In an effort to help their mother take a trip down memory lane, two Japanese brothers traveled across Taiwan and its surrounding islands, and in the process made the astonishing discovery that their family’s company had manufactured more than 200 hand pumps in Taiwan during the Japanese colonial era — more than 100 of which were found in Tainan.
Tetsu Tsuda and Taiji Tsuda say their grandfather Kijiro Tsauda set up the Tsuda brand of hand pumps in Hiroshima, Japan, in 1921, and their father followed in his footsteps by establishing a branch of the company in Taiwan.
At the time, hand pumps were a necessity as processed tap water was not available, and so the company not only manufactured the pumps in Taiwan, but also shared their know-how so Taiwanese could benefit from the technology.
After the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and World War II ended, the brothers’ father closed up shop in Taiwan and returned to Japan, they said.
The brothers’ quest to discover the remnants of their family’s products was inspired by their mother, Ayako Tsuda, who wished to revisit the dormitories of the sugar factory in Chiayi County. However, she was unable to go, because, at 90 years old, her health did not permit such an exhausting trip.
The brothers hoped that if they visited Taiwan, they could bring back photos of the places where their mother had lived and help her rediscover childhood memories.
As part of their efforts, the brothers in 2007 also launched a search for the family company’s products and established a historical research committee to help them with the search.
The Tsuda brothers have visited Taiwan 19 times, often coming twice a year, and their most recent visit was on Friday.
Accompanied by a Taiwanese friend, Cheng Yu-hsiang (鄭宇翔), and local history and cultural experts, such as Everything Tainan Club head Lee Chun-kuan (李俊寬), the Tsuda brothers visited a veterans’ village called the Tainan New Police Village — where the old Tainan District Court was located — and the Houjia District (後甲) in search of the pumps.
The company had produced five different types of hand pumps. Three types were widespread in Taiwan: one manufactured in Japan, one manufactured in Taiwan and Japan, and the third made solely in Taiwan, the brothers said.
Tetsu Tsuda said that markings, such as “Cheng Chang” (正昌) insignia, seen on the hand pumps denoted that they were manufactured by Taiwanese after the Tsuda company had shared its technology.
Commenting on the scarcity of such pumps in contemporary Japan, Tetsu Tsuda added that according to their data, Taiwan still has the largest number of hand pumps — around 200 — half of which are in the Tainan region.
The next-largest concentration is in the Penghu Islands’ Wangan Township (望安), which has 60 pumps, the Tsuda brothers said.
The Japanese brothers said they were very grateful for all the help their friends in Taiwan had given them, adding that it was only because of their assistance that they were able to find so many of the pumps.