The luxurious residence of the Japanese Governor-General offers a glimpse into Taiwan’s past under Japanese rule, a great place to visit for a few hours exploring Taipei on foot.
By Stuart Hill
The Taipei Guest House, built as the official residence of the Japanese Governor-General, is an impressive Renaissance building designed by Japanese architects and completed in 1901. The building was expanded around 1911-13, at which time the appearance of the building was transformed into a more opulent Baroque style.Gardens on both the south and north sides of the building reflect a western and Japanese aesthetic, respectively. In additional to being the formal residence of the Governor-General, the grounds and interiors were used to host foreign dignitaries and local government-sponsored events – and this function was continued by both the KMT and later DPP governments in more recent years. As an example of European-inspired Japanese-built architecture key details and features include roof tiles, wall paper, stained glass windows, fireplace tiles, wooden paneling and many other flourishes.
Extensive renovations made between 2003 to 2006 saw the building closed but today the intriguing building and its grounds are open to tourists on the first Saturday of each month – as is President House on Ketagalan Boulevard – from 8:30am to 4:30pm. No bookings are required.The only disappointing aspects of the interior displays relate to the role that the building played in Taiwan’s more recent history – specifically the Treaty of Taipei in 1953 – with the description written in Chinese deceptively claiming it represented the return of Taiwan to the Republic of China.