2016-07-27 / Front Page

Tsugaru students start visit

BY BEN GOODRIDGE
Times Record Staff


STUDENTS LISTEN as Bath-Tsugaru Student Exchange Program President Anne Schlitt welcomes them to Maine on Monday. 
BEN GOODRIDGE / THE TIMES RECORD STUDENTS LISTEN as Bath-Tsugaru Student Exchange Program President Anne Schlitt welcomes them to Maine on Monday. BEN GOODRIDGE / THE TIMES RECORD BATH

The city of Bath on Monday welcomed 12 ninth graders from Tsugaru, Japan, in what has been a successful exchange program between the two cities since 1990. A tour of Maine Maritime Museum and a barbecue on the banks of the Kennebec River kicked off their 10-day visit.

“The student exchange is a really great community activity,” said Anne Schlitt, president of the nonprofit organization in charge of the program. “Bath has opened their arms to Tsugaru and Tsugaru has done the same to us.”

A group of Bath students will leave for Japan next week as the Tsugaru community returns the favor.

The connection between the two cities dates back to 1889, when the three-masted ship Chesborough — built in Bath — ran aground off the village of Shariki, Japan. Out of the 23 sailors onboard, only four survived. The villagers nursed them back to health and sent them back to America, and for many years the sailors spoke of the villagers’ kindness. In 1989, the town officials in Shariki — which has since been subsumed by neighboring Tsugaru — contacted Bath city officials and proposed a commemorative 100th anniversary celebration. The exchange program was soon born, and has been going strong for 27 years.

“It’s a true community effort on both sides of the ocean,” said Schlitt.

She cited the Bath area families who house the Tsugaru students as being a key factor in the program, as well as the businesses who help sponsor them.

“The students’ itinerary is chock full of local businesses and people opening their arms and sharing their work, sharing their time, and sharing their products,” said Schlitt.

The itinerary includes a trip to the State House in Augusta, Popham Beach, a lobstering tour in Phippsburg, Boothbay Harbor and a tour of its botanical gardens, a trip to Freeport, and a fly-tying class at L.L. Bean.

When asked what he was looking forward to most, Tsugaru student Yuto Shiroto said, “I want to enjoy kayaking. I also want to watch a baseball game.” Shiroto said his favorite American team is the Boston Red Sox.

“People are very kind in Maine, very friendly,” Shiroto continued.

Through translator Inga Strinz, Shiroto added, “I’m most looking forward to getting to know my host family and just enjoying my experience here.”

People who would like to host a family in the future or get involved are urged to contact Schlitt.

More members

“We are trying to build a larger membership in our program,” said Schlitt. “We would love to have more board members. Anyone interested in Japanese culture should sign up.”

Organizations and businesses who have donated or given special deals to the Bath-Tsugaru Student Exchange Program include: Down East Books, Islandport Press, Bath Sweet Shoppe, Renys, L.L. Bean, Bath Girl Scout Troop #688, city of Bath, Columbine Designs, Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Main Street Bath, Now You’re Cooking, Bath Savings, Maine Maritime

Museum, Bath YMCA, Bowdoin College Asian Studies Department, Anna’s Water’s Edge, lobsterman Bob Varian of Phippsburg, Phippsburg Historical Society, Gov. Paul LePage, Kennebec Estuary Land Trust and Maine’s First Ship.

Learn more at bath-tsugaru.org/.

bgoodridge@timesrecord.com

The beginning

THE CONNECTION between the two cities dates back to 1889, when the three-masted ship Chesborough — built in Bath — ran aground off the village of Shariki, Japan. Out of the 23 sailors onboard, only four survived. The villagers nursed them back to health and sent them back to America, and for many years the sailors spoke of the villagers’ kindness.

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