Bath to celebrate Japanese culture, friendship

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BATH — A friendship forged from tragedy nearly 130 years ago will be celebrated March 4 on Japanese Culture Day.

Japanese residents cared for survivors of a Bath-built ship that wrecked offshore of Skariki, Japan, in 1889. A century later, a delegation of officials from Shariki – which later merged with four other villages to form Tsugaru City – traveled to Bath to propose a formal sister-city relationship. A declaration of the relationship was signed in 1993.

In the years since, students from the Bath and Tsugaru regions have taken part annually in an overseas exchange program. The trip is geared toward middle and high school students, who travel with adult chaperones.

Additionally, Bath celebrates that continued connection by putting on Japanese Culture Day each March. This year’s event takes place at various locations around the city from 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m.

New this year are martial arts demonstrations, to be held at Five Elements Mountain School of Martial Arts, 67 Centre St., between 1 and 3 p.m., and at Bath Dance Works, 72 Front St., from 2:30-4 p.m. Bath Dance Works also offers a Kyudo archery demonstration from 1-2:30 p.m., and a brush calligraphy tutorial from 4-5:30 p.m.

Patten Free Library, 33 Summer St., from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. offers a “print club” selfie setup, a type of photo booth popular in Japan showcasing different backgrounds to pose in front of with friends. Japanese clothes and accessories will be available.

Also during that time at the library, woodblock printing, origami, and Japanese writing and language will be offered, along with an exhibit from the Maine-Aomori Printmaking Society that will be displayed through March.

Now You’re Cooking, 49 Front St., will offer sake tasting and appetizers from 1-3 p.m., along with a visit from the Kittery-based Blue Current Brewery, which makes its own sake.

Zen meditation practice will also take place at the Dzogchen Meditation Center, 4 Armstrong Way in West Bath, from 9-11 a.m.

“We hold Japanese Culture Day every year as a way to honor and keep visible the long sister city partnership between Bath and Tsugaru,” Anne Schlitt, president of the Bath-Tsugaru Sister City Exchange Program, said Monday. “While not everyone will be able to visit Tsugaru on our annual exchange or host Japanese students when they visit us, we can still offer a taste of Japanese culture to Bath by organizing these events.”

Japanese students will visit Bath this August, and Schlitt’s organization will seek local families to host the visitors. More information on hosting, and being part of the local delegation to Japan, is available at bath-tsugaru.org or by emailing coordinator Jen Jones at tsugaru@rsu1.org.

Bath will also host a delegation of city officials and other Japanese adults during Heritage Days in July. The group, for whom host families are also sought, will march in the event’s parade with the Bath-Tsugaru Nebuta float.

Bath-area students will travel to Japan July 26-Aug. 7. The application deadline is at the end of March for the exchange program. Information and applications are available on the program’s website.

“We also have a couple of great little films that show what it’s like both to host and to travel,” Schlitt said. “They’re just a couple of minutes long, but really convey the excitement and friendship of getting involved with the program.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Bath’s annual Japanese Culture Day celebrates a friendship between the City of Ships and the Tsugaru region of Japan that began nearly 130 years ago. Izzie Doran, left, who traveled to Japan last year, stands with a friend outside Morse High School.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.