B.C. log home maker has deep roots in Japan

Reconstruction continues in fishing village wiped off map by tsunami's wall of water

Vendors set out fresh produce at Yuriage Morning Market

One of a series of articles on the future of the B.C. forest industry. For more #BCForestFuture stories see index below or search for the hashtag on Facebook or Twitter.

NATORI, JAPAN – Wayne Brown winds through the Sunday crowd at Yuriage Morning Market, as vendors hawk fresh fish, vegetables, hand-crafted knives and other local products.

Brown’s company, Baywest Log and Timber Homes, was one of the B.C. firms that donated specialty wood products to rebuild the market after the fishing village was wiped off the map by the Fukushima earthquake and tsunami that struck eastern Japan in 2011.

Reconstruction continues after the village of 5,000 people was hit by a wall of water cresting at eight metres high. About 1,000 people were killed, and five years later the site is being diked and raised by five metres before anyone can move back in.

But the public market, built as part of a reconstruction project by the Canadian forest industry and the federal and B.C. governments, has risen from the devastation. An internationally known symbol of tsunami recovery, the market draws 50 per cent more customers today than it did as the heart of a community.

“To me it represents cooperation and the way people will jump in after a disaster and help restore some normalcy to people’s lives, to get people working again,” Brown said.

Brown is no stranger to Japanese culture. His company was formerly Bigfoot Manufacturing, owned by a Japanese firm before being taken over by Baywest a year ago.

The heart of the Yuriage market is the Canada-Tohoku Friendship Pavilion, known locally as Maple Hall. Rectangular manufactured logs from Baywest’s mill at Tappen, near Salmon Arm, and engineered wood beams from Penticton-based Structurlam are key components.

Post-and-beam construction has a centuries-old tradition in Japan, one of the most earthquake-prone places on Earth. Today the rustic look of manufactured log homes is growing in popularity, first as vacation homes and today as primary residences.

Baywest buys rectangular cants from B.C. primary producers, kiln dries them and turns them into log home kits, ready to ship and assemble. Brown said the company has built 6,000 homes for the Japan market alone in the past 15 years.

Wayne Brown tours Yuriage Morning Market in Natori, one of the communities destroyed by the Fukushima earthquake and tsunami in 2011. The market has become an international symbol of recovery from the disaster.

Yuriage Morning Market CEO Koichi Sakurai explains the revival of his community and its gratitude to Canada for the reconstruction effort, Nov. 27, 2016.

Natori’s deputy mayor explains to Forests Minister Steve Thomson (left) and Shawn Lawlor of Canada Wood Japan how the monument to the 2011 earthquake symbolizes a growing plant, built to the same height as the eight-metre crest of the tsunami.

Maple Hall is the heart of the Yuriage public market, attracting families from around the region.

Rick Jeffery, CEO of Coast Forest Products Association and chair of Canada Wood, stands at entrance to Maple Hall, constructed of wood products donated by B.C. producers and financed by the B.C. and Canadian governments.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Victoria councillors propose waiving parkade fees to support essential workers

Motion coming to committee of the whole for consideration

Woman comes home to ‘entirely different’ Victoria after cruise ship, military base quarantine

Melanie Sibbitt booked herself a last-minute vacation on a cruise ship hit by COVID-19

COVID-19: Victoria moves homeless into 35 hotel rooms across the city

Mayor pleads with residents to stay inside during pandemic

Victoria brewery uses 3D-printer to make face shields for health care workers

Phillips Brewing is teaming up with engineers to create single-use medical equipment

Wheelchair user asks people to leave space on sidewalks to socially distance

Wendy Cox says many people are not stepping off the sidewalk to allow her space

B.C. records first at-home death from COVID-19, but 70+ hospital patients have recovered

Total of 970 novel coronavirus cases in B.C., with the majority in the Lower Mainland area

BC Ferries able to restrict travel for sick passengers

Ferries working on schedule shifts to keep workers safe

COVID-19: A message from the publisher

We will be making some changes to our print editions during these unprecedented times

Canada expands 75% wage subsidy to COVID-19 affected businesses of all sizes: Trudeau

Program will provide up to $847 per week for each worker

Pay parking suspended at B.C. hospitals due to COVID-19

Temporary free parking reduces need for keypads, contact

Helping those at risk, one piece of paper at a time through ‘isolation communication’

Simple paper tool during pandemic making its way across Canada thanks to social media.

‘Back to school, in a virtual way’ for B.C. students in COVID-19 pandemic

Province adds online resources to help parents at home

Canadian COVID-19 round-up: Air Canada cuts 15,000 jobs, 90% of flights

Comprehensive Canadian news update as of 2:30 p.m., Monday, March 30.

Most Read