The CNMI under the rising sun

April 8, 2018

 

 

Saipan — The U.S. seized the NMI and the other Japanese mandated islands in Micronesia during World War II. They were then administered by the U.S.  Navy and, later, by the Interior Department, through the Trust Territory government.

 

  In 1968, Father Francis Hazel — Micronesia’s foremost scholar and historian — noted that “despite…serious limitations, there was widespread optimism through the early years of the U.S. administration that self-sufficiency was a realistic goal for the Trust Territory. This belief was sustained in part by the impressive record of Japanese accomplishments in these islands prior to World War II. With the help of imported labor from Okinawa, the Japanese had succeeded in making Micronesia an entirely self-supporting colony with a favorable balance of trade.”

 

   According to Mark R. Peattie in his fascinating book, “Nan’yō [South Seas]: The Rise and Fall of the Japanese in Micronesia, 1885-1945,”  older Micronesians in the postwar decades  “recalled the bustling economic activity with a good deal of approbation, particularly since it was scarcely equaled immediately after the war. ‘Under the Japanese we had more money and there were more things to buy,’ was a constant complaint to American civil affairs staff in the early postwar decades.”

 

   But achieving economic success in the islands wasn’t easy. Japan’s “first industrial ventures represented a dismal picture of corporate greed, mismanagement and callousness,” Peattie wrote. The most successful entrepreneur of that era, Haruji Matsue, aka the Sugar King, also faced many difficulties and setbacks. In the summer of 1922, for example, the price of sugar suddenly dropped. Says Peattie: “Japanese government and business leaders, shaking their heads at this reconfirmation of the unsustainability of Micronesia for large-scale industrial ventures, signaled their disinclination to provide further support.

 

  On Saipan, the old fears of abandonment and destitution began to run through the immigrant community once more, and Japanese children along the dusty streets of Garapan and Chalankanoa took to repeating a jingle sung by the despairing [sugar company] workers…some years before: Senmu, yoku kike yo/ Omae no matsu wa/ Saipan no atari de notarejini. Listen Mr. Manager,/ Your end will come,/ Starving on Saipan.”

 

  Micronesia, wrote Peattie, “was hardly a paradise for the average Japanese immigrant.” For the first two or three years, recounted a former Japanese colonial government official, “one yearned to return home, but after the spell of the South Seas began to take hold, the years stretched out until, before one knew it, 20 or more had passed.”

 

   Japan made it illegal for Micronesians to drink liquor that had “more than 3 percent alcohol by volume, unless for strictly controlled medicinal or religious purposes.” Sakau or kava was included in the ban. “Yet drunkenness continued to be the single greatest reason for arrests by police and constables during the Japanese period (though it was a far smaller problem during Japanese rule than in the decades since).”

 

   Prostitution — a “profession…generally unknown to the indigenes” — was forbidden, but with the growing number of Japanese immigrants “it became an inevitable accompaniment. In 1924, the Nan’yō-chō [the South Seas colonial government] instituted a licensing system patterned after the regulations governing the practice in Japan. By the 1930s every Japanese town in Micronesia had its hana machi ‘flower quarters’ — rather shabby little buildings with incongruously poetic names where men could eat, drink, and enjoy the company of women for an evening.”

 

  On Tinian, “women from the Japanese mainland graced the rooms of the Nantei (Southern Mansion), the Hassensō (Eight Thousand Grasses), and the Shogetsurō (Shining Moon Mansion); those who felt more at home in the company of Okinawan women could drop in at Miharashi (Beautiful View), the Komatsu (Small Pine) or the Nangetsu (Southern Moon.)”

 

  By the mid-1930s, Saipan was home to some 3,000 Chamorros and Carolinians — and more than 20,000 Japanese. Garapan was a “boom town” of over 15,000 mostly Japanese. “Only the clusters of poorer indigenous housing at the northern and southern extremities of Garapan and the occasional farmhouse of a wealthy Chamorro landowner around the countryside provided evidence that Micronesians had any place at all on this island.”

 

  On Tinian, “Micronesians did not even exist.” Its population in 1935 consisted of 14,000 settlers from Japan. “Tinian had become as Japanese as any place” in Japan. In the same year on Rota, there were nearly 5,000 Japanese and less than 800 locals. Songsong was a booming sugar-mill town.

 

   Limited education was provided to locals, there was compulsory labor, and the Japanese military, just before the war, took all the land and buildings it needed.

 

   On July 9, 1944, American military might obliterated Nan’yō.

The writer is editor of Marianas Variety on Saipan.

