With the giant billboards advertising the latest,crowd of teenagers relentlessly strolling the pedestrian area, to the boutiques selling the cutest outfits, a Hollywood movie promo on-going and the occasional street performers on one corner, there is no mistaking the similarity or why the neighborhood of Ximending is branded as the “Harajuku” or even “Shibuya” of Taipei.
Historically, Ximending will always be a remnant of once Japanese occupation. Dating back during the period of colonization, the original idea was to built an entertainment district similar to Asakusa, Tokyo, thus transforming what was once an area of wilderness located at the west gate of Taipei city into a mega-district.
Before it was transformed to a place where teenagers showcase their fashion, the main recreational purpose of Ximending was Cinema. For example, the easily recognized brick building- The Red House across Ximending street was originally built as a market but instead served as a theater from 1945 onward. Nowadays, the Red House exhibits contemporary art and live performances. I personally like the Red House, I think it is a marvelous contrast to the predictability and sometimes lack of originality in Ximending.
Ximending is beyond Harajuku or Shibuya, it is an attempt to combine all Japan’s entertainment district into one, given for example the name of the buildings like Shinjuku Plaza and the typical “kawaii” ads.
From One piece souvenir t-shirts to the big Uniqlo store, the anime movie now playing and to that kid whose job is to hold a signage pointing towards their shop, Tokyo influence can be easily recognize.
I don’t mind seeing the usual Harajuku stuff for sale nor the blatant attempt to be an extension of Tokyo’s famous entertainment districts, but my biggest disappointment with Ximending is food. Travelling outside the country on which I reside, I’m always on the hunt to taste the local food but here either you dine on fast food or you ended up eating at Japanese restaurants. Don’t get me wrong, I love Japanese food but I would prefer to have a good, authentic Taiwanese food for dinner.