Tag Archives: Japan

Zhongshan Presbyterian Church, Taipei 中山基督長老教會

It’s Holy Week and the sun is shining all week in Taipei, yippee!

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Today is Maundy Thursday, and appropriate for Maundy Thursday is a visit to Zhongshan Presbyterian Church (中山基督長老教會) in central Taipei (62, Linsen N. Rd 林森北路62號), where the small stained glass window above the altar is of Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, while his disciples are fast asleep nearby.

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The window at the back of the church is of Jesus the Good Shepherd…

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This morning, very early, I cycled past this church on my way into Taipei.  The sun was shining, the sky was blue and the traffic stopped long enough for me to take some photos without getting run over.  The church does look splendid in the sun!

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And what’s so special about this church? Well, it’s very historic, built in 1937 in a Gothic style, with a 3-story bell tower.  This was during the Japanese era 1895-1945, and it was built as a Japanese Anglican Church, Nippon Sei Ko Kai (NSKK) with all services in Japanese.  Taiwan at the time belonged to the NSKK Diocese of Osaka.  This is the most famous of all the church buildings in Taiwan built by the Japanese Anglican Church.  Apparently, as it was near a place called Taisho Cho, its original name was “Taisho Street Anglican Church”.

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But in 1945-6, when the Japanese left Taiwan, there was no Taiwanese Anglican / Episcopal Church to hand it over to, and in 1947 it became the Zhongshan Presbyterian Church; the church celebrated their 70th anniversary in 2017.   The Taiwan Episcopal Church was founded much later, in 1954.

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Fast forward to 2004 and Taiwan Episcopal Church (Diocese of Taiwan) began a companion diocese partnership with the NSKK Diocese of Osaka, which is still going strong today.    And we have a good relationship with the Zhongshan Presbyterian Church today too – and Bishop David J. H. Lai has preached at this church many times.

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One of the places we like to take our Japanese visitors is to see this church.  It really is full of history, and it really looks quite amazing surrounded as it is by all the high-rise buildings and all that traffic, whizzing past on both sides!

And so, back to the stained glass window and its significance for Maundy Thursday ~ wishing you all a meaningful and blessed Holy Week!

Pop idols @ Taiwan-Style!

Been doing a bit of research among some of our students in the 15-17 year age group to find out who their pop idols are ~ part of my English conversation classes, so bringing you up to speed, here goes!

Top of the list by far for everyone are the boy bands from S. Korea – all brought together on TV talent shows and promoted by the mega-entertainment industry that is so big in S. Korea.  And currently top of the list of all of them is BTS.  Super Junior is long over, now it is BTS.  Our girls say the BTS group of 7 are all SO handsome, and their singing and dancing are all SO amazing.  To excel at all those 3 things is what qualifies them as No. 1.  And they are the reason for half of all Taiwan girls aspiring to learn Korean language.  Forget English, Korean language is the way to go!  They told me to check out the BTS You Tube video ‘DNA’, so here it is – I particularly like their use of colour – how’s this eh?!

For the boys, the equivalent is the Korean girl band, Sistar, all so ‘sexy’, and their singing and dancing are all so good.  They recommend you check out ‘Shake it’, and you’ll see why they’re so popular.

The other popular Korean male is Lee Jong Suk, actor and model who comes in the category of ‘very handsome’ as well as for his acting ability.

So is it all Koreans?  Not completely, but largely, well, yes!

Chinese idols are Jing Boran –  apparently a ‘cute’ and ‘handsome’ singer and actor; Kris Wu – ‘handsome’ actor, singer and model, and Andy Lau from Hong Kong, famous for singing and acting and for being ‘handsome before’ (when he was younger, that is!).

Then there’s American and Canadian idols, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Avril Lavigne, Taylor Swift, Linkin Park, Bon Jovi, The Chainsmokers.

There’s a Malaysian singer Shila Amzah who has an amazing voice, I’ve checked out her videos – she sings in Chinese, and yes, she’s good.

So what about Japanese idols?  Japan is famous for anime (computer animation) videos, and the most famous idol of that genre seems to be Hatsune Miku, a fictional anime character of a 16-year-old girl with ‘long turquoise twin-tails’ and an amazing singing style – ‘a humanoid persona voiced by a singing synthesizer application’ – her official video is here… check it out!

And so what about homegrown Taiwan idols?  Are there any?  Our students have a really hard time thinking of anyone famous in Taiwan who they regard as an idol!  So finally, dragging it out of them, I have finally found four:  J J Lin 林俊傑 (based in Taiwan, but actually comes from Singapore!) whose singing is great but he is apparently neither cute nor handsome, Show Luo 羅志祥 whose singing and acting are good, but also apparently not very handsome, the group S.H.E whose 3 girls all sing and dance – and apparently beautiful too, and finally, Julia Wu 吳卓源 who has an amazing singing voice, and sings in Chinese, but turns out to be from Australia, and lives in the USA – anyway, here she is!

