Japanese tsunami victim to reunite with his boat in B.C.

A Japanese fisherman who lost his livelihood when the 2011 earthquake and tsunami struck, is visiting B.C. today to take a last ride on his fishing boat.

Fisherman lost the boat in 2011, but people in tiny community of Klemtu recovered his boat

Kou Sasaki's fishing boat made its way to Klemtu, B.C. Sasaki is making the trek from Japan to Canada to take one last ride along a coastline he's never seen. (Submitted by Leanne Reandy)

A Japanese fisherman who lost his livelihood when the 2011 earthquake and tsunami struck, is visiting B.C. today to take a last ride on his fishing boat.

Kou Sasaki, of Ofunato, Japan, will visit the tiny village of Klemtu, one of the many places on the West Coast where tsunami debris washed up after drifting across the Pacific Ocean.

Tim McGrady, general manager of the Spirit Bear Lodge in Klemtu, now has the boat and is looking forward to welcoming Sasaki.

"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 he didn't get far.

But when guest Yoshi Karasawa translated the name of the boat — Twin Pines — she was intrigued by it too. She used her contacts to spread the word in Japan, and the owner was located.

Karasawa met Sasaki, and is bringing 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 said 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.

1 last ride

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

Instead, McGrady and other residents 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," McGrady said.

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

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story incorrectly reported that Kou Sasaki lost his wife and son during the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
    Aug 25, 2015 11:56 AM PT

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