Visiting Sanpoen members from Japan released into the waters off the Howood Junior High School a total of 300 handmade lanterns on Monday night to remember those who perished during World War II and to remember their ancestors who lost their lives on Saipan during the war.
According to Saipan Mayor David M. Apatang, who was present at Monday night’s lantern ceremony, his office has been accommodating these pilgrims for 39 years because the history that the island shares with Japan runs deep.
The Sanpoen pilgrims have been journeying to Saipan for over 30 years now to conduct their prayer rituals and lantern ceremony.
According to Apatang, the ceremony includes prayers at Suicide Cliff prior to the lantern ceremony. This year, the prayers were led by Buddhist chief priest Kansho Kayaki.
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, who was present for the sayonara party before the lantern ceremony, thanked Sanpoen for their continued visits to the Commonwealth.
According to Torres, the relationship between Sanpoen and the Commonwealth has allowed 1,700 Japanese students to venture to Saipan and over 1,000 local students to travel to Japan.
Torres said that the Sanpoen pilgrimage has served as a gateway for more Japanese tourists to venture to Saipan because former Sanpoen participants continue to advertise the islands.