There’s a young girl looking over an abandoned amusement park with her parents as the delicious scent of food enters their nostrils. She’s young, naive and in elementary school, but she feels pricks at the base of her neck and a sickening feeling in her stomach. Something is wrong as an uncanny, cold breeze sweeps over them. Helplessly, she follows her parents toward the sinful scents.
Once upon a time, Hayao Miyazaki was searching for inspiration for his newest animated film. On holiday in Jiufen, the creative wheels in his head began to turn and the setting for Spirited Away was born. Stay tuned and let Jiufen take you away into the magical world Miyazaki created.
Hike Mount Jilong
Standing at about 588 meters, this mountain is quite a feat. Start from the town of Jiufen and make the small descent from there. As you breathe the clean air and descend into the mountain, you will feel transported into another place.
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Walk the Downtown Area
In Jiufen, streets are adorned with Chinese lanterns, shops, and food vendors. The splendor of this place is hard to shake; not only is downtown Jiufen a tourist attraction but a place of culture and magic. You’ll see many tea shops overlooking the mountainous terrain, vendors trying to sell steamed pork buns, or pearl milk tea. While touring the infamous downtown area, you can’t help but notice you are walking into the real life version of Miyzaki’s spirit world. I could hear Istumo Nando Demo (Always With Me) play in my head. Who knows what will happen if you’re not careful? You might turn into a pig if you eat too much!
The Tea House
After walking the downtown area, you’ll see tourists disappearing down a small alley with stairs. Walk a little further and you’ll find the teahouse that inspired the genius himself. The resemblance to Yubaba’s bath house is intense and you’ll stand in awe of the fantastic structure. Of course, this tea house banks on the popularity of the anime because many Japanese tourists go. The tea is insanely expensive and the smaller teahouses in downtown are just as good. Still, this teahouse is worth the look for all anime and Miyazaki fans.
When the story finishes, our young heroine is still wearing her hair band woven by her friends. She is told by her friend Haku, not to look back. Smiling he bids her goodbye and tells her not to look back. As you descend those alleyway steps to finish your journey, you can’t help but look back and smile from nostalgia.
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How to get there: Jiufen is a day trip excursion so definitely plan to spend some time here. It’s about an hour away from Taipei. To make your trip easy, make sure you have your Easy Card loaded and some cash on you just in case. It costs about 102 New Taiwan Dollars.
Get on bus 1062 at the Adventist Hospital bus stop.
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