Cost of Subsistence:--The only foreign-style hotels of importance are the railway hotels at Taihoku and Tainan. Rates are:--
    Suite room: Yen 16 and upwards.
    2nd floor: Yen 7 and upwards.
    3rd floor: Yen 3 and upwards.
    Breakfast: Yen 1.5. Lunch: Yen 2.5. Dinner: Yen 3.
    Japanese Inns: Lodging and two meals from Yen 3.5 to Yen 10.  
  Lunch: Yen 1.5 to Yen 3.

 Entertaining Expenses.--As in Japan.

 Commercial Travellers, Samples, Passports, etc.--Regulations as in Japan. It should be noted that tobacco and alcohol are Government monopolies, and may not be imported without special permission. 

 Climatic Conditions.--The north is wet at all times but especially so from December to March; the centre and south are dry in winter and wet in summer. Tropical clothes are usually worn form May to October, light spring suits in November, March and April, winter clothing from December to February.

 Public Holidays.--As in Japan, with the addition of 17th June and 28th October.

I should point out Taihoku was the Japanese name for Taipei seventy-five years ago while Taichung was called Taichu. Takao is the old Taiwanese (Hoklo) name for Kaohsiung. It is based on an aboriginal word. Its meaning, I think, has been forgotten. A rikisha was a rickshaw while sens were Japanese cents. I have no idea about the holidays of June 17 and October 28 and am hoping someone can tell me. 

I ran the converter: 67 Yen in 1937 is equal (let's do it in American dollars) $1006.35 (first class on a steamship from Shanghai).  The cheapest way to get to Taiwan would have still ran you $540.72, no bargain by anyone's standard. In other words, tourism wasn't being promoted here. I will get to that in a moment. 

You could have gone first class from Taipei to Kaohsiung for $227.85 in today's money. I take the high speed rail pretty regularly. It's going to run you for about $50 to do the same route. A suite in Taiwan's finest hotel started at $240.32, which is actually pretty fair. You can get a normal room, not suite, in a five-star hotel for about the same these days. The cheapest you could have gotten a taxi would have been $60 an hour. In 1937, you could have had dinner in an elegant hotel for $45 in modern terms.

If you read through the British consular reports from early 1937, you will come away with this impression: tourists were not welcome in Taiwan. If you had shown up here, you would have been tailed by the police. Photography was prohibited (except for portraits taken indoors) and you were expected to stick to an itinerary. You wouldn't have wanted to browse a local newspaper as foreigners were being attacked on a daily basis. The consuls were so fed up with the harassment of visitors they created a section in their  reports entitled "Spy Fever," just to account for the difficulties Westerners faced. Under such circumstances, the consuls regularly referred to these individuals as "odd" or "eccentric" because, simply put, you'd have to be a little off to want to make a go of a trip here. I think I should mention another kind of tourist to Taiwan, the accidental tourist, namely, sailors whose ships were blown off course or those forced to take safe-haven at ports to ride out storms. The ill-treatment they received at the hands of local authorities was exasperating. The Keelung Incident of '36, when the captains of three unexpected warships from Britain were jailed, is a pretty good example of the kind of hospitality I'm bringing up. Their release took several days and one captain came away from the experience with a broken jaw, which resulted in international condemnation and the cancelation of a British diplomatic mission to Japan. 

Of course the reason for the tension surrounding Spy Fever is clear in hindsight: Japan was gearing up for the Second World War. I'll bring up the Keelung Incident later because it is a good story. 


yankdownunder said...

Of course the reason for the tension surrounding Spy Fever is clear in hindsight: Japan was gearing up for the Second World War.

tourists were not welcome in Taiwan.
Photography was prohibited

When did these practices start? 1937?

Why? To keep what secrets?

I think American spies knew what
Japan was doing and thinking about doing.

"The assistant would recruit and develop a network of agents who could operate in and out of Japan to report on Japanese fleet movements."


Looking forward to report on Keelung Incident.

Patrick Cowsill said...

"When did these practices start? 1937?"

If I'm not mistaken, the term spy fever first pops up in the consular reports March 2, 1936. It must have been going on for a while before it finally became a category. It's really hard to say when they started. Perhaps they were always there as Taiwan was under martial law in a way throughout the Japanese colonial era. You've got to remember it wasn't until 24 years after the Japanese took over that Taiwan got its first civilian governor from Japan. You can read about summary executions, etc. occurring throughout the 50 years.

"Why? To keep what secrets?" Probably military secrets. Japan kept quite a large military presence in Taiwan. For example, the invasion of the Philippines was launched from here.

"I think American spies knew what Japan was doing and thinking about doing."

According to George Kerr, he was called into US intelligence on the basis of him being a student in Formosa in the late thirties. The maps he saw in their offices were from the WWI. He was asked to draw up the new maps from memory, based on being a student here.

Anonymous said...

It is a familiar picture for us the people born before the War. The same trains are continuously used many years after the War. As the matter of fact, one group of POWs from Singapore who were transported from TaiTou, 台東 to TamaSato, 玉里 by the same kind of train with some decoration on the outside. Pulled by the puny steam locomotive, run by coal, substitute with firewood when out of coal, it takes a whole day to run from KaRenKou, 花蓮港 to TaiTou though the distance is less than 120 miles. The joke is that there is enough time for one to finish pissing while step out from the first train and get back on the last one. The firewood fueled locomotives run out of steam often and must stop down to wait for more steam. It was a nice old days that we remembered.

Patrick Cowsill said...

"Pulled by the puny steam locomotive, run by coal, substitute with firewood when out of coal, it takes a whole day to run from KaRenKou, 花蓮港 to TaiTou though the distance is less than 120 miles."

Hence the need for sleepers. As the trains have gotten faster and Taiwan is fairly small, I suppose this is the reason sleepers have become harder to come by.

"The joke is that there is enough time for one to finish pissing while step out from the first train and get back on the last one."

I didn't see one (not that it occurred to me to look), but a restroom must have been included in one of these trains.

Anonymous said...

My future sister-in-law visited us once before the end of WWII. being a fashionable girl from Taipei. She was suspected as a spy since she was wearing dark sun glasses and the colorful scarf. it was a evidence how nervous Japanese were for spies.

Patrick Cowsill said...

Nice anecdote. I'm reminded of a story my friend in Chiayi told me (from another era though). Her grandpa was arrested during the White Terror Era. The family was pretty nonplused by this, especially since Grandpa was a peasant who could not even read. After much negotiation, they were told the reason for Grandpa's detainment was he had on green pants, the color of a soldier. "But those are the only pants he has!" was the explanation. The solution was simple. First, pay a simple bribe (this was a family without means). Second, get Grandpa home and dye the pants black.