A Place like Kyoto, but not in Japan? 


Maddie Liao, Editor

As I took the train up to the far north of Taipei, I felt very curious. I had never been to Beitou, but I knew that it is a well known and mysterious for foreigners to travel to. 

Long ago in the past, indigenous people of this area feared that the smoke and the atmosphere of the hot springs were the mischief of witches. Of course, that was not the case. Being further developed after the Japanese occupation era, hot springs are a staple for this part of the city; however, it has been drastically urbanized for the sake of visiting tourists.

It’s interesting to hear from someone who has lived here practically all his life, and grown up with the changing atmosphere of this area. Yang-Ye, our interviewee, has spent 20 years of his career visiting second-hand markets, and resource recovery spaces to find old records of the history that exists in this area. From hearing his thoughts, it can be summed up that even when he was a child, there were lots of hot spring hotels and attractions. The whole place caters to the daily lives of the people who live here, as well as to visitors. Additionally, there are old Japanese houses everywhere you look. 

Yang-Ye states that many people think of this place as another “Kyoto” of sorts, and although that may have been more true in the past, now it is far too modernized for it to be considered that way. Beitou is its own unique area, with its own people, buildings, and history, which is why Yang-Ye gathers historical documents and stories of this area as the main part of his life. He has spent 20 years of his career visiting second-hand markets, and resource recovery spaces to find old records pertaining to the history of this area.  There are a lot of records to sort through in just this place alone, and he has made some fascinating discoveries. 

Eventually, we settle at Solo Singer Life cafe. It was surprisingly located in a very small alleyway, and even more surprisingly, surrounded by beauty. In such a small and seemingly unknown alleyway, there are homes, natural areas, and even a hostel to accompany the cafe. 

This cafe holds innovation and comfort all at once. It has been used for journalistic purposes a number of times, and although secluded, is pretty popular with tourists. Filled with little artifacts, Solo Singer is a place with depictions of endless creativity. Overall, it feels homey and safe, which is a perfect addition to the Beitou community. 

After the interview, we had a chance to view the drawings Yang-Ye has created. In addition to collecting old records, he also draws the sights he sees. Although he could simply use photography to capture his subjects, he says that “…with pictures, you always observe them at a later time. Whereas with drawing, you pay attention to the detail you see at that moment.”

He draws seemingly effortlessly, creating what could be described as artistic postcards. And each postcard like artwork is made up of multiple drawings. He draws these as a different way of keeping this buildings and attractions in his pocket. 

 Undoubtedly, his collection of old records from the area, and all the history behind them, was a highlight of this interview. In such a little book, there holds years of history depicted in photographs, tickets, and old labels. It is almost unbelievable the amount of records he has in this book. 

Even just from listening to one person’s experience growing up here and exploring just a small fraction of Beitou, you can already tell how many pieces of significant history have emerged from this area alone.