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WWII camp held Japanese civilians

By Haidee V. Eugenio SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, April 12, 2010) - One of the two Japanese lawmakers who visited the CNMI during the weekend for talks on U.S. troop relocation was born at a concentration camp called "Camp Susupe" during World War II.

Kantoku Teruya, a Social Democratic Party member of the Japanese Legislature, was born in Camp Susupe on Saipan on July 24, 1945.

The U.S. military opened the gates of Camp Susupe in July 1946 but Teruya said he and his family moved back to Japan in January 1946, when he was still 6 months old.

Teruya, through Hideki Morihara who served as translator and interpreter, said every time he comes to the CNMI, he always feels that this is his "dear old home."

He is the only one among the 722 current members of the Japanese Diet who was born on Saipan.

Now 65, Teruya is serving his fourth term in the Japanese Diet-one term at the Upper House and three terms at the Lower House.

He was a lawyer before entering the political arena in 1988 when he was elected for the first of two terms in Parliament in the prefecture of Okinawa. In 1995, he won a seat in the Japanese Diet’s Upper House. Since then, he lost only one re-election.

Teruya, who chairs the Japanese Diet Affairs Council and the Social Democratic Party’s Okinawa Base Affairs Team, said his parents came to Tinian from Okinawa in the 1930s.

Tinian Mayor Ramon Dela Cruz earlier told Saipan Tribune that Teruya was born on Tinian, but Teruya said the mayor might have thought so because his parents stayed on Tinian for years before the war. His parents worked at a cotton farm on Tinian.

Teruya’s parents moved to Saipan for his father to work at the Nanyo Kohatsu sugar plantation.

When war broke out, the civilian population was brought to concentration camps and one of them was Camp Susupe where Teruya’s parents were brought.

He said the first time he went back to Saipan after his family returned to Okinawa was in 1980 when he joined a Japanese memorial service for the victims of the war.

His visit during the weekend was his fourth time to the CNMI since leaving Saipan in 1946.

"The people from Okinawa are very familiar with the Mariana Islands. The first time I came back here with my oldest sister, I felt that this is my dear old home. .Every time I come here, I always feel I like this place very much," he said.

Toward the end of the interview, Teruya said his personal affinity to the CNMI has nothing to do with his key role in considering Tinian as relocation site for U.S. troops from the Futenma base in Okinawa.

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