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Ceremony held to dedicate Kaisei Maru artifact shelter

Posted: Sunday, September 29, 2002

SITKA (AP) -- A ceremony was held at Sealing Cove to dedicate a shelter to hold artifacts from the Kaisei Maru, a Japanese vessel impounded at Sitka in 1909.

Shoichi Makabe, a chief Buddhist priest and grand nephew of Captain Takichi Shitara of the Kaisei Maru, cut the ribbon Wednesday to officially dedicate the shelter. A large anchor and fragments of an anchor capstan and chain are displayed under the open-sided shelter.

The 68-ton double-masted wooden schooner was brought to Sitka in 1909 after its 30 crew members were arrested on suspicion of illegal sealing activities.

The crew, which was imprisoned for four months and tried in Juneau, was found innocent. Despite being cleared of illegally hunting fur seals or sea otters, the crew was turned over to the federal immigration office as illegal immigrants.

The crew was deported, but government officials allowed them to return to Sitka to reclaim the Kaisei Maru. However, it was determined that the vessel could not safely navigate the northern Pacific in winter.

The crew set out for Japan on a Japanese vessel that embarked from Seattle shortly after the trial.

A 54-page book published in Japan tells what happened next. It says that Captain Takichi Shitara was ashamed to return to his home in Ishihama with no boat or furs. He leapt overboard into the Pacific Ocean and was never found.

The Kaisei Maru eventually sank at its sheltered anchorage on Japonski Island. Its remains were uncovered when the lagoon, known as Sealing Cove because of its history with the Japanese boat, was drained for construction of the small boat harbor more than 75 years later.

Takichi's grandnephew Makabe donated funds for the memorial project and the city covered the rest of the expenses, as well as materials and labor for the shelter.



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