SAIPAN TRAVELOGUE (Posted on PATHO-L mailing list on August 9 1997)
A few days ago, I returned from a four-day family private trip, including Saturday and Sunday, to Saipan of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. My platoon (3 kids, wife and me) has stormed this island which had been a harsh battle field at the last phase of W.W.II. On the second day, we rented a camry and made a round trip. As a reluctant father, the only thing that I am always teaching my kids is "Put off your hat/cap and keep quiet, because this is the place where,," (I am ashamed of the notoriety of Japanese holiday makers, e.g.in Hawaii, you know)
(1) American Memorial Park
There was a typical monument mourning the war victims of the Saipan-Tinian war theater in W.W.II. Just like other memorials such as those at Pearl Harbor of Oahu, Viet Nam Veteran's at D.C. and at the Battery Park of Manhattan Island which I actually have visited before, all the names of the KIA/MIAs who sacrificed themselves in this theater, probably mainly from the landing forces, had been inscribed on the large slates which are arranged circularly around the center pole with a stars and stripes waving in the wind, beginning from those of the Second Marine Division with their motto "Follow Me". Victims of the Marine appear to be overwhelmingly numerous, and the descriptions were purely on the historical facts. I am always impressed with "we shall never forget you" attitude of the American people. Do you know this neat monument on an isolated island? There was no other person than us then, and it was very calm, only with breeze.
(2) Banzai Cliff and Suicide Cliff
At the north end of this island, Banzai Cliff was standing 80 meter height. The Japanese civilians, fatigued and almost starved to death, escaped to the north with the outnumbered and outpowered Japanese army and reportedly 1,000-to-1,300 of them finally threw themselves into the sea disregarding US soldiers' earnest stopping, chiefly resulting from the disinformation, I think. On the edge of the top of the Suicide cliff of the Mount Mappi which is located a little south to the Banzai Cliff, I found a short verse almost scribbled on a small amount of fast solidifying cement, saying,
All my comrades had died to blossomI am not a war poet such as Binyon, Sassoon or Brooke, of course, and my translation to English may not be appropriate, but some nuance would be transferred. I dropped a tear through the finder of my X-700. The other monuments built by the Japanese appeared to me rather modest as well. BTW, how thin the outer steel shell of the displayed destroyed Japanese tanks is! Less than 1.5 cm thick. Tank personnels were destined to be killed in action rather easily, they must have known very well. Must have only been praying for the parents, brothers and sisters, wives or children on the main land (A little bit soap opera-like comment, though?).
On a hot summer dayA survivor
(3) Managaha island tour
On the next day, we enjoyed a whole day of sunbathing and swimming on the beach of an offshore island on the clear sea under incredibly clear sky. Probably about half a century ago, a wing of B-29 superfortress was taking off from the Saipan Airfield, assembled in a formation, and departed for the Mount Fuji for strategic bombing of Japan on this same clear sky, leaving parallel contrails. Watching my kids and taking a nap on the sand, I couldn't help feel sorry a bit for the war victims of both sides and Chamorro-Carolinian.
Actually, on a walk around this tiny coral island, I was requested by a couple of cheerful young Korean ladies with painstaking bikini to snap portraits with their camera, who were morphologically and dermatologically perfect in my view, and I responded "Ok, no problem, it's my greatest honor". Then, five sequential free shots from wide to zooming up. Not strangely, my visual power, fatigued due to diagnostic pathology routine, recovered instantly. My wife's comment; "Even on the summer beach, you are an earnest medical doctor, and at the same time could be a polite diplomat." Fairly cost-effective optional tour ($58 with BBQ and drink), bidding a fine day, recommended.
In short, Saipan could be one of the options, next to Hawaii/Guam, for humble family holiday makers , i.e. "a virtual Bahama for the western Pacific rim pathologists". Hyatt Regency Saipan presented fairly reliable services. I relaxed.
Enjoy your own holidays!
(Posted on PATHO-L mailing list on August 9 1997. DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author. Citations of trade names do not constitute an endorsement of the products. This post is not financially supported by the related industry.)
GUAM TRAVELOGUE (Posted on PATHO-L mailing list on August 6 1999)
I just returned from a private family trip for pleasure to Guam, the southernmost of the Marianas island group in the west Pacific, which is an unincorporated US territory. The census population 1990 was 141,039, which I compare with 200,000 population of Odawara City where my current hospital is located in Japan. When we are approaching to the Guam International Airport, I hope the ILS works in addition to visual flight rule, remembering a mishap of the Korean Air a few years back. Actually, once upon a time, my wife and I have been to this island as honeymooner, probably in March 1977. Is it correct, Minekosan? This time additionally with two daughters and one son. The following is my travelogue in usual "average Akio" style.
(1) A tour to the south half of Guam
We, i.e., three kids, my wife and I, make a round trip to the southern half of this island on a rented Camry from Dollar Rent-a-Car on the second day. I make an optional contract of collision damage waiver (CDW) and insurance for the company's loss of use of the car in the event of an accident, which are at some states being prohibited as exploitative for several reasons, I know (Ref: Klein D et al., Getting unscrewed and staying that way. Henry Holt and Company, NY, 1993), but since I am not used to driving in the US so much, I eat the cost ($80 + $20 + $10/ day). Before departure, I dare to open the engine hood and check out the configuration of a front drive system only superficially, when the attending manager at the desk of the rental office, who can speak perfect Japanese, comes out and warns me, "Please pay attention, the automatic transmission lever is now in rearward position." Thanks to the car operator for that. I will not clash the car with the entrance of the office.
