Sunset at a Japanese lighthouse

THERE is something about lighthouses that always sets my adrenaline level to ultra high and I just can’t resist the temptation to explore one. When friend Brad (not Pitt) invited me to see a Japanese lighthouse and said that it was a perfect place to view the sunset, I wasted no time and away we went up to the highest point of Navy Hill one afternoon. A slight drizzle started as soon as we were on Middle Road but I kept my fingers crossed, hoping the unpredictable Saipan weather would do me a favor for once.

The lighthouse is located a few meters away from Brilliant Star School Saipan. A bend in the road behind overgrown bushes revealed a white concrete three-storey tower rising approximately 50 feet, looking neglected and abandoned in the gathering dusk. I mouted 45 steps of the circular staircase going up, counting beneath my breath. To get to the very top of the tower, you have to climb up eight more rungs of a steep ladder. I looked doubtfully at the rusty-looking steel but Brad assured me it wouldn’t collapse under my weight. A fantastic view awaited me. The whole area of Garapan spread out serenely below, the sea in the distance bathed in a red-orange glow as the sun finally decided to peep out of the clouds after the slight drizzle to show its splendor.

Delving a little into history, I learned that the lighthouse was built in 1934 to guide Japanese ships arriving in the harbor. It was abandoned long after the U.S. Navy pulled out of Saipan in 1947. In 1990 the lighthouse was renovated into a restaurant but it closed four years later. The lighthouse was among one of three CNMI sites that were accepted to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

If walls could talk, what stories they have to tell! These walls had been the mute witnesses of everything that happened years and years ago.Here is one structure that suffered only a slight destruction during the World War 11, withstood the test of time and resisted the harsh elements of nature yet powerless against heartless individuals who seemed to have held a competition on wall writing. The whole structure was covered in graffiti. Beautify CNMI! and other groups exerted efforts in repainting the lighthouse last year, but now no traces of their efforts are visible. If you close your eyes and pretend the screaming marks on the walls were not there, you can see the lighthouse as a gold mine waiting to be rediscovered, a must-visit site for tourists and locals. (Marianas Variety, July 16, 2008)

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