Old Japanese Towns of Yoshino and Toyota in Hualien [I've Been to Hualien Part 5 “Tour de Karenko”] | Travel in Asia

Old Japanese Towns of Yoshino and Toyota in Hualien [I've Been to Hualien Part 5 “Tour de Karenko”]

#5yearsinTaiwan


I continued my biking adventure along the roads of Hualien to find the so-called Japanese immigrant towns.  The fertile fields of Taiwan’s east coast were once the home of the island’s colonizers and I was so interested to see what structures still remain in this province that was formerly called as the Karenko Prefecture.  I was so confident that I would be able to visit the towns of Yoshino, Toyota, and Hayashida in just one day but I did not expect that the whole cycling trip would be more than 30 kilometers.

the ticket booth

opening times of the Jian Chinxui Temple




My first stop was Yoshino which is now the township of Ji’an.  After cycling in Zhonghua Road and then to Zhongshan Road Section 3 I asked some locals if I had already passed by the Jian Chinxui Temple.   Their positive response to my question hinted me that I was already in the former Japanese town.  There were a lot of old buildings as I cycled but the most preserved in the town was the temple that I was looking for.  I first thought that it was a Shinto shrine but it turned out to be a Buddhist shrine.

Jian Chinxui Temple and a stone lantern

The double-roof structure of the Jian Chinxui Temple







Adult tickets cost NTD 30 while  entrance for children was only NTD 15.  There were a lot of things to see inside the complex but the most important structure to see was the temple itself.  It has a double-roof architecture and was very different from the Shinto shrine that I visited before in Taiwan Day 295 (Shinto 101).  Visitors also have a chance to go inside the temple but one must remove their shoes first before entering.  


Acala Vidyaraja

temizuya

washing your hands at the temizuya is like cleansing your soul

The temple has large windows that allowed the wind to go inside keeping the place cool.  There were also drums and a statue of Buddha that was off-limits to the visitors.  I wonder what the Acala Vidyaraja was thinking about when visitors just go and have pictures. Its face seemed to be angry while holding some sort of a keychain outside the temple.  The god was described as the guardian of this planet and was overflowing with wisdom. Like any typical Shinto shrine, there was a temizuya to purify the soul of every visitor.  

Kukai









The legendary Kukai also has a statue inside the complex.  He was the founder of the Shingon sect of Buddhism which is the one being practice in Chinxui Temple. 88 statues of deities along the walls of the tourist site allow the visitors to do the Shikoku pilgrimage without having to go to Japan.  These 88 statues represent the 88 temples which one has to visit across the islands of Japan to complete the religious journey, but in today’s world praying to each of the statues was already enough to complete the ritual. The stone lanterns and the fish decorations dancing in the air created a true Japanese atmosphere.  I can kill my time here but I have to leave and see the town of Toyota. 



My cycling skills had greatly improved but I became overconfident after reaching Ji’an Station.  There was a local train going to Fengtian Station and I can even bring my bike with me but I decided not to take any more the train.  I actually didn’t know that the old town of Toyota was 17 kilometers away from the town of Yoshino.  It was already too late when I realized that the highway seemed not to end. Big trucks, private cars and buses ran along the highway but I didn’t got scared because I was cycling in the dedicated biking lane.  




I passed by rice fields, a dry river, bridges and also met some hungry dogs.  Zhixue Station, Pinghe Station and Shoufeng Station became a sign of hope as I got nearer and nearer to Fengtian Station.  After 1 hour and 30 minutes, I finally arrived at my destination tired and exhausted.   The town of Toyota is now the town of Fengtian with some of the houses built in wood and with tiles on the roofs.   It has the ambience of a simple life in the Taiwan but it still has the feel of an old Japanese town.



The torii gate at the intersection of Minquan Rd. and Zhongshan Road


Bilian Temple

At the intersection of Minquan Rd. and Zhongshan Road was a torii gate and this structure is an entrance to a Shinto shrine.  I looked for the temple and finally found it after cycling for 1 kilometer along Minquan  Road.  There were giant stone lanterns marking the location of Bilian Temple which is now a classic Chinese example of a religious site.  A dog statue and the stone lanterns were the only remains of a Japanese temple that the villagers used to go for praying to their Shinto gods a hundred years ago.  

Shoufeng wenshiguan





Near to Fengtian Elementary School were two more important Japanese-era looking structures.  The first one along Zhongshan Road was the Shoufeng wenshiguan and it was like a museum.  I went inside and it was decorated with Hakka-style clothes and old photos of the villagers during the Japanese era.  



old Kendo gym or "dojo"





Fengtain Learning Center of Environmental Education
I walked for a few meters until I found the Kendo gym of a school.  It was actually outside the premises of the elementary school and with some explanations in Chinese.  After seeing these two structures, I cycled back to Zhongshan Road and turned right at Minzu Road.  Another old Japanese house stands there which is now the Fengtain Learning Center of Environmental Education.  It was also decorated with Hakka-style clothes and old photos of the village.




My personal ticket together with my bike ticket that I bought at Fenglin Station.

Waiting for the train that would take me back to Hualien Station

I arrived safely at Hualien Station.


At the bike rental store where I returned my bike


The town of Toyota was true to its name because there were a lot of rice fields wherever I go but there was nothing much to see aside from the places that I’ve visited.  I continued my biking adventure to Fenglin Station but I was already very tired.  I did not have a choice so I cycled 10 more kilometers with my remaining strength until it started to rain.  It suddenly stopped and I was very lucky to arrive safely at Fenglin Station.  However, there was not much time to explore the town and I just bought the train ticket back to Hualien Station.  I boarded the train and as soon as it left Fenglin Station I promised to myself that I will return to Hualien to resume my Tour de Karenko. (To be continued…)   



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