News Article

Kasagi Gates of Hope

Guest Post

Guest Author
Porltand Japanese Garden

In 2013, two nearly identical beams of a sacred Shinto gate landed on the Oregon coast after having been tragically washed away in the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011. After traveling 5,000 miles across the Pacific, incredibly, these two crossbeams, know as kasagi landed within 120 miles of each other less than one month apart. Virtually unidentifiable, they could have been abandoned, forgotten, and lost forever. Instead, the quest to return the two battered pieces of wood has brought people together from across the globe as a message of support for the people of Japan. What unfolds is the story of what connects us as humans: life, loss, perseverance, and hope.

It was still dark when Judson Randall first saw the long, bowed piece of painted wood lying quietly on the beach. Since the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, Randall was accustomed to seeing debris that had washed ashore near his home in Oceanside, Oregon. He walked toward it through the cold March morning air, unclear what this particular object was. From a distance it looked like a boat but as he got closer he realized that this was something much more significant.

Two years earlier, on March 11, 2011, a 9.0 earthquake struck Japan triggering a massive tsunami that washed away coastal communities in Northeastern Japan and sent roughly five million tons of debris out to sea. Entire villages were wiped out. Communities were torn apart. Loved ones were separated from each other and from that which they held most dear. In the wake of the disaster, it seemed unclear whether life would ever return to the way it had once been. In that moment, the world paused, humbled by the loss sustained, aching for people they didn’t know.

But time dims the pain of even the most vivid moments, and what stopped the world in 2011 started to feel like a distant memory a mere two years later. Not for everyone of course. In 2013, Japanese communities were still looking for the missing pieces of their former lives. Meanwhile, across the ocean, those missing pieces were resurfacing. More often than not, it was debris torn apart beyond recognition. But sometimes it was identifiable. A volleyball here. A boat there. Connections to lives lost and lives still being lived.

The large piece of wood Randall saw lying on the shore appeared to be just such a connection. Painted red and 14’ long, it looked like something. Immediately Randall called the Oregon State Parks & Recreation Department to report the finding. As the sun rose, Randall took photos to share with Park rangers in hopes that someone could identify this unusual discovery.

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This article was originally posted by the Portland Japanese Garden.
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