Starting from the Tumon Bay, we tour anti-clockwise, passing USO Beach, and Agat Bay, which are beautiful coral sand beaches but rather monotonous. As the road gradually changes from six-lanes, four-lanes to two lanes, the landscape turns mountainous, and we are now near the foot of the Mount Lamlam, which is 406 meters above the sea level. The houses are getting thinly settled in Chamorros villages, where the speed limit is occasionally 15 MPH, and the cemeteries are sporadically seen in the roadside. Guam's roads have been known to be very slippery, and we must drive with extreme caution, especially during a burst of heavy rain. We are passing the Umatac Bay, Umatac Bridge, and Merizo Bay. Cocos island is noticed which we are going the next day. After a long drive, we decide to eat a lunch at Jeff's Pirates Cove on the Ipan Beach (lower east side of the island), which is the only available restaurant in the southern part of this island that we can find. It is already late noon. We are really hungry and the meals at Jeff's are not bad.
After lunch, we bathe in the Ipan Beach. The facility is not enough installed, but one waterline cock is available. There are some indigenous young boys and girls on the beach, with one Caucasian family relaxing over there. The water is clear and warm, but the coral does not flourish near the beach and fishes are rather scarce. After one hour leisure snorkeling, we leave and return to the Tamon Beach area where P.I.C. Hotel we checked in the day before is present.
(2) Cocos Island
The next day, we are going to Cocos Island that is located offshore in the southernmost part. The route from the Tamon Beach to there is the same as the one we took the day before. We ride on a ferry at 10:00AM at Merizo Pier, which costs US$20 per person for a round-trip (Just remember, an optional tour from the hotel to Cocos requires US$98 a person, even though that includes a lunch). The weather is not so good and rather windy. There are only eight passengers aboard, i.e., we and three other white males. I put on Sheplers' straw hat with sun glass as usual. Maybe,it looks like a "Be proud of Texan anywhere" guy.
The Cocos is an elongated offshore island in the lagoon, and the seashore on the northern side is calm and open to the visitors, whereas the southern side is facing directly with the vast Pacific Ocean. As the sky clears and it becomes sunny, the water turns more transparent. When I am walking with my son on the sand to the northeast end of the island, I am requested by a couple of Japanese young ladies, both with black, resource-conscious bikini, to take a snapshot of them with their cheap camera, and I respond with ease "O.K. no problem" (I wonder if I experienced the same plot before? De'j'a vu? Yes, it was certainly experienced in Saipan. Refer to "Saipan Travelogue" in Patho-L mailing list in August 1997). Once again, I shoot three images from different angles, and they cheerfully pose in a challenging appearance. Not strangely my visual power, that is fatigued due to daily diagnostic pathology practice, recovered instantly (Did I say this before?). Actually, I should have taken pictures with my own SLR camera with a motor drive as a back-up, and taken note of their telephone numbers or address in order to send them later as a courtesy the nice pictures (This is joke, as you know). During this incident, my son is wearily waiting in a benign neglect mode. When returning to the spot my wife and daughters are located, I report this bonanza to my wife.
BTW, the coral near the shore does not appear to flourish here too.
(3) Stay tuned in Guam
During the current visit, I can stay wired through AOL Globalnet (477- 6871) from my hotel room. I bring here with me an old and slow but light Compaq Contura Aero 486/25SX with only 12MB RAM, running on WIN95a, and 14.4 PCMCIA modem, with which the access to the AOL through the phone line is technically no problem. Economically, too, it is very, very cheap. At night before going to sleep, I calmly read the messages on the Patho-L, Medlab-L, Aero ML and Pnet. Marvelous.
(4) Battered economy?
As a chauffeur, I shuttle with my daughters and wife between the malls and duty-free shops. There are many fancy and luxurious DFSs, but I haven't seen visitors purchasing high-priced brand stuffs, and, say, $20 T- shirts appear main targets. My son Takao is complaining why women can take an hour rambling in such a place as this. Indeed, in the western civilization, men must endure with internal strength. Probably during early '90s with rising Asian economy, there must have been so-called bubble economy here too, but in my view the people now tighten their purse closely. I am afraid that the battered economy and tourism eventually hit the Chamorro people's life.
On the other hand, at the daily chore level, the K-Mart that is a magnificent store at the North Marine Drive in the Tamon District seems to remain profitable. The lines formed at the cashier are very long in the evening, and the employee at the line I selected is exceptionally clumsy (Murphy's law comes true once again). Actually, I purchase a newly released video of "Primary Colors" at US$14. Not a bad deal for money and sure cool for a seasoned couple.
We safely returned to NRT on August 3 with no remarkable accidents. Every time I visit the US, I feel I resurrect.
(Posted on PATHO-L mailing list on August 6 1999. DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author. Citations of trade names do not constitute an endorsement of the products. This post is not financially supported by the related industry.)