I went to Saipan a while ago to try scuba diving for the first time ever, and get certified. Funny how that works… Anyway, now I have an Open Water C License for Scuba diving!

Saipan is an incredibly common vacation destination for Japanese tourists. It’s overseas, nice weather, closer than Hawaii, cheaper than Okinawa, got a ridiculously large Duty-Free shop… Perfect. Saipan is actually a commonwealth of the United States. So is Guam. To be honest, I learned that after moving to Japan…

Your information is incorrect. Saipan is a member of the CNMI (Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands) and is a protectorate of the United States. Guam is a United States Territory. I don’t know the full details of the difference, but I do know that Guam has a (non-voting) delegate in the United States Congress, putting them on the same level as American Samoa and the Virgin Islands. -joepet

In Saipan you spend dollars, buy cereal and granola bars, and speak Japanese. What? Yeah. Speak Japanese. There are SO many Japanese tourists in Saipan that the locals have learned to speak to support their business. I expected that hotel employees, and shady characters selling massages on the street would speak Japanese (社長さん!)… but in Saipan it’s so deep that even the old lady working behind the counter at the bakery could speak Japanese. Filipino, Thai, Indian, Chinese, everyone living in harmony and speaking Japanese. Old people also speak Japanese becase of the impact from Japan controling Saipan in WWII.

There are so many Japanese tourists in Saipan that the most prevalent country “mascot” is the SaiPanda.

It’s a panda. With a horn.

In Japanese, “rhino” is “サイ” (Sai). Panda, is パンダ (panda)。
Saipanだ! (Saipan-da) means, “It’s Saipan!”

The commercial mascot of Saipan has a name (and a body) that is a JAPANESE PUN.

I was floored when I noticed that. The Japanese seem to love it. Someone please show me some other place in the world where something similar is going on. I would love to know.

To be fair, the common spoken language in Saipan is really English. However, I would dare to say that Japanese language in Saipan is equivalent to Spanish spoken in Miami or southern Texas. Saipan has been so commercialised that I literally could not find a restaurant that served a native dish. I was able to steer clear of Hard Rock Cafe and Tony Roma’s long enough to catch a Filipino restaurant that was recommended to me, but that was the as close to native as I could get. The TV gets NHK. And a local station has a program where a Saipan native takes a Japanese lady around and “discovers” the country. All while speaking Japanese.

When leaving the airport the time is displayed in Tokyo time, and Saipan time.

Even this Thai store has katakana in the window.

Guam/Saipan Coconut PRETZ. The Japanese snack.

You guys who have been in Japan for a long time understand…

Even the police box says 交番

Onigiri, top shelf of local breadstore.

Tattoo in the Onsen

In Japan public baths, and Onsen (Hot Springs) often have
policies that people with tattoos cannot use the facilities.


This roughly translates into..

“Persons with Tattoos, or who have consumed a heck of a lot of alcohol, please refrain from entering the onsen.”


My friend entered anyway. Some other Japanese friends tell me
that these signs aren’t necessarily meant to keep people with small little fashionable tatoos like this out of the onsen.

The real purpose is to keep out Yakuza, who tend to have full body tattoos’
like this…

Yakuza Tattoo Image from National Geographic

And these….

Here are some Yakuza movies if you’re interested…

Because Tattoo = Yakuza, and Yakuza in Onsen = Scared customers.

Gotta protect the “WA” 和。


Green Tea Kit Kat

I don’t know much about this actually, but there is a
limited edition green tea flavored Kit Kat available
in Japan now. Everyone knows and loves Japanese snacks
right? You know, that drink Ramune, Pocky… uumm…
Men’s Pocky… Uhh… Giant Pocky… and other Pocky-like
snacks are everywhere. Here’s some more chocolate for ya’.

It has been around for a while, but I just recently tried
them for the first time.

Yeah, they’re tasty! I don’t have the culinary vocabulary
of the team over at “Iron Chef” or anything… but here it goes.

Green Tea Kit Kat’s have the creamy deep taste of the green
tea ice cream that you can even get in the states. The
wonderful mix of chocolate and crunchy cracker center will
keep you coming back for more!

… (-_-);

Anyway. Yeah. They’re very good! I wonder how long they
will be available…