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Japanese colonial-era building in Taipei to be opened to public

The Railway Department Park in downtown Taipei. (Kyodo)

TAIPEI (Kyodo) -- A newly restored building constructed in Taipei over a century ago to house the railway headquarters of the Japanese colonial government will be opened to the public on Tuesday.

    Speaking at the opening ceremony of the Railway Department Park in downtown Taipei, President Tsai Ing-wen said the park near the capital city's main train station is "the starting point of Taiwan's modern history."

    "Since the Machinery Bureau was built in 1884 (during the Qing Dynasty), this area is where Taiwan's industrial science and railway system started," Tsai said.

    After Taiwan was ceded to Japan in 1895, the Machinery Bureau was turned into a weapon repair center and then an artillery factory. In 1900, the colonial government's Railway Department took over the compound and used it as its administrative headquarters.

    After the Japanese left in 1945, after the end of World War II, the compound became the headquarters of the Taiwan Railways Administration for about 70 years before it relocated elsewhere.

    The compound consists of eight historic sites.

    Completed in 1918, the arc-shaped building that served as the administration headquarters of the Railway Department of the colonial government was the work of Japanese architect Matsunosuke Moriyama, who designed many of Taiwan's most important public buildings, including the Presidential Office.

    The octagon male washroom was built in 1919 when modern public toilets were rare. The electrical room was built before 1925 with bricks and wood. The staff canteen building was completed in 1933 and its extension, which housed the Office of Management and Accounting, was completed in 1941.

    The cone-shape wartime command center was built in 1943 with reinforced concrete and explosion-proof iron door as an emergency shelter for senior staff. Believed to be completed after 1934, the wooden structure of the construction room was used as the administrative room for construction department.

    Seeking to preserve and revitalize the century-old compound, the Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Transportation and Communications signed a cooperation agreement in 2013 with the Taiwan Railways Administration and the National Taiwan Museum.

    Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin China-lung told the same ceremony that a modern railway system built by the Japanese provided not only conditions necessary for early industrialization but also promote unity of the society.

    Lin said the compound could not be located at a better place. It is at the intersection of the round-the-island railway meets the north-south high-speed railway, Taipei's mass rapid transit and the rapid transit line of Taoyuan Metro systems.

    Calling the opening of the compound a "milestone" in the government's efforts to preserve and revitalize historic sites, Minister of Culture Lee Yung-de said the compound was the first industrial park in early Taiwan and played a leading role in the modernization of the island.

    The Railway Department Park is the newest branch of the National Taiwan Museum.

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