If you’re a Japanese tourist you very likely love the Marianas. The devastating Japanese colonization of the Marianas occurred as recently as the 1940s, yet over the last few decades these islands have become a prime destination for beach-loving, package-touring Japanese. Both the Northern Marianas and Guam have a well-developed tourist infrastructure, at least in their most developed tourist centers–particularly the island of Saipan in the Northern Marianas and Guam’s flashy, duty-free Tumon Bay; all these elegant hotels and carefully manicured beaches make group tourists feel welcome. The islands have also endured several centuries of colonization during which the indigenous Chamorro culture blended with that of the Europeans. This doesn’t seem to effect the Japanese tourist trade, but it does seem to dissuade travelers who seek both beach adventures and cultural engagement.
Should travelers assume the Marianas have little to offer in the way of culture? Lonely Planet’s Northern Mariana page admits that perhaps, “Saipan can seem like a package-tour nightmare” but there is also much on the Northern Marianas to to praise: “flame trees in bloom; melancholy historical sights; turquoise waters and white sands; and fine diving and snorkeling.” Plus, the island of Rota, known as “The Friendly Island,” truly is friendly. As for Guam, while Lonely Planet’s Guam page agrees that “Guam is about as ‘cosmopolitan’ as it gets, so it cops a lot of attitude from Pacific snobs who reckon it lacks
‘real island culture,'” Micronesia’s most populous island knows its reputation and sorely wants to change. Guam is currently undergoing a conscious cultural reformation. If the revival takes hold, Guam may one day be a destination for culture alone–Chamorro food, Chamorro film and Chamorro fashion.