Wood found on Oregon Beach traced to Japanese shrine

Wood found on Oregon Beach traced to Japanese shrine

Credit: Kyle Iboshi, KGW Staff

A piece of wood found on the Oregon Coast (top) has been traced to a sacred Japanese Shinto shrine (bottom).


by Kyle Iboshi, KGW Staff


Posted on July 18, 2014 at 8:16 PM

Updated Saturday, Jul 19 at 3:12 AM

PORTLAND -- 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.

Background: Debris found on coast may be part of Japanese shrine

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.

Last week, 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.

A second, similar piece of wood washed up in Oceanside, Oregon in March 2013. It is not clear if that piece came from the same shrine.

More: Japanese gate washes ashore on Oregon Coast

In September of last year, KGW reunited several items found on the Oregon coast with the people in Japan who lost them. Click for more on the series Washed Away