Japan tsunami victim Kou Sasaki arrives in B.C. for reunion with boat
Sasaki says he wants to hug boat that turned up on province's North Coast 4 years after disaster
A fisherman who lost his livelihood in Japan's earthquake and tsunami four years ago arrived in Vancouver on Monday on his way to be reunited with his fishing boat on the North Coast of B.C.
Kou Sasaki's eight-metre boat was swept off the beach near Ofunato, Japan, during the 2011 tsunami.
Remarkably it not only survived, but travelled — unmanned — more than 6,600 kilometres across the Pacific Ocean before finally washing up on the shore on B.C.'s North Coast near Klemtu,
The two will meet again thanks to Yoshi Karasawa, a Japanese-Canadian woman from Vancouver who helped trace the ownership of the boat.
With Karasawa interpreting for him after he arrived at Vancouver International Airport, Sasaki said the boat is like a close family member and he's looking forward to seeing it again.
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"He wants to hug" the boat when he sees it, Karasawa said. Many things must have happened to it as it crossed the ocean alone, she said. "So he really wants [to be] loving."
Sasaki plans to spend a few days in Vancouver and go to the Vancouver Aquarium to see the Not Just Garbage, tsunami debris exhibit. He'll then head to Klemtu, via Bella Bella.
'A really special reuniting'
The boat, whose translated name is Twin Pines, was found by a diver on the coast and was claimed by Tim McGrady, the general manager of the Spirit Bear Lodge in Klemtu.
When Karasawa visited the lodge she became curious about where the boat came from and eventually traced it to Sasaki. She then brought Sasaki to Canada after the lodge offered to host him.
"We're hoping to make it a really special reuniting of this man and his boat," McGrady said.
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 a traditional Big House for Sasaki as well.
McGrady and other people from Klemtu will take Sasaki on the boat and show him the coast.
"He's quite happy that it's found a home here," McGrady said, noting that Sasaki has bought a new boat.
The plan is for the boat to remain at the lodge as part of bear-watching operations.
- 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 11:49 AM PT
With files from Jesse Johnston