KO SHU-LING, TAIPEI – A 97-year-old Japanese-style building in Taipei was opened to the public on May 24 following an 18-month restoration and 10-year hiatus.
Liou Wei-gong, head of Taipei City’s Department of Cultural Affairs, told a press conference in Taipei that talks about restoring Kishu An, a refined riverside restaurant during the Japanese colonial era, began some 10 years ago. The city has built a three-story structure next to the restored building, which is a historic site, in a bid to develop the complex into a venue where people can read and participate in cultural activities.
Kishu An was built in 1917 by the Hiramatsu family, who ran it as a restaurant along the Hsin-tien River. The complex comprised a three-story main building, a secondary building reserved for dignitaries and a third building for balls and banquets.
The complex was later turned into dormitories and abandoned after the main building and secondary building were destroyed in two separate fires in the 1990s.
Thanks to the efforts of academics and conservationists, the third building was preserved and designated a historic site in 2004. The city decided to turn the complex into what is now the Kishu An Forest of Literature.
Kiichiro Hiramatsu, grandson of the former owner of the Kishu An restaurant, said that the Hsin-tien River was once full of sweetfish, and the Hiramatsu family would provide boat services with fresh food on board for guests wishing to travel from Hsin-tien to their restaurant.
“It was a very elegant way of having fun,” he said.
After people got off, they could clean or shower at the bathroom between the main and secondary building before eating or attending balls, he said.
The restaurant had about 30 people working in its kitchens, which Hiramatsu said was a challenge because they had to feed some 100 to 200 guests every night.
In addition to good food, Kishu An also provided entertainment, he said, with 15 to 20 geishas coming in every night to play the shamisen and other musical instruments.
“It was a happy time,” said Hiramatsu, who is now 81. “My memory about the 12 years I spent here is long and sweet.”