Japanese PrintThe fully rigged ship Cheseborough.
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.

Japanese PrintHirosaki Castle, built in 1611, is surrounded by 2,600 cherry trees making it one of Japan’s most famous hanami or cherry blossom viewing spots. Photo courtesy of Glenn Waters.
Japanese PrintA Shinto torii, a symbolic gateway marking the transition from the profane to the sacred, near where the Cheseborough shipwreck occurred. Photo courtesy of Don Nicoll.
Japanese PrintThe Cheseborough memorial in Shariki reads “The people who disappeared into the rough seas. The people who survived. The people who rescued by doing their best. Now, there is no one left. Only the bleat of the gulls and the sound of the sea are the same as the past.”

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

For more on the Maine-Aomori connection visit

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.

UMaine Hirosaki

Join PortOpera on FacebookSupport Port Opera with a Tax Deductible DonationContact Port Opera

PORTopera | PO Box 7733 | Portland, ME 04112 | (207) 879-7678

Copyright © 2016 PORTopera
PORTopera | the Opera of Maine

free hit counters