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Nostalgia and creativity at Shenji New Village

By Jason Chen
Translated by Anna Yang

Largely unknown to the general public until recently, Shenji New Village is a renovated former government housing complex roughly located between Calligraphy Greenway, MeiCun Road and National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts on Lane 368, MinSheng Rd., West District. Now restored and re-purposed, its half-century-old buildings have been infused with a mix of vintage charm and youthful innovation that has made it one of Taichung's most popular cultural and creative destinations. It also serves as a showcase for the city government's "Catch A Star Plan" (together with Tanzi's Zhaixing Villa and Wufeng's Guangfu New Village), designed to boost job opportunities for the younger citizens.

Nostalgia and creativity at Shenji New Village Nostalgia and creativity at Shenji New Village

Constructed in 1969, Shenji New Village was the third government housing complex built in Taiwan by the KMT government after World War II. This important community witnessed central Taiwan's development over the past 50 years and, even today, every corner has a special nostalgic ambiance. Although the number of shops here is limited, each business showcases unique, one-of-a-kind features created from youthful visions and inspiration, making the stores all well worth visiting.

Nostalgia and creativity at Shenji New Village Nostalgia and creativity at Shenji New Village Nostalgia and creativity at Shenji New Village

There are roughly 30 shops on two floors, with some vacant spaces still available for new tenants. Besides some eating and drinking spots, there are other places here offering DIY lessons and products related to creative arts and handicrafts, from painting to leather crafting, plus some that sell plants, fruit and vegetables. There's even a barbershop here.

Nostalgia and creativity at Shenji New Village Nostalgia and creativity at Shenji New Village Nostalgia and creativity at Shenji New Village

Opening days and hours vary from business to business, so checking on these details on Facebook pages ahead of time is recommended. Every third weekend of the month, Shenji New Village hosts a farmer's market and creative-products vendors. On any given day, this quaint little corner of the city provides visitors with a relaxing, photogenic setting that is a wonderful for a leisurely afternoon of exploration.

A sampling of Shenji New Village shops includes:

Moment Collector
Life is filled with stories and this documentary filming group has preserved various scenes from Taiwanese society, including the lives of suburban children, hardworking farmers, and artists who contribute their works. These films are shown in Shenji New Village's outdoor plaza. For specific playing topics and times, visit "Moment Collector" on Facebook.

Protest is a means of releasing emotion and this shop aims to use its handmade bobble head dolls to express one's feelings and ideas. Anyone is welcome to write a message on a doll's note pad. Besides these charming figurines, there are also cellphone holders, egg-shaped magnets, bags and postcards.

Keke Carvy
All of the knickknacks displayed in this shop are hand-carved with various woods like precious Taiwanese cypress and camphor as well as pre-used wood and driftwood. Various exquisite, handmade wooden plates, combs, mugs and utensils, made with wood from the old demolished houses, are also sold here.

Be Two Leather Workshop
A variety of leather-crafted items displayed at this shop include backpacks, handbags, wallets and passport holders. By appointment, customers can arrange to take classes here and make sturdy DIY leather decorations and items for friends.

Sanshi Dessert
Almond tea and almond-flavored tofu made with natural almond ingredients are served at this dessert shop, filled with almond fragrances, as well as other snacks such as nostalgic iced desserts, oven rolls and fried bread sticks.

Come True Cafe
This centrally-located cafe has an outdoor seating area, in addition to an elegant ivory-colored, well-designed interior, where a TV drama show was filmed. The popularity of this place means that it's best to get here early for a seat. Customers can order from a menu of light snacks, waffles, coffees, cakes and a special souffle, take a seat, and enjoy relaxing here and/or taking attractive photos.

Manni Cafe
This Broadway-inspired cafe features a performance stage for those who want to tell a joke or sing a song for the audience--the microphone is open to anyone with five minutes of courage. Mini concerts, drama shows and art exhibitions are also periodically hosted here, too.

This popular dessert shop offers flavorful treats such as mille feuille, sweet tarts (matcha, lemon, and blueberry flavors) as well as tea and coffee. Desserts vary daily so visitors can always hope for an especially delectable option when they visit. The pleasant ambiance is spacious, warm and well-illuminated with wooden tables, chairs and window frames.

Paul's Market
The specialty here is nutrition-filled, cold-pressed juice. The owner promotes the concept of "supporting the young and old" by offering a corner vendor space for local farmers and supporting job opportunities for senior citizens.

Slick Barbershop
Passersby looking in the windows here will see a nostalgic-feeling barbershop with a simple decor that includes a Vespa motorscooter. In a nod to the shop's name, every employee here has a slicked-back hairstyle. If you're looking to get an especially fashionable haircut, be sure and make an appointment with the designer first.

Lole Market
Held during the third weekend of each month, this market solicits and selects vendors early, ensuring that a new mix of sellers is enjoyed every time.

Besides the above-mentioned shops, there is many more surprises to be explored and discovered at this fresh, compact Taichung visitor hotspot, mixing the past with new life and fresh dreams.

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