Banzai Cliff as cemetery for Japanese war dead?
By Agnes Donato
Monday, March 13, 2006
The Banzai Cliff in Marpi could soon turn into a cemetery for the Japanese war dead, with the governor offering the property to the families of World War II soldiers who lost their lives on Saipan.
Gov. Benigno R. Fitial announced Friday that he had received two pledges of donation amounting 10 million Japan yen (about $84,000) each for the planned cemetery.
A separate offer of $100,000 has also been made for the sole benefit of the Public School System, he said.
“I am making land available at Banzai Cliff for Japanese groups to build a temple. This temple will be a token of our appreciation for the Japanese people visiting Saipan. I am also offering the same property to all the families and relatives of 47,000 war heroes who lost their lives here on Saipan to come and erect monuments,” Fitial said during his weekly press conference.
I can’t think of a more depressing idea. The Banzai Cliff was what hundreds of Japanese civilians jumped from in the aftermath of the battle. They chose to end it all rather than be raped and tortured by the Americans (UPDATE: …or so they may have believed. Another blogger, objecting to this “spin” – though it was unintentional – helpfully pointed out some of the sacrifices US soldiers made to save Japanese civilians in Saipan. Take a look.). I remember seeing on the History Channel a mother jump with her child no more than 50 feet from the American soldiers who looked on with a
video camera rolling.
But will this save Saipan’s embattled tourist industry? It remains to be seen:
Tourist arrivals from Japan continue to drop as a result of Japan Airlines’ decision to cease all regular, scheduled flights to Saipan in October 2005.
Data from the Marianas Visitors Authority showed that the CNMI received only 25,555 visitors from Japan in January 2006. This represents a 29-percent decline compared with the 35,795 Japanese who came to the islands in January 2005.
But MVA is hopeful that the Japan market would recover when Northwest Airlines increases the frequency of its Tokyo flights beginning next month.
Northwest, which currently operates seven weekly flights between Saipan and Narita, will have 10 flights a week between the two points starting April 24, 2006.
The new service will operate a second Boeing 747 jumbo jet from Tokyo, flying three times a week. The aircraft will carry 400 economy and 30 business class passengers.
Homework assignment: Does anything similar exist in the world? There are certainly things like the Normandy memorial or Auschwitz, but are there any war memorials designed almost purely as tourist traps? I’m kind of offended — maybe Saipan does suck!