2009 marks the twenty-fifth year of the Sister City relationship between the City of Portland and the Borough of Shinagawa. It has been 25 years devoted to mutual understanding between the people of two diverse communities that have much in common. Shinagawa, like Portland, is a seaport; yet, unlike Portland, it is a highly commercialized and densely urban Borough of Tokyo with 340,000 citizens.
Portland and Shinagawa established their relationship in 1984, joining with hundreds of American and Japanese cities who have established such ties and who are formally affiliated through Sister Cities International in Washington, D.C.
The initial impetus for the relationship, however, was a shared historical connection between the two cities through Portland native, Dr. Edward Sylvester Morse, a self-taught zoologist and archaeologist. Dr. Morse journeyed to Japan in the 1870’s to study marine life and while there, discovered the Omori shell mounds in Shinagawa. Perhaps his familiarity with native American shell mounds on the Maine coast increased his observational skills as he rode past the sight on his way to what is now central Tokyo. This more narrow focus widened as Morse launched into an exploration of early Japanese life and culture while excavating the pottery, stone and bone tools and animal and human bones of the mound. Today, Morse is a folk hero known to many Japanese primarily because he helped them to appreciate their own traditions and culture at a time when Japan was embarking on a period of Westernization. Shinagawa is home to the Morse Museum which chronicles these events. Dr. Morse is also credited with training hundreds of Japanese students in archaeology and zoology at the University of Tokyo where he organized and taught in the department of zoology from 1878-1879. His role in both these areas forms part of a prominent display at the Edo Tokyo Museum. Morse’s extensive collection of pottery and other pieces of Japanese art are housed both at the Boston Museum of fine Arts and the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA.
In 1984, when Shinagawa was looking for a sister city relationship, Portland was a natural choice. Since then their relationship has become one of the most successful sister city programs in the U.S. In the past 25 years as many as 2,000 citizens of both communities have participated reflecting the initial goal of the Sister City Program as “an important resource to the negotiations of government in letting people themselves give expression to their common desire for friendship, good will and cooperation for a better world for all” (Dwight D. Eisenhower) This view is also written into the mission statement of the Portland-Shinagawa Sister City Relationship Program, “ devoted to mutual understanding between these two sister cities with the hope of contributing to world peace through the establishment of personal relationships. To this end it fosters educational, cultural, sports, economic, occupational and governmental exchanges in the spirit of people-to-people exchange.”
• Home Stay Visits where alternate summers, Shinagawa and Portland place students and chaperones with host families for a two week visit.
• Sports exchanges between middle and high school age teams (in soccer, baseball, softball, basketball and tennis) have occurred in 1988, 1993, 1997, 2002 and 2007 with one planned for 2010.
• Teacher exchanges where since 1990, 6 teachers from Portland teach English in Shinagawa schools for 4 weeks an teachers from Shinagawa visit briefly with Portland and visit our schools each fall.
• Cultural exchanges – The Portland String Quartet, mime great Tony Montanaro and Schooner Fare have all visited Shinagawa and numerous Japanese groups and individuals have visited Portland.
• Rissho University annually places students at USM for two week intensive language training with weekend home stays.
• Economic development exchanges.
• Anniversary Celebrations every 5 years with delegations traveling between the two cities.
And the possibilities for people-to-people connections are infinite. Give us your ideas!
Currently the FRIENDS OF SHINAGAWA is helping to support these activities and looking to find new ways to connect our two cities.
To nurture and strengthen the bonds of the sister city relationship between the Cities of Portland, Maine and Shinagawa-Ku, Japan. To encourage by the example of this specific friendship, better cooperation and understanding between peoples which is the foundation of world peace.
The Friends of Shinagawa support and help organize cultural, educational and sports exchanges and the hosting of reciprocal visits and exchanges that allow for regular interaction.
Esther B. Clenott
Yaeko A. Collier
Anne B. Pringle
Harry R. Pringle
Deborah H. Sandler
Jeffrey M. Sandler
Eleanor Hind Smith
Nathan H. Smith
If you would like more information on ways to participate in this Sister City program and exchanges, please contact us at:
Friends of Shinagawa
P.O. Box 18168
Portland, ME 04112