The San Juan Bautista: Stepping Up to the Plate in Japan’s Reconstruction
During the course of discussions with local governments on potential reconstruction initiatives, the Miyagi Prefectural Government approached Canada with a special request. The Prefecture’s key historical treasure, the wooden Spanish Galleon replica San Juan Bautista, sustained severe earthquake and tsunami related damage to its masts in Ishinomaki City. The original vessel, the San Juan Bautista was constructed by Miyagi’s Military Commander, Date Masamune, who led one of Japan’s first foreign trade expeditions to Europe in 1613. The vessel is one of Miyagi’s foremost cultural treasures, drawing thousands of visitors annually to Ishinomaki’s expansive Ship Museum. Next year Miyagi will celebrate the San Juan Bautista’s 400th anniversary and the vessel is scheduled to be recognized by UNESCO as a world heritage treasure.
Although most of the vessel remained intact during the March 11th earthquake and tsunami, the severe shaking caused extensive damage to the vessel’s front and centre masts. Miyagi Prefecture initially looked into sourcing the logs for the replacement masts domestically; however, they were unable to secure suitable replacement logs from within Japan. In a bind, the Prefecture even considered replacing the masts with an aluminum substitute as a last ditch option.
Enter Canada. Through the course of discussions relating to the Canada Tohoku Reconstruction Project, Miyagi officials asked Canada would be willing to provide suitable log replacements from British Columbia. Apprised of the situation, Western Forest Products rose to the challenge and agreed to donate 4 Douglas Fir and 1 Western Red Cedar logs to Miyagi Prefecture for reconstruction of the masts.
Western Forest Products Japan’s Senior Manager George Omori and Canada Wood’s Shawn Lawlor were on hand to officially present Miyagi officials with the logs as they were delivered to Ishinomaki on June 21st. Miyagi Officials expressed their deep appreciation to Western Forest Products and to Canada for their valuable contribution in helping to rebuild their prized vessel. The logs will be air dried and subsequently processed and installed into the San Juan Bautista in time for the vessel’s 400th anniversary in October 2013. Miyagi Prefecture wishes to convey their heartfelt thanks to all involved!