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By Emmanuel T. Erediano

SAIPAN, CNMI (Mariana Variety, Feb. 26) - A Japanese group plans to build the world’s tallest Shinto shrine on Banzai Cliff in Marpi this year.

The CNMI Banzai World Peace Memorial Association and the Saipan Mayor’s Office held groundbreaking rites at the site at 10 a.m. yesterday to launch the construction of the 110-foot-high "Torii" or World Peace Banzai Memorial Monument .

The one in Japan, which is the tallest in the world, stands 100 feet, according to project administrator Masahiro Watanabe.

A Torii serves as the gateway between the physical and spiritual worlds.

The Banzai World Peace Memorial Association, with the support of the International Community Exchange Association, will build the Shinto shrine.

Watanabe said Banzai Cliff is a holy sanctuary dedicated to the victims of World War II.

"It is important for many people who visit Banzai to remember the victims of the war. We are convinced that this project will be for the mutual benefit of Japan and the CNMI," Watanabe said.

The US$5 million project will include gift shops, a deep well and restrooms, and a private entity will maintain and manage the area, he added.

The groundbreaking ceremony was also attended by Saipan Mayor Juan B. Tudela, Representative Absalon Waki, Covenant-Saipan, and Marianas Visitors Authority deputy managing director Judy Torres.

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