This essay addresses Taiwan’s history during the five decades of Japanese colonial rule. Most scholarly studies of Taiwan, particularly those published in English, have explored other eras, principally the post-1945 period and the centuries of Qing rule (1684–1895), and the significance of these fifty years had long been under-emphasized. In more recent times there has been greater attention to the Japanese occupation of Taiwan, although most of these works have been primarily concerned with the practices and effects of Japanese imperialism. The present work builds upon existing scholarship to advance two primary arguments. First, the interactions between the peoples of Taiwan and the machinery and discourses of Japanese colonialism fundamentally altered both the face of Taiwan and the consciousness of many of its residents. Second, these changes, especially the creation of Taiwanese identities, were the foundation for the establishment of Taiwan as an autonomous socio-political entity after 1945. On the basis of these arguments, it presents Taiwan and the Taiwanese as the central subjects and actors in both national and non-national historical narratives.