The tiny mountain town of Jiufen 九份 is one of Taiwan’s most iconic attractions. It prospered under Japanese colonial rule but slipped into steep decline after the closure of the nearby gold mine in the 1970s. In 1989 it was featured in A City of Sadness, the first Taiwanese film to openly address 228 Incident, which prompted a modest reversal in fortunes as it became a local tourist destination. The trickle of visitors became a flood in the 2000s with the release of Studio Ghibli’s beloved Spirited Away, an animated film featuring a supernatural town inspired by Jiufen’s unique history and appearance.
It was this Miyazaki connection that first prompted me to visit Jiufen in 2013—and I must have returned at least a half dozen other times. There is always something new to see while exploring Jiufen’s twisted labyrinth of crooked streets, stairways, and tunnels, but it certainly helps to beat the crowds by visiting on a weekday.
I captured this photography at sunset a couple of months ago from the top floor of a restaurant opposite the famous teahouse pictured at lower right. In the background is Jilong Mountain 基隆山, a great place to go hiking. It was nice to get away from the crowds for a few minutes—and surprisingly the restaurant I shot this from was all but empty at the time.