Remembering Zorro: A friend to the CNMI


File photo shared by Frances Mary Sablan shows three generations of the Sablan family posing with Yasuo Miyazawa, center, during the Seisa Gakuen Ski & Cultural Exchange in Yokohama, Japan. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO)

Yesterday, March 23, marked one year since the loss of a friend and advocate of the CNMI, Yasuo Miyazawa, whom many lovingly remembered as “Zorro.”

Several of Miyazawa’s friends around the globe, including those here in the CNMI, took time to remember, and pay tribute to the founder of the Kokusai Gakuen Educational Institute, which established close ties with the CNMI for close to 35 years, and created the Participate and Learn cultural and sports exchange program between his school and Marianas High School, and later the Francisco M. Sablan Elementary School.

It was in 1987 when Miyazawa, alongside the late MHS teacher, Bert Thompson, started the PAL program. Since then, students from Japan and Saipan have been building a “friendship bridge,” learning cultural appreciation and awareness through sports and cultural activities, with well over 7,000 Japanese students coming to learn CNMI culture and history, and hundreds of students from here broadening their international experiences, learning the culture and history of Japan, making friends, and learning to adjust to different climates.

In 2011, the CNMI Legislature acknowledged Miyazawa’s effort to foster international peace and goodwill and presented him with a House resolution.

Because of Miyazawa’s enthusiasm and investment in education and cross-pollenating cultural knowledge through international education for nearly three decades, many friendships were built, and both students and teachers in the CNMI hold memories from their experiences through being involved in the program. Many of those who knew Miyazawa personally remember him as “Zorro”—both a personal friend and a friend of the CNMI.

Former MHS vice principal Frances Mary Sablan said she always looked forward every year for over three decades to the annual cultural and sports exchanges between Seisa Gakuen and Marianas High School, and later with the Francisco M. Sablan Elementary School, not just as a school administrator and cultural exchange chaperone of Marianas High School, but also as a lifelong friend.

“We miss you, my friend! Thank you for your love, friendship, hospitality and fond memories,” Sablan added.

James W. Feger, who is the founder and president of World Organized Roccball/Rocball and an MHS teacher Marianas High School, said that Miyazawa established the annual Sport and Cultural Exchange Program with students from the Seisa Gakuen High School of Yokohama, Japan and Marianas High School in 1985.

He also credits Miyazawa as the first to introduce Rocball—which he describes as Saipan’s own sport—to the international community.

Chrystal Marino | Correspondents | Correspondents
A correspondent for Saipan Tribune, Chrystal Marino enjoys travelling, writing and meeting new people. When she is not writing, she finds ways to be involved in the community. She currently covers community beats. For any community news stories reach out to her at

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