Marianas Variety

Last updateThu, 18 Jan 2018 12am







    Wednesday, January 17, 2018-4:25:50P.M.






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Kuentai holds memorial service for WWII dead

LOCAL community members and Japanese visitors, including Japan Consul Kinji Shinoda, participated in the Kuentai memorial service on Friday morning in the Aqua Resort Club parking lot to honor those who died here in World War II.

Kuentai, a non-profit group, led the ceremony conducted by Shinto priest, Reverend Usan Kurata, and Buddhist priests Hakuga Murayama and Kouya Matsuoka.

In his remarks, Shinoda said it was his first time to take part in a Kuentai memorial service.

“We should continue to have such memorial services because this is not only important to the Japanese people but also to the CNMI,” he added.

In a separate interview, former Veteran of Foreign Wars Post 3457 commander Michael A. O’Kelley said the memorial service is very significant especially to veterans.

But O’Kelly said they understand why immediate family members might not have been able to attend the service because some of them are too old, and it was not feasible for them to visit Saipan for such a short period of time.

Saipan Mayor David M. Apatang delivers his remarks during the Kuentai memorial service in the parking lot of Aqua Resort Club on Friday.

Japan Consul Kinji Shinoda shares his thoughts about the importance of remembering those who perished in the war.

He said their group has been assisting Kuentai and other groups from Japan in documenting and gathering information regarding World War II-era human remains recovered on the island.

Saipan Mayor David M. Apatang said reliving the past should help ensure that peace will always reign on Saipan.

“Our healing will not go anywhere if the senseless loss of the past is repeated,” he said.

The mayor said they are committed to remembering those who lost their lives on island and to praying for peace.

“May they find peace in a much better place, and may they help us use the lessons of the past to avoid repeating the sad and sorrowful fate they never lived through to tell us about in person.”

Kuentai USA secretary general Yukari Akatsuka said over 5,000 Japanese and American soldiers died on July 7, 1944 alone during the Battle on Saipan.

Since they started their mission in 2007, she said they have exhumed 800 sets of Japanese remains on island and found six mass burial sites at Achugao in the Tanapag area.

Shinto Priest Reverend Usan Kurata, Kuentai’s general secretary in Japan, and Buddhist priests Hakuga Murayama and Kouya Matsuoka.

Japanese visitors, CNMI government officials, and members of the community pose after the memorial service conducted by the Kuentai group.

But Usan Kurata, who is also the Kuentai Japan secretary general, said their group has yet to bring back the bones to Japan.

“My question is, why aren’t the governments of Japan and America doing anything?”

“If we really want these souls to rest in peace then we have to return their remains to their families.”

Kuentai is a non-profit organization based in Japan and the U.S whose mission started 10 years ago.

On Saipan, they have had to put back some human bones they’ve unearthed “because we can’t do anything about them — we were not given a permit to recover.”

But local residents, he added, continue to give them information about possible Japanese burial sites.

Kurata said his team will return to Saipan to continue their mission until all remains of Japanese casualties have been returned to their home country.

Department of Lands and Natural Resources special assistant to the secretary Gus Kaipat offers his prayers.

Kuentai’s Usan Kurata prays during the memorial service.  Photos by Junhan B. Todiño

In an interview, Rep. Joseph Leepan T. Guerrero said he and his colleagues in the Legislature will look into the concerns raised by the Kuentai group.

“We are deeply concerned that we are denying them the opportunity to retrieve the bones of their war dead.” he said. He was among the CNMI officials who attended the ceremony on Friday.

Guerrero said government permitting agencies should expedite the review of Kuentai’s permit applications.

“This is not building a hotel or resort. They are only retrieving the remains of soldiers who died on island,” he said.

Mayor David M. Apatang, for his part, believes that the administration is working collaboratively with the Kuentai group to fulfill its mission.

“I know the governor is supportive and is trying to get these things done so we can return the remains to Japan where their souls can rest peacefully.”