Saipan, Desperate for Japanese Tourist “reparations,” Offers to Open its Own Version of Yasukuni

The governor of Saipan has made a morbidly cynical offer to the Japanese families of those who died in the bloody Battle of Saipan:

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!

14 thoughts on “Saipan, Desperate for Japanese Tourist “reparations,” Offers to Open its Own Version of Yasukuni”

  1. That is one of the more disturbing things I’ve read recently. What happened there, the brainwashing the civilians had received that was so strong as to compel them to suicide and now to try and commercialize that tragedy? There are some truly sick people.

  2. I don’t know about a “cemetery,” but a memorial (which I suppose could include a cemetary for those whose family members wish to have them buried there) is not out of order.

    It would be important for such a memorial to include frank information (e.g., including mention of the brainwashing which compelled many people to unnecessarily end their lives). Perhaps it could be put under the auspices of the National Park Service as part of War in the Pacific National HIstoric Park.

    Both Guam and the neighboring CNMI (which includes Saipan) are rich with World War II history and I see nothing wrong with promoting that as a reason to visit, especially if a memorial/cemetery can be done with sensitivity and tact.

    Let’s not forget that Saipan was legitimately (?) undisputed Japanese territory prior to the war, and the experiences of its locals somewhat different (?) from those of Guam, which was American territory invaded by the Japanese military where the local Chamorro were abused and, in some cases massacred. Attitudes toward the Japanese on this sad manner might be different in Saipan than had the same incident occurred in Guam.

    Anyway, I don’t think this is so morbid or such a bad idea, depending on how it is handled.

    Oh, and Mutant Frog,..

    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.

    A video camera? In 1945? Are you sure it wasn’t a plain, old-fashioned movie camera?

  3. Kushibo, I think ADAM probably was mistaken about the camera. But please, as a serious photo buff I wouldn’t make that mistake 😉

  4. Ah yes, my bad about the type of camera. I guess I was just so surprised that it was in color that it slipped my mind.

  5. Japanese in the Mariana Islands were skull-washed rather than brainwashed.

    Life magazine published a photograph of a woman standing next to a Japanese skull which her fiance had sent from the pacific, with the caption: “Arizona war worker writes her Navy boy-friend a thank-you note for the Jap skull he sent her” in the May 22, 1943 issue.
    US soldiers routinely used Japanese skulls as ornaments on military vehicles and as war trophies, after the flesh was boiled in lye or left to be eaten by ants. On February 1, 1943, Life magazine published a famous photograph by Ralph Morse which showed the charred, open-mouthed, decapitated skull of a Japanese soldier killed by US Marines at Guadalcanal, which was placed on the tank. (

    Soon after the publications of the pictures of the Japanese skulls used as ornaments in Life magazine, they were reported in Japan. It is understandable that Japanese tried to hide their bodies in jungle. No one wants to become ornaments for Americans.

    I’ve seen guys shoot Japanese wounded when it really was not necessary and knock gold teeth out of their mouths. .. I remember one time at Peleliu, I thought I’d collect gold teeth. One of my buddies carried a bunch of ’em in a sock. … The way you extracted gold teeth was by putting the tip of the blade on the tooth of the dead Japanese—I’ve seen guys do it to wounded ones—and hit the hilt of the knife to knock the tooth loose. …This Jap had been hit. One of my buddies was field-stripping him for souvenirs.. the guys dragging him around like a carcass…This guy had been a human being…. It was so savage. We were savages. (

    It has been reported that when the remains of Japanese soldiers were repatriated from the Mariana Islands in 1984, sixty percent were missing their skulls. (

  6. Aki, can’t you find a better source for your quotes than an irate, anti-American Balkan trying to use unsourced stories about American atrocities to cover up the genocide there? Honestly.

    Mutant Frog: “They chose to end it all rather than be raped and tortured by the Americans.” Really? Were they interviewed before they jumped?*

    *Just today read a Digg article that some people are biologically incapable of understanding sarcasm. Doubt that’s true here.

  7. Well, I’m *Adamu*, not Mutant Frog…

    No, but I guess if you asked them they wouldn’t say anything interesting. As the popular understanding goes, suicide was generally the way to go during the war rather than be taken prisoner…

  8. Tiki- While American soldiers weren’t actually engaged in systematic rape and torture of captured enemies, that WAS what the Japanese government propaganda was saying and the people of Saipan probably had no other source of information that would lead them to disbelieve those stories. Adam isn’t saying that they actually WOULD HAVE been raped and tortured, but that they believed that would have, and therefore presumably made what they thought was an informed decision to avoid capture through suicide.

