What does it mean by “being colonized”? Reflections on the Japanese colonial policies in Taiwan

Heung Wah WONG, Hoi Yan YAU

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)


This paper is an anthropological attempt to make sense why so many facets of the Taiwanese social life including language, food, entertainment, medical care, living environment, ritual, and architecture are underlined by a surprisingly strong “Japanese” ambiance. But what is more surprising is when asked why their behavior often showed definite Japanese traces, Taiwanese people explained without a second thought that these were the ways that they had always followed. In other words, to them, all these “Japanized” customs and practices are not Japanese, but essentially Taiwanese. Through an examination of the Japanese colonial policiesin Taiwan from 1895 to 1945, we shall demonstrate how and why Taiwanese people could be colonized by the alien Japanese colonial forces. Of course, native Taiwanese people did not just receive what was imposed on them. They did resist, recast or manipulate the alien Japanese foreign forces in their own terms, or for their own benefits. However, by attempting to negotiate with the colonial forces, local people ultimately entered into the game of the colonizer. Thus they are not playing their own but others’ game. In the course of engaging themselves into the game of the colonizer, native people could not but succumb themselves to the alien way of seeing and being, with their consciousness being colonized by the alien signs and practices which, as we shall argue, tells what it means by “being colonized”.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)342-360
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Group Dynamics
Early online date15 Dec 2013
Publication statusPublished - 28 Dec 2013
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Seed funding provided by the University of Hong Kong. Initial funds from the University of Hong Kong allowed the authors to generate preliminary data and developed further proposal for the funding of this project.


  • colonization
  • resistance
  • collaboration
  • cultural policy
  • Japanese colonial rule in Taiwan


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