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“All Too Barbarian” by Yuko Tsushima

Yuko Tsushima was a writer who shed lights on minorities such as single mothers, indigenous peoples, and interracial children.

In the story, the protagonist visits Alishan Mountain Range (famous for hiking and the sunrise). I’d always wanted to go to Alishan myself, so it inspired me to actually go there. It would be nice to follow the footsteps of the protagonist in the story. My original plan was to go straight back to Taipei after visiting there. However, I eventually changed the plan and decided to go to Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village. The following day after I visited that facility, I found out the protagonist also goes there. It was such an enigmatic experience. The character in the story followed my footsteps.

This village is sort of an open-air museum where we can learn about aboriginal peoples in Taiwan. When Taiwan was under Japan’s colonization, indigenous peoples were forced to learn and speak Japanese. One of the people I talked to there was the Puyuma and in his early 60s. After he knew I was Japanese, he spoke fluent Japanese to me. I hear that there are also some people who use creole of Japanese and their native language. Certainly, behind this unusual development lies a deep and complex history, which I have to know more and face as a Japanese.

You may have the image of Taiwan being a high-tech society. Yes, that’s very true, but at the same time Taiwan is also well known for hiking and cycling. The highest mountain called Mt. Yushan is 3952 meters high. The middle parts of Taiwan are concentrated by mountains, so there exist almost no railways. This time, I was lucky enough to have been blessed with awe-inspiring nature. Many of the trees in the mountains I hiked were over 1500 years old.

Timewise, the story unfolds in two Taipeis, one in the 1930s under Japan’s colonization and the other in 2005. Geographically, the story unravels itself ubiquitously in Taiwan, Japan, and France. Tsushima provides readers with such a magnetic narrative thread from which to hang all the complicated and yet intriguing elements. This is a must-read to know about Taiwan and Japan.

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