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Harley-Davidson motorcycle swept away by Japan tsunami washes up on Canada coast

Peter Mark / Kyodo News via AP

Ikuo Yokoyama's Harley-Davidson lies on a beach in Graham Island, western Canada. The rusted bike was originally found in a large white container that was later washed away, leaving the bike half-buried in the sand.

A Japanese man who reportedly lost his home and three family members in last year’s tsunami says it’s a miracle that a prized item swept out to sea – his Harley-Davidson motorcycle – has turned up more than 4,000 miles away on the shores of western Canada.

Ikuo Yokoyama’s motorcycle was inside a large white cube container, like the back part of a moving truck, that washed up on British Columbia’s Haida Gwaii islands, CBC News reported.

Peter Mark was riding his ATV, exploring a beach on one of the islands, when he came upon the find on April 18.

"You just never know what you're going to stumble upon when you go for a drive, and lo and behold you just come across something that's out of this world," he said in an interview with CBC, which published stories this week on the find.

Mark told CBC he could see a motorcycle tire sticking out of the container. On closer inspection, he saw that it was a rusted Harley-Davidson with Japanese license plates. Six golf clubs were pinned beneath the bike.

The plates showed the motorcycle was registered in Miyagai prefecture, the area hit worst by the destructive March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami.

“I gotta say, the first thing that popped into my mind when I was looking at the scene [was] I really wonder what happened to this person. I really hope this person is OK," Mark told CBC. "It's quite a shock to actually see it and to actually walk into it. … [It's] quite an eerie feeling, knowing what happened to Japan and to those people. It kind of hits home quite a bit."

The Japanese consulate in Vancouver, British Columbia, took down the license number.

A Harley Davidson representative in Japan tracked the bike’s identifying information to Yokoyama, a 29-year-old resident of Yamamoto in Miyagi prefecture, CBC reported, citing Japanese media reports.

Yokoyama told Japanese broadcaster NHK that the discovery of the motorcycle was miraculous.

“I’m very thankful that it came back,” he told NHK, The Province newspaper in British Columbia reported. “I would like to thank the man who found my bike in person, but because it’s hard to do that, I’d like to thank him here right now.”

Yokoyama told Japanese media he had been using the white container as his garage. It was in his backyard when the earthquake and tsunami struck, destroying his house and killing three family members, according to The Province.

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Mark told CBC he left the motorcycle where he found it, partly because the beach where it washed up is remote and hard to get to.

Buoys, bottles and cans believed to be from the Japan tsunami are surfacing in Washington state, Alaska and British Columbia, and scientists say the mess will be there for generations. NBC's Miguel Almaguer reports.

Objects and debris from last year’s tsunami, carried by ocean currents, have been washing up with increasing frequency on the west coast of Canada and the United States.

Recent discoveries include a soccer ball and a volleyball that were swept away in Iwate prefecture and washed ashore on Alaska’s Middleton Island. The items were returned to their Japanese owners.

The Maritime Museum of BC last week launched the Tsunami Debris Project, an online effort to collect photos of flotsam that has washed ashore, with the hope that some items can be reunited with their owners.

The magnitude-9 earthquake and tsunami killed more than 15,000 people and crippled several nuclear plants. Tons of debris were swept into the Pacific Ocean.

“The idea is to not only document, but to showcase them in an exhibit-type of way, and to tell the social and human side of the story with the idea that there might be a few items that come over that have some personal or sentimental value for these people that have lost everything,” project coordinator Linda Funk told ABCNews.com

The Maritime Museum says the bulk of the debris isn’t expected to hit the shores of the U.S. and Canada until 2013-14.

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