Prior to the festival, Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios, Saipan Mayor David M. Apatang and Japan Consul Kazuhiko Ono led a celebration of the 36th anniversary of the CNMI Katori Shrine at Sugar King Park. Also attending the event was Marianas Visitors Authority Managing Director Priscilla Iakopo.
Serving as the master of ceremonies at Sugar King Park and at Paseo De Marianas was Pacific Development Inc. managing director Gordon Ichihara Marciano.
He thanked the Governor’s Covid-19 Task Force for providing guidance to ensure the safety of the participants.
Japanese Society of Northern Marianas president Hideaki Sawada said he did not expect to see “many people joining the festival, but I think we are successful.”
The participating local residents had to follow strict safety protocols during the event which highlighted Japanese culture including food and games.
At the Paseo De Marianas, the Japanese Society of Northern Marianas opened the festivities with the traditional breaking of a sake barrel with special guests Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, Mayor Apatang and Speaker Edmund S. Villagomez.
Sawada said the annual autumn festival is part of the Japanese group’s commitment to the local community.
Japanese Society of Northern Marianas vice president Hiroko Tajima said they are thankful for the opportunity “to bring back the festival.”
Tajima said despite the lack of tourists from Japan due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the island’s Japanese community wants to continue celebrating the close historic ties between the Northern Marianas and Japan. Marciano, for his part, said the arrival of people at the festival “started slow but in about half an hour, it started picking up.”
The Japanese business community also held a bazaar which drew many people especially toward the end when the remaining items, which included brand new shoes, were given away for free.