So what makes a pop idol? Looks is the big one, followed by skills in acting / dancing / singing – the more skills the better.  And if you write your own songs, well that’s an extra idol bonus!  But idols all come to an end, either fading with age or misdemeanor, or for Korean boy bands because they have to go off to military service, and while they’re gone, along comes another boy band to take their place.  But for the time being, it is BTS.  When I ask if these BTS boys have girlfriends, I am assured that they wouldn’t dare, because all the fans would be so upset – they can get girlfriends later, after they stop being so popular!

Anyway, hope I’ve brought you to speed a little with what’s going on in the world of pop idols, Taiwan-style!

From the Diocese of Osaka, Japan ~ a big welcome to Taiwan!

And they’ve brought the sun with them too ~ ah, at last, the weather is great!

The Diocese of Taiwan has had a companion link with the Diocese of Osaka since 2004, and so there’s been regular church group visits to and fro for different occasions. Since their last visit, for our 60th anniversary celebration in April 2014, the Diocese of Osaka has a new bishop, Bishop Andrew Haruhisa Iso.  So Bishop Iso has brought a group to Taiwan this week, primarily to attend the opening service and first session of our annual diocesan convention, which starts tomorrow.  Sadly our good friend, the Dean of the Osaka Cathedral, Rev. Peter Akira Iwaki couldn’t join the group for health reasons, but we’re really pleased that so many have come, and they’ve also come a few days early to see a little of the diocese – and the beauties of Taiwan – YES!

Their group of 17 includes 6 clergy, and Bishop Iso and Bishop Uno (retired) have both brought their wives, and some of the group have come to Taiwan more than once, so there’s some familiar faces among them!  Not only that, but my good friends in York, UK, Rev. Pam Cooper and Evelyn Wroe were CMS-UK mission partners in Osaka for many years and so we have several mutual friends.  Pam was the first woman to be ordained priest in the Diocese of Osaka, and now Kiyomi is the second – and the first Japanese – so when I met Kiyomi yesterday for the very first time, well we just had to take a photo of the 2 of us, to say hello to Pam! We are of course delighted to welcome them all, they are all so graceful, charming and happy ~ Bishop Iso and Bishop Uno haven’t stopped smiling since they arrived, wonderful!

So off we went yesterday – me and Shu-Jing from our St John’s University Chaplain’s Office – to meet up with Rev. Joseph Ho and a group from Christ Church, Chungli to welcome the group on their arrival at Taoyuan Int’l Airport.  Fortunately Shu-Jing speaks Japanese, and I can take photos, so we’re a good team!

A quick welcome at the airport, and off to a delicious welcome lunch at a Hakka Restaurant in Chungli, hosted by the Diocese of Taiwan.  Then to visit Christ Church for singing – with actions of course, then an introduction to the church and photos. The group from Osaka had specially asked to be able to visit Christ Church, it’s our newest church in the diocese, and started from really just one church family 5-6 years ago, and now grown into a small church…..

And a group photo ~ Bishop Iso is holding his beautiful gift from Christ Church, in fact there was one for all the visitors to welcome them all to Taiwan 🙂

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And then Shu-Jing and I accompanied the group as far as their hotel in Taipei, and said goodbye.  They were preparing for dinner, then a visit for some of them to Bishop Lai’s office for a tea-drinking welcome!

Actually the Osaka group has come with a travel company who’ve organized their visit, and today they’ve been sightseeing in Jiufen and Tamsui, with a quick visit to us at St. John’s University and Advent Church this afternoon.  It’s Girls’ Festival in Japan today, and one of the Osaka group has brought her wooden flute, so we had a nice recital while the rest of the group sang along, then it was our turn ~ a welcome from President Chen of St. John’s University, and then Shu-Jing shared about the university, church and chaplaincy ministry and everyone was introduced and gifts were given…

And finally a group photo with some of our students on the steps of Advent Church!

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A great visit, a great welcome to Taiwan for all our Osaka friends ~ and we look forward to seeing them all tomorrow at the diocesan convention opening service!

Mt. Keelung基隆山, Jinguashi金瓜石 POW Camp and Jiufen九份

An Indian Summer (or in Chinese, known as an Autumn Tiger!) ~ Yippee!

Yes, a whole 3 days so far of temps up to 32°C, with blue skies, blue seas and butterflies ~ time to get the sunglasses, sun cream and sun hats back out, YES!

