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Asian Cities: Taipei and Tokyo Overview Essay


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Asia is the world’s largest continent and the most populous. Asia also has one of the richest heritages, with deep and authentic cultural inclination among its people. Asian cities are very unique and to some extent different from the other modern cities of the world. Asian economies are rising rapidly with Japan, India, and China in the top five on the list. Asian cities are therefore sophisticated with rapid technological advancement but at the same time retain the traditional cultures.

Consequently, Asian cities are a good illustration of the harmonious and symbiotic blend of traditional and modern settings, be it in design, culture or language. The people in these cities retain their traditional cultures but at the same time endorsing the modern technology. In fact, Asia has one of the highest and most sophisticated technological advancement in the world, with Japan and China, leading the way (Cybriwsky, 1998).

Taipei

Taipei is the capital of Formosa, present day Taiwan. Taipei is a large city and like many Asian cities, it is highly populated (Binder, 2008). Located in the island of Taiwan, it is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and a centre for tourism activities.

The people of Taipei and Taiwan in general are the friendliest all over Asia with multidimensional cultures being accommodated. With a marine tropical climate, the city is conducive for many diverse activities both maritime and physical geographical. The city is also the nation’s center for politics, commerce, and mass media.

The city has opened up to the western culture and thus it is now possible to experience western cultures like the pop cultures right in the city. The city is thus being flooded with visitors for various reasons like work, leisure, adventure, and business. Due to the rapid expansion, the city has expanded rapidly making it the fastest growing city in Asia. (TIGP, 2011)

It has also rapidly expanded becoming a centre of educational engagement, industrialization, with numerous centres of electronics, textiles and shipbuilding. The economy of the city is thus driven by industries and has received international recognition having won the 2006 intelligent community award.

As a modern metropolis, the city has endorsed sophisticated, advanced technology in its architectural designs with very advanced transport networking system. Although the city has sophisticated skyscrapers, the architectural designs have retained a rich and distinct Chinese flavour. Various landmarks that portray this distinct flavour include the Confucius Temple and the National Palace Museum (Ryan & Melvin, 2003).

Although the city like many of the modern metropolis has embraced modernity, the people’s cultures have not been radically transformed. There is tolerance of culture and celebration of the diverse ways of life, without conflict or contradiction.

Cultural traditions and arts are still very lively in the city and continue to act as a source of thrilling ventures, and spellbinding celebrations. Colourful ceremonies whose origins can be dated hundreds and thousands of years back continue to be publicly practiced with other people of diverse cultures including tourists, open to join and participate in the merry making.

These spectacles have in turn become tourist attractions with those who join in the celebrations returning every year to partake, that is, if the ceremonies are annual. The life in Taipei is not dull and gloomy nor cold like the way western cities have been described to be, especially during the normal working hours of daylight, traditional concerts, festivals and other diverse celebrations are held openly in full splendour all year round.

This aspect is lacking in western cities. Western cities are very individualistic and it is very rare to find people of diverse cultures sprawling in the streets during the time of the year, in merry of appreciation of cultures leave alone all year round.

Although the city has embraced technological advancement, natural sites or ancient monuments are still intact. Nature lovers have a wide range of sceneries to choose from and visit. The city is surrounded by mountains depicting the natural setting of the Far East; there are also unique greenery, urban parks, and aqua marine beauty sites. The numerous hot springs offer visitors to engage in-group steaming, the hot springs also offer the much-needed warmth during winter.

Taipei has a wide variety of foods to choose from and has one of the widest varieties of cuisines to offer in all over Asia. However, the city has maintained a wide variety of Chinese food some of which are known to have been discovered thousand of years ago, making it a haven for traditional foods.

The foods are prepared with exemplary Chinese expertise that has passed from one generation to the other. The foods have been widely credited and have been recognized all over the world for their appealing colour, flavour, spice and aroma making the food in Taipei world class (Kelly, 2007).

The wide variety of foods offered include the various varieties of meat, which have been cooked with great expertise. Some of the animal meats available include pork, beef, duck, chicken and lamb.

The meat could be roasted, smoked, barbecued or braised allowing a wide range to choose from, vegetables and black beans are also served in plenty. Sea foods are the mostly consumed dishes with one of the widest variety to choose from in the world found here. Almost all sea creatures are readily available and the various cuisines are made from these sea foods (Fang, 2009).

Some of Taipei’s unique places are listed and explained below. The Yangmingshan National Park is a suitable site for nature lovers. It has volcanic geography and numerous hot springs. The Park is a perfect summer resort owing to its breathtaking mountainous scenery and hospitable comfortable weather. The park has some of the most peculiar animals, which would be enjoyable to catch a glimpse of.

These include the Taiwan bandicoot, Formosan boar, and Formosan rock-monkey amongst many more. The Chung Cheng Memorial is another of Taipei’s captivating scenery (Rubistein, 2007). The octagonal shaped historical monument rises seventy meters or so from the ground and the entrance door is more than a hundred feet tall making it an awe site of the traditional Chinese. The Shilin Market is also another unique feature; having all sorts of delicacies.[1]

The market has also many massage parlours, fortune-tellers and a temple for good luck. It has a big shopping mall and almost all fashion trends can be purchased here. The market has become famous for its nocturnal nature, which offers a unique feeling to its visitors (Faure, 1997).

Apart from the discussed features, Taipei can also offer a passenger lift viewing of the city, which is over 500 meters from the ground. Dragon Mountain Temple offers a perfect reflection of Taiwanese religion as people of all faiths gather here to worship the so-called Goddess of mercy.

Fresh juices are also locally available and noodle soup. Various festivals are also held at different times of the year. These include the Buddha’s Birthday, Celebrating the moon; but for a festival lover, then the Lantern Festival is the biggest and most indulging. Basking in the hot spring is also offered by this beautiful city (Freiberger, 2008).

