ONE of the historical sites often visited by tourists on Saipan that has always fascinated me is the old Japanese Jail located just a block away from the CNMI Museum along the Middle Road.
I first saw this dilapidated structure when I arrived on this island in 2008, obvious leftovers from the bloody war and left to the harsh elements of nature. Without the budding flame trees that created a contrast with present state of the structure and the sign that says “Old Japanese Jail,” I would have thought it was just another ordinary building.
If you pass by without paying too much attention, you would just see part of the walls that are left standing and not give much notice to the cells, the holes from bullets and blasts and more ‘scars on the walls ‘from the World War 11 battle, and all the horrible stories they keep.
I have observed elder tourists wander inside and around the Old Japanese Jail with tears in their eyes as they remember the horrors of the war. The younger guests go around the structures without so much emotion as the elderly, although they might have heard stories about the place from their parents and grandparents. For most of the young tourists, it’s all mostly just to take photos of the structures with them in it
I have attempted to come inside the jail a couple of times but have always backed out at the last minute because I cannot control the goose bumps I feel each time I tried but I will, one of these days.
Looking at the narrow hallway separating the two rows of prison cells, one can’t help but imagine how terrible it must have been for the prisoners. Browsing online, you will learn that that the Old Japanese Jail was constructed in 1929 and was used up to the time the battle started.
Rumors have it that Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic was imprisoned inside one of the cells for the last months of her life.
The Beautify CNMI! and other organizations help to restore and clean the Old Japanese Jail every now and then. When you can, spare a few moments to drop by this historical landmark on Saipan that carries volumes of told and untold heart-rending stories behind the remnants of its walls and bent bars.