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Four years after a tsunami swept scallop fisherman Kou Sasaki’s boat out of the harbour in the small Japanese port city of Ofunato, he saw the vessel for the first time again on the weekend, floating peacefully at rest in an inlet on the British Columbia coast. After he clambered aboard Mr. Sasaki sat in the bow, buried his face in his hands and wept. It had been a long time since he’d last seen the small open boat, which drifted across the Pacific, along with more than one million tonnes of debris, after the tsunami struck Japan on March 11, 2011 killing more than 15,000 people.


Mr. Sasaki’s boat was salvaged near Klemtu, on the central B.C. coast 200 kilometres south of Prince Rupert, in 2013. The barnacles were scraped off, it was named the Japanese Drifter and put into service by the Spirit Bear Lodge, which uses it to take tourists looking for the area’s famed spirit bears. When they approached the location one of the bear guides pointed to the small vessel, said Ms. Karaswa, and Mr. Sasaki started to shout: “There! Oh there!” She said he jumped into the empty boat, then began to weep. “We are together,” he said.

Kou Sasaki reacts with excitement at the first sight of his fishing boat.

Sasaki proudly waves a ceremonial flag with the boat's name which is supposed to bless a fishing vessel with good luck.

Overcome with emotion, Sasaki breaks down at the bow of his fishing boat.

Kou Sasaki snaps a photo of his boat as a group of guests and staff from Spirit Bear Lodge look on.

Sasaki proudly drives his boat in the coastal waters in Klemtu, B.C.

Kou Sasaki with his wife Shuko view some bears on in his eight-metre boat in the coastal waters of B.C.

A subadult grizzly bear chases down a salmon near Klemtu, B.C., as Japanese fisherman Kou Sasaki looks on.

Sasaki holds up a near-dead salmon.

A Kermode bear, also known as the "spirit bear," hunts for salmon in a river near Klemtu, B.C.

The fisherman and his wife Shuko ride around the coast near Klemtu, B.C.

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