Satoshi Kobayashi first came to Saipan in 1989 to represent his company that was a sponsor in the Tagaman Triathlon.
That first visit kicked off a 31-year love affair with the island, one that has made the Kyoto native and his family take as much as four vacations in a year on Saipan.
Through Grandvrio Resort Saipan assistant F&B manager Shuji Kuroda, who served as interpreter, Kobayashi narrated how he first came to Saipan as an area manager for a large Japanese chain of restaurants.
He remembers both meeting then Marianas Visitors Bureau managing director Jesus Manuel “J.M.” V. Deleon Guerrero and CNMI sports hall of famer Wilhelm “Bill” Sakovich, the two prime movers of the Tagaman along with Wolf Mojica.
Kobayashi said back then Saipan was a quaint little island with nary a traffic light in contrast to today where traffic lights are as ubiquitous as the myriad of vehicles that now cause traffic along Beach Road.
But one thing that hasn’t changed for him and his family is Saipan’s postcard perfect sunsets that they can readily view from their hotel room at Grandvrio (called Hafadai Beach Hotel for the most part of his 31 years visiting Saipan), its turquoise waters, and the overall natural beauty of the island they have come to know as paradise.
Back then, Kobayashi, recounted, Saipan was teeming with Japanese tourists. Unlike the past several years where Chinese and Korean visitor arrivals arrive by the planeload.
Kobayashi and his wife, 82-year-old Harumi, developed such a strong bond with the island that their grandson, Minoru, had his wedding here back in 2005.
In this particular trip to Saipan, the Kobayashis brought their 55-year-old daughter, Masae Masuda, and their 23-year-old granddaughter, Tomomi Masuda.
This is also not Masae’s first time on Saipan, as she counts coming to the Katori Jinja Shrine at the Sugar King Park as one of her fondest memories visiting the island. She also said she remembers Minoru and Tomomi playing on Saipan’s white sandy beaches like it was yesterday.
For Tomomi, she’s been coming to Saipan with her grandparents, her mother, and her brother since she was 6 years old and that she always enjoys the tour of Marpi, especially going to the Last Command Post, Banzai Cliff, and Suicide Cliff.
A teary eyed Satoshi said he will also not forget the friends he has nurtured on Saipan all these years. One such friend is Susan Gaspar.
Satoshi said he and his family have known Gaspar the past 25 years and treat her like family. For her part, the Grandvrio dining supervisor said she loves the Kobayashi family with all her heart and always looks forward to their frequent visits to the island.
The Kobayashis and the Masudas, who will fly out to Japan this morning, hope to rekindle their fondness of the island when they return.