Uncovering Forgotten Japanese-era Remains

Chinese version here 中文版請點擊


The Trail – Past and Present

The Liugui Special Garrison Trail once ran from present-day Dajin (entrance to Maolin) all the way up north of Baolai in the Taoyuan District, a distance of over 50 km. It was built to protect those who were harvesting camphor in the mountains from attacks by the Aboriginal population. There were over 50 police stations along the route, approximately one every kilometer! They even had electric fences set up. Today, much of this trail is lost, although a few sections remain clear and walkable, near Tengzhi Forest Recreation Area and in Maolin. Remains of the police stations are visible on these sections, mostly as stone wall fragments, as are sections of trail reinforced by the Japanese with stacked stones. I had previously walked the clear Maolin section and enjoyed it thorougly. Strangely, the established trail seemed to stop along the ridgeline at Zhenwoshan South Peak and didn’t continue all the way down to Dajin, as it would have during the Japanese era.

Trails English


Today I set out to:

1) Find the original trail entrance near Dajin/Maolin entrance.

2) Walk as close as possible to the original route according to historical maps and see if any walkable sections of original trail remain in this gap between Dajin and Zhenwoshan South Peak.

3) See if I could find any remains of the Japanese-era police stations in this section.

4) See if I could actually make it all the way up to Zhenwoshan South Peak and connect to the established hiking route.

Map Evidence

This 1924 map from the Japanese era shows the Liugui Special Garrison Trail and select police stations along the trail. There are several issues with this map that prevented me from using it to figure out exactly where the old police stations and trail might be exactly, but at least this proves that the trail did indeed go all the way down to the east side of the river, across from Dajin, and that it mostly followed the ridgeline. I therefore decided to follow the ridgeline as closely as possible today. That was also the best way of ensuring I could get to Zhenwoshan South Peak and find the established trail.

historical 1924

Source: http://gissrv4.sinica.edu.tw/gis/twhgis.aspx

During my last trip to the extant section of trail, I came across this informational sign in the Shanping Forest Recreation Area:

Route map

It not only shows the names of all the stations, but appears to show the approximate route of the entire length of the trail. I wondered how accurate this representation of the route was and if the scale was correct, so I cropped the photo to show the southern end of the route, tweaked the size and orientation a bit and overlaid it onto Google Maps terrain view. I aligned the locations of Yokkaichi (四日市) Station and Narumi (鳴海) Station with the peaks of Wangzishan and Minghaishan respectively, as these are well known from the established hiking route. This overlaying actually gave me a nearly perfect correspondence between the route in the picture of the sign and the actual ridgeline:

overlay 1

Finally, this map shows both the established trail that is commonly hiked (solid yellow), and the lost section I would be attempting to find (dashed yellow line).

overlay 2

The Search

After arriving at the entrance to Maolin, I had to first find somewhere to enter the mountain. The last time I drove by here, I had noticed a set of concrete stairs that seemed to go up to nowhere.


This was right in line with the ridge line coming down, and there must have been something important up there in the past if stairs were built, so I decided to start walking here today. After getting to the top of the stairs, there was something resembling a path for a short while, but nothing resembling the well built garrison trail in the higher sections. In fact, if it weren’t for the occasional piece of garbage, I wouldn’t have been sure if people were walking the trail or just animals. The trail eventually got less and less obvious until I was just bushwhacking. This was very, very slow going. I couldn’t walk in a straight line most of the time because I had to pick my way around fallen trees, bushes that were too dense to walk through, thorny plants, etc. Luckily it’s quite a distinct ridgeline so I could always tell the general direction I needed to go. I did pass a couple of very open spots with nice views along the way:


First evidence

Then, after an hour of walking, this:


This badly overgrown place was definitely manmade and appeared to be more than just the garrison trail. It was a large flattened area with reinforced stacked-stone walls on two levels and old postholes scattered throughout. There was also a concrete post with the character on it, identical to others I had seen on the upper parts of the trail. I felt pretty confident this was one of the police stations, probably the first one closest to the entrance, so I recorded the GPS coordinates for later verification. On the east side of this area I believe I finally found the actual trail itself. It appeared to be about 2 meters wide, level, and went in a roughly straight line.


