A battered piece of wood that washed up on the Oregon Coast has been traced to a sacred shrine in Northern Japan. "It’s hard to believe," said Sada Uchiyama, curator from Portland Japanese Garden. "It made a long journey."
In April 2013, beach combers in Florence, Oregon found the 16-foot long piece of wood painted bright red. It was covered in sea life. There was a small inscription on the structure carved in Japanese that included a dedication date and a name, Takahashi.
After seeing photos of the wood beam, Uchiyama realized this was more than just tsunami debris. He quickly determined the arch came from a sacred Japanese Shinto shrine. It was likely the top beam of a Torii, a traditional Japanese gate commonly found at the entrance of a shrine.
In May 2014, Uchiyama and a board member from Portland’s Japanese Garden visited the tsunami affected area in Japan searching for the shrine’s original location. They had little to go on. There were once hundreds of Shinto shrines in the devastated region.
Returning home empty handed, Uchiyama figured he’d done what he could. "There’s no sense of discouragement," said Uchiyama.
Weeks later, Uchiyama got an email. By tracking the dedication date and the name of a single donor, a historical researcher in Japan found Mr. Takahashi. "It’s just so perfect that something led us to one individual, in one particular spot," said Uchiyama.
According to 85-year old Toshimi Takahashi, the cross beam that washed up in Oregon came from the Itsukushima Shrine near Hachinohe, Japan. It is located in the northern Aomori Prefecture.
Takahashi would like the wooden piece to be returned after making this incredible journey from Japan to Oregon. The curator from Portland Japanese Garden plans to begin organizing efforts to send the structure back to its original location.