Jiufen Didn’t Inspire “Spirited Away”—But It’s Still Awesome

Jiufen Didn’t Inspire “Spirited Away”—But It’s Still Awesome

The first time I visited the Jiufen Old Street, conditions were not ideal. It was raining (which is no surprise in Taiwan, to be fair), but so windy that my umbrella literally snapped. Well, umbrellas; I went through two in a matter of minutes.

In fact, it isn’t inaccurate to say that at that time, I mostly wrote Jiufen off. It was nearly impossible to walk around without getting soaked, let alone to sightsee.

Back then, if you’d asked me “is Jiufen worth visiting?”, I’d probably have abstained. So, what changed?

Need help planning your trip to Taiwan? Commission a custom Taiwan itinerary!

How to Get to Jiufen

Before I get to the prospect of browsing Jiufen hotels, I should probably explain how to get to Jiufen. This intimidates some travelers, since Jiufen isn’t served by train. But don’t let this deter you. Dozens of buses travel daily from Taipei to Jiufen, whether from the bus section of Taipei Main Station, or even more conveniently from MRT Zhongxiao Fuxing, which is served by both the Blue and Brown Lines.

Don’t want to take a bus? There are a few other options. If you’re embarking on a Taiwan road trip down the east coast, you can stop here on your way to either Yilan or Hualien. This is especially nice because it’s easy to tack on a visit to either the Golden Waterfall or Shifen Waterfall, or to stop in Pingxi. The other option, of course, is to take either a private tour or a small group tour from Taipei to Jiufen.

Things to Do in Jiufen

Walk the Old Street


Once you get off the bus in Jiufen, you can simply follow the crowds to the Jiufen Old Street. Whether you come here to eat peanut ice cream rolls, to shop for trinkets or simply to take pictures and people-watch, this is the place most people imagine when they think of Jiufen.

Visit the Gold Museum


Another place you’ll find on many a Jiufen travel blog is the Jiufen Goldore Museum. Located less than 10 minutes by foot from the Old Street, this museum is dedicate to Jiufen’s heritage as a gold mining hub, the story of which it tells in an engaging, accessible way.

See the “Spirited Away” view


In case you didn’t know, Jiufen did not inspire “Spirited Away,” as Hayao Miyazaki had never been there when he created it; he didn’t even know such a place exists. In spite of this, if you position yourself just to the west of A-Mei Teahouse, especially at night, you’ll feel like you’re in that anime.

Hike at Teapot Mountain


Who says your Jiufen itinerary has to stop in Jiufen? Once you finish in town, take a bus to nearby Qitang, which is where you find both a second Gold Museum, as well as well as the trailhead for Teapot Mountain. This is an easy but fulfilling hike, with fantastic views of the sea below.

Make an excursion to Shifen Waterfall


While the town of Pingxi itself is not really worth visiting outside of lunar near year, nearby Shifen Waterfall is a delight to see year-round. Another great waterfall, if you have time, is the Golden Waterfall, which you can actually see en route to the aforementioned Qitang.

Should You Stay Overnight in Jiufen?

For a long time, my answer to this question was “no.” Jiufen is pretty convenient to Taipei, especially once you get over any issue you have with taking buses; even if you do a hike or waterfall visit plus the Old Street, it’s unlikely to take you more than a few hours. During the pandemic, however, I got a wild hair and stayed the night—and I’m just so glad I did.

Now, to me there isn’t really a point in asking how many days in Jiufen you should stay; one night is more than enough. But whether you sleep at the simple Sunshine Villa or the more luxurious Formosa Arcadian Villa, being able to enjoy the atmospheric lanterns at night, and walk up to walk around before any other tourists get there? Well, that’s worth its weight in gold, pun intended.


Other FAQ About Visiting Jiufen

Is Jiufen worth going to?

Jiufen is absolutely worth going to, though I hope you have better weather than I did on my first trip. The question is not whether to go, but how to go—do you take a day trip from Taipei, or stay the night? Do you only see the Old Street, or do you hike or see waterfalls nearby?

How long do you need in Jiufen?

The good news? You can see Jiufen on a day trip from Taipei, even if you plan to incorporate outdoor activities off the Old Street. The better news? If you can spare a night in your Taiwan itinerary, sleeping in Jiufen unlocks another dimension of this magical town.

Is Spirited Away based on Jiufen?

According to Hayao Miyazaki himself, he had neither been to Jiufen nor seen pictures of it when he created “Spirited Away.” So there’s literally no way the town could’ve inspired the anime. This hasn’t stopped hordes of fans from descending upon Jiufen for this purpose, however.

The Bottom Line

Is Jiufen worth visiting? Well, if you don’t get the very worst weather conditions possible (as I did the first time I went), I think you’ll find the Old Street enchanting, even if it did not actually inspire “Spirited Away.” Indeed, the choice is not so much whether to go in the first place, but how to structure your trip. Do you come for a day, or stay overnight? Do you simply do the cultural thing, or add in a hike up nearby Teapot Mountain? Once you deal with the answers to these questions, all that’s left is getting on a bus and make your way there. Need personalized help planning your trip? Consider hiring me to help!


Subscribe to email updates!


Words, images and design ©2020-2024 Robert Schrader, All rights reserved. Read Privacy Policy or view sitemap.