MagicFest Taipei was held from June 7th to the 9th in Taipei, Taiwan. Taipei is only about a two and a half hour flight from Tokyo. In terms of travel, it felt more like going to somewhere like Okinawa, rather than an actual overseas GP. After arriving I noticed that all of the signs and billboards were in traditional kanji, so if you know Japanese kanji you’d be able to hazard a guess of what they were saying; it was a strange feeling.
They Can’t Speak English…?
In Taiwan, if you look Asian, you can definitely speak Chinese. People touting outside of shops, at convenience stores, restaurant staff and even the people that came to the GP, mainly spoke to me in native Chinese. So I looked up and memorized the translation for “I don’t understand Chinese”. If you say that, they can switch to English, or if they can’t speak English, they can call another person who can speak English. Even at the GP, there were some customers that didn’t speak English, but they were able to find one of their friends to help interpret. There’s always the last resort of Google Translate as well, so when there was a situation when we really couldn’t communicate at all, I leaned on Google Translate to help me out.
On the other hand, there were a few times where I spoke in English to Japanese people without realizing they were Japanese. There was quite a few Japanese players at the event. A customer came to the booth saying “excuse me”, so I responded and continued in English. He was looking for a card, but I didn’t know, so I asked the other staff member close to me translated into Japanese “Did you see this card?” Just then the customer exclaimed “Oh, you’re Japanese?” while laughing said “I just figured that every shop here hires local people, so I just spoke in English.” Even at overseas GPs, you can use Japanese at the TokyoMTG booth, so stop on by!
Food in Taipei
Japanese and Japanese food was really popular in Singapore (you can read about that here in my GP Singapore article), but in Taipei there were quite a few Japanse food restaurants and t-shirt shops. There were some Japanese restaurants with very interestings names, as well as well-known Japanese restaurants like Ootoya, Sukiya and Komeda’s Coffee.
Since I was always able to find white rice in Taipei, I didn’t really have any trouble eating while there. However, those who are not good with spice (Anise) should be careful. It’s safe to say it’s used in almost all pork and stewed dishes, but anise lends a really unique flavor to everything. Just walking around the center of town you will notice the smell. Inside convenience stores you’ll see simmering items sold like the Japanese oden, and the smell of anise is again there. I’m pretty good with spice in general so I thought all the pork dishes were really good.
Speaking of smells, another stand-out pungent smell was the “stinky tofu”. This is tofu that has been soaked in a fermented vegetable brine, but boy that smell was more intense than I imagined (Wikipedia describes the smell as the “the smell of feces”... I totally get it). It’s often sold at the night market and a few other places, but you can smell if someone has some from quite far away. I tried the stinky tofu one night actually and even though it was the fried version, it still stank to high heavens. I like natto, which is a stinky food here in Japan, and I eat it fairly often, but I couldn’t get over this particular smell… But, I suppose it depends on the person. One of the staff members that came to Taipei, Yoneda, said it was “actually pretty good” and proceeded to help me off what was left of mine. If any of you find yourselves in Taipei, give the “stinky tofu” a try!
We are currently mid-boom on the tapioca or bubble tea craze here in Japan, but it’s originally from Taiwan. In Taipei, there were tapioca drinks, tea, etc. all over the city and saw tons of locals with them. All I could think about what how a cheap, fast and delicious the bubble tea in Taipei was; it was all around just wonderful. There are no long lines like there is in Tokyo and the drinks were only ¥100 to ¥200; which is so much more reasonable. 50嵐 or 50 Lan, is tapioca drink stand that lets you decide on the amount of ice you want and even how sweet you want your drink.
A Hot and Humid Climate
A lot of the drink stands in Taipei are based around the climate interestingly. Taiwan is located just south of Okinawa and is a very hot country ranging from a climate ranging from tropical in the south to subtropical in the north. The rainy season was just starting during my stay in Taipei, but luckily (?) there were plenty of sunny days and the temperature was around 30°C everyday. It was also super humid so if you’re outside, you won’t stop sweating; even in the shade. Everyone is always walking around with a drink in their hand. It’s honestly pretty reasonable that there are so many drink stands. Coming back to the rainy season in Tokyo felt real chilly comparatively, after spending so much time in the intense heat.
Next article we’ll be heading back to a solder country for MagicFest Copenhagen! I’ll be careful not to catch a cold with all these climate changes!