JAPANESE CALL SAIPAN ‘PROSTITUTION ISLAND’

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By Jude O. Marfil

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, May 31, 2005) - "Prostitution Island" is how some tourists from Japan describe Saipan, according to the Japanese Business Executive Committee.

"Saipan is now very famous as a prostitution island. Even me, I saw girls, more than 10 girls in Garapan," said JBEC president Joji Kawaguchi.

JBEC is composed of the top executives of Pacific Development Inc., Pacific Micronesia Tours Inc., Hotel Nikko Saipan, Hafa Adai Hotel, JALpak and Japan Airlines.

Yoshiro Kishimoto, JBEC’s secretary, said the presence of scantily clad "hookers" and bar girls in Garapan, particularly at the Paseo de Marianas, has "alarmed" prospective tourists.

"There is a loud rumor in Japan about Saipan having this reputation. Seeing a lot of prostitutes, who are mostly Chinese, has scared some Japanese," he said. "This has been going on for five years now. It’s about time the CNMI government and the community work together to address this."

Although Saipan has a lot to offer such as its warm climate, clean beaches, diving sites and proximity to Japan, Kishimoto said the presence of over 60 prostitution dens, strip joints and massage parlors on island has turned off a lot of Japanese tourists.

"The people and the island are okay. But the ‘environment’ is not good for the Japanese family to come here," he said. "Instead, only a single male person or Yakuza members (will like to) come here."

Marianas Visitors Authority data showed that 52 percent of Japanese tourists are male. About 28 percent are between 25 to 34 years old.

With the decline of the garment industry, Kishimoto said several garment workers are now resorting to prostitution.

And because of Saipan’s "bad image," most Japanese tourists now prefer to visit Guam, Hawai´i, Phuket in Thailand or Bali in Indonesia.

"This is why Japan Airlines cannot raise rates. Because it fears that it will lose passengers," said Kishimoto.

JAL, according to Kishimoto, has lost $200 million in potential income because of the "bargain rates" it offers for the Saipan flight service.

"There is not much difference between the prices of tickets for Saipan and other Asian destinations. This is why the ‘environment’ here is one of the major factors that negatively affect the arrival of tourists," Kishimoto said.

Last January, the government installed surveillance cameras in western Garapan including at the Paseo supposedly to prevent the proliferation of prostitutes in the area.

"But I don’t know if the surveillance cameras have helped. Unless the government does something, Paseo de Marianas will soon become a red light district area," according to a store manager who declined to be identified.

Another storeowner said: "The tourists are confused because they thought this is a family-oriented place. Would you want your kids to see nearly nude females on the street? Of course not."

June 1, 2005

Marianas Variety: www.mvariety.com

 

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