NEWS

Japanese Tsunami Victim Reunited With His Boat

08/24/2015 11:45 EDT | Updated 08/24/2016 05:59 EDT
A Japanese fisherman who lost everything in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami will visit B.C. on Monday to take a last ride in his fishing boat.

Its owner Kou Sasaki of Ofunato, will visit the tiny village of Klemtu, one of the places where debris from Japan washed up, after huge amounts of it landed all along the B.C. Coast.

"It's especially poignant because Mr. Sasaki lost his wife and son in the earthquake," said Tim McGrady, general manager of the Spirit Bear Lodge in Klemtu, who now has the boat.

"This is a community that lives and breathes boats, for thousands of years. So I think people have a real affinity for someone like Mr. Sasaki. There's a lot of common ground."

McGrady claimed the boat, originally found by a local diver, for use in the lodge's bear watching operations. But he was curious about it, and when a Japanese-speaking guest stayed at his lodge, the wheels were set in motion for a reunion.

"Team effort"

After cleaning the battered boat of the mussels and barnacles accumulated on its journey, McGrady made some preliminary efforts to find the owner. But they didn't get far.

However, when guest Yoshi Karasawa translated the name of the boat — Two Pines — she was intrigued by it too. She used her contacts to spread the word to Japan, and the owner, Kou Sasaki, was located. Karasawa met him and on Monday will bring him to Canada.

"I said, 'if you can bring him to Canada, we'll bring him to the lodge!' So it was a really good team effort," said McGrady. "We're hoping to make it a really special reuniting of this man and his boat."

Several people in Klemtu have done some refurbishing of the boat to make it more presentable, although McGrady says the damage is still there. Chief Charlie Mason and other hereditary chiefs of the Xai Xais First Nation will be performing a welcoming and blessing ceremony in the local Big House for Sasaki as well.

One last ride

McGrady says Sasaki has no interest in reclaiming the boat. He's already bought a new one, and it would be too expensive to ship it back to Japan.

Instead, McGrady and other people of Klemtu are just going to take him on one last ride and show him the B.C. coast.

"He's quite happy that it's found a home here," said McGrady.

The plan is for the boat to continue working at the Lodge as part of bear watching operations.

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