And if there’s one place in Taiwan where a fine day is rare, it’s the N.E coast and the mountains above Keelung.  I was up there 2 months ago to climb Teapot Mountain 茶壺山 and Banpingshan 半平山(check out that blog post here) and at the time, thought that if there’s ever a fine day again, that’s the place to go!

And so it was that today was THE day!  Up early on the first bus to Tamsui, then the MRT to Taipei where there’s a bus that goes straight up to Jinguashi 金瓜石 without having to go via Keelung, which on a Saturday morning is packed out with people and vehicles…

First stop was Keelung Mountain (588m) which kind of separates Jinguashi 金瓜石 and Jiufen 九份 and from the angle I was looking, is said to resemble a pregnant woman lying on her back…. what do you think eh?!

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It’s actually an extinct volcano and takes about 30-40 minutes to go straight up ~ there’s steps all the way, little pavilions to rest in, and of course great views!

Next stop was the town of Jinguashi 金瓜石 itself.  Oh dear, such a tragic history.  Famous for it’s gold and copper mines during the Japanese era (1895-1945) in fact it was THE largest copper mine in the Japanese Empire at the time. The mines are long closed, and the Japanese buildings and mine workings have been converted into a now-famous Gold Museum.  Always full of tourists – which is just as well because otherwise Jinguashi is a very quiet place. I met an old man who told me he was born there in 1925, and apart from a few years serving the Japanese army during World War II, he’s lived there ever since. And he’s losing all his old friends one by one, so it’s a very quiet life.  In fact we walked together down through the old winding streets…

Mining towns nearly always have tragic histories, and this one is exacerbated by the fact that the Japanese used over 1,000 captured Allied soldiers to work in the most dangerous mines – Prisoners of War who lived in the notorious POW camp at Jinguashi, known at the time as Kinkaseki POW Camp.  The introduction on the Taiwan POW website says:

On November 14, 1942 in the village of Jinguashi, located on the northeast coast of Taiwan, 523 allied POWs began what was to be for some a three year ordeal as slaves in the largest copper mine in the Japanese Empire. In all more than 1100 British Commonwealth and Allied prisoners of war slaved in this notorious Japanese POW camp called KINKASEKI from December 1942 to March 1945…..

The POW’s in this camp were forced to slave in the dark depths of a copper mine and were subjected to the most inhumane treatment imaginable. Conditions in the mine and the camp were as bad, if not worse in many cases, than that experienced by the POW’s on the now-famous Railway of Death in Burma and Thailand, which was made popular by the movie “Bridge on the River Kwai”.

It’s well worth reading more on the Taiwan POW website – and note that every Remembrance Sunday they have a Memorial Service there, organised by the Canadian Trade Office.

All that remains of that POW Camp now is an old gate post and part of the original wall, but the camp area is now a Memorial Peace Park, with flowers, explanations, a Memorial Tree, sculptures and a wall with a list of all the names of the POW’s held there…..

Very moving.  Definitely well worth visiting ~ and especially with Remembrance Sunday being this weekend.  Lest we forget indeed.

And so on to Jiufen 九份 , just a mile or so down the road ~ and which is always overrun with zillions of people!  Famous for its gold rush, long over ~ these days it is a major tourist destination – to visit the Old Street, eat and relax and look at the view.  It’s also famous for the location of several famous movies, and now also an arty kind of place. There were visitors from all over Asia – Japan, Korea, China, Malaysia, all enjoying themselves – and of course shopping!

Jiufen needs a sunny day ~ and today was it!  And the Jiufen Church ~ what a view!

An amazing day ~ full of history and full of beauty.  Such a beautiful place – but with such a tragic past.  So much to remember this coming Remembrance Day.  This year is also the 70th anniversary of the end of Word War II, and October 25 was the 70th anniversary of the Japanese surrender in Taiwan.  As Robbie Burns is thought to have written:

‘Man’s inhumanity to man  Makes countless thousands mourn!’

And may God help us ~ to ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’….. (Luke 6:31, Matthew 7:12)

Bishop Leonard Wilson Memorial @ Askrigg Church, Wensleydale

Yesterday ~ a sharp frost, but bright sun all day, and at my father’s suggestion, went to check out Askrigg Church in Wensleydale, N. Yorkshire to see the memorial to Bishop Leonard Wilson, most famous for being Bishop of Singapore during the Japanese occupation, when he was imprisoned and tortured….

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His sermon of how he suffered, yet kept the faith, shared the Gospel with some of his captors and led some of them to faith is retold in his sermon here, published in 1946.  He retired to Askrigg in 1969 and although he died only a year later, he clearly found peace in Wensleydale ~ the story of the memorial is here.

The church is beautiful, the village too….

Very moving story, do make time to check it out….