82-year-old Etatsu Shinjo from Okinawa, Japan had always dreamed of visiting Saipan, but did not get the chance until yesterday.Shinjo, who joined a group of 86 members of the Micronesian Repatriation Association stopping over here on their way to Guam, wanted to see the place where his cousin, Japanese soldier Tsutaki Shinjo, died during the war.
Most members of the group who join the trip each year were born and grew up on Saipan, but not Shinjo.
“We never recovered the body of my cousin, that’s why I wanted to visit Saipan,” he said.
Shinjo and other members of the Micronesian Repatriation Association lighted incense and offered prayers, fruit, food, water and other beverages in memory of the thousands who lost their lives in the NMI during the war.
Yesterday’s ceremony, at the Tower of Okinawa at the Last Command Post in Marpi, was the group’s 43rd.
Takeaki Oshiro, representative of the Bereaved Family United Association, along with Zenichi Taira, chairman of Micronesian Repatriation Association, and Seiji Nakasone, representative of bereaved families, spoke before the congregation started offering and lighting the incense at the altar.
Last year, a group of 60 conducted the peace ceremony at the same Marpi site.
Today, the group will conduct a peace ceremony at Suicide Cliff on Tinian starting at 10 a.m.
The group will then fly to Guam, their primary destination for the annual pilgrimage. The 86 members of the Micronesian Repatriation Association paid extra for the Saipan and Tinian stopovers.
Pacific Development Inc. has hosted the repatriation group’s pilgrimage for years now.