Spirited Away to Jiufen

8 08 2007

It’s not secret that I am a big Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki fan. I grew up watching such classics as My Neighbor Totoro, Castle in the Sky, and Gauche the Cellist in Japanese with Chinese subtitles (meaning I couldn’t understand a word), so I appreciated the art of Studio Ghibli before I understood the storylines. My interest grew when I finally got my hands on Japanese versions with English subtitles.

Studio Ghibli logo

How can anyone not fall for such a cute and furry character?

So imagine my surprise and delight when I found out that Jiufen, a village located on the northeast coast of Taiwan, was one of the inspirations for the village in Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi). Apparently Mr. Miyasaki visited the little village on a mountain and was charmed by it. There is even a teahouse set in the mountain that features masks similar to the ambiguous black robed spirit (No Face) with a mask in the movie.

Here’s a movie poster for Spirited Away:

Spirited Away Movie Poster

Here is a picture of Jiufen at night.

Jiufen

What do you think?

According to Wikipedia, Jiufen was a gold mining town that reached its peak under the time of Japanese rule in Taiwan. After the gold was exhausted, interest in this town declined significantly. Since the town was largely forgotten except by those living there, it is a well preserved example of a mountain town under Japanese colonization. The town was “rediscovered” as a tourist destination after it was featured in a movie called “City of Sadness” that was released in 1989.

We are planning to visit Jiufen along with Lukang, another preserved historic village, on our Taiwan visit. I’m not just visiting it for the Studio Ghibli tie-in, don’t worry. It is supposed to be a very quaint town with lots of specialty foods set in a beautiful mountain overlooking the ocean. I will report back with my thoughts after I see it with my own eyes!

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