Twenty members of the Japan War-Bereaved Association from the Shizuoka Prefecture traveled to the Northern Marianas last week to hold their annual memorial service and perform community service to the islands.
Led by association chair Hideo Yamashita, the group, composed of sons and daughters of Japanese soldiers who died in the CNMI during World War II, was also accompanied by one escort when they arrived on island on Oct. 2.
The visitors flew to Tinian to visit war memorial sites then returned to Saipan where members individually held memorial services on various parts of the island before holding last Saturday afternoon their final memorial service as a group at the Last Command Post in Marpi.
Amid gray skies and light rain, the Japan War-Bereaved Association members and other prefecture leaders were joined by Japan Consul Tsutomu Higuchi as the group offered prayers, flowers, memorial songs, and incense in honor of family members and friends who perished in the CNMI during the war 68 years ago.
In his native tongue, Yamashita expressed hope that there will no longer be any war in the world and that there will be eternal peace between nations. He said that through their annual memorial service, they can continue to build a strong and lasting relationship between Japan and the Commonwealth.
With the assistance of ground handler Pau Pau Tours, the group also took part in a tree-planting activity in Marpi following the memorial service.
On Saturday morning, the group went to the Commonwealth Health Center to donate one wheelchair to the island's only hospital and another to the Council on Developmental Disabilities.
Yamashita presented the donation to hospital staff led by chief operating officer Esther Muña, and to Ray Diaz, Council on Developmental Disabilities assistive technology program coordinator.
Yamashita, through an interpreter, said they brought the wheelchairs as an offering to the community, adding that the wheelchairs are strong, long-lasting, and easy to use.
In return, Diaz presented the group with a certificate of appreciation. “We'll make sure it's used properly. I know the disability community will appreciate this wheelchair,” he said.
Muña acknowledged the group's generosity to CHC, which they demonstrate every time they visit the island for their annual pilgrimage.
“CHC is definitely struggling,” she told Saipan Tribune. “To have a durable medical equipment provided by an organization that considers the CNMI as part of their family is amazing and we really appreciate it.”
While the hospital has wheelchairs, Muña said some already need replacements. “We welcome any donation at the hospital because it's a big help for us when we don't have to purchase equipment or supplies,” she added.
The visiting group flew back to Japan on Sunday.