14. The postwar fate of “Great Japan” in Tongpu

The Relics of Modern Japan's First Foreign War in Colonial and Postcolonial Taiwan, 1874-2015

14. The postwar fate of “Great Japan” in Tongpu

Sources: Left: Photograph by Lin Yu-ju, courtesy of the photographer. Right: Photograph by the curator. 

The 1874 tombstone remains on its 1927 pedestal to this day, surrounded by a sturdy masonry fence, with the grave mound still encased in concrete behind the tombstone. However, the site fell into decay after the war. Alarmed at the tomb’s condition, a group of visitors from Okinawa in 1979 contacted descendants of the Miyakojima, Okinawa, survivors, and formed an association to repair the site. In cooperation with the Lin family, caretakers of the tomb since the 1870s, the association repaired and restored the tomb in March 1982. Nonetheless, into the late 1990s, the three characters for “Great Japan” 大日本 were filled in with cement.[1] Sometime after 2000, the cement was removed and the characters for “Great Japan” were painted red, along with the rest of the inscription; the 2005 photograph (left) shows this change. It would seem to be more than a coincidence that the characters for “Great Japan” were restored after the end of one-party rule by the Kuomintang and the emergence of Taiwan nationalism as a mainstream political position. More recent photographs (all that I have seen from 2011 forward) reveal that the red coloring of “Great Japan” is no longer being maintained—either it is not being repainted with the rest of the characters, or it has been deliberately bleached out. The vicissitudes of these three characters, and their ambiguous status on the current tomb, echo the complicated place of Japan in post–martial law Taiwanese social memory.[2]


[1] Matayoshi Seikiyo, Nihon shokuminchika no Taiwan to Okinawa (Naha: Naha aki shobō, 1990), 321–323; Miyaguni, Taiwan sōnan jiken, 246, 253.

[2] See Huang Chih-huei, “Ethnic Diversity, Two-Layered Colonization, and Complex Modern Taiwanese Attitudes toward Japan,” in Japanese Taiwan: Colonial Rule and its Contested Legacy, edited by Andrew D. Morris (London: Bloomsbury), 133–154.