October 28, 2008

Saipan Sugar King

The History of Saipan’s Sugar King

Matsue Haruji was born in Fukushima Prefecture in northern Japan on 15 January 1876. After graduating from Tokyo Institute of Technology, Matsue was accepted to Louisiana State University where he earned a Master of Science degree in sugar chemistry in 1905.

Following graduation, Matsue took a position with the Suplex Sugar Refining Company in Philadelphia where he studied cube sugar production. Matsue returned to Japan 1907 to join Dai Nihon Sugar Refinery and successfully produced cube sugar in Japan for the first time. From 1915 to 1921, Matsue served as the director of the Niitaka Sugar Refining Company in Taiwan during which time he greatly expanded the company’s output and revenues.

In 1921, Matsue visited Saipan and Tinian, islands in Japan’s newly acquired South Seas territories, where he spent several weeks inspecting their topography, soils and climate. Based on his survey Matsue became convinced that these islands were ideally suited for sugar cane agriculture.

Upon completing his inspection trip, Matsue returned to Japan where he secured financial backing and established the Nanyo Kohatu Kaisha or the South Seas Development Corporation. Under this direction, thousands of agricultural workers from Japan and Okinawa cleared Saipan dense jungle to make way for cane fields. Matsue also oversaw the construction of a railroad system around the island to link the sugar plantations to the new refining mill located in Chalan Kanoa.

After overcoming almost insurmountable obstacles, Matsue succeed in establishing a profitable sugar industry on Saipan. In 1930 Matsue expanded operations to nearby Tinian whose flat lands and rich soils were ideally suited for cane production. A few years later sugar plantations were established on Rota.

The sugar industry was the single most successful commercial enterprises of Japan’s South Seas territories. By the mid-1930’s it accounted for nearly 60% of the total South Seas revenues ushering in a level of economic prosperity in the Northern Marianas unheard of in other parts of the tropical Pacific. Matsue, who became known as the “Sugar King”, resigned as chairman of NKK in 1943. He died in Tokyo in 1954 at the age of 78.

A statue of Matsue was dedicated in 1934 in recognition of his success as pioneering entrepreneur and his important contributions to economic development of the islands. Remarkably, his statue survived the terrible destruction of the Second World War. Here, in the peaceful scenery of Sugar King Park it continues to remind us of the hard work, vision and determination of a pioneering businessman who brought economic prosperity to these islands during the first half of the twentieth century.


Sidney said...

That is a beautiful place...interesting info!

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