  9. “It seems that revisionist history is distorting things somewhat in Japan, unlike in Germany ”

    Not exactly.The revisionist history belongs to the fringe in Japan.
    The atrocities are TAUGHT in Japanese text book.
    Kinda funny that there is no reference of Japanese tourist showing remorse on historic site of Japanese atrocities or any passerby interview who knows about Nanjing massacre never shows up on western journalism?Not a conspiracy theorist myself but it is pretty much against all the mathmatical probability.
    All I can say is pick up a textbook or subscribe any Japanese paper for a week,you ‘ll find out.

  10. I didn’t expect remorse- why should anyone who has no personal fault show remorse at the site of the River Kwai Bridge? The people responsible are two generations ago and for the most part dead. These tourists didn’t DO anything in 1943-45- they are blameless. I don’t expect them to be hanging their heads in shame. That would be ridiculous at best and racist at worst.

    However I was confused as to why a few groups of Japanese families chose to pose cheerily and smiling for photos at the Bridge as if it were a simple tourist folly rather than show the respect for the dead like all other visitors (regardless of ethnicity). The same was true in the war Cemetery. My only conclusion was that they did not know the real facts.

    But if you say that the real facts are known widely, then I must go back to being confused about their actions.

    I can only report what I see and mean no offence to anyone.

  11. That was a quick response.Gillian.

    They are not “blameless” you know that.These tourists are after all the Japanese and I have no clue where does racism has to do with this anyway.

    Few groups of the Japanese tourist chose to pose cheerly and smiling photo in the river Kwai is bizzare enough even to my Japanese ears.One of the question came up to my head was were they really Japanese and not any other East Asian national who can visit the place without much feeling of guilt and see the place simply as the David Lean movie related site.But I’ll just turn down the suspicion and cynicism and simply apologize for misbehave of my countrymen.I think our PM .late Ryutaro Hashimoto had apologized to UK vetereans in the page of The SUN in the 90’s at the occasion of his state visit.(I understand the bizarre choice but that was adviced by Peter Mandelson,you know).Nonetheless I repeat my own apology here.

    I’m very sorry for what my grand parents did and I’m very ashamed for my countrymen were doing at the presence of a British citizen in the cemetary,They were undeniably not acting properly.

    What I don’t understand about non-Japanese is they blame Japanese for un-German but never accept(or acknowledge) any kind of apology from Japan.(we accept no apology from the Japanese since it’s insincere,No,We don’t need any words we want actions,No,We just want sincere apology and not asking for money,No compensation is the only way to treat the victim with respect,look at Germany how they treat holocaust victims!Pay compensation to the your neighbors,No to the individual victims!)

    The Guys Donald had posted in your blog,William Underwood,David Mcneill and Tokyoite teacher who belongs to National Teacher’s union are all usual muckrakers,nothing wrong about that by the way.If only we can have some sort of counterargument and criticize and point out one or two(or more)factual errors with out being fingerpointed as “the revisionist”.
    The point is they exaggerate pretty much about lots of things and the strawman argument they keep making at the benefit of the Japanese liberals silence are to me, irritating.

    Sadly in your case you have witnessed something that would give you a concrete conviction which contradicts from my understanding of the situations.I won’t try to brainwash you in anyway.frankly speaking I wasn’t interested in making any counterargument on your comment not until I went to your blog and found those names that I despise.See,whenever one hype about Japan is made by English speakers,there are no ways to dismantle it from our side.and that become global conventional wisdom. When I was in school it was Japan buys up the whole world and wipe out the foreign competitors and destroy the world economy.Scarely.
    Many in Japan were saying that’s not gonna happen since that’s not the world we wanted to be.but nobody was listening.the iron triangle of media-expat-and Japanologist keep on writing “yeah that’s right your childrens are going to work under Japanese bosses as workhorse of Japan Inc working Japanese hours”.
    I won’t call that racism.Most of them simply couldn’t read Japanese.
    When I got my Job in 94 it was reverse,Japanese economy was too weak and Japan would drag the world economy into depression and destroy the world economy.We’ve been saying that’s not gonna happen,but the iron triangle said”yeah that’s right they don’t listen to our advice either they were too dumb or too lazy.”.We said “Hey wait a minuite.Things aren’t THAT bad”.But nobody was listening.
    Now the triangle says Japanese are not like Germans when it comes to the history.OK,we are not Germans.and we will never be like Germans.Simple reason.We are not Germans.But some of you can understand Japanese and you can speak up for us.”We feel sorry and doing what ever we can to make win-win relation to our former victims”and what have we got.Waves of anti-Japanese comment on internets.I’m blaming Mcneill and Underwood probably for emotional and unjustifiable irrationalism.But I always feel they just pack up and go home,So we can control our own narrative without lame interruptor. l

    If you want more internet debate on current state of Japanese war memory.I’m willing to take part.but it is getting late now and I don’t want to drag you into long and complicate debate.All I can say is the situation is a lot more complicate,a lot more complicate than the situation in Europe here.


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