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

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

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.

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