After 25 years, Matsumoto couple says sayonara

Posted on Sep 27 2011

Willie and Aya Matsumoto, the formidable husband-and-wife force behind the longstanding Pacific Eagle Enterprises Inc., will bid Saipan farewell after calling it home for 25 years.

The couple confirmed in an interview yesterday that they will are heading back tomorrow, Sept. 29, to their hometown, Himeji City, which is famous for its UNESCO World Heritage Site castle and is located in the Hyōgo Prefecture in the Kansai region of Honshū island.

Aya disclosed that the main reason for their departure is her 79-year-old mother who is presently living by herself.

But both husband and wife said that they would still be coming back to the island from time to time to check on their businesses and hopefully bring with them tour groups and engage in potential business ventures between Saipan and Japan.

Aya recounted how her parents had advised her to move to Saipan as the island, already a famous destination for many Japanese at that time, would do her good.

“I was eight months pregnant then,” said Aya. “The reason why I came here was because I was weak at that time.”

Back in those days, Aya recalled how things were “very different” as Saipan was “like a jungle” with only a few hours of rationed water.

While the Commonwealth enjoyed an economic boom in the ‘90s, Willie noted that things have become stagnant in the last few years.

“Everything stays the same and that’s also one reason why we’re leaving,” said Willie. “But we plan to do and give something good for this island by encouraging visitors and investors to come here.”

In fact, both Willie and Aya already have their calendars full of meetings with various groups, starting with the Katori Shrine group, a TV station in Tokyo, and the Nenpou Shinkyou group.

Aya disclosed that they plan to tap more prayer groups, cultural exchange groups, and college student groups to visit Saipan. She maintained that the island has many educational resources, encompassing topics such as environment, history, and international relations.

“I think Saipan is ‘Little Asia’ so it’s easy for Japanese to learn about how Asians are doing here,” she told Saipan Tribune.

With Saipan having a “very friendly island” reputation among Japanese tourists, most of whom are repeat visitors, Willie and Aya underscored the need to make the most of this leverage and work on getting more flights from Japan.

According to Aya, the CNMI could do with regular flights—not charter flights—at least thrice a week from the west side of Japan, where most vacationers know only about Guam and Palau as there are no brochures about Saipan available there.

Aya also noted the importance of having short-term, medium-term, and long-term plans for the Commonwealth, given the current economic situation of the islands.

“The government relies a lot on businesses so they should help businesses in return. Business groups should talk and cooperate with each other as well,” she said.

For Aya, what she’ll miss most about Saipan are her diverse and lovely friends, the climate, and golfing. Willie, on the other hand, will surely miss fishing.

The last few days have been surprising and touching for the couple after having received several recognition for their contribution to the CNMI, including the Tourism Ambassador plaque from the Marianas Visitors Authority and a certificate of appreciation from the Saipan Mayor’s Office. A farewell party was also hosted for them by friends at the Fiesta Resort and Spa last Sept. 22.

“We really appreciate the acknowledgment they’ve given us. We feel happy and honored,” said Aya.

The couple maintained that their businesses—which include hotel supply, construction and maintenance, business consulting services, and film coordinating service—will remain here and that they will be back for the Japanese festival in October and bring a TV talent group by December.

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