It was almost 11 on a Wednesday night, and Guam's hottest nightspot was alive with thousands of people in a hot Pacific buzz. They moved in a human swell across the overflowing parking lot, through the automatic doors and into the pulsing whirl of late night revelry. At Kmart. "If you want to meet people, you come here at night. If you want to shop, you come in the morning," said Adriane Jennings, 20, eating lasagna with a table of friends in the Little Caesar's pizza shop inside what is reported to be the world's biggest and perhaps busiest Kmart store. When Kmart opened three years ago on this small U.S. territorial island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, it changed the fabric of life for Guam's 150,000 residents and the 1 million tourists, mainly from Japan, who visit each year. First, it drove down prices of everything from shampoo to Cheerios to stereo sets with its famous discounts. Little shops here had always charged whatever they wanted, jacking up prices to cover high shipping costs to this remote piece of volcanic rock and to maximize profits from wealthy Japanese tourists accustomed to paying $6 for a cup of coffee. But more than that, Kmart became the island's social center, its unofficial town square, a place where you never fail to run into a neighbor, a friend, a cousin. It's open earlier and later (midnight) than any other store on this island 6,000 miles southwest of San Francisco, which is about three times the size of Washington, D.C. And Little Caesar's offers a $3.99 medium pizza special that keeps 'em coming in droves for munching, people-watching and a reasonably priced evening of family fun. "In the states, there are other places to choose from. But here, this is unique," said Vilma Yurko, 35, a bank secretary who brought her kids to Kmart for pizza. Like most everybody else here, she says Kmart has changed her life. On any given weekend day, 15,000 people -- one tenth of the island's population -- come to Kmart. On weekdays about 10,000 come through. More than a million Japanese tourists annually come to Guam, and Kmart estimates that each one comes to the store an average of two or three times during their stay. Brightly colored shuttle buses run constantly between the luxury hotels along the beach and Kmart, which has a besieged ATM near the door and lots of signs in Japanese. Kmart is a huge psychological and physical presence. The store sits halfway up a hill between the beachfront and the hilltop airport. Visitors see the store's huge red "K" from the window of their plane before it even stops at the gate. Kmart looms on the main shopping strip here like a huge dollar magnet, bringing in shoppers grateful for 89-cent cans of Campbell's soup and a selection of television sets, ironing boards, garden supplies, candy, clothes, food, medicine, books and virtually every imaginable kind of consumer product (including the store's number one seller, Spam and other canned meats). Toys and electronics are sold so fast that their boxes are stacked up to the ceiling, even though the basement warehouse -- at a stunning 120,000 square feet -- is Kmart's largest. Kmart officials won't discuss specific sales figures, but co-manager Charlie Overmire acknowledges that Guam's Kmart is not just any ordinary neighborhood discount store. It has a massive souvenir section aimed at its Asian guests. Guam is a duty-free zone with no sales tax and Kmart is the source of all those big cardboard boxes of swing sets and basketball hoops and stereos being loaded onto planes heading for Tokyo, Seoul and Taipei. On the island, people plan their day around getting in and out of the busy store as fast as possible, and around whatever specials or new products have been shipped in. "Almost anyone you run into on the island has been here in the last week," Overmire said. The place is so big that Mikel Schwab, an assistant U.S. attorney here, said he never goes to Kmart without his cell phone. He said it's the only sure-fire way not to lose companions in the stacks. Parents make even relatively large children ride in shopping carts to avoid having them crushed by people surging toward the display of the latest Disney video. Videos are big on Guam because television is limited and delayed. Sunday NFL football games are often aired days later, long after the results are known. New episodes of "ER" and other hit American shows are aired a week later than on the mainland. Guam is part of the United States and residents bristle when other Americans forget that or, as Overmire said, they ask questions such as, "What kind of money do they use on Guam?" (the dollar). Even the license plates are a little defensive: They don't say "Guam," they say "Guam U.S.A." People don't want anyone to forget that this hilly little cluster of rocks stood by the United States in several wars this century, and still hosts a large U.S. military presence. Bloody battles were fought here during World War II, and when tensions with North Korea flared last year, the United States flew B-52 bombers and B-2 stealth bombers to Guam. People speak English, along with Chamorro, the language of the original inhabitants. Many of the streets look like the generic strip-malled roads of American suburbia, filled with McDonald's and Denny's and Mobil gas stations. President Clinton recently stopped in Guam to spend a little time with Gov. Carl T.C. Gutierrez, a prolific Democratic Party fund-raiser. Still, Guam straddles two identities -- its political and territorial allegiance to the United States and its cultural and geographical affiliation with Asia. Guam is in the Micronesian islands three hours by plane from Japan, which, by Asian standards, practically makes it a suburb of Tokyo. Almost a quarter of the population is Filipino; the Philippines are close by. Tourists from Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and other Asian locales fill the most expensive hotels. So Guam has been hit hard by the Asian financial crisis, because it has put a huge dent into its number one money-maker: tourism. With money no longer flowing in like it used to, the government is even cutting back on the number of public school employees. But Kmart shows no signs of pain. Overmire said the store has dropped the few luxury watches and other high-priced upscale items it used to carry to appeal to well-heeled Japanese visitors. But it's still making a fortune selling the Japanese the cheaper items they love: American snack foods, cups of instant noodles, macadamia nuts, chocolates and, inexplicably, beef jerky. Late on a recent Wednesday evening, just before Christmas, the store couldn't have held many more shoppers. Some looked like they had just bought a small surf board, but it turned out the cardboard boxes they were lugging contained a 4-foot-long pizza ($14.99). Furby dolls were being given away as door prizes. All the shopping carts were taken, and anyone who left one unattended found it swiped by another desperate shopper. Catherine Salas cruised the aisles looking for a swing set and she ran into six of her cousins in less than an hour. Ruizena Santiago was there with her husband, Danny, who carried sleeping Justin, 4, on his shoulder. She said they used to do most of their shopping and socializing at the Micronesia Mall, just up the road. "Now," she said, "this is the place to be." CAPTION: Cabdrivers Eddie de Castro, left, and Rudy Cano share a smoke and conversation while waiting for tourists at the Guam Kmart, reportedly the world's largest. Japanese tourists make up most of their fares. ec CAPTION: An employee who identified himself only as Albert says he moved from Micronesia to Guam to get a better-paying job. He found one at Kmart. ec CAPTION: Tony Tan, left, Joe Peredo and their daughters shop at Kmart. It opens earlier and closes later (midnight) than any other store on Guam. ec