Tsunami Harley Comes Home

Thursday, October 25, 2012 - 10:18am

Motorcycle swept across the Pacific Ocean after Japan's tsunami goes on display at the Harley Davidson Museum.

Every motorcycle at the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin has a story, but one particular bike made a journey unlike any other.

Ikuo Yokoyama lost everything when a tsunami hit Japan in March, 2011: three family members, his home, and his beloved Harley-Davidson Softail Night Train.

More than a year later the bike washed up on the shores of British Columbia.

Peter Mark found it on Graham Island at low tide this past April.

"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 says.

The bike took a wild ride all the way across the Pacific Ocean.

Kristen Jones, Senior Curator at the Harley-Davidson Museum, says the container the motorcycle was in was the reason it isn't at the bottom of the ocean.

"It was buoyant because it had all kinds of foam insulation, and this bike journeyed over 4,000 miles from Japan," she says.

The unique Japanese license plate allowed the Harley-Davidson affiliate in Japan to track down the owner of the bike, Yokoyama, who also survived the tsunami.

But Yokoyama turned down Harley-Davidson's offer to restore the bike.

Instead, he's donating his former motorcycle to the Milwaukee museum in remembrance of the more than 15,000 people who lost their lives in the tragic event.

"The owner was very humble and really wanted to remember not only other riders who may have lost their lives but all of the people who were impacted by this disaster," explains Jones.

That generosity is allowing visitors from all around the world to reflect on the tsunami's destruction and see a piece of history.

Klaus Schneider is from Germany but is in Milwaukee for work.

He saw the bike while visiting the museum.

"It's sad to see a bike in this condition but if you know the story behind, I don't know what I have to think because it's such a sad thing the tsunami," he says.

And while the 4,000 mile journey may have taken its toll on the bike, the rust and deterioration will serve as a memorial for those who lost more than a motorcycle back in March, 2011.

The preserved 2004 Harley-Davidson FXSTB Softail Night Train will become a part of the museum's permanent collection and will be on display through next summer.

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