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Taipei Trip Part 2 – Jiufen (Real Life Spirited Away Town)

Sunday October 11th, 2015 at 7:00 am

This was one place that I HAD to visit. Jiufen is the town that inspired the main setting of Spirited Away, my favorite Miyazaki film. Walking through the streets, it’s easy to see where he got inspiration from, but first…let’s start with a little bit of history.

The name Jiufen is kind of peculiar and interesting. It means “nine portions”. During the Qing Dynasty, the isolated village housed nine families. Every time shipments arrived, the village would need to request nine portions, hence the name. Before Miyazaki’s film, the town gained popularity after the discovery of gold. The gold rush sped up the development of the small town. Soon, there were houses and businesses everywhere. The gold rush reached its peak during the Japanese colonization but declined after WWII and eventually shut down in 1971. For a while, the city was forgotten until a movie released in 1989 brought attention to town and in 2001, with the release of Spirited Away. Many buildings in Jiufen remain unchanged and still reflect the Japanese influence on architecture and culture.

Nowadays, the streets Jiufen are lined with shops, tea houses, cafes, food vendors, and amazing views of the Pacific Ocean. The town attracts both locals and tourists daily and can get really packed on the weekends. If you plan on visiting, I strongly suggest going on a weekday.

GETTING THERE

Getting to Jiufen is pretty easy. You can get there a few ways, but I took the MRT to Zhongxiao Fuxing Station (Exit 1) and boarded bus #1062. The bus takes about 1 hour and costs around NT$90 (less than $3 USD). Along the way, you can get some pretty nice views of the city as well as the countryside. Be careful of the taxi drivers around the area. Since the town is a huge tourist attraction, there are many drivers hanging around Zhongxiao Fuxing Station. They’ll try to charge around NT$400-500 (about $12-$15 USD) and tell you that the bus won’t take you to the entrance but they will. Unless you want a private ride, there’s no need. The bus drops you right at the entrance to Jiufen for a fraction of the price. I also recommend getting there early. When we got back to Taipei around 4 PM, there was a HUGE line waiting for the bus.

Let’s take a look at some of the similarities.

GOLD/MINING

Gold plays a pretty big part in the movie. Remember how much havoc the river God and No Face caused with the “gold rush”? Jiufen’s gold rush is long over but signs that it was once a popular mining town still run throughout the place.

DRAGONS

You won’t find dragons everywhere in Jiufen but there’s a temple right outside the bus area with dragons all over the roof. With a little bit of imagination, you can see the resemblance to Haku from the movie.

FOOD

You can’t think about Spirited Away and not think about food. Food had a major role in the movie. Chihiro’s parents were turned into pigs from eating the spirit’s food. Every night the bath house was bustling with cooks and workers bringing dishes and dishes of food to guests. No Face enjoyed quite a feast himself. One great thing about Jiufen is that there is food everywhere! From sausages, to chicken, to pork, to candy, to drinks, to soup, to noodles, to pork buns, to sweets, and more.

THE OCEAN

Jiufen has some really amazing and beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean. There are no train tracks underneath the waters here but you can still definitely appreciate and enjoy the view from the top. For people that love hiking, there’s a mountain nearby where you can hike to the top for even more breathtaking views.

TUNNELS, STAIRS, AND RED LANTERNS

One really cool thing about Jiufen is the narrow alleyways with stairs and small tunnels that run through the town. The tunnels won’t take you to a bathhouse (or anywhere really) but they’re really neat to check out.

AND MORE

As you walk through the streets of Jiufen, it’s easy to see where Miyazaki drew his inspiration from for his movie for both setting and characters. There’s definitely more than enough share of quirky, interesting art and items. In addition, Jiufen is a great way to get a feel for a more traditional Taiwan that you might not find in the city.

Jiufen has a lot to offer and there’s definitely more than enough to do there for a day trip. I would love to go back one day and check out more of the town. Since, we wanted to head back to Taipei for some more sightseeing and the fact that it was just too crowded when we went, we headed back after a few hours. However, it was definitely a dream come true to visit Jiufen!

Posted Under: travel

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