Misadventures with Miso

Misadventures with Miso

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Visitors from the Other Side of the Ocean

Recently the Portland Japanese Garden displayed two kasagi, which are the top piece of a torii gate and part of Shinto shrines.

The amazing thing about these two are they traveled over 5000 miles all the way from Japan after having been washed away by the tsunami that happened when the Great Tohoku Quake occurred on March, 11th, 2011.

The kasagi were displayed outside of the Pavilion Gallery since one was about 5 meters long and the other around 4 meters.

The shorter kasagi was found on April 9th, 2013 near Florence, Oregon, just over two years from the date of the tsunami.

There was still a name plate or gakuzuka attached which helped determine where the kasagi came from after a very long search by many people including those with the Portland Japanese Garden.

As I viewed the kasagi evidence of their long sea voyage was visible.

Along with the wear that happened such as what were likely copper strips turned green and made fragile by the salty ocean water.

The longer kasagi was found on March 22, 2013 on the shore of Oceanside, Oregon.

The vermillion color still bright after two years in the water. Since the torii located next to the sea, offerings of salt and water were placed at them to keep them connected to their coastal home.

Visitors could read the story of the torii kasagi at the garden. How they were found, the search for the original location and who were involved were detailed. This information is also online here.

After being found the kasagi were carefully stored till they finally found out the original location was a tribute Itsukushima Shrine in Hachinohe, Aomori Prefecture. Arrangements have been made to return the kasagi back to the shrine so before that the Portland Japanese Garden decided to share them with us.

As part of that pieces of origami paper were placed so visitors could write their well wishes to the people of Hachinohe. The papers will be folded into paper cranes and sent with the kasagi back to Japan.

For me, seeing the kasagi was personal and sad. I could not help but think that as they were being washed out by the waves, the plane I was in was flying over them and the coast. I'm reminded of the events of that day, of being in Haneda Airport and seeing the visuals on the large screens there. My thoughts then as now were with those who lost so much and were suffering. I hope the kasagi returning to the Hachinohe area brings a little healing and a lot of care to the people there.

A few of my posts about that time in Tokyo in March, 2011 are here. All of them are under the tag Tokyo 2011.


  1. "offerings of sake were placed at them"

    I believe there's a cup of water (not sake), and a cup of salt in front of each kasagi, to restore the balance lost when the shrine was destroyed. Our bodies all require water and salt, and the shrine has similar bodily sanctity.

    1. Interesting concept but if you read the pdf it turns out the salt and water were to keep them connected to their original place by the sea. I've corrected my post to read that.