I tried following the actual trail further up the mountain, but it soon became too overgrown and broken down to follow and I had to keep bushwhacking my way up. Tough work… thorny plants everywhere!!!

More evidence

Soon I came across a ceramic electrical insulator on the ground! This does not look like the ones found on modern power poles: it is much smaller, a different shape, and brown. It is likely a remnant of the electrical fence system that ran along the garrison trail when it was still in use. Even though the trail wasn’t really visible, at least I knew I was still in the right ballpark.


After a while I came across this rope (!) meaning at some point in the past (20 years ago? 30 years? more?) people did actually hike the way I was going today. I also encountered a couple ribbons in one spot.


Around this time, there were more and more sections of straight level ground that looked like they could have been part of the original trail. Still, everything was overgrown and it was not easy walking.

And another station?

Eventually I came to another area that appeared to be flatter and more clear than anywhere else. Someone had been up there cutting trees down in the past few years, too, maybe even this year. Adjacent to this area, there was a man-made clearing that appeared to be the junction of three different roads, all badly overgrown.


It was hard to tell if there had been a station here before, but this definitely appeared to be some kind of hub of activity, so I recorded the coordinates again.

From here I was surprised to find that one of the roads leading away from the clearing was actually not just walkable but perhaps drivable. Google shows this road as well, but it doesn’t show it connecting to anything and it’s not quite on the ridgeline but to the east of it, so I decided to continue following the ridgeline upwards instead of following the road. This was the most direct way to get to Zhenwoshan South Peak. And if I couldn’t make it to that peak, I would have to bushwhack my way all the way back down to the entrance and I did NOT WANT TO DO THAT.

Back on a Real Trail

After 3 hours of walking but only 2.4 km covered (bushwhacking is SLOW), I suddenly stumbled into a clearing and almost ran right into the triangulation point stone. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I read Zhenwoshan South Peak on the piece of paper resting on the stone. From there it was still about 7km to get off the mountain and back to my motorcycle, but on lovely lovely ROADS.


Checking the Evidence

Once I got home, I put in the coordinates from the two suspected police station locations into Google Maps and, well, here’s the result:


Unbelievably, the points on the tourist information sign lined up nearly perfectly with the locations I stopped at today. Mission accomplished!


Going back over my goals for the day:

1) Find the original trail entrance near Dajin/Maolin entrance.

I found *an* entrance that allows you to walk up the ridgeline, but am still not sure if this was the original guerrison trail entrance. If not, it begs the question why is there a random staircase beside the road there?

2) Walk as close as possible to the original route according to historical maps and see if any walkable sections of original trail remain in this gap between Dajin and Zhewoshan South Peak.

A few sections were visible, but none of it is what I would call “walkable” and for most of the day I don’t think I was on the original trail. Pure bushwhacking.

3) See if I could find any remains of the two Japanese police stations in this section.

Kusatsu (草津) Station was clearly outlined and visible, but so overgrown it was impossible to actually stand up in most of it.

Ishibe (石部) Station is probably in the second area I stopped, but it was difficult to tell exactly what might have been buildings, what was trail, and what was later clearing.

I did not find Minakuchi (水口) Station but the search area was wider and clearer up there and I didn’t have time to look around much today.

4) See if I could actually make it all the way up to Zhenwoshan South Peak and connect to the established hiking route.


Final thoughts

I find it pretty amazing that just by following some rough historical maps, I was able to find the ruins exactly where predicted; it almost feels like magic! My clothes were ripped up, I was dirty and itchy all over, and my shoes were full of forest treasures by the end, but it was worth it!


3 thoughts on “Uncovering Forgotten Japanese-era Remains

  1. Pingback: 六龜警備道大津至真我山南峰段:搜索日治時期的遺跡 | tylercottenie

  2. melaxinyi says:

    wowza. This is amazing ! I never realised that… garrisons looked like that.. always wondered what those piles of stones were for. Oops. Nice adventuring 🙂


  3. Pingback: Explore Taiwan – Maolin and Duona | The World Is Not That Big

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