Harley Davidson Museum Unveils the Tsunami Bike: A 4500 Mile Journey

May 11 2011. Tohoku , Japan was his with a magnitude 9.03 earthquake centered just off the coast.  What ensued was a Tsunami that would devastate the country, killing 15,870 of its people, injured 6,117 and 2,814 are still missing.

Before the earthquake and the tsunami that followed,  Ikuo Yokoyama’s Harley Davidson Night Train motorcycle sat inside a container in Japan, alongside some camping equipment and golf clubs.  The disaster washed away this container and also killed three of Yokoyama’s family members.

For over a year the foam lined shipping container holding the Harley floated over 4500 miles to finally wash up on a secluded beach off the coast of British Columbia, on  Haida Gwaii Islands to be found by Peter Mark while out riding the beach on his ATV.

“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.” Mark said.

Debris from the 2011 tsunami continue to float  through out the Pacific washing up in Hawaii and Alaska.  Researchers at  University of Hawaii at Manoa have computer models showing when and where to expect a floating debris field to wash up on their shores and through out the Pacific, including the shores of California.

Originally the bike was moved around throughout Canada and was to be returned to Japan where it would be restored and returned to the owner.  You can follow the best of that information here on HDforums.com

With the license plate of the motorcycle still in tact, Deeley Harley-Davidson Canada and Harley-Davidson Japan, found Yokoyama, currently living in temporary housing in Miyagi Prefecture, Japan.  He was offered to have the motorcycle returned to him, but he declined, and chose to have the motorcycle returned to The Harley Davidson Museum as a memorial to those lost to the Tsunami.

On October 24, The Harley Davidson Museum unveiled the Exhibit of Yokoyama’s Soft Tail Night train to the public.



The Harley Davidson Museum Tsunami Bike Exhibit

What remains of the motorcycle is juxtapose of this disaster turned art, both natural and man-made. Rusted and corroded, dented and chipped, with her broken spokes from a year of the harsh ocean elements,  the bike remains largely intact despite the battering it took once it hit the shore of the remote Canadian Island. It speaks to us not just as a motorcycle, as an inanimate object,  but to the human spirit, to the tenacity of people and the motorcycle community around the globe. Not only did this piece of metal manage to survive, but the Japanese people survived.  Dented and corroded, but not broken.

There has been debate on my page about this bike, that some would have liked to see her restored, if only to the point where she was rideable.  I can see that.  I can only imagine, the feel of thundering her rusted body along the coast of Japan where she was once taken from if only to say, “You had her for a while, now I have her back…”

Yokoyama’s gift to the The Harley Davidson Museum created a memorial that I feel is sobering and moving. Visit the Harley Davidson Museum on-line for tours, exhibits and of course, 110 years of history. Check out this video for a closer look of her on display shortly after the discovery.


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