A group of 38 Christian visitors from Japan joined hands with residents of Kuantien township in Tainan County -- where President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was born -- yesterday in the 228 Hand-in-Hand Rally.
The Japanese visitors sang a traditional Japanese song, originally titled Oh, Japanese, but changed to Oh, Taiwan.
"The song describes a persevering country which is unaffected by the passage of time and remains true at heart," said Chan Po-wen (詹博文), a Taiwanese tour guide who accompanied the Japanese visitors around.
The visitors' enthusiasm for Taiwanese independence was on a par with that of the local residents taking part in the rally.
"We recognize Taiwan as an independent nation," said Kazasa Takashi, the tour organizer from Japan.
"We love Taiwan and hope Taiwan will one day become an independent country. I know that God will bless Taiwan," said Takeshita Jimpei from Okinawa.
Takeshita is the leader of the Maguya Association, a Japanese non-denominational Christian group founded upon the belief that traditional cultures of the East should be preserved.
Members of the association visit Taiwan twice a year in search of the roots of traditional cultures that can still be found here.
"Unfortunately, many aspects of traditional Japanese culture have been replaced by Western culture. Nowadays, traditional culture and values are hard to find in Japan. However, in Taiwan, especially in Tainan, you can still find traditional architecture and a traditional spirit which has been passed down for generations," Takeshi said.
The Japanese group is planning a visit to the Wushantou Reservoir, which was designed by a Japanese architect, Hatta Yoichi, in the 1920s and 30s, and the Chi Mei Museum, among other places of cultural interest.
In addition to the Japanese visitors, a group of six Indonesian women married to Taiwanese men came out in support of Taiwan. They held up signs bearing the words "I am a new Taiwanese, from Indonesia."
"I moved to Taiwan when I married my husband nine years ago and have developed a strong feeling for this country. I am here today along with my husband and other Indonesian brides because I want to see a brighter future for this country," said Huang Li-chuan (黃麗娟), a native of Sumatra who speaks fluent Taiwanese.
Members of the Christian Church in Chiali township also took part in the rally.
"We see this rally as a symbol of solidarity and determination. It's like the Israelites' long struggle to find their own homeland," said Lee Hsiu-ju (
The rally attracted approximately 180,000 participants from across Tainan County.