Mass cremation for remains of 575 Japanese soldiers on Saipan

WHILE the entire nation was recollecting the horrifying 9/11 events 10 years ago yesterday, the Japanese community on Saipan were also mourning for their soldiers who died here during the World War 2.

Skeletal remains of 575 Japanese soldiers who had fought here during the World War 2 were cremated at the old airport in Banadero, Marpi yesterday. The ashes from the remains which were collected after the cremation will be brought back to Japan today for a proper mass burial.

In a ceremony yesterday, Yukio Tanabe, Envoy of the Japanese Government for the Recovery of the Remains in Saipan said 547 sets of human remains were excavated from around the Tanapag area from September 1 to 9. 28 sets of human remains that have been excavated earlier and kept by the CNMI Historic Preservation Office were added for the mass cremation.

“I am very thankful to the members of this mission and deeply grateful for all the cooperation from the government of the Northern Mariana Islands and the local people for the recovery of the remains of our soldiers on Saipan,” Tanabe said.

The recovery of the Japanese soldiers’ remains here was initiated by Kuentai, a non-profit organization with headquarters in Tokyo whose goal is to return the remains of these dead soldiers to their homeland.

Kuentai secretary general Usan Kurata told the Variety that the ashes from the bones will be brought back to Japan for a mass burial.

Yesterday’s mass cremation was the first recovery effort of the team. Kurata said that there are still over 26,000 remains of Japanese soldiers on Saipan that they are hoping to excavate, cremate and give a proper burial in Japan.

“We don’t have plans yet when to start the next excavation but we will be doing another set of intense research work first where to find these remains,” Kurata said.

He said that since February when the recovery mission started, he had been coming back here to oversee the excavation activities five times.

“We did our research first, coordinated with the NMI government and talked to the local people that finally led to the recovery of these remains,” Kurata said.

Kuantai reports show that a total of 2.4 million Japanese soldiers were killed abroad. The number of people who returned to Japan after the war was only 1,240,000, while there were 1,160,000 who did not return. Kuantai also reports the number of the war dead in the Philippines totaled to 518,000 people, including soldiers and civilian employees.

Kurata said that there is still so much to do. In the Philippines, he said that they are hoping to excavate over 370,000 remains of Japanese soldiers. Kyuntai has several offices all over the Philippines.

Kuentai secretary Yoko Kuramot said that there were 11 of them from the organization who came to Saipan on August 31. The mass cremation yesterday started at 10 a.m.

Among those who offered flowers for the dead soldiers were Tomoko Abe of the House of Representatives of Japan, Kuentai adviser Tsutomu Takamora, Consul of Japan on Saipan Tsutomo Higuchi, acting director of the CNMI Division of Historic Preservation office Mertie Kani, deputy director of the Division of Environmental Quality David Rosario, acting director of the CNMI Division of Fish and Wildlife Paul Radley, Marianas Visitors Authority managing director Perry Tenorio, Capt. Pete Guerrero of the Department of Public Safety, American Memorial Park Chief Ranger Bryan Piercy and others who attended the ceremony.

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