Friendly Taichung: Dispatches from a Foreigner in the City
Words and photos by Taichung City Goverment
Translated by Sho Huang
I was born in Hachijima, a city situated on a small island in the Pacific Ocean, 300 kilometers from Tokyo. After graduating from high school, I attended Dohto University in Hokkaido and studied the arts. As I was wondering what kind of career I wanted to pursue, a great opportunity fell at my feet and I became a full-time Japanese teacher at Taichung's Shin Min High School. Shin Min has a renowned reputation as the first high school to start a Japanese-learning program. Currently, there are eight part-time Japanese teachers at the school.
Besides great job opportunities, Taichung has a lot of positive selling points and a convenient living environment for foreigners--especially Japanese students and families. Several kindergartens on TaiYuan Road cater specifically to Japanese children and the Japanese school in Daya makes Japanese students feel right at home. Japanese grocery stores, food and books can also be easily purchased all over town at places like Kinokuniya Bookstore and SOGO Department Store.
Great weather and people
I love Taichung's weather--it is great all year round. Even in winter, I only wear a T-shirt. In summer, I enjoy going on bug-collecting trips with my daughter in Dakeng. In Taichung, catching insects is as easy as stepping out the door; this accessibility to inspiring specimens just isn't plausible in Japan.
In addition to the weather, the hospitality from "Taichungers" has also left me with lots of unforgettable experiences. One, in particular, happened 16 years ago. I was teaching Japanese at a language center and learning Chinese at the Taipei Language Institute on JinHua North Road. Every day, I took the bus to school. However, one day, I dozed off and missed my stop. I woke up in the terminal. Without much money left with me or enough Chinese to figure out how to get back, I was lost in a foreign country.
I didn't know what to do. Finally I pulled myself together and walked over to the bus driver to ask for help. The drivers there saw me with the Chinese book and realized where I wanted to go. One of them went straight to the garage, brought out a bus and took me to the school. The bus drove into the courtyard of the school. The teachers and the students of the school were surprised to hear a honk and came out to see what happened. He refused to charge me so I thanked him the only way I knew how--with my simple, probably mispronounced "xie xie". When I think about this experience, it always brings back feelings of gratitude that I live in such a friendly city.
Carving out a Life in a "Strange" City
When I first mentioned to my parents that I wanted to live and work in Taiwan, my statement (understandably) was met with surprise and concern; questions like, "Do they have cars there?", or "Do they have TV?" started pouring out of them. Even though Japan is geographically close, a lot of people don't know much about this "foreign" country. It wasn't until they came to my wedding in Taiwan that they realized how modern Taichung really was. The tall buildings all over and city planning are actually a lot more developed here than in my hometown, Hachijima!
Taichung, to me, is not just a city that I've lived in. On the contrary, it is like my hometown--a friendly and lovely place to settle down, work and even start a family.