Most customers who come to one of Taipei's newest theme restaurants, The Jail (
What many may not notice, especially now, is that mixed in among the chains, barbed wire, handcuffs and the eatery's distinctively "restrictive" atmosphere are a number of images hung on the walls that are strikingly familiar -- and very offensive to some people.
Gracing the walls of the restaurant, along with traditional prison pictures, are photos of Nazi concentration camps, as well as a mural depicting women, men and children standing behind a prison camp's barbed wire fence.
PHOTOS: CHEN CHENG-CHANG,TAIPEI TIMES
Even more provocative for some is a "Gas Chamber" sign hanging over the entrance to the restrooms.
The restaurant's manager, Stone Cheng (
"If there really is stuff here that makes people uncomfortable, then we will do what we can to change that," Cheng said.
And yesterday, Cheng did just that, packing up the pictures and painting over the "Gas Chamber" sign and removing a large wall mural.
Cheng said he never expected such a response, and didn't even know what was hanging on his walls until it was pointed out to him.
"We've brought together a lot of things -- a group canteen, individual cells and a VIP cell, all kinds of things, just for fun," he said. "We never thought this could have negative connotations for foreigners."
Pointing to the "Gas Chamber" sign, Cheng tried to explain why the sign was put over the restroom entrance, which has open pipes.
"We say jokingly that the bathroom is a place where noxious air collects, so we called it a `gas chamber,'" he said.
Some messages, however, need little explanation.
In one of the cells, a picture of the entrance to a concentration camp hangs on the wall. The words on a prison gate in the picture read "Arbeit Macht Frei" or "Work Brings Freedom," the same sign that greeted Jewish prisoners who went to the camps during the World War II. Nearby is another picture of an emaciated concentration camp inmate who stands in the foreground, his ribs protruding, while others huddle on bunks behind him.
Cheng was not the only one who was impervious to the meaning of the surroundings. Sitting in one of the cells, a group of Taipei twenty-somethings are commenting about The Jail's interior design. None mentions the pictures on the wall.
"The decorations here are really interesting," says one diner. "I've never been to jail, so I thought I would give it a try."
Behind the push to have the items taken down was the local representative of the Israel Economic and Cultural Trade Office, Uri Gutman.
Gutman visited the restaurant several times over the past two days and has been impressed by the owners positive response.
"They were totally embarrassed and willing to do everything," Gutman said.
Rather than create a fuss over the incident, which Gutman calls "borderline," he hoped the mistake would be educational.
"It seems like it's more a case of ignorance," Gutman said. "This is not anti-Semitism, it's a lack of understanding."
German Trade Office Director General, Hilmar Kaht, who hadn't been to the restaurant, said he couldn't understand why anyone would want to go there.
"I don't know why people would want to go to a restaurant with a prison theme and have their rights read to them and get handcuffed. I don't understand it, perhaps it's sadomasochism," Kaht said.
Over the past few years, several pop cultural phenomena involving Nazi paraphernalia have cropped up in Taipei, including people wearing motorcycle helmets with Nazi decals and other Nazi imagery being used in connection with various consumer products.
Last November, the Israeli Economic and Cultural Trade Office and the German Trade Office had to step in and protest when a local electrical company used a cartoon caricature of Adolf Hitler in advertisements in store windows and subway stations throughout the city to promote a German-made space heater.
The company, K.E. and Kingstone, said it had decided to use Hitler to emphasize that the heaters were made in Germany. After the local Jewish and German communities protested, the matter was resolved and the company removed its ads.
At least in the case of The Jail, the owner of the restaurant has demonstrated cultural sensitivity, Gutman said.
However, when and where another case will crop up again is unclear. As Gutman put it, "sometimes these things are in the hands of the decorators."
‘A DISASTER’: A successful Chinese attack on Taiwan would undermine the credibility of US security guarantees and could result in a global depression, three experts wrote A Chinese takeover of Taiwan would be a geopolitical catastrophe for the US and its allies, one that would overshadow almost all others over the next decade, US policy experts said. Andrew Erickson, a professor of strategy in the US Naval War College’s China Maritime Studies Institute; Gabriel Collins, a fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy; and former US deputy national security adviser Matthew Pottinger issued the warning in an article published on Tuesday in Foreign Affairs. Bejing’s invasion or annexation of Taiwan “would be a disaster of utmost importance to the United States, and I am convinced that
Taiwanese businesspeople’s investments in China last year hit a record low of 11.4 percent of total foreign investment, the Mainland Affairs Council said yesterday. The number was a huge decline from 83.8 percent in 2010, mainly because Taiwanese businesspeople have been diversifying their investments globally over the past few years, with great success, the council said. From 1991 to last year, 45,523 Taiwanese investments in China totaling US$206.37 billion had been approved, accounting for 50.7 percent of overall foreign investment, data from the Ministry of Economic Affairs’ Investment Commission showed. The amount and proportion of Taiwanese investments in China has been declining, with
Taiwanese tourists on board a Kinmen cruise ship had a scare yesterday when it was intercepted by Chinese coast guards who forcefully boarded the vessel to inspect it. The Sunrise, a tourism ferry that operates between Kinmen and Xiamen, China, was sailing around the waters around the islets of Dadan (大膽) and Erdan (二膽) — both of which are part of Kinmen County — yesterday afternoon when it encountered personnel from China’s Fujian Coast Guard Bureau. China Coast Guard personnel forced their way on board and conducted an inspection for about 30 minutes before leaving, local media cited the tourists as saying. The
CHINA’S VERSION: The TAO threatened Taiwan and denied the existence of restricted waters around Kinmen County after two Chinese died fleeing the Taiwanese coast guard Taiwan would continue to enforce the law in restricted waters around Kinmen County, the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) said yesterday. The council was responding after China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) spokeswoman Zhu Fenglian (朱鳳蓮) on Saturday rejected the existence of restricted waters around Kinmen County — a group of Taiwanese islands close to China’s coast — and said that Beijing reserves the right to take further measures after two Chinese died in the area. The two died on Wednesday after the speedboat they were in capsized while they were being pursued by Taiwanese Coast Guard Administration (CGA) officials. The speedboat had entered