AN altar perched on top a flight of cemented stairs at the foot of a jungle area at the far end of Sugar King Park in Garapan caught my attention the first time I visited the place a couple of years ago. I was with a couple of friends who had been on Saipan for several years and they were eager to show me around.
It was almost dark and the park was deserted. I could not stop the goose bumps that crawled up my spine as I ventured farther beyond the altar.
Out of habit, I fished out my camera from my bag and started taking photos without thinking if it was allowed or not. I knew the place was sacred and held some piece of significant history. I returned later in broad daylight to get brighter photos.
My friends just told me that the place was Sugar King Park, but it was not until much later that I learned its name: Katori Shrine.
Information from the Internet showed that the original Katori Jinja or shrine was built on Saipan in 1911 during the Japanese era. Fire destroyed the shrine in 1944 during World War 11 but 40 years later, the then-Marianas Visitors Bureau and the Katori Federation joined hands in re-establishing the site.
Tomorrow morning, the spotlights will be focused on the Katori Shrine as it hosts dozens of religious followers and visitors from Japan for the annual memorial ceremony.
If you have been around for a long time and have not visited the Katori Shrine, think about taking some time off tomorrow to join the rest of the visitors in celebrating the shrine’s 25th anniversary.