New Taipei: Feel Spirited Away at Jiufen Old Street
If you’re into culture & history, an avid window shopper or just an anime fan – Jiufen Old Street is the place to roll into one. This decommissioned gold-mining mountain town was established during the Japanese occupation, and its alleyways are filled with history and culture.
Today the small town is packed with stores, cafes, tea houses, restaurants and a variety of shops with Japanese and Chinese elements. The place became famous for its resemblance to a Hayao Miyazaki film “Spirited Away”, and interested visitors ballooned in numbers.
Existing since the Qing Dynasty, the isolated village was once resided by just nine households. Residents increased when gold deposits were discovered and increased further during the Japanese Occupation in 1893 during the height of the gold rush. This is how buildings and alleyways got their Japanese influence in architecture and culture. During the Second World War, a camp was established for the prisoners of war, who were sent into forced mining labor. After the war, mining industry slowed down, and like other mining towns, Jiufen shifted into other industries. For being able to preserve its old form and culture, it became a famous tourist destination.
This is the second time the flock came here, but unlike the first time when we came on clear weather, we were greeted with a thick fog. The continued drizzle made things more complicated: we can hardly see anything. But for sure, the tour must go on, so we still enjoyed it even with uncooperative weather.
We walked through the alleyways that still retained its Chinese and Japanese styles. Most of the stores here are souvenir shops, handicraft items, café and a wide variety of eateries. Tea houses were also popular, with a nice ocean view. We were however disappointed as we went to the view deck as the fog and clouds are too thick it was virtually zero visibility.
If you are to be visited by hunger, there are many restaurant and eateries to choose from. We ate at a noodle house, the hot soup compliments with the chilly weather. Most stores have staffs that can understand English, but if they don’t, simply point at the items you want to order. If on a budget, you will be filled by numerous free tastes here.
And if you’re an anime lover (like us the flock), for sure you will be familiar with this place for its resemblance with the 2010 animated film Spirited Away of Studio Ghibli. A news source claimed that the place was the inspiration of Hayao Miyazaki for this film (which the director denied in an interview). Nevertheless, you can see some resemblance from the colorful streets, alleys, bridge and a tea house (similar to Yubaba’s bathhouse in the film). And as expected, Jiufen took the opportunity and capitalized on the film by selling items related to it (those items undeniably are copyrighted).
Aside from traditional handicraft, you will be surprised (and in some cases, shocked) with specialty stores here. One of them is Taiwan Ocarina, which sells different kinds of an ocarina, a traditional ceramic-made flute. At one corner is Condom World – yes, you read it right – a shop selling condom and many kinds of sexual items, from lipsticks resembling phalluses to novelty toys and stuff toys with obscenity. Warning: NSFW.
Though typically tourists visiting here are on a day tour, there are guesthouses and small hotels for those who wish to stay overnight.
We want to stay a little longer and we still haven’t toured the whole of it but we were not given a chance of good weather. Maybe in our next visit, we can roam around much longer and be blessed with fine weather.
After several hours of walk, we finally decided to leave to explore another historic place – the Shifen Old Street in Pingxi, famous for its sky lanterns.
Peanut Ice Cream Roll – NT$40
Ice cream topped with crushed peanuts and wrapped in shanghai wrapper. Weird but delicious! Your visit is not complete unless you try this delicacy.
- By Train
From Taipei Main Station (台北車站), take the train north to Ruifang Station. After exiting the station and facing the Wellcome supermarket, take a left and walk 200 meters down Mingdeng Road. Next to the police station is a bus station (named Local Residents Plaza, 區民廣場) with routes 827 and 788 heading toward Jiufen. Please note that the bus stop next to the police station heads east toward Jiufen, and the bus stop across from the police station heads west toward Taipei. Route 825 provides weekend service only. From here, the bus trip takes roughly 15 minutes, and the fare is NT$15. It is recommended to take bus 1062 back to Taipei and enjoy some time at Raohe Night Market (饒河夜市).
- By Bus
From MRT Zhongxiao Fuxing (忠孝復興), Brown Line BR and Blue Line BL interchange, leave from Exit 2 and from outside Sogo department store take bus route 1062 (Keelung Bus) to Jinguashi, alight at Jiufen. The ride is about 1 hour and the fare is NT$98. Be sure to get a good seat to enjoy scenic views of Northern Taiwan. Bus 788 is also available from Keelung.
A new bus service number 965 is running from Ximen and Beimen (near Taipei Main Station) out to Ruifang, Jiufen, and Jinguashi, fare NT$90.
PART OF OUR TAIWAN GETAWAY
- NORTH COAST: Yehliu Geopark | Pingxi Sky Lantern | Shifen Waterfalls | Golden Waterfalls | Jiufen Old Street | Wanli Abandon UFO Houses
- TAIPEI: Ximendeng | Taipei 101 | Maokong Gondola | Elephant Mountain | Taipei Peace Park | Taipei Zoo | Chiang Kai Shek Memorial | Shilin Night Market | The Red House
- TAICHUNG: Zhongshe Flower Farm | Xinshe Castle | Rainbow Village | Gaomei Wetland Park