Latest stops for couple on Pacific tour include a former ‘French concession’ and Okinawa

Venice couple continues getting an education about distant parts of Asia

By Ed Martin
Guest Columnist

(Editor’s note: Ed and Peggy Martin of Venice have begun an 82-day Pacific cruise, which will take them to the Asian coast, Russia, Bali, Australia, Hawaii and other islands before they return to Los Angeles on Dec. 12. Ed Martin is providing periodic reports from the trip for the readers of The Sarasota News Leader.)

Oct. 30: Tianjin, China

French architecture is evident in Tianjin. Photo courtesy of Ed Martin

Tianjin is the gateway to Beijing from the sea. What city do you see? If you said, “Paris,” you are right. This area was the “French concession,” from the time — around 1900 — of foreign takeovers for economic gain.

At one point, Tianjin had nine foreign concessions. These enclaves began for the most part in the 1800s. They were, essentially,self-ruled colonies, where Chinese people were excluded and treated as inferiors. Later, for economic gain, the Chinese were allowed into the areas.

In Tianjin, the French architecture is evident. Similar areas were built elsewhere.

The concessions were permanently terminated in 1949 by the Chinese Communist government.

Oct. 31: Naha, Okinawa

This sculpture stands in a park in Okinawa. Photo courtesy of Ed Martin

We stopped at a memorial to children killed in World War II and at a lovely Shinto and at a Buddhist shrine. The visit provided us a bit of education about Ryukyu, the people and government of Okinawa, and the Ryukyu islands before they were absorbed, forcefully, into Japan.

Little living Ryukyu culture survives.

Naha, a port city, does not appear as prosperous as the Japanese cities we toured earlier. The parks are not as carefully trimmed, there is the occasional bottle or plastic bag on the street and there are signs of wear and tear.

This is another scene from a park in Okinawa. Photo courtesy of Ed Martin

Still, as we have found to be true everywhere we have visited in Japan, the people are kindly, polite and warm in their smiles.

Nov. 1: Keelung, Taiwan

The Martins’ ship moves through the port of Keelung. Photo courtesy of Ed Martin

Wikipedia tells us that, according to early Chinese accounts, this northern coastal area originally was called Pak-kang (Chinese: 北港; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Pak-káng).

By the early 20th century, the city was known to the Western world as Kelung, as well as the variants Kiloung, Kilang and Keelung. In his 1903 general history of Taiwan, James W. Davidson, the U.S. consul to Formosa (1898–1904), related that “Kelung” was among the few well-known names; thus, it warranted no alternate Japanese romanticizing.

However, the Taiwanese people have long called the city Kelang (Chinese: 雞籠; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Ke-lâng/Koe-lâng; literally: “rooster cage” or “hencoop”). It has been proposed that this name was derived from the local mountain with the shape of a rooster cage. However, it is more probable that the name was derived from the first inhabitants of the region, as were the names of many other Taiwanese cities. In this case, the Ketagalan people were the first inhabitants, and early Han settlers probably approximated “Ketagalan” with Ke-lâng (Hokkien phonetics).

Entering the port from Okinawa, our ship passed through a stretch of container port. At an estimated 2 miles in length, it is the largest we have seen so far. Considering that we were entering an industrialized island country, it is reasonable to believe that the country’s existence depends on huge numbers of imports and exports.

This a view of the city of Keelung. Photo courtesy of Ed Martin

Keelung City is located in the northern part of Taiwan Island. It occupies an area of 132.76 km (51.26 square miles) and is separated from its neighboring county by mountains in the east, west and south. The northern part of the city, which faces the ocean, has been a great deep-water harbor since early times.

Taipei is about 25 miles away, connected by rail as part of one metropolitan area.

A systematic city development started during the Japanese era, after the 1895 Treaty of Shimonoseki was signed; the treaty handed all of Taiwan over to Japan.

After the withdrawal of the Japanese, Taiwan became part of the Republic of China (ROC) in October 1945, Keelung was established as a provincial city of Taiwan Province.

Rain clouds hang over Keelung. Photo courtesy of Ed Martin

The Keelung City government worked with the harbor bureau to rebuild the city and the harbor, and in 1984, the harbor became the seventh largest container harbor in the world.

We expect rain today, so we hope for more exploration tomorrow.