Kuentai repatriates 800 Japanese servicemen


The Kuentai Association poses for a photo with CNMI residents including Saipan Mayor David M. Apatang last Saturday during the 3rd Annual Memorial Ceremony at the Aqua Resort Club Saipan parking area. (Kimberly A. Bautista)

The Kuentai Association, which has been repatriating Japanese servicemen remains from the CNMI for the past six years, has collected the remains of 800 servicemen until they were forced to put a stop to their repatriation.

The CNMI is known to be a mass burial ground for numerous ethnicities, specifically the Japanese who established livelihoods in the Northern Marianas and who also fought the United States Army in the islands during World War II back in the 1940s.

The Kuentai Association and Kuentai USA have been working extremely hard to bring home the thousands of Japanese servicemen who lost their lives in the CNMI and where never properly put to rest.

Last Saturday at the Aqua Resort Club Saipan parking area, also historically known as a mass burial site for both American and Japanese World War II servicemen, the Kuentai Association hosted their 3rd Annual Memorial Service to pray for the dead.

According to Kuentai USA chair Usan Kurata, the association has collected the remains of 800 Japanese soldiers out of over 20,000 for the past six years, but were forced to put a stop to their excavations due to nonsensical conditions imposed by the U.S. and CNMI governments.

“In the past six years, we collected 800 bones on this island. Eight-hundred were Japanese and we collected eight American,” he said.

“We only stopped our digging but we are still continuing our research… there are still 28,000 Japanese soldiers and 400 American soldiers on this island,” he added.

During the memorial ceremony, Saipan Mayor David M. Apatang made an appearance and was asked to give the opening remarks.

Apatang said he is deeply moved by the Kuentai Association’s determination to repatriate their own because these soldiers deserve to rest in peace with their loved ones after years of being away from home during the pre-and post-war.

Apatang is urging the CNMI government to allow the Kuentai Association to continue to repatriate their own.

Japan Consul to the CNMI Kinji Shinoda said that the memorial service is extremely important because it is not only to pray for the peace of the deceased servicemen who still remain on foreign land, but it also memorializes the ties that the CNMI will always have with Japan and the short period of peace before the Second World War broke that cost the CNMI, Japan, and the U.S., valuable lives.

The memorial ceremony was led by reverend Keisuke Bessho, venerable Hakuga Murayama, venerable Kouya Matsuoka, and venerable Kikkawa Yoshikawa.

The ceremony consisted of a traditional Japanese prayer of peace and the burning of incense for the spirits of the dead.

Kimberly Bautista Esmores | Reporter
Kimberly Bautista Esmores has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at kimberly_bautista@saipantribune.com.

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