I often think that if there is one single thing that the Taiwanese learnt from the Japanese, it is how to package its offerings to visitors. In the areas of food, retail, and even tourist destinations, both the Taiwanese and Japanese elevate presentation and marketing to an artform. It is not surprising then, that the two narrow mercantile streets of Jiufen inspired the classic Japanese animation film Spirited Away. If you are familiar with Hayao Miyazaki’s tour de force, the last two posts on the street market and its food, viewed with the red lanterns featured today, may invoke a sense of déjà vu. It is as if both the film and the real-life town have discovered the secret to bottling up nostalgia and dispensing it in pretty, bow-tied vials. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to spend the night, or even the late evening, in Jiufen. I imagine the place to be infinitely more charming once the crowd thins and the lanterns light up. Next time, I hope.
Afternote: For those of you who haven’t seen Spirited Away, it is widely available in video stores and even iTunes. It is also an excellent introduction to Studio Ghibli’s stable of animated films, and a masterpiece of a modern day fable.