Pallet returned to Japan after washing up on West Coast

A Vancouver-area woman boarded a plane on Monday to return a piece of Japanese tsunami debris that washed ashore after the deadly 2011 earthquake, ending a cleanup in British Columbia while reconnecting a fisherman half a world away with his father’s past.

Twenty-three-year-old Hanako Yokota, who worked on the debris cleanup near Ucluelet, B.C., is returning a plastic fishing pallet to a Japanese man who recognized it as equipment passed down from his father after seeing the distinctive markings etched on its side Yokota’s trip will conclude a twoyear cleanup effort by the District of Ucluelet and a student club called the Japan Love Project that removed up to 10 tonnes of tsunami debris from B.C. shores. “It’s like a final mission,” said Yokota, who is originally from Yokohama.

In March, Japan Love helped a volunteer group from Japan travel to Canada’s West Coast to clean up tsunami debris that washed ashore in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve’s Broken Group Islands.

Volunteers found the 34-kilogram pallet, and writing on the equipment allowed them to trace it back to the Minami Sanriku region in Japan, which was hit hard by the 2011 tsunami.

A volunteer who returned to Japan showed a picture of the pallet to a local oyster fisherman, who asked for it to be returned after he recognized the inscription on the pallet as name of his boat.

The pallet was given to him by his father, who also fished for oysters.

The volunteer contacted Yokota, who will be giving the fisherman back his pallet.

Many fishermen in the region had their possessions swept away during the 2011 tsunami, Yokota said, and items with historical or sentimental value were lost forever.

That’s why bringing the pallet back to the fisherman is so important, she said.

“This pallet that he’s been using for generations means a lot to him, because it reminds him of his past,” Yokota said.

Karla Robison, who also helped manage the cleanup, said the item is highly valued because most fishing gear manufactured before 2011 was lost in the disaster.

“This pallet has been used for many, many years up and down the coast of Japan,” said Robison.

“The majority of the fishing gear was replaced with new material because all the older gear was swept away, and so this pallet can act as a relic.”

Robison, who is the Environmental and Emergency Service Manager of the District of Ucluelet, said reuniting the fisherman with the equipment helps strengthen relationships between Canada and Japan.

“It acts as a reminder to everybody to show their respects to all those affected,” she said. “It also acts as a reminder for both countries – and other countries located in that ring of fire – to be prepared for emergencies.”

“It also helps to illustrate the strong bonds that we have between Japan and Canada, and it showcases how we’re connected by the Pacific Ocean.”

“It’s quite amazing,” said Robison. “Everybody that’s been part of these cleanup programs really hopes this fisherman and his family and the community he resides in can find peace and comfort and fond memories and inspiration from this item.”

Mayor Bill Irving of Ucluelet said his district had been very active in the collection of tsunami debris.

“We are pleased to participate in the return of this item to its original owner and are thankful it brings some comfort to his family in Japan,” he said in written statement.

The March 2011 earthquake disaster in Japan killed about 19,000 people. The quake also triggered a tsunami and multiple meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. More than 100,000 people are still unable to go home due to fear of radiation contamination from the plant.

The Japanese government said the tsunami swept an estimated 1.5 million tonnes of debris into the Pacific Ocean. The amount is equivalent to about half the solid waste produced in the Metro Vancouver area in 2010. The items have been dispersed by ocean currents and winds. Heavier debris sank close to Japanese shores while lighter debris has clustered in fields in the ocean.

Just Posted

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation demands transparency from leadership

“Right now there’s a lot of heartache.”

Tofino’s council split on ice rink decision

“I don’t think that’s the highest priority of the dollars that we have for a recreation facility.”

“Intense” storms coming to Tofino and Ucluelet this week

“If you are near the water, it is important to be ‘Coastsmart,’ by staying above the high tide.”

Ucluelet’s indoor market keeps vendors humming through the off-season

“It brings people out, which is great and we showcase different talents, which is great.”

Tofino and Ucluelet ready to clean Kennedy Lake

“You don’t want people to start thinking that this is a dumping ground.”

WATCH: Giant waves smash Ucluelet’s Amphitrite Point

Folks made their way to Ucluelet’s Amphitrite Point Lighthouse on Thursday, Jan.… Continue reading

WestJet appeals lost bid to scrap harassment lawsuit

Airline argues judge was wrong to have dismissed the company’s application to strike the legal action

Can U.S. border guards search your phone? Yes, and here’s how

Secretary of homeland security explains a new policy that let’s border guards check phones

‘Beautiful writer’ Nancy Richler dies of cancer in Vancouver hospital

Montreal-born author spent most of her adult life in B.C. as a fiction writer and novelist

Jury convicts spear-wielding Duncan man in 2015 Ladysmith RV park murder

Trever George Meers used a handmade spear to stab Rayna Johnson at the Campers Corners RV Park

Students frustrated by UBCO response to harassment allegations

Students on the Kelowna campus were unaware of resources and worried about lack of communication

Opinion: Dare to be smarter

Just say no works for more than just substance abuse

‘Sing Me a Song’ about B.C. for a chance at $1,000 contest prize

Entries due by March 30 for lieutenant-governor’s British Columbia-themed competition

Facing reality of death, B.C. man learns real meaning of life

Even while preparing for the end, something inside Keven Drews won’t let him stop living

Most Read