When the Japanese became colonial rulers of Taiwan in 1895, they inherited a population of Chinese immigrants and Aboriginal peoples. The first years of Japanese colonial rule included suppression of uprisings. In 1919 the Japanese governor implemented the Doka movement of assimilation; with the outbreak of Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937 came a new policy: the Kominka movement. Kominka was regarded as necessary for the Japanese war effort, to make the Taiwanese colonial subjects identify more strongly with Japan, and not China.
One element of the Kominka movement was to have Taiwanese convert to Shinto, Japan’s indigenous religion of worshipping spirits manifest in natural forms such as trees, rivers and people. Shinto shrines were set up around the country, including some of the high altitude areas such as Jade Mountain and Snow Mountain.
If you visit Jade Mountain West Peak today you will see a Japanese shrine there. This is not the original structure: After Japan ceded control of Taiwan at the end of World War II, many of the shinto shrines around the island were destroyed. The West Peak shrine is a reconstruction commissioned by the Jade Mountain National Park, made entirely of wood and reflecting the Japanese style of the original, repurposed as a shrine to the local spirits.
Photo: Paul Cooper, Taipei Times
On the day I was there, Taiwanese hikers made a point of praying at the shrine. They thanked the spirits for the good weather, and wished for safe passage down the mountain.
The shrine has a simplistic elegance. Unfortunately, its exposure to the elements has taken its toll. The wood itself is in remarkable condition; the stone base less so. Cracked and broken through temperature alternations, it has become misshapen, warping the wooden railings. The rear right corner post had fallen to the forest floor.
(Paul Cooper, Taipei Times)
Photos: Paul Cooper, Taipei Times
Photos: Paul Cooper, Taipei Times
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