Meandering through Jiufen Old Street can make you feel like you’re in a fantasy world—no wonder it inspired the hit Hayao Mizayaki flick Spirited Away. It was released in 2001 and won the Oscar for Best Animated Film in 2003.
Amidst the narrow alleyways and crowds, you’ll get the Spirited Away vibe in Jiufen because of its majestic red lanterns, cobblestone paths, colorful shops, and graffiti. Add to that the mystery of secret passages and stairways leading you somewhere else. Another major element in the movie that can also further immerse you in the town’s culture is food. To enjoy a magical journey in the village, here’s your guide to a Spirited Away food trip in Jiufen.
If you’re like Chihiro’s parents who love food but don’t have the appetite of a glutton, you can start with light ones, like the tasty Taiwanese sausages.
On No. 85 in Jishan Street, look for the woman with a large flower in her hair, who everyone calls the “Flower Lady” at the Wu Di Taiwanese Sausage stall. She sells the Taiwanese Kurobuta or black pig sausages that are juicy and tender but with some crunchiness. Her stall also sells squid ink Kurobuta and fish egg sausages. Sometimes, you’ll spot a stall that sells sausages made with fish roe, wild boar, and squid.
A few steps from the Flower Lady is the Ah Lan Hakka Glutinous Rice Cake, on No. 90 in Jishan Street. Their rice cakes are stuffed with sweet red beans, yam, green beans, and vegetables. They have both sweet and salty versions.
A Mei Tea House Drinks and Delicacies
In the film, Chihiro’s parents magically transform into pigs, and she ends up running towards Jiufen, which is depicted as a literal ghost town.
Right at the center of the town is a spa for spirits, owned by the witch Yubaba. This spa is identical to the century-old A Mei Tea House.
In one scene, No Face and Yubaba’s twin sister, Zeniba, can be seen enjoying some tea and sweet treats. The spa workers feed No Face with lots of food, and he eats until his body swells. He eats tonkatsu, fish dumplings, pigs, sushi, and other Japanese dishes. The teahouse also offers Taiwanese candies and cakes that Boh, Yubaba’s baby, loves.
Today, A Mei Tea House attracts many Japanese travelers because Spirited Away and its director, Hayao Miyazaki, are well-loved in Japan. You can unwind at the teahouse after hours of shopping and climbing Jiufen’s countless steps. If you want an al fresco dining experience, you can go to the top floor of the teahouse where there is an outdoor area, where you can catch a breathtaking view of the mountain and breathe in some fresh air.
For afternoon tea, you can order a set that includes a small pot of tea, sesame crackers, sugared plums, a small bean cake, and mochi. There are many stores in the Old Street that sell mochi in different flavors and colors. You can also take them home in boxes. Mochi can also be used in other desserts. Try the Mochi Ball Dessert Soup, which has beans and ice if you opt for the cold version.
How To Get To Jiufen
Jiufen is tucked away in the mountainous area of the Ruifang District in New Taipei City, Taiwan. To travel from Taipei to Jiufen, you can take the MRT blue line to Zhongxiao Fuxing Station Exit 1, then hop on bus 1062 to Jiufen Old Street Station. Taking the taxi will cost you 1,200-1,400TWD.
To skip the public transportation and maximize your stay in Taiwan, you can book a Taiwan North Coast Day Tour which will bring you to Jiufen, Yehliu Geopark, and Shifen Waterfall. You can also travel with ease through Taipei – Jiufen Shuttle Service and enjoy a direct shared transfer from Taipei to Jiufen Old Town.