OCEANSIDE, Ore. -- A portion of a Japanese shrine called a kasagi washed ashore Friday morning near Oceanside.
Local resident Judson Randall reported the find to the Oceanside community via an email, along with photos of the kasagi. He described it as the top portion of an ornamental structure called a torii.
On Monday, experts with the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department confirmed the unique find and said it could have cultural significance.
"The 16' long object is made of heavy wood and has been painted red, though it is now partially covered with marine organisms," said Chris Havel, with Oregon Parks and Recreation. "Its shape resembles the top, horizontal part of a type of free-standing arch found in Japan called a torii. A torii is used to mark the entrance of a sacred site."
The curator of Portland's Japanese Garden said these objects are common in the northern part of Japan where the tsunami hit hardest.
"They do have a Shinto shrine, always. That’s their village or family. Shrines basically celebrate the bounty of the ocean, the ocean being the subject for their worshiping,” explained Sada Uchiyama with the Portland Japanese Garden.
Randall and others first notified officials of the find. Two parks officials who responded initially seemed casual about it, but returned later, excited about its importance, Randall wrote. Then they towed the kasagi away.
"I suspect that this is probably one of the most culturally significant pieces to arrive from the tsunami flood," Randall said. "It's way more interesting than the huge box that washed up in Newport."
Havel said the object would be stored in a secured state park maintenance yard, waiting on word from the Consular Office of Japan in Portland for advice on next steps.
Many people were on area beaches looking for Japanese debris this week, during spring break.
"I think it's pretty cool. It's impossible to predict where a certain piece is going to go, so just knowing we’re connected across the Pacific to the tsunami is pretty fascinating,” said Ben Shorr, visiting from Seattle.
People who spot items that they think could be connected to the Japan tsunami were urged to report their finds by calling 211 or sending an email to the state with photos and location details included.