But in April 2013, a barnacle-encrusted fishing boat washed ashore near Crescent City, Calif., after traveling for two years and 5,000 miles across the Pacific.
A group of students from Del Norte High School decided to clean up the boat. Meanwhile, a local professor sent a direct message to Rikuzentakata's Facebook page asking about the boat, and soon discovered it belonged to Takata High School there.
"There is barely any news coverage anymore from television and newspapers," says Takashi Kubota, deputy mayor of the fishing village. "We lost many things, including the boat, and assumed we would never be able to find anything."
The boat is reportedly the only piece of debris in California to be officially traced back to the tsunami and has become a symbol of hope for the residents of Rikuzentakata, as well as the students of Crescent City.
"Realizing what happened to this city and realizing this could happen to our city at any time, this isn't just a boat of hope for them," says a student in the Facebook video. "I think of it as a boat of hope for us, too."