Photo courtesy of Maine Maritime Museum.
The coastline of Shariki, a village on the west coast of Tsugaru Peninsula faces the Sea of Japan. In October of 1889, a storm claimed the lives of all but four of the sailors aboard the Cheseborough, a three-masted square rigger built in Bath, Maine, by Arthur Sewall and Co., which was returning to the US with 2300 tons of Japanese sulphur. The fortunate four were rescued by the villagers of Shariki.
Dismasted and foundering on Japan’s rocky western coast, the Cheseborough went down within sight of the village of Shariki. In the days that followed, the bodies of 19 crewmembers including 40-year-old Capt. Erikson washed up on the shore. The townspeople gave them all solemn burials and built a monument there to honor their memory. Every year since the disaster, the people of Shariki hold a service for the sailors from Maine who lost their lives.
In Shariki Village,
the Tradition of the Pears
What was left of the Cheseborough and the ship’s stores also washed ashore over the following days, including Maine pears from the galley’s larder. A man named Nakamura picked up one of these pears and found it so much better tasting than the local variety, he saved the seeds and planted a pear tree in his yard. As the tree matured and bore fruit, Mr. Nakamura would pick 19 pears every year and lay one as an offering at each Maine sailor’s grave. This tradition continues today.
Today, the Continued Friendship of Maine and Aomori is Expressed on Many Levels.
Bath, Maine and Shariki, Aomori
On the 100th anniversary of the Cheseborough shipwreck, the village of Shariki decided to seek a sister city relationship with Bath, Maine, and to institute the annual Cheseborough Cup swim meet. The Bath-Tsugaru Sister City Program (Shariki was incorporated into Tsugaru in 2009) has since sought to develop a better understanding of each community’s life and culture.
Maine and Aomori connect in 1994
The Shariki-Bath connection inspired Aomori and Maine to form a sister state relationship, and Governors McKernan and Kimura signed the official agreement in 1994. Since then, Maine and Aomori have exchanged delegations and exhibits, connecting schools, universities, museums, business interests, and more in both countries.
For more on the Bath-Tsugaru relationship visit bath-tsugaru.org
For more on the Maine-Aomori connection visit https://sites.google.com/site/maineaomorisisterstateadvisory
UMaine and Hirosaki University’s
Rising Tide of Collaboration
The Maine-Aomori Sister State relationship has stimulated several cultural, technical, and educational exchange programs. This year, a firm connection was made between the University of Maine’s Tidal Power Initiative and the North Japan Research Institute for Sustainable Energy, which is overseen by Dr. Hirotada Nanjo of Hirosaki University.