Reef of Water Flowers

By Michael H. Kew

Photos: Kew.

Sunday. Which foretold a Sabbath-like afternoon of picnics at parks like this. Poking 60 yards into the lagoon, the concrete slab was used by pre-World War II Japan primarily to load sugar onto ships for the 1,400-mile voyage to Yokohama. From 1924 to 1941, sugar was CNMI’s economy, led by Haruji “Sugar King” Matsue. His empire crashed, however, when Japan lost the Battle of Saipan.

For decades, Matsue’s old dock was used (mostly by kids) for fishing and for leaping into the lagoon. This afternoon, the atmosphere thumped with rap and rock music from the cars parked in the shade of trees. There were squealing children running amok, jumping wildly from the dock, splashing around, chasing each other up and down the bright white beach. Adults drank Budweiser and grilled meat and generally lazed about in portable chairs at wooden benches. It was a scene identical to many at that exact moment throughout the West Pacific.

No one seemed to notice the clean, wedging right-hander 600 yards out.

Saipan.