Return of the Japanese


Author’s Note: Sour Grapes column readers will remember it has been a few years since that column was produced for the Saipan Tribune. This new weekly missive picks up where that one left off.

Thanks to some deft finagling, quite large expenditures and years of negotiations by MVA, we once again have direct flights from Japan to Saipan. The flight frequency, however, is limited and the key to increasing it is simple: keep the seats full.

Some claim that we can never get Japanese tourists back because we now have Chinese tourists and the two countries have a long history of feuding. I don’t buy that. If you look at the stats for outbound Japanese tourists that travel to China and Chinese tourists that travel to Japan you will be amazed at the very large numbers going both directions. This tells me that travel, as usual, tends to open minds and smooth out differences. If they are not coming here to the CNMI, there is another reason(s). Lack of sufficient, affordable and conveniently scheduled air seats is a factor, but one we can remedy if other tourism support measures are in place.

If you have ever traveled in Japan you will notice one unifying feature whether you are in a big city or out in the countryside in a small village. It is neat, clean, and well organized. We need to keep this in mind if the Marianas islands are to continue to woo visitors from Japan.

Yutu was a devastating storm but it was seven months ago. A lot has been done and is currently being done to recover but the rebuilding process seems to be stalled. We have areas of our beautiful islands that still look like war zones and that is not conducive to providing an ideal destination for our visitors. We need to treat recovery, at least in visible high traffic areas, as a very high priority. I understand that this reconstruction is a high priority for personal, family, and social reasons as well. Even so, it seems to be moving at a snail’s pace and I would suggest that we all need to pull together to get the place looking right as soon as possible. The government can’t do it alone.

If it seems shallow to you to claim tourism as a high priority for increased speed in recovering from this very personal human tragedy that has touched nearly every life on Saipan and Tinian, please remember that the CNMI currently has only one significant source of income—tourism. Already the central government and private industry are feeling the pinch of reduced income. We need a healthy tourism market and an appealing destination if we want to see that income increase so essential services can be provided and growth and prosperity return to our shores.

Meanwhile in the Philippines

I couldn’t help noticing that there was a new official state holiday this year on June 5. It’s a lunar calendar-based holiday and will change dates each year.

While there is a good deal of diversity in the language, ethnicity and social mores among Philippine citizens, it is overwhelmingly Catholic in its religious observances. There is a sizable Muslim minority in the island of Mindanao and, to a lesser extent, elsewhere in the Philippines but their numbers by comparison are quite small, similar to here in the CNMI. This makes it all the more unusual that President Duterte has proclaimed the end of Islamic Ramadan, called Eid, or Eid’l Fitr, as an ongoing official holiday.
Is the President looking to bring his people together, like the MLK holiday in the U.S. has done over the years, or is he thinking Nobel Peace Prize? Either way, Eid in Muslim countries is marked by large-scale commercial celebrations that are a response to the self-imposed fasting privations of Ramadan. Like a New Year holiday in the U.S., it generates a lot of fun for those celebrating and a lot of money for merchants. Something to think about.

In a discussion with a politically-observant Filipino about this issue, it was his opinion that President Duterte has a history during his time as Davao City mayor of bringing peace to the area via inclusionary measures like this new national holiday. In Davao, the Christian majority, the Muslim minority and indigenous tribal religious customs now more or less peacefully coexist as a result of his efforts. Nothing wrong with a little peace as far as I can see.

…and in Merry Olde England

In England and France, world leaders and the international press gathered to focus on today’s politically correct version of the massive D-Day invasion of Europe and its role in landing the armies that brought closure to World War II against Hitler’s Nazis there. There was hoopla and extravaganza aplenty and the coverage reached most everyone in the world, reminding people of names like Calais, Normandy and the various invasion beaches. The result is name recognition and huge numbers of visitors coming year after year to that French shore to commemorate the heroic Allied efforts now 75 years in the past.

Just a few days after-D Day on June 6, 1944, another huge invasion took place, landing another army on a shore that culminated in another victory for Allied forces that led to the end of the war with Germany’s Axis partner, Japan. The invasion of Saipan was as important to VJ day as the invasion of Normandy was to VE day. So where is the international press? Will President Trump meet with Prime Minister Abe, President Duterte, President Xi Jinping, and President Jae-in Moon on the shores of the Saipan lagoon to commemorate that historic battle and the ultimate defeat of the Japanese empire? Not that I know of.

The way to make that happen is to blow our own horn. Blow it loudly, blow it often. Blow it relentlessly so that when June 15, 2044, rolls around, the focus will be here, bring that same name recognition and those thousands of visitors year after year to our shores just as they congregate now on the shores of France. Gordon Marciano (PDI), Don Farrell and many others work at this task most every day, organizing and bringing in vets and others interested in that period of world history. They need help and funding and the concerted efforts of the rest of us to help them focus that worldwide attention on Saipan, Tinian, Rota, Pagan and even Anatahan where the Japanese did not surrender until 1951.

We can get a huge benefit from this kind of coverage at a small cost to us in funds but a large cost in our promotional efforts. Much like we could take advantage of another world recognized brand name…Amelia Earhart…if we were but to focus our efforts on tying our destination brand name with hers. But that is a story for another day. Thanks for reading!

The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy’s not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him; not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact that we have made our position unassailable.—Sun Tzu

Peace is not a relationship of nations. It is a condition of mind brought about by a serenity of soul. Peace is not merely the absence of war. It is also a state of mind. Lasting peace can come only to peaceful people.—awaharlal Nehru


Bruce A. Bateman resides on Saipan with a wife, a son, and an unknown number of boonie dogs. He has owned and operated a number of unusual businesses and most recently worked as the marketing manager for MVA. Bruce likes to read, travel, tinker with bicycles, hike, swim, and play a bit of golf. He is opinionated and writes when the moon is full and the mood strikes.


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