Tokyo

Tokyo is Japan’s largest city and is considered to have a duality of definition in that although it has come to be referred to as a metropolis since the formation of the metropolis in 1943 it is still considered as one of the country’s forty-seven prefectures. Apart from being the base of operation by the national government, it is also host to the imperial palace and the ancestral home of the highly regarded imperial family.

The city has over twelve million people but the whole prefecture has more than thirty million people making it the most populous metropolitan area in the world. The city has been regarded as one of the most viable economic hub of the world having the world’s most dominant and largest purchasing power and thus the largest metropolitan economy in the world (Lonely Planet, 2011).

Tokyo like many of the Asian cities has become an economic centre with diverse business operations having their headquarters in the city like the Japanese vehicle manufacturing company, Mitsubishi. Tokyo is one of the most modernized cities in the world and the economic centre of Asia and thus receives visitors from all over the world. Investors, buyers, students, philanthropist, dealers and all diverse professionals converge in Tokyo and thus it is a true global city exhibiting all forms of cultures.

Together with London and New York, Tokyo has been regarded as one of the most dominant and commanding centres of world economy. In terms of stock exchange, sophisticated lifestyle, technological advancement, revenue generation, liberalism and dynamism, Tokyo is always among the top cities of the world (Thompson, 2007).

Although Tokyo is a global city, like many other Asian cities, the culture of the natives is much exhibited. Tokyo uniqueness stems from the blend of the modern sophisticated method and time-honoured old. Although the Japanese pop culture is much exercised in the city, the imperial family institution still has considerable influence with the institution being highly regarded and respected. Individuality is closely linked and associated with the old form of group identity.

Some of Japanese cultures like the emergent pop culture of Manga has taken the world by storm especially Asia and thus could be viewed as a modern synthesis, but scrutiny shows the culture has its origins in the traditional Edo-period. No matter the level of dynamism and sophistication, with the adoption of some aspects of western cultures, the basic concepts and foundation of Tokyo’s cultures remain founded and true to its origins (Dutt, 1994).

In the preservation of the cultures that remain integral to the people’s behaviour, the city has many museums and art galleries, the largest being the Tokyo National Museum, dealing with traditional cultural artefacts preservation and Japanese art.

Theatres of performing art are also numerous, specializing in both traditional forms of Japanese drama and depiction historical figures, and modern cultural drama. Just like in Taipei, there are many festivities and celebrations of which many have historical background, these festivals attract a large following that sometimes reach millions.

Cuisine in the city is very popular and internationally approved. Majorities of foods in the city are sea foods with Japan being among the leading fishing nations on earth. Tokyo has also become a centre of movie production and shooting, with even Hollywood directors approving the shooting of movies in the city. Ginza, Rainbow Bridge, Tsukiji jogaii market and Tokyo sky tree are some of the sites that one could visit (McKinnon, 2011).

Tokyo is an advanced metropolitan area with huge economic prowess. Like other Asian cities, the language of the metropolitan is that of the native people, in this context Japanese. Asian nations have at one time or the other, fallen under foreign occupation and others colonization. Countries like India were colonized by the British while Japan was actively occupying China and her neighbours.

Although some of the states fell under foreign occupation, they have retained their languages as the main language of communication. Other countries in the world that fell under colonialism or were at one time occupied by foreign powers adopted the culture and language of the aggressor. This can best be seen in Africa where African cities are dominated by the language of the colonizers.

Asian cities have also retained their cultures and traditions. They are also experiencing massive and radicalized technological developments quickly turning them to global cities. Their traditions however remain their major influencer. The architectural designs of many Asian cities portray the local cultural beliefs rather than the western designs. They are also faced with natural disasters frequently experienced in the region. Earthquakes and typhoons are very frequent compared to other cities of the world, and thus Asian cities like

Tokyo have come up with architectural designs that can withstand the earthquake magnitude (Waley, 1991). For example, the March 2011 earthquake in Japan was more severe than the 1923 earthquake but less damage was witnessed in 2011 than in 1923 because of the improved architectural designs. Cities like Tokyo do not have ancient buildings as they have been destroyed at one time or the other by disasters.

Reference List

Binder, G. Taipei 101. Victoria: Image Publishing, 2008.

Cybriwsky, R. Tokyo: the shogun’ city at the twenty-first century. Sussex: J Wiley & sons, 1998.

Dutt, K. The Asian city: processes of development, characteristics, and planning. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1994.

Fang-Long Shih. Re- Writing Culture in Taiwan. Abingdon: Routledge, 2009.

Faure, D. Society. Hong Kong: Hong University Press, 1997.

Freiberger, S. Taipei in a Day Includes: Taiwan from A to Z. New York: LULU Publishers. 2008.

Kelly, R, and Brown J. Taiwan New York: Lonely Planet, 2007. Lonely Planet. ‘‘Introducing Tokyo’’ 2011.

McKinnon, M Asian Cities: Globalization, Urbanization and Nation- Building. Hong Kong: Nordic Press, 2011.

Rubistein, M. Taiwan: a new history. New York: M. E. Sharpe, Inc, 2007.

Ryan, M, & Neo, Melvin.Taiwan. New Jersey: Gareth Stevens Pub, 2003.

Thompson, S. Tokyo. London: New Holland Publishers, 2007.

TIGP. ‘‘Taipei City,’’ 2011. Web.

Waley, P. Tokyo: city of stories. New York: Weather hill, 1991.

Yuen, B, & Yeh, A. High-Rise Building Living in Asian Cities. London: Springer Heidelberg, 2011.

Footnotes

  1. The Shilin market is also surrounded by many hotels making it favourable for tourism.
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