The CNMI under the rising sun

 

Saipan — The U.S. seized the NMI and the other Japanese mandated islands in Micronesia during World War II. They were then administered by the U.S.  Navy and, later, by the Interior Department, through the Trust Territory government.

 

  In 1968, Father Francis Hazel — Micronesia’s foremost scholar and historian — noted that “despite…serious limitations, there was widespread optimism through the early years of the U.S. administration that self-sufficiency was a realistic goal for the Trust Territory. This belief was sustained in part by the impressive record of Japanese accomplishments in these islands prior to World War II. With the help of imported labor from Okinawa, the Japanese had succeeded in making Micronesia an entirely self-supporting colony with a favorable balance of trade.”

 

   According to Mark R. Peattie in his fascinating book, “Nan’yō [South Seas]: The Rise and Fall of the Japanese in Micronesia, 1885-1945,”  older Micronesians in the postwar decades  “recalled the bustling economic activity with a good deal of approbation, particularly since it was scarcely equaled immediately after the war. ‘Under the Japanese we had more money and there were more things to buy,’ was a constant complaint to American civil affairs staff in the early postwar decades.”

 

   But achieving economic success in the islands wasn’t easy. Japan’s “first industrial ventures represented a dismal picture of corporate greed, mismanagement and callousness,” Peattie wrote. The most successful entrepreneur of that era, Haruji Matsue, aka the Sugar King, also faced many difficulties and setbacks. In the summer of 1922, for example, the price of sugar suddenly dropped. Says Peattie: “Japanese government and business leaders, shaking their heads at this reconfirmation of the unsustainability of Micronesia for large-scale industrial ventures, signaled their disinclination to provide further support.

 

  On Saipan, the old fears of abandonment and destitution began to run through the immigrant community once more, and Japanese children along the dusty streets of Garapan and Chalankanoa took to repeating a jingle sung by the despairing [sugar company] workers…some years before: Senmu, yoku kike yo/ Omae no matsu wa/ Saipan no atari de notarejini. Listen Mr. Manager,/ Your end will come,/ Starving on Saipan.”

 

  Micronesia, wrote Peattie, “was hardly a paradise for the average Japanese immigrant.” For the first two or three years, recounted a former Japanese colonial government official, “one yearned to return home, but after the spell of the South Seas began to take hold, the years stretched out until, before one knew it, 20 or more had passed.”

 

   Japan made it illegal for Micronesians to drink liquor that had “more than 3 percent alcohol by volume, unless for strictly controlled medicinal or religious purposes.” Sakau or kava was included in the ban. “Yet drunkenness continued to be the single greatest reason for arrests by police and constables during the Japanese period (though it was a far smaller problem during Japanese rule than in the decades since).”

 

   Prostitution — a “profession…generally unknown to the indigenes” — was forbidden, but with the growing number of Japanese immigrants “it became an inevitable accompaniment. In 1924, the Nan’yō-chō [the South Seas colonial government] instituted a licensing system patterned after the regulations governing the practice in Japan. By the 1930s every Japanese town in Micronesia had its hana machi ‘flower quarters’ — rather shabby little buildings with incongruously poetic names where men could eat, drink, and enjoy the company of women for an evening.”

 

  On Tinian, “women from the Japanese mainland graced the rooms of the Nantei (Southern Mansion), the Hassensō (Eight Thousand Grasses), and the Shogetsurō (Shining Moon Mansion); those who felt more at home in the company of Okinawan women could drop in at Miharashi (Beautiful View), the Komatsu (Small Pine) or the Nangetsu (Southern Moon.)”

 

  By the mid-1930s, Saipan was home to some 3,000 Chamorros and Carolinians — and more than 20,000 Japanese. Garapan was a “boom town” of over 15,000 mostly Japanese. “Only the clusters of poorer indigenous housing at the northern and southern extremities of Garapan and the occasional farmhouse of a wealthy Chamorro landowner around the countryside provided evidence that Micronesians had any place at all on this island.”

 

  On Tinian, “Micronesians did not even exist.” Its population in 1935 consisted of 14,000 settlers from Japan. “Tinian had become as Japanese as any place” in Japan. In the same year on Rota, there were nearly 5,000 Japanese and less than 800 locals. Songsong was a booming sugar-mill town.

 

   Limited education was provided to locals, there was compulsory labor, and the Japanese military, just before the war, took all the land and buildings it needed.

 

   On July 9, 1944, American military might obliterated Nan’yō.

 

 

 

 

 

Zaldy Dandan is the editor of Marianas Variety and a